How do you know if you’re improving at cycling? After six months of owning my road bike and 12 months of being back on a bike again, I can confirm I am no longer a threat to the roads moreover I’m no longer threatened by the roads. There are six levels to my “embrace cycling mission” which I thought I’d share for your benefit and amusement.
1) You don’t fear roundabouts
No longer does the thought of a little roundabout send terror through your veins, the novice cyclist would have freaked out at the thought of handling a number of different consecutive action whilst on two wheels. Firstly, getting in lane, stopping, starting, setting off before a car comes spinning round and signalling at the correct exit – all of which require you to be aware of over-zealous cars who want to try and overtake you or better yet, drivers who don’t see you while you’re on a roundabout.
Always always always assume the driver hasn’t seen you and be careful when spinning around the roundabout.
2) You can signal to the left and the right
The golden rule of cycling etiquette: let the other vehicles on the road know where you’re going. Now it’s simple to write this now if you’re not ambidextrous then all right handed people will initially find they can confidently signal left – signalling right and leaving the left hand to do the steering? No way! When you first started out cycling you found many situations where you got stuck in no-man’s land somewhere off the side of the road, round a blind corner or somewhere dodgy like that. Now you pre-empt when you need to edge into the middle of the road and signal like a pro (this leads to a much smoother cycle ride)
Practice lifting your hands off the handlebars whilst on quiet roads, that way, if you fall then you’re not in danger AND no-one’s seen.
3) You haven’t misplaced your foot on the pedal for atleast a month
The notion of pedal to shin is a pain that I associate with the very early days of learning to cycle, annoyingly it still happens now like some weird mental blip that reminds me not to get too cocky. That being said, these occasions are few and far in between leaving the scars to heal in time for the next set of scars. Clipless shoes will minimise this problem from being such a shin-cutter, however, it’s a whole new ball game with getting the second shoe into the cleats when you set off on a bike.
4) You can take a look around you when cycling
Ever get the feeling you need to look up more? When you first started cycling, you were fixated on the road careful not to ride over a pothole or more importantly to avoid any ditches, curbs, dogs or children. Now obviously it’s still important to keep your eyes on the road at all times, but when in the countryside or on a quiet lane somewhere, you can now look up and admire the scenery around you.
5) You can pump a tyre and change an inner tube
Once upon a time I used to pay someone to do basic bike maintenance and then I bought a road bike which was actually the easiest thing to dismantle (I don’t need a spanner, just screw/unscrew). I even had the misfortune of experiencing my first puncture while we were out riding through Wookey Hole in Somerset and attempted to fix the puncture, lesson learnt, it’s just easier to change the inner tube and see to the puncture in the comfort of your own home (not by the roadside).
You once sought professional help for the most basic bike maintenance tasks, now you can pump the tyres using a public pump because you know what you’re doing now. How to change an inner tube on YouTube
6) When you see a hill, you don’t get off your bike
The art of embracing a hill however big or small takes physical and mental strength, in the past you would take one look at a hill and say something along the lines of ‘forget it’. Now you embrace, or should I say, tolerate a hill with some degree of resilience. We went on a ride the other day (Portsmouth to Winchester) which consisted of a never ending series of country lanes, we totalled up 2,800ft climb throughout the whole trip which lead to me distrusting every hill that started to appear ahead of me. If I’m being completely honest, I had to get off the bike for one of the hills but it was pretty brutal and I envisioned myself grounding to a halt and just falling sideways with my shoes locked into the pedal in a completely anti-climatic fall.
7) You willingly agree to riding more miles than you did before
You once found the idea of cycling more than 10 miles actually quite terrifying but now you find yourself pinpointing locations on Google Maps that is +20 miles. Once your confidence grows, the appetite for longer rides which tally up more miles, climb higher feet and tick off more destinations. This is a wave which you need to keep on riding, increment your distance by 5 each ride regularly, I promise it’ll help!