Tune up your ride

Want to recapture the beautifully smooth, effortless ride of a brand new bike? Here are a few simple tweaks you can make to your existing ride to get that fresh-out-of-the shop feeling back again.

Keep it clean

Little and often is the easiest way to keep your bike in good condition, so try to get into the habit of washing it regularly. Pay particular attention to the drive train – the chainrings, sprockets, and the chain itself – as clearing the gunk away from your transmission is the most effective way to improve the efficiency of your machine. Add this to the psychological boost of having a beautiful clean bike and you’ll be flying along like never before.

Keep it lubricated

Just as important as keeping the chain clean is keeping it lubricated. A well oiled chain will run more efficiently and will also pick up less dirt when riding in the wet. Debate rages as to whether WD40 should ever be allowed near your bike, but most agree that a specific bike lube will keep things running smoothly for longer. Apply a drop to each link and be sure to wipe off any excess.

Check your saddle height

Probably the quickest and most effective way for a majority of cyclists to improve their efficiency is to set the saddle to the correct height. Having a saddle too high, or more commonly too low, makes it impossible to transfer your full power through the pedals, meaning you go more slowly for the same effort. An incorrect position on your bike can also be uncomfortable, and even cause injuries in the long term. Despite being such a fundamental part of getting the right bike fit there is no universally accepted method of determining saddle height. Some of the competing theories are detailed here.

Pump it up

Underinflated tyres have greater rolling resistance, meaning you’ll need to work harder to maintain your speed. Pumping them up properly takes just a minute or two and will reap immediate benefits, shaving time of your journey, or at least allowing you to achieve the same speed for less effort. Different tyres will run at different pressures, so check the sidewall of your particular tyres where you should find the recommended pressure range. Here’s a handy guide to correct inflation.

Learn to love your gears

When considering a relatively flat city like London, there’s a good argument to be made that most bikes you’ll see (notwithstanding the recent popularity of fixed gears and single speeds) have many more gears than are necessary. And whilst it’s true that you’ll probably never need all of the 27 gears which are quite common, a large number of riders underuse their gears and could benefit from expanding their range. Pedalling rates (cadences) vary from one rider to another, so let your legs tell you when a change is needed. Churning too big a gear, or spinning too low a gear are both inefficient, and can also lead to injuries, so don’t be afraid to shift up and down regularly to keep a steady rhythm.

By following these few simple steps, for almost zero cost, you can put a new lease of life into your existing bike, and enjoy that new bike feeling all over again.


Cycling with small children

Kids. Change. Everything.

Once those adorable, exasperating bundles of energy have entered your life nothing will ever be quite the same again. The good news for bike loving parents is that the arrival of little people doesn’t have to mean an end to riding. Just strap the kids in and take them with you.

Why cycle with children?

Cycling is simply a great way to get around, and even with kids in tow it can still be the cheapest, healthiest and most convenient

way to do the nursery run, get to the shops, or just go exploring. Cycling with kids from an early age is also a good way to introduce them to the joys of riding a bike: the fresh air, the sensation of being self-propelled, the feeling of freedom and independence.

So what are the options?

There are a bewildering number of different options for transporting children by bicycle, each with their own pros and cons. For simplicity let’s boil them down to 3 main categories: seats, trailers, and cargo bikes.

Bike seats

The most commonly seen bike seat in the UK is the rear mounted type where the child is seated behind the saddle. The seat may be attached to a rack, or else cantilevered from a bracket on the frame.  They will have high backs to support a child’s head (particularly important if little one dozes off) and a harness to strap them in. More common elsewhere in Europe and in the US is the front mounted seat which attaches to the top tube, positioning the child between adult and handlebars.

Ordinarily bike seats would only be used to carry one child at a time, but as this Dutch “supermum” demonstrates, carrying three children plus shopping is possible.

•    Pros: Child is close to you so simple to talk to, and is high up so easy to see and be seen. Quick and easy to attach and detach, and relatively simple to store away when not in use. Inexpensive.
•    Cons: Top heavy so it can take a while to adjust to the way the bike handles. Risk of bike toppling over if left unattended.


