Beginner’s Guide to Road Cycling

Whether you’re a regular leisure cyclist or looking to get on your bike for the first time in 20 years, this guide contains some top tips to help you start cycling on the road with confidence!

Get out of the gutter!

You might hear regular cyclists refer to two positions when talking about road cycling: primary position and secondary position.

The primary position is sometimes called ‘taking the lane’ as you’re doing exactly that – riding in the middle of the lane, with the flow of traffic. This is actually the safest position you can take when cycling on the road, you’re more visible and drivers are less likely to attempt a risky overtake. Plus, if someone does overtake you too closely, you have more space on your left to move into.

The secondary position is closer to the side of the road, generally around 1m/3ft away from the pavement. It’s important that you only move into the secondary position when YOU feel it’s safe to – never put yourself in danger out of fear of slowing somebody down a little!

In general, it’s best to move into the secondary position as often as you feel safe, but here are some situations we recommend adopting the primary position:

  • When approaching a junction or a roundabout
  • When there’s a row of parked cars along the side of the road
  • If you’re on a particularly narrow road
  • If you’re riding in a lane that isn’t closest to the pavement
  • If there are slippery drain covers or potholes that you want to avoid

Make your intentions clear

Try to give other road users clear and decisive indications of what you’re going to do. Before making your manoeuvre check behind and signal with plenty of notice. If the thought of checking behind you or removing a hand from the handlebar to signal while cycling makes you nervous then it’s a good idea to practice in a safe, traffic-free environment first.

When cycling your hands are both a turn signal and a brake light for you, so it’s important to put a quick hand out to help you ride more safely, especially when riding in traffic.

Stay out of the ‘door zone’

Unfortunately, not a lot of people look properly before opening their car door. When approaching a parked car, check behind you to make sure it’s safe then move out by at least a door’s width, just in case someone does open their door into your path.

Check out Cycling UK’s video on the Dutch Reach, something you can encourage others to do to reduce the risk of hitting a cyclist with their car door.

Be aware of what’s around you

Knowing what’s around you, including what’s behind you means you can make informed decisions to keep yourself safe while being courteous to other road users. Keep an eye out for rough surfaces, drain covers, road humps, potholes and puddles (which can hide potholes) that might be coming up ahead of you. You can anticipate any potential problems and avoid making sudden movements that might put you at risk.

Consider cycle training

Whether you’re a total beginner or an experienced cyclist, everyone can benefit from cycling training from a professional. Instructors can help with much more than just learning how to cycle, a training session can help to build your confidence and answer any burning questions you might have.

Having training in your local area with someone from your local area can also help you to feel more confident when you finally get out on your own, as well as giving you some knowledge of any tricky junctions or road sections.

City Connect is an initiative run by West Yorkshire Combined Authority and offers various adult cycle training sessions and bike maintenance sessions.