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Cycling is the third most popular recreational activity in the UK with an estimated 3.1 million people riding a bicycle each month.
Have you ever wanted to join this demographic, but found that London’s roads scare the living crap out of you? Well, you’re not alone. Let me help you overcome this fear.
I wrote in a previous post that I had decided to get back on two wheels and test my mettle on this town’s busy-ass roads. How did I start? Well, I didn’t go out and buy myself a new bike and sexy lycra… I took a more sensible (and free) approach. Did you know that to promote the use of boris bikes in London, TFL has teamed up with local authorities to offer free and subsidised cycle training for beginners right up to seasoned cyclists seeking a new route about town? Well, now you know. It’s incredible.
I filled out a simple online form and met up with Pete, a local trainer in my borough, to get my first completely free 2 hour bike lesson yesterday. I’m pretty confident on bikes, but have trouble doing a left signal so we spent the session spinning around the Notting Hill area working on my turns and signalling. He also spent a little time teaching me stop-starts without taking my feet off the peddles, and some basic bike maintenance tips. I have to say, it was the most fun 2 hours I’ve spent out on a Friday evening in quite some time. Aside from a slight bum-ache today, I feel pretty good. Besides, if it means my ass looks like this in a few weeks, who am I to complain:
For the fashion and safety conscious among you who want tips on getting the right gear for you and your bike and making sure you get the right size helmet, click here for advice.
British Cycling’s website also has recreation and travel sections that offer information and hints on everything you need to enjoy cycling, whether you’re a cycling commuter, mountain biker or first-timer. The site includes a national leisure cycling calendar, which lists everything from charity events to multi-day challenges, and advice on training, maintenance and improving fitness. It also has pre-planned routes for you to ride in your area, and a function where you can map where you’ve ridden, log the miles you’ve travelled and rank yourself against other riders. You could also join a club in your area and go on organised bike rides. See British Cycling’s clubs page to find one.
One thing most people don’t realise is that cycle lanes on busy roads are not “lanes in which the cyclist must remain” but rather “lanes where cars should not drive”. So bear that in mind the next time you hit the road on two wheels. You don’t have to cycle like a spastic-tight-rope-dancer on the edge of the road – feel free to piss-off those small and not-so-small cars by commanding your space. You have as much right to the road as a full size hatchback. But don’t be an ass. Thank the cars that give you time with a nod or hand gesture and you’ll have an easier ride.
For those of you already spinning confidently across town and wishing you were partaking in this weekend’s Tour de France, you can turn your hobby into something more competitive by joining one of 2,500 races registered with British Cycling each year. Visit the British Cycling recreation section to find a race near you to watch or take part in.
Besides being a great form of transport and good for the environment, cycling can also really do wonders for your body.
It’s a low-impact type of exercise, so it’s easier on your joints than running or other high-impact aerobic activities. So someone who weighs 80kg (12st 9lb) will burn more than 650 calories with an hour’s riding, and tone their legs and bottom at the same time. If you ride up hills or off-road, you’ll also work your upper body. To replace your usual cardio routine with cycling only, it is recommended that you ride for at least 150 minutes every week – that’s a couple of short rides to work (or to see friends during the week) plus a longer ride at the weekend.
But if you want to fluff without the puff, then spinning classes at your local gym should get you all the benefits of cycling without the fear of getting run over.
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