Bike trailers are like little buggies for either one or two kids which attach to the frame of your bike via a towbar. They will commonly have a cover to keep out the elements when necessary and pockets to store snacks and drinks within easy reach. Most will double up as strollers when detached from the bike.
•    Pros: Lots of room for extra luggage, great for spending the whole day out and about. Trailer is very stable and will remain upright even if the bike falls over.
•    Cons: Two children are within easy squabbling distance of each other. On busy roads some parents may feel uneasy about pulling their offspring behind them and low down to the road. Detaching and storing away can be a little long winded.

Cargo bikes

A popular option in cities such as Amsterdam but still relatively rare in the UK, Cargo bikes are purpose built for transporting two or more kids (or other precious cargo). The most famous is the Christiania bike, named for the Copenhagen hippie enclave where they were first made, but there are lots of different configurations out there, including this ingenious design which converts to a stroller. Availability in London is improving, with specialist shops like London Green Cycles offering a wide range, and some councils (Waltham Forest for example) offering free trials.

•    Pros: Sturdy, stable and durable. Positions the kids in front of you where you can see them. Loads of room and flexible seating options for two or more kids.
•    Cons: Not cheap. Needs a lot of room to store. Doesn’t provide the flexibility of converting back to a regular bike once you’ve dropped the kids off.

Give them the cycling bug

Some of these options involve a considerable investment, but the good news is that quality bike trailers and cargo bikes hold their resale value extremely well. Of course the real benefit to all of this is that before too long they’ll want their own set of wheels, so you can get them off your bike and onto theirs, opening up a lifetime’s enjoyment of cycling as a family.


Is cycle training for me?

Who is cycle training for? The simple answer is that it’s for everyone. By which I mean that pretty much anybody who rides a bike, or would like to ride a bike, will gain something from a lesson with a qualified cycling instructor.

It’s for the kids though isn’t it?

Many people’s standard conception of cycle training will be what used to be known as the cycling proficiency test, and the training of school-age children remains a big part of our work today. Thankfully the rather ad hoc approach to cycling proficiency was replaced with the launch of the National Standard for cycle training in 2003, and it is this structure which guides training in schools under the banner of Bikeability.

IMG_5997Training is also available to adults, and whilst all training will be underpinned by the same National Standard, there is a large amount of flexibility that allows for training to be tailored to the individual needs of each trainee.


What if I never learned to ride a bike?

If you never learned to cycle as a child, don’t worry, it’s never too late.  Also, you’re not alone.  You might be surprised to find out that, according to some estimates, around one in ten adults don’t know how to ride a bike. The good news is that one or two sessions with a qualified instructor are usually enough to get a complete beginner pedalling along.

I already ride on the roads so I guess training’s not for me?

Cycling safely and confidently, particularly on the roads of a major city like London, involves much more than mastering the control of your bicycle and learning the rules of the highway code.  Although those two things do clearly make for a good starting point!

Unlike driving a car there’s no test to be taken before you start cycling on the roads (and I’m not proposing that there should be) which means that often even experienced cyclists have never actually stopped to think about the finer details of how they cycle. Like most activities, habits (good and bad) are quickly and easily established. As an example, a very common habit of urban cyclists is to only ever ride in a narrow strip of road within 50cm or so of the kerb. A little time with a cycling instructor spent thinking about how to increase your safety and visibility can modify this behaviour for the better.

Bespoke adviceIMG_6040

The great thing about 1-2-1 cycle training is that each session can be designed bespoke for the individual trainee. If you want to tackle a certain journey your instructor can sit down with you to plan a route before riding it together to provide advice on specific roads and junctions. Perhaps you are unsure of a certain turn or manoeuvre? If so then these can be looked at in detail. You can also spend time considering the existing cycling infrastructure in your area and discuss when’s best (and best not) to use it.

So whether you’re a complete beginner, someone returning to cycling wanting the confidence to use the roads, or an experienced cyclist wanting to make sure that you’re riding as well as you possibly can, take a look at what training’s available near you.


