Beginner’s blog 2: How to get your friends to start cycling

Cycling is great right? Some people just don’t know it yet. Their inner cyclists are dormant and all they need is someone to show them the way.

Offer to help them get started

Everyone has to start somewhere. Offer your help to get a non-cyclist get started, maybe pointing them to our last blog since beginner cyclists will have many questions. You can advise them on what type of bike they should consider and wUnicycleshat accessories they may need. They won’t necessarily need or want the same things you do so listen to what they’re saying. Go shopping with them; sometimes bike shops have too many options and can feel dauntingly teccy for the uninitiated. Plus the sales staff may be keen to sell something that’s not strictly essential so your experience will be valued.

Positive reinforcement

It works and you don’t need to condition your friends like Pavlov did with his dogs. Offer loads of  encouragement to reassure them that they can cycle. Ask them about their first ride and congratulate them on it. Or go on a ride with them to offer support and be their guide.

Arrive on your bike and with a smile

Cycling is satisfying, practical and basically fun. If you make a point of always arriving to meet friends on a bike, on time and with a smile on your face, they’ll start to wonder if they should give it a go.

Get from A to B faster (and cheaper) than them

There’s a range of travelling distances in cities where cycling is certainly faster than waiting for and using public transport. Time is precious so point out to your friends they could be spending a lot less of it waiting and not knowing when they might get to their destination. And not only will their journey be a knowable length of time but it will have cost them nothing into the bargain.

Subliminal messaging

There is a reason corporate companies spend money on product placement; it works! Maybe leave the odd glossy bike mag open on a page with a particularly irresistible illustraion. Perhaps slip in some cycling related puns in your texts. If you find out what works, let us know in the comments section!

bike crowdNot so subliminal messaging

Keep talking about cycling and how great it is. Send them bike-themed birthday cards (even if it’s not their birthday). Get a bike tattoo. Buy them a bike chain keyring or a cycle-themed tea towel. Whatever it takes! You’ll be running the risk of becoming a nuisance by now but don’t give up!

Alienate them

Team up with your other friends who cycle and alienate those who don’t. Occasionally forget to invite the bikeless friends to meet ups or maybe meet up with them but go off on your bikes and leave them behind. Or just exclude them from the conversation by using cycling lingo to bamboozle their non-cycling brains.

Disclaimer:

No one’s actually advocating any bullying here – we’re all nice people and friends are friends! But get past what may feel like fierce resistance, turn a non-cyclist into a cyclist and they’ll probably thank you for life (not to mention go on to spread the word themselves).

 

Beginner’s Blog 1: Common questions from beginner cyclists

The next few blogs we’ll be posting relate to new cyclists – So let’s kick off with some key FAQs.

If you’ve just taken up cycling (and hats off to you if you have – it is January after all), then you might be facing numerous  considerations. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

What type of bike should I get?Crowd bike

The answer depends on where and how much you intend to ride. There’s no point getting a mountain bike or BMX bike if you want to start commuting to work by bike on the roads. Similarly, it’s no good getting a road bike with skinny tyres if you also intend to use it for countryside escapes on trails where the surface can get muddy or gravelly.

How much should I spend on the bike?

Again, the answer depends on how much you are going to be riding. However, even if you are not going to be using it a lot, it’s inadvisable to aim for the cheapest bike your money can buy. Invest a little more and you’ll enjoy it more (and consequently use it more). But for under £350, you’ll get a good, reliable bike and that means the ride quality should be comfortable and the components shouldn’t wear out after a few rides. Second hand bikes will usually deliver great value for money; check out our blog for advice.

Do I need to wear lycra?

Absolutely not, plenty of cyclists don’t. Lycra is comfortable if the rides are longer and when the weather is hotter. But cycling in your civvies means you can hop on and off the bike with minimum fuss (and if you commute by bike, you don’t have to change before you get to your desk).

kryptoniteA cheap cable lock will do, right?

This is an area where it’s worth spending a little, but of course the cost of the lock should be proportional to the cost of the bike. Look for the label certifying locks that are Bronze, Silver or Gold standard and read our blog about how to beat the bike thieves.

How and where can I learn to ride?

With us of course! We are London based and work with selected boroughs who sponsors cycle training for those who live, work or study in the borough so that the training is FREE to you! There are other training providers around the country too to give you expert help to get you pedalling.

Is it not dangerous to ride on the road?

There are risks associated with everything we do and of course this includes every form of transportation from walking, cycling, driving to travelling on a plane. The National Standard for cycling we teach at our cycle training is intended to help cyclists to cycle more safely. There is training that’s geared to complete beginners as well as experienced cyclists. And of course, there are plenty of on-road routes that avoid busy junctions and bus lanes. If you’re willing to go slightly out of your way, you can pretty much get anywhere by bike in London, without needing to share space with HGVs and hurrying taxis. Again, our instructors can help with advice on quiet ways and route planning. You don’t know what you don’t know so when in doubt, get expert help!

Can we go on a bike ride together?

The answer is always yes. The question should be where you should go for a bike ride. Having a cycling buddy will be really appreciated by beginner cyclists. Experienced cyclists can usually learn something along the way too by helping beginners.

What if I am too slow?Penny Farthing Racing

Not all beginner cyclists are slow but we were all beginners once so if in a group, the slowest should be given due consideration. If you are walking and your friend has a foot injury, you’re not going to leave them behind, right? Always be aware of your surroundings and where your friends are during the ride to ensure you are not split up.

Am I asking too many questions?

