The basic skills to learn first are:
¹ This topic has been based on information contained within Cyclecraft - the complete guide to safe and enjoyable cycling for adults and children, written by John Franklin. For more information, the reader should refer to this book. It can be purchased online or ordered through bookstores.
Straight handlebars normally only have one or two positions where you can put your hands. Grip the handlebars firmly, but not too tightly and place your fingers over the brakes, so that you are ready to apply them if you need to.
Holding straight handlebars
There are four ways to hold drop handlebars. Practice them all and make sure you can move between the positions easily.
This is the normal position to use in traffic. From this position you can reach the brake levers easily and by sitting up you can see everything happening around you.
This position can be used when there are no hazards. From this position it is easy to slip your hands to the brakes when needed.
This position reduces wind resistance and is useful when you want to ride fast or are cycling against a strong headwind.
This position can relieve pressure on the hands, but it is generally not recommended because you don't have quick access to the brake levers. The position should only be used by experienced cyclists on quiet roads when there are no hazards.
Most bicycles have two brakes, one at the front and the other at the back. The recommended way to stop is to apply both brakes firmly but not too quickly.
Each of the brakes has a different effect so you should practice braking so you get to know how the brakes work on your bicycle.
Practise the following exercises running with the bicycle next to you.
The bicycle should stop very quickly, but the rear wheel may jump off the ground.
Brake control practice exercise
The bicycle should stop more slowly with both wheels on the ground.
The bicycle should stop quickly with both wheels on the ground.
Work out how much to squeeze the brakes to make the bicycle stop quickly, but without skidding.
If you apply the brakes too firmly you may go over the handlebars.
Getting on the bicycle
Start off position
Before getting on the bicycle you should make sure it is in a low gear (if it has gears). You can do this by lifting the back wheel off the ground and manually turning the pedals as you move the gear levers.
Once you are on the bicycle and sitting in the seat, you should check your right foot is slightly forward of its highest position.
To start pedalling you will need to release the brakes (but keep your fingers over the brakes), then push down on the pedal with your right foot.
Practice balance in a large, clear, flat area.
This will allow you to control the handlebars and brakes but will help stop the bicycle and prevent falls.
As you gain competence, the helper should loosen the hold on the bicycle and then gradually move their hand away altogether. The following tips may help.
Cycling in a straight line is helped by pedalling smoothly. To practice cycling in a straight line you should try to follow a marked straight line on the ground. Good cyclists will wobble less than 2.5 centimetres.
It is important to be able to steer the bicycle very accurately, as you will need to avoid stones and potholes. Practice by marking two lines on the ground with chalk and cycling between the lines repeatedly, making sure that neither your front or rear wheel touches the lines. The lines should be no wider than 15 centimetres apart.
Learning to steer the bike exercise
Last updated: 24 April 2013