London mayoral election-where does cycling fit in?

On May 5th Londoners will vote to decide their next mayor. Polls suggest that the most important issue for voters is housing, but the issue that is arguably of most direct relevance to Londoner’s day to day lives is transport.

Whilst the candidates will be in broad agreement that London needs more affordable housing, even if they differ on how to achieve it, how to ease the strain on the capital’s creaking transport infrastructure is a much more divisive topic. No more so than when it comes to the role played by cycling. When asked which is the more fractious debate, the EU or cycling, current mayor Boris Johnson replied:  “Oh God, cycling. Unquestionably.”

Before considering the views of the various candidates to succeed Boris, it’s worth reflecting that the polarisation of the debate around cycling tends to work against those campaigning for better provision. We need to shift the debate away from cyclists v non-cyclists and make the case that investment in cycling benefits London as a whole by easing pressure on other modes of transport and freeing up space on the roads. It will also play a part in improving the air pollution that claims the lives of nearly 10,000 Londoners each year.

Get informed

London Cycling Campaign has an excellent summary of where the main candidates stand on the issue.

All are in agreement that some good work has been done over the past mayoral term, and that more can be done to build upon this, in particular with the creation of more segregated bike lanes. Although the Conservatives’ Zac Goldsmith has also suggested he could remove cycle lanes if they weren’t proven to be effective.

All back the expansion of 20mph zones, with the Green Party’s Sian Berry going furthest by proposing a 20mph limit “across London”.

A rush hour ban on HGV’s in central London is proposed by the Greens, and also by Goldsmith as long as it doesn’t create “additional risks” at other times. Caroline Pidgeon for the Liberal Democrats promises to trial this same idea.

Labour’s Sadiq Khan has pledged to increase investment in cycling, as have Pidgeon and Berry, whilst Goldsmith has committed only to protecting current budgets.

Leading by example

Judging on past performance, Caroline Pidgeon has the most impressive pro-cycling credentials having been an outspoken advocate for cycling as a London Assembly Member, and the 2015 winner of LCC’s cycling champion of the year.

Sian Berry has in her own words “worked on green transport for over a decade and backed many LCC campaigns”.

Ask an Olympic champion

In his capacity as policy advisor to British cycling, Chris Boardman has been taking a keen interest in the mayoral contest. He provides a summary of his views in this interview with the Londonist, and you can view his interviews with Pidgeon and Khan on the British Cycling YouTube channel.

For more information on the election you can go to the London Elects website.

Full list of candidates

•    BERRY, Sian Rebecca – Green Party
•    FURNESS, David – British National Party
•    GALLOWAY, George – Respect (George Galloway)
•    GOLDING, Paul – Britain First – Putting British people first
•    GOLDSMITH, Zac – The Conservative Party Candidate
•    HARRIS, Lee Eli – Cannabis is Safer Than Alcohol
•    KHAN, Sadiq Aman – Labour Party
•    LOVE, Ankit – One Love Party
•    PIDGEON, Caroline Valerie – London Liberal Democrats
•    WALKER, Sophie – Women’s Equality Party
•    WHITTLE, Peter Robin – UK Independence Party (UKIP)
•    ZYLINSKI, Prince – Independent

See you at the polling station.


Transforming cities through cycling

Radical changes to the way we move around big cities can be brought about quickly and inexpensively.

New York’s not-so-mean streets

This is the somewhat startling message of a new book, Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution, by Janette Sadik-Khan who served as New York’s transport commissioner from 2007-2013. During that time she oversaw historic changes to the City’s streets, closing Broadway to cars in Times Square, building nearly 400 miles of bike lanes, introducing a bike hire scheme and creating more than 60 plazas citywide.


New York – the most cycle friendly large city in the US

This will come as quite a surprise to anyone who last visited NYC before this revolution took place. When I last cycled there in 2006 it was intimidating to say the least, unsurprisingly given that for most of the previous century the city had been built around the car. The lesson seems to be that if these changes can be achieved in New York, they can be achieved just about anywhere.

