Tips for getting back on your bike
The Tour de France is on again. And there’s nothing like watching great athletes race through the French countryside – past beautiful chateaus, idyllic villages and madly cheering fans. If you’re like me, it’s enough to make you drag your bike out of the shed, dust the cobwebs off and hit the road. Literally.
One spin around my small suburban street and I crashed.
It seems my ability to ride a bike, like most things you don’t do on a regular basis, has disappeared. Along with my ability to roller skate, climb trees and bounce out of bed fresh as a daisy after a late night out.
But the saying “it’s as easy as riding a bike” must exist for a reason, right? So I persevered, and while I’m still a little wobbly, and hills are a challenge, I’m doing it!
So here are my tips for getting back on your bike after years away.
- Get a bike – obviously tip number 1 for riding a bike is to get one.
- If you’re buying a new bike, get advice from people you know who ride regularly. Find a good bike shop and talk with the staff. Check out the Choice guide to help you know what to look for.
- Borrow a bike from a friend or neighbour. That way you can give cycling a go before you spend any money on a new bike.
- If you already have a bike, go over it to make sure it’s in good condition. If you’re not sure what you need to do, enrol in a basic bike maintenance course. Just Google it, and you’ll find places that run these courses in your area.
- Make sure your bike is fitted with all the necessary bits and pieces you’ll need. Much of this will depend where/when you plan to ride, so seek advice from other cyclists or from the bike shop. But some of the things you may need include: comfortable seat, light, bell, basket/rack, water holder, lock, pump.
- Find the perfect outfit for you – this doesn’t need to expensive, but does need to be comfortable, brightly coloured so others can see you, made out of fabric that breathes, and if you’re riding at night or when it’s getting dark, reflective. Oh, and padding in bike shorts can help protect you from some unpleasant pain in sensitive areas! You’ll also need a good helmet that fits you properly. Remember it’s compulsory in Australia to wear an approved helmet when riding a bike.
- Where to ride – this is an important one. You’re more likely to ride more regularly if you feel safe and you’re in a pleasant environment. So depending on where you live, riding around your local streets may not be the best option. Taking your bike to a park or local bike trails may be the best way for you to build your confidence. Make sure the paths are easy to navigate, wide enough for you and others to get by, not too steep (at least while you’re relearning to ride) and have places where you can stop for a breather, have a drink and enjoy the surrounds.
- Grab the family and friends – exercising is often more fun when you do it with others. And riding a bike is a great activity for people of all ages and levels of fitness.
- Start small. It’s easy to get swept up in the ride – the nature around you, the hypnotic effect of turning the wheels around and around, the wind in your face – and then you realise you have to cycle back to where you started. So be aware of the distance you travel. Starting small also gives you the time and space to relearn riding your bike – how the brakes work, the gears, steering, not crashing!
- Drink water. You’re exercising, so you’ll be sweating and losing fluid. Take regular breaks to rehydrate.
- Check out the networks – both formal e.g. Bicycle Network and local, informal cycling groups. You’ll get information, support and advice, and you’ll meet new people.
- Enjoy yourself! Cycling is a really enjoyable activity – so get out there, check out the countryside and have fun.
More to explore
- Your local council website for cycling groups, paths and other resources
- Your state/territory government parks websites for information on riding safely in parks, maps and much more.