6 steps to start cycling today

So, you’ve decided to start cycling—congratulations! Biking is fun, social, practical and environmental. It’s also great for both your physical and mental health. Whether you learned as a kid, or are just learning now, biking is a breeze once you get the hang of it.  

SIX STEPS TO GET YOU STARTED, WITHOUT DELAY

1. Get equipped – the must-haves. First, you’ll need to buy, borrow or rent a bike that fits you. That means, finding a frame that is the right size, and is adjusted to the right seat and handlebar height for your body. Any bike shop worth their salt will be able to help with these adjustments, or you can find them online. Lawful must-haves in most provinces include a helmet, possibly a horn or bell, reflective tape and, if you’re riding at night or in twilight, lights. 

2. Get equipped – the nice-to-haves. Other safety items include a rear-view mirror and reflective clothing. For rest stops or parking, it’s nice to have a kick stand (although not essential), and for errands, a basket or side paniers. Sometimes these storage items can be costly so any old backpack is always a good go-to. If you’ll be leaving your bike anywhere – outside a café, a store or your workplace – get a good lock. They too can be expensive, but they’re worth every penny.

3. Knowledge is power. Every cyclist should know and use three basic hand signals: left turn, right turn and stop. But there’s so much more to it—you need to get good at ‘handling’ your bike. The problem with talking about skillful biking is that we might think we know – because many of us have been doing it forever – but the reality is we may not be as adept as we think. Which is why we are big on accredited courses like Can-Bike. Taking a cycling course WILL improve your cycling skills and WILL keep you safer. Case in point: some European countries provide mandatory traffic education in schools—to teach safe walking and cycling skills—and guess what? The number of cyclist injury rates are significantly lower in these countries than in North America where traffic education around safe cycling is not mandatory. While the rules may vary slightly in your province, watch this video to learn the basics of “Bike Handling Skills 101” or have a read through Ontarios’ “Cycling Skills” guide.

4. Orient yourself. Your city or town may have bike paths and shared or dedicated bike lanes, which offer us the safest routes from A to B, whether they’re on main streets or smaller ones. Check online or at your local bike store for cycling-specific maps, and for heighted safety, plan your route on these bike-forward roads as much as possible. 

5. Find a friend. You’ll probably be more comfortable on your first couple bike rides if you go with a friend – preferably someone more experienced than you, if possible. That person can ride ahead of you and act as your guide as your confidence builds.

6. Keep at it. Once you get started, you’ll find your ability and confidence will increase every time you jump on the saddle. As you get better, try challenging yourself by choosing routes with hills to get your heart rate up, or learn how to fix a flat tire.  

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Our two cents: Grab your two-wheeler and get rolling while the sun still shines. Cycling is great exercise for body and mind, and it’s a skill that will stay with you forever.

To get your wheels turning – safely – we’ve created this handy safety-first checklist. Click below to download it onto your phone or print it off.