So how did Sadik-Khan make it happen? The key lies in rethinking how streets are designed, and, crucially, who they are designed for. Urban transport is, she argues, amid a “Copernican revolution” in which streets are remodelled around human beings, whether walking, cycling or on buses, rather than sitting alone inside a metal box.

New Yorkers took time to come round

The changes made in New York were not universally popular. In fact they faced vociferous opposition from myriad local groups, but polls conducted at the end of Michael Bloomberg’s term as mayor in 2013 show a strong majority of New Yorker’s approved of the transport measures. What’s more, Department of Transport statistics show that there has been an 82% decrease in the risk of serious injury to cyclists over the past decade.

Rethinking the streets helped residents to rediscover that New York City had been ideally suited to walking and cycling all along. The city’s dense design means many trips are short. 10% of car journeys are under half a mile, and 56% are under three miles – distances that can easily be covered on foot or on a bike.

Sadik-Khan also emphasises that transport policy should be measured by more than just how fast traffic is going.  “Our streets have been in this kind of suspended animation. They’re seen as there for all time. The result is that you’ve got dangerous, congested, economically under-performing streets. That strikes at the heart of the liveability and competitiveness of a city.”

And it didn’t cost the earth…

The really revolutionary idea contained in Streetfight is that these improvements don’t require massive budgets, nor decades to implement, nor even a visionary leader. You can make streets safer, more livable, more economically productive by simply adapting the existing space. She urges city planners to be bold, and to try things by making changes which can be quickly put in place and easily reversed if they don’t work out.

For lots more information on this inspiring work see Janette Sadik-Khan’s website, or watch the TED talk below.



Beat the bike thieves

Ever experienced that sinking feeling as you approach the empty rack where you left your bike chained up? It’s every cyclist’s nightmare. And with some estimates putting the number of bike thefts in London at 70,000 per year, it’s worth taking some simple steps to dramatically reduce your chances of being part of that statistic.

Location, Location, Location

The ideal place to park your bike is inside, but when this isn’t possible choose your location carefully. A busy, well lit public place with lots of footfall is best. Avoid locations that suggest the bike will be there all day (like train stations) in favour of locations that suggest you might return any minute (like outside a shop or cafe).

Wherever possible use specific cycle parking stands or racks. Don’t lock your bike to a signpost where the sign can easily be removed and the bicycle simply lifted over the top of the post.

If you need to lock your bike on the street at either end of a regular journey try not to leave your bike in the same place every day, as determined bike thieves might spot it and return with the tools of their trade at a later date.

How to lock your bike

It’s futile to chain up just one removable part

Thieves don’t always target entire bikes, as there’s money to be made from bits of bikes too, so make sure that all of your bike, not just parts of it, are secure. Lock both wheels and the frame to a solid object. Using two different types of locks – one cable, one D-lock – is best, as thieves will most often come prepared for one type or the other, but not both.

Anything on your bike that can easily be removed including lights and cycle computers should be taken away by you, to prevent it from being taken away by someone else. Removing the saddle keeps it safe as well as making the remaining bike less attractive to thieves.


Good locks are not particularly cheap, but they are cheaper than replacing your bike, so get the best you can afford. Your main lock should ideally be Silver or Gold rated. Choose a D-lock which fits snugly when in use. The more space left between the lock and the object it is locked to the easier it will be to break.

Quick release levers on seatposts and wheels offer zero protection, and allen key bolts offer not much more, which is why anything attached to your bike in this way should be locked to a solid object when parking it. Pinhead locks or similar offer an extra layer of security.

Make life tougher for the thieves

The police use the BikeRegister database to identify and recover stolen bikes. Registering your bike will increase the chances of being reunited with it should the worst happen, and displaying the fact that your bike is registered by way of a sticker on the frame will make it a less desirable target in the first place.

When buying a second hand bike (hopefully not because you just had one nicked) one final thing that you can do to discourage thieves is to take steps to make sure that you don’t buy a stolen bike.

