Five top tips to get you back on your bike
By Catherine Ellis, Hill & Ellis
Few of us could have missed the recent boom in the popularity of cycling. And the numbers are likely to increase further as the government is investing heavily to encourage people to get back in the saddle and get fitter.
Of course, there are many mums who are likely to be looking on longingly but may not have cycled since their own childhood and are also aware of the dangers of taking small children on roads or pavements.
If you are still watching longingly from the sidelines, here are my top tips for you – and your family – to get yourself saddle ready and back on your bike:
- GET THE BIKES RIGHT!
Do you already have old bikes? Then dust them off, check they are still the right size for the children and make sure the brakes and the gears are working properly and enjoy it. Getting on the bike is the only way to know what kind of cycling you enjoy.
If you’re buying a new bike or bikes, first consider the kind of riding you want to do and the typical route. If it’s hilly – make sure you get a bike with enough gears to handle it, if you are commuting or riding paths to school then 3-6 gears should be enough to get you up and down most town and city hills. If you are looking to road or mountain bike yourself, you will want to consider more than 10 gears to manage the rougher terrain.
Also consider the weight of the bike. Modern road bikes are all designed to be very light so even the heaviest will do you well – but aim to go as light as possible. It is easier for children to learn on lighter bikes and you will notice the difference on hills and if you need to carry your bike.
- FINDING YOUR ROUTE
Your route is vital for a pleasant journey, especially if you are cycling with children. The main highways and roads might be the most direct path to a given destination but they are unlikely to be the most pleasant or safest. If possible, choose a route that avoids roads altogether, going through parks and alongside rivers. Otherwise, always take the backstreets; they are quieter, safer and much more interesting as you get to discover parts of your town/city you would never have seen before.
Fortunately, finding routes has never been easier. There are lots of cycle routes now across the country and they are definitely worth taking advantage of. Most city and the country routes are in cycle maps that are easy to follow. For your local paths, have a look on your council’s website – most of the maps are available there.
Here are a few examples:
For Edinburgh – https://www.innertubemap.com/
For Glasgow – https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/cycling
Alternatively, Sustrans has cycle-friendly, and cycle-only routes across the UK.
Give yourself extra time to cycle, take the slightly longer, quieter route and, most importantly of all, enjoy it.
- USE PANNIERS
Taking the bag off your back and moving it onto the bike is a real joy. It takes the strain off your spine and also reduces back sweat and discomfort. The solution is a pannier rack. They attach over the back wheel of your bike and you can attach pannier bags and baskets on them to carry whatever you need.
As the rack is on the back of your bike, not the front, and is low on the bike, it doesn’t affect your steering or stability, so they will help you feel more secure on your bike.
Hill & Ellis has a range of stylish bike bags that all attach securely to your pannier bike rack. They are also designed to look smart so are the perfect accessory for the work commute. www.hillandellis.com
- SITTING COMFORTABLY
Too often I see cyclists around with a bad seat position set up. Often the seat is far too low so they are overworking and are putting unnecessary strain on their knees. To set up your bike properly, this is the simplest way: The Heel to Pedal method. It might not be what cyclists in the Tour de France use but it will get you close to the perfect position. Here’s how:
- Sit on the bike whilst holding onto a wall or chair for stability.
- Place your heel on the pedal and pedal back to 6 o’clock position. Your knee should be completely straight.
- Increase the height of your saddle until it is straight; that is your perfect position.
If you and your family are cycling around for the first time and aren’t 100% confident on the bike, it’s a good idea to lower it from this position ever so slightly. This will make it is easier to put a foot on the ground when you want to stop, giving confidence on the bike from the start. Once you are all happy in the saddle you can lift the saddle back up to the correct height.
- INCREASE CONFIDENCE WITH SOCIAL CYCLING
Still feeling a lack of confidence? Then you need your own personal peloton (cycling group). Cycling is really sociable, with lots of groups keen to help other cyclists get started with advice, buddies and supported rides. There are groups all over the country, so you’ll definitely find one in your local area.
To find groups that do family rides Cycling UK is a good resource:
The Breeze network offers women’s only rides and commuting training rides to help build confidence for cycling to work, they will even arrange a group to cycle with you to your office for the first couple of rides.
British Cycling also has beginners guide on their website for the A-Z of what you need to know before taking to the saddle.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is to take your time when starting out. Family life from the saddle should always make you smile. Enjoy!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Catherine Ellis is founder of Hill & Ellis, which produces a range of high quality, stylish cycle bags. Each bag, designed in the UK, is created to transition perfectly from home to bike to boardroom to bar. They are functional, fashionable and hard wearing. There’s plenty of space inside for a laptop and other essentials, and each bag comes with patented pannier clips that fit almost any bike, allowing you to clip the bag on and off quickly and easily.