If you have found your balance and can propel yourself forward without a problem, it is time for step 2 - practising your basic manoeuvres! Take your time and repeat until every action becomes second nature. This allows you to focus on what really matters in traffic: your safety and the safety of other road users.
Before you take off...
Practise in a secluded and safe area, perform the exercises step by step and start from the beginning.
Exercise 1: Setting off and using your brakes
Put one foot on a pedal and the other on the ground. Apply some force to the pedal and only add your other foot once you’re moving and are firmly seated. When you’ve cycled a few metres, gently squeeze both brakes. You’re best off avoiding using your brakes in the beginning, rather than using them too often. Stopping abruptly may knock novice cyclists off balance. In time, you’ll learn exactly how much force you should apply to your brakes to gradually come to a halt.
- Learn how to estimate your braking distance by stopping at a physical object, such as a tree, bin, cones, a piece of clothing or a mark on the pavement. Determine a clear point where you want to stop and set off from. This allows you to practise setting off and stopping at the same time.
- Stop and immediately set off again. This will feel a bit clumsy at first, but do not get discouraged! Repeat, repeat, repeat and learn through diligent practice!
Exercise 2: A straight line
It is of utmost importance that you learn how to cycle in a straight line. Speed is the most important factor in this respect. If you ride too slow, you’ll start wobbling; if you go too fast, you run the risk of losing control. Place a few cones in a row, cycle along a grassy edge or draw a (very!) long line on the ground. Look straight ahead and find a speed that suits you.
Exercise 3: Look
When navigating traffic, estimating your environment is a matter of life and death. You should therefore not only know what’s happening in front of you, but also what’s going on behind your back. You’ll have to learn to look behind you, in other words. Only start doing this exercise once you’ve mastered cycling in a straight line and make sure there are no obstacles in your way.
- Cycle in a straight line and try to look behind you (left and right) while staying on the right path.
- Ask a friend to put a few fingers up behind you and try to determine how many they are holding up while you keep cycling.
- Try to make eye contact with someone behind you.
But be careful: you don’t need to look behind you for a whole minute! Two seconds is more than enough!
Exercise 4: Stretch your arm
You’re a cyclist, not a BMW. This means you do have indicators in the form of your arms. So you’ll have to learn to cycle with just 1 hand on the handlebars! You practise this in 4 phases, only progressing to the next phase once you’ve mastered the previous one.
- Novice cyclists have a tendency to tightly squeeze the handlebars, which blocks their lower arm. Release one hand and loosely place it on the handlebars.
- Then fully let go of the handlebars with one hand and grab hold of them again immediately.
- Dangle your arm next to your body.
- Stretch your arm sideways for two seconds.
Practise with both arms!
Exercise 5: Mix it up!
Build yourself an obstacle course and practise all four manoeuvres at the same time. Add corners, indicate where you’re going, look behind you, stop at a pre-determined point or slam the brakes - you can really go all out for this part! There’s no such thing as too much practice, and once you’ve mastered this, you’re ready to brave the traffic!