There have been cases of bike theft in the press recently that have gained considerable coverage due to the unusual method applied by the thieves. Cutting through the bike rack and taping it together again so that it looked undamaged, they then returned later to steal the bike of the unsuspecting person who parked it there. As this demonstrates, thieves will go to great lengths to relieve you of your trusty steed. By following these simple tips you can make life harder for them, and so have a much better chance of avoiding that sinking feeling.


Sorry: I didn’t see you…

It may not seem a likely sight – a group of seasoned truckers taking to the road on bikes with an instructor – but it’s a growing phenomenon. In 2003, the EU passed the DCPC (Driver Certificate of Professional Competence) Directive. This requires all professional urban LGV and PCV drivers to complete training designed to promote the safe sharing of roads with vulnerable road users, particularly cyclists. Mel Holley from routeOne magazine attended one such course and he sent this report.

While the lycra-clad, law-breaking power cyclist is one particular stereotype – especially in London – in reality, a variety of people cycle, and relatively few have the devil-may-care aggressive attitude that the image suggests. Indeed, fear of accidents is a key worry for many cyclists, especially the less confident.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 12.56.17

In the same way as only by sitting in the cab of a coach or bus can a cyclist fully appreciate the driver’s vision and why we position our vehicles where we do such as when turning left, changing places with cyclists is an equal eye-opener for PCV drivers, even those who are lapsed in the saddle.

Meanwhile, for those who complain about the cost of the Driver CPC (DCPC) renewal, there is good news in that most councils have secured government funding to run these so that all you pay is the £8.75 upload fee.

Run by Cycle Confident, using their local trainer Alec Horner of Minimise Your Risk, the Safer Urban Driving course aims to highlight ways you can improve your driving and understand the behaviour of cyclists.

With a mix of PCV and LGV drivers, the morning started with outlines of the issues that drivers and cyclists face, supported by recent videos covering high-profile situations in the capital. Unsurprisingly, this provoked some lively discussion and was anything but dull.

Then, with assistance from cycle training professionals, we moved on to the practical session – optional for those who felt unable to take part. Snazzy new cycles were provided and coaching took place in an off-road cycle lane, including checking that participants could do basic tasks such as indicate, look over their shoulder and perform an emergency stop.

Key points include understanding how modern cycle training has changed. For example, cyclists are now trained to ride in a more assertive position on the road – to be seen more easily (particularly at junctions).

Then we set off in a hi-viz crocodile onto Brighton’s busy roads, with three short demonstration rides, exposing us to various situations.

We quickly learnt a number of important lessons (aside from the impatience of some motorists) including that cycle lanes are not always in helpful places.

In one case, a narrow lane put riders directly in danger of having a car door opened on them, which would knock them off (into the traffic lane), or force them to swerve, again into the traffic lane.

This didn’t happen, but the danger was clear and it became easier to understand why cyclists don’t always use cycle lanes, or position themselves where we would expect. The benefit of advanced stop lines at a complex junction were also demonstrated.

Experiencing first-hand what it’s like to be a modern-day cyclist, especially for those who had not been in the saddle for a while, was incredibly powerful.  Understanding what a cyclist might do next, and why, proved a useful education.

For information on Driver CPC courses run by Cycle Confident, click here.


Thinking of becoming a cycling instructor?

Some observations from a Cycle Confident instructor…

“I really think this will be life-changing for me”

This comment was the verdict of a trainee at the end of a recent 1-2-1 cycling lesson. During the session we had planned and ridden her commute, a journey she had, until then, made by public transport. Cycle training had given her the knowledge, skills and, crucially, the confidence to consider making this journey by bike. This in turn will enable her to unlock the benefits of cycling to work, which all the evidence suggests will make her happier, healthier, less stressed and certainly better off.

Of course not every lesson prompts such a positive response, but I think this captures something of why being a cycling instructor is such a rewarding job.  If you are considering the profession, chances are you’re already convinced of the potential that cycling has to improve lives. Training to become an instructor will enable you to realise that potential in others.

So, that’s the rose-tinted vision dealt with.

What about the practicalities…

In order to become a qualified cycling instructor you will need to complete a 4-day instructor training course with a registered Instructor Training Organisation (ITO) such as Cycle Confident. To attend, you’ll need to be 18 or over, reasonably fit, and a confident cyclist with your own bike.