You probably are but that’s how you learn from scratch. No one has all the answers to every cycling related question (though we’re doing our best!) so we should keep asking questions and keep helping each other.

 

 

Top 10 hills to avoid/visit in London

Some avoid hills at all costs, some long for them. There aren’t long mountain passes in London but you will find some seriously steep hills and there’s no question – they’re a tall order to conquer. For the purposes of this blog, the M25 is the boundary; all 10 hills are within this. If you struggle to ride up the approach to London Bridge then you should be prepared for a walk when tackling one of these. Click on the hyperlinks to see the technical profile of each hill.

Canonbie Road SE23

How do you know if a road is steep? How about looking at the houses that line the road? It is almost comical how steep this road looks. At the top, you will get a very rare, uninterrupted view of London in two opposite directions.

Points Hill SE10

Staying in residential areas but in Greenwich. The parked cars sometimes make it even more difficult when you have to change your speed to give way. Give yourself some serious points if you reach the top.

Blackheath Hill SE10

This one is the least steep on the list but the high volume of traffic makes it particularly challenging. Slow moving traffic will keep you warm with their exhaust but you’ll want to hold your breath.

Swain’s Lane N6

The infamous stinger of a climb in Highgate. It’s both feared and respected. The wall on the left side and the overarching trees are a little claustrophobic, that is if you’ve got the capacity to think about anything other than the pain in your legs and lungs.

Fox Hill SE19

Tucked away behind Crystal Palace, you will know about it if you live/cycle nearby. It’s got some brothers and sisters along the ridge but this one is the steepest of them all. The pain doesn’t last very long… but the test is if you can actually get over it.

Brasted Hill TN14

We are heading south, very near the M25 now. The start of the steep part tickles around 12% and with no respite, gradually work its way up to 20% at the top. From the bottom of the hill, you can see all the way to the top which is very intimidating.

White Lane RH8

A quiet climb next to Titsey hill. The gentle curves and greenery hide the finish from your sight. It gets steeper just as you think you are about to finish but mind over matter. There’s a hill climb race on this hill every year organised by BEC cycling club for anyone who wants to watch others suffer.

Succomb’s Hill CR6

The relatively busy traffic on this hill which takes you up to Warlingham will keep you wanting to go up it faster. When you see the S bends up the road, prepare yourself for the real stuff.

Bug Hill CR3

This is the least violent hill on the list (if hills can be called violent). It does get steep but the gradient changes very gently so no surprises and you will usually have enough peace and quiet to focus on your thumping heart and screaming legs.

Downe Road TN14

This one has a nasty surprise for you right at the end, before it lets you into Cudham. The majority of the climb is very manageable but the final ramp feels like the road engineers are saying “oops we made a miscalculation, let’s just finish the job quickly and join this bit straight up to that bit”.

 

Aaaaaand we’re over the top. Anyone else feeling exhausted just from reading about these hills? There are others that would be excellent contenders for sure (we don’t presume to be the ultimate authority). If you know of any gems that should be on this list, let us know in the comments section.

 

Top 5 cycling new year resolutions

locked bikeHappy New Year! Let’s make 2017 another cycling year! Read on for our 5 favourite cycling new year resolutions. There should be something for beginner cyclists, occasional cyclists and seasoned cyclists alike.

Get someone to start cycling

Spread the love! You might know someone who is considering taking up cycling for commuting or recreationally. Help them with the process of getting a bike and offer to guide them on a ride. You’ll be glad to hear that we’ll be publishing a mini series of blogs soon to answer some common questions from beginner cyclists. We also have suggestions for how to get your friends, family and colleagues to start cycling.

Climb a hill that’s defeated you before

You and your bike vs hills. Having 100% confidence that you can get over any hill makes route planning much easier so if you’ve been beaten by a hill, keep trying until you conquer it! If you thought London was flat, we’ve got news for you… watch out for next week’s blog “Top 10 hills to avoid/ visit in London”.

Plan and complete a challenging ride

If you are getting bored of cycling in your local area or your commuting route, how about challenging yourself with a long ride and perhaps a more taxing terrain? Part of the fun is planning the route (don’t overestimate your own ability!) Perhaps plan to ride with someone you know who is more experienced; they may be able to advise on route planning and help with directions or mechanical mishaps on the day. If you choose your partner wisely, you’ll probably even get a few words of encouragement.

Start cycling into work

Tired of waiting for buses and trains that are forever late or cancelled? Feeling the January tug of the purse strings (or waistband)? Tick all the boxes at once by switching to cycling in to work. Depending on your confidence and the length of your commute, cycle the whole way or consider replacing a particular leg of your journey. Most train and tube stations have ample parking for bikes or there’s the foldable bike option if you want to take it with you on the train. Don’t let the British weather deter you though; get some tips and inspiration from these blogs: How to love riding in the rain, Some inspirational thoughts on winter cycling commutes, A guide to winter commuting by bike

By: Federation European Cyclists'
By: Federation European Cyclists’

Cycle more often and more safely

Form a realistic plan and make your target to cycle more often. For example, look at using a cycle hire scheme to get around your city for meetings. Maybe you can commit to cycling in to work at least once a week to start off with. For the weekend, treat the family to a leisurely countryside cycle once a month.

You can take care of the “more safely” aspect by booking some cycle training with a company like ours. There are many cycle training providers across the UK so it shouldn’t be hard for you to find a National Standard Instructor to give you a lesson or two. The training is usually free or subsidised by the local authority and caters for every level of ability.