The course will introduce you to the National Standard in cycle training. This is essentially the framework that underpins all cycle training, and sets out a series of “outcomes” – skills and abilities needed by cyclists to ride safely in different situations.

Cycle Confident Instructor Training
Cycle Confident Instructor Training

Having successfully completed the course you will have attained Provisional National Standard Instructor status. You can start to work as a provisionally qualified instructor, and to do so you’ll want to register with one or more cycle training providers in your local area. To become a fully qualified instructor requires a post course assessment to be carried out within six months of completing initial training – your ITO will help to arrange this.

Other practicalities

There are a few other things to consider once you’ve decided to undertake the initial training. All National Standard Instructors must have appropriate insurance cover when delivering cycle training. A number of organisations provide this cover, including CTC, and British Cycling who offer it as a benefit of membership. You’ll also need an appropriate first aid qualification to enable you to deal with any minor bumps and bruises (not unheard of) and to know what to do in the event of a more serious incident (thankfully, extremely rare).

Much of the training is delivered in schools, under the name Bikeability. Before you can start working with children and young people you will need to complete a DBS check (what used to be called a CRB check). Again, your ITO will facilitate this process, but all of these practicalities can take several weeks to complete, so if you’re serious about starting work as an instructor it’s best to get the ball rolling as early as possible.

What’s the job actually like?

Working as a cycling instructor is immensely fun and rewarding. It can also be challenging and frustrating. And sometimes wet and cold.


The flexibility of the work means it can suit those looking to fit cycle training around other commitments, but it can also be intermittent and, to a degree, seasonal. The vast majority of cycling instructors are freelancers, so if this isn’t something you’ve done before, be prepared for a certain level of uncertainty and also the associated admin, including doing your own tax return.

Most of the work falls into two broad categories – Bikeability sessions delivered in schools, and 1-2-1 training sessions.

1-2-1 cycle training

1-2-1 sessions

Individual lessons can vary greatly, from teaching complete beginners to sessions with seasoned cyclists who want advice on a particular commute. Seeing someone ride unaided for the first time, or helping a previously nervous cyclist to gain confidence to ride on the road, both offer plenty of job satisfaction.

School Bikeability courses

School training will tend to take you into a given school for one week, and in that sense can offer more reliable blocks of work. Instructors work in pairs and, as a freshly qualified instructor, you will be supporting the lead instructor. Each group of kids brings its own challenges, but even in the space of a week you’ll be amazed at the progress they make.

I learn something new from every instructor I work with, and that’s another nice aspect of the job – it’s a great workforce to be part of. Cycling instructors are generally a positive and helpful bunch, perhaps because they’re doing something they love, so if you want to see more people getting more out of cycling, why not join them, and start changing lives for the better!


The Cycle Confident tent is coming to Cycle Revolution at the Design Museum

Some inventions change the course of society, the internet perhaps being the most obvious these days. But right up there with the best of them would have to be the humble bicycle.

Invented by Karl Drais in 1817, the basic form of the bicycle has remained more or less unchanged since the addition of pneumatic tyres and a chain drive. Like the coat hanger and the bic biro, the enduring nature of the object is testament to the simple brilliance of its design.

Cycle Revolution

Chris Boardman’s 1992 Olympic gold medal-winning Lotus pursuit bike

No surprise then that the Design Museum is celebrating the bicycle in its current exhibition, Cycle Revolution, which runs till 30 June. The show allows you to get up close to some of the most iconic bikes ever ridden, including Team Sky’s Pinarellos from the 2015 Tour de France and The Lotus Type 108 ridden by Chris Boardman at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. You can also track the evolution of machines used to break the hour record with the bikes used by Eddy Merckx (1972), Francesco Moser (1984) and Sir Bradley Wiggins (2015) all on display.  It’s not all about elite performance though, with a Brompton, a Breezer and even a Raleigh Chopper also on show.

Get your own bike a health check

Cycle Confident will be outside the Design Museum on the weekends of 19-20 March and 9-10 April, offering a Dr Bike service. There will also be cycle training taster sessions, all free of charge.

If your own bike is not quite in museum quality condition the Dr Bike sessions are an opportunity to get it checked over by an experienced bike mechanic, who will make any necessary minor adjustments or quick fixes there and then. If something a little more major is required they’ll explain what’s needed so that you can take your bike along to a local bike shop armed with all the information. Reserve your place here, or just drop in on the day.

The cycle training taster sessions will last around half an hour and can be tailored to all ages and abilities. If you want to continue your training, and are a London resident, the chances are that further free training is available at a time and place to suit you.

Find Your London

The events on 19 and 20 March also form part of the Mayor of London’s Find Your London festival, celebrating London’s outdoor spaces. There are lots of other bike related events taking place as part of the festival, including the chance to join a cycling choir, or to pedal-power a cinema.

So whether you’re on a Pinarello or a Chopper, or something in between, pedal down to the Design Museum and come say hello.


Are London cyclists really six times healthier?

A recent press release from Brunel University contained the startling claim that London cyclists are 6 times healthier than those who use other means of transport for their commute. Unsurprisingly such an eye-catching claim generated plenty of press coverage as the story was picked up by the Evening Standard among others.

The most obvious question raised by the headline is what measure of health is being used, and what does it mean for one person to be six times healthier than another. Is their resting heart rate six times lower? Is their aerobic capacity six times higher? Will they live six times longer?

Brunel University Cycling ResearchThe answer is contained in the full report, which can be found in the Journal of Public Health here. By analysing Sport England’s Active People Survey the author discovered that ‘utility cyclists’ (more on this term later) were 4 times more likely than others to meet UK guidelines on amounts of physical activity. For those living in inner London the figure rises to 6 times, which leads us (sort of) to that press-friendly headline.

Of course, undertaking a certain minimum recommended amount of physical activity will not make somebody 6 times fitter than a person who does not. Indeed, someone who just exceeds the threshold may well be only marginally more healthy than somebody who falls just short, or indeed may be less fit once other dietary and lifestyle factors have been accounted for.

Nevertheless, we should be willing to forgive the misleading reporting as long as the overall effect is to communicate the important underlying message. Which is that an individual’s choice of transport can have a dramatic effect on their health. Or more succinctly: cycling to work will make you fitter.  All the evidence suggests that it can also improve your psychological well being, as well as your bank balance.

Build exercise into your daily routine

So how much physical activity should you be doing? Government guidelines suggest that adults (19-64) should aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. One way of doing this would be to cycle a 15 minute journey each way, 5 times a week. When you consider that the average cycle commute in London is 9.3 miles, and so more likely to be around 45 minutes in each direction, it becomes clear that the majority of London cycle commuters will comfortably exceed the recommendation.

The great thing about choosing what are known as active travel options (walking or cycling) is that they incorporate exercise into your daily routine, increasing health using only time that would otherwise be spent sitting in a car or bus, or squashed into a tube carriage.

What is utility cycling?

Shopping by bike: Kamyar Adl

Interestingly the report only accounts for activity classed as ‘utility cycling’. This is defined as ‘cycling for purposes other than…health, recreation, training or competition’.  Riding a bike as a means of transport is the original and still the most common form of cycling, but this captures an important point – that to reap the health benefits offered by cycling you don’t need to don full lycra and head for the Alps, or spin a stationary bike in the gym, or ride endless laps of the velodrome. You can simply choose a bicycle as your everyday way to get around.

Wider implications

This basic insight has important implications for wider society, and for policy makers. It demonstrates that promoting cycling as a transport option has massive potential for improving public health. It also suggests that putting money into making utility cycling a more attractive option, for example through better cycle infrastructure, offers a fantastic return on investment.

Getting started

If you are considering commuting by bike in London but need a little help and advice to get started, a 1-2-1 training session can be a great way to overcome any doubts or fears you may have. It’s not guaranteed to make you six times fitter, but it will be several steps (or turns of the pedals) towards a healthier lifestyle.