9 Top Tips for Beginner Cyclists in 2023
1. Invest in a good helmet
A helmet is an essential piece of safety equipment for any cyclist, regardless of skill level. Look for a helmet that fits snugly, covers your entire head, and has an adjustable chin strap. If you want to cycle on the road here in Singapore, this is particularly important as it is against the law to ride a bike on the road without a helmet.
Although the park connector network ("PCN") is improving and ever expanding in terms of connectivity, certain stretches such as Little India, Bukit Timah and Geylang will require you to dabble onto the tarmac.
Luckily, we do have a nice selection of quality helmets from Abus that fits every budget.
2. Check your bike before you ride
Before you head out on the road or pavements, make sure to give your bike a quick once-over to ensure it's in good working order. It's a good idea to work this into your routine before hopping onto your bike every time. Spending a few seconds doing this could potentially save you much time on your commute. Make sure to check the tires for proper inflation, that the brakes are functioning properly, and ensure that all bolts and components are tightened to a reasonably safe degree.
I once had my right pedal fall out of the crank many years ago as it was lose, and I had failed to perform a check because I was in a rush. It was not fun having to cycle home with one pedal in my bike to say the lease. But hey, it makes for a good story over drinks.
3. Use proper hand signals
It's always important to let other cyclists and drivers know your intentions. The roads and pavements are a shared space. This means that we need to communicate with others of our intention on how we want to use them. Use hand signals to indicate when you're turning or changing lanes and you'll notice that your ride will start to become a lot more pleasant. Apart from signals that will help prevent accidents and make your ride safer for everyone, you could also trying waving at your fellow cyclists or giving them a nod or a smile to make their day a little brighter.
4. Stay visible but don't blind others
Whether you're cycling in the daylight or at night, always make sure you're visible to others. This means that your bike should have a pair of lights even if you don't intend to go onto the roads. This will help ensure that you're seen by drivers and other cyclists, especially at night. During the day, while lights aren't necessary and bright clothing isn't a must, you should be find as long as you don't bust out camo prints to blend into the environment.
There have been many ocassions where I had forgotten to charge my USB powered lights in the past, which is why I really recommend Reelight's battery-free bike lights. They come in a variety of configurations and mounting positions so there's a perfect one regardless of whether you're running a road bike, a city bike, a gravel bike or even a folding bike!
Importantly, make sure your lights are not so bright as to blind others. If the current pair you have is really bright, consider trying to point them lower towards the floor. Blinding oncoming traffic not only endangers others as they might crash, it endangers yourself as well as it increases the chance of a collision.
5. Learn how to fix a flat tire
Flat tires are a part and parcel of the life of any cyclist. Fret not though as they're also fairly easy to fix. Make sure you know how to change a flat tire, and always carry a spare tube and a can of Carbon Dioxide with you along with a emergency kit for when this happens. For more detailed instructions, check out our article on how to change an inner tube on a road bike.
Yes you read that right, for WHEN this happens not IF this happens. Trust us, if you commute by bike or ride regularly, this is bound to happen to you one day. The steps to fixing a flat tyre is simple if you have the right tools. Remove the tire, access the tube, change the tube, put the tire back on and pump it back up!
That said, if you have trouble doing this fret not as we provide top knotch bicycle repair services at a very reasonable price.
6. Stay hydrated
Dehydration is a common problem for cyclists, especially on longer rides under the hot Singapore sun. Make sure to bring a water bottle with you on your rides, and take frequent breaks to hydrate. This is where having a bottle cage or two will be most handy. Simply reach down at the traffic light to take a sip of water. Proper hydration will help you stay energized and focused, and it will also help prevent cramps and other muscle issues.
7. Learn how to shift gears
If your bike has gears, it's important to learn how to use them properly. Don't wait until you are on a hill to shift to a lower gear. Shift into a lower gear when you're still on the flats and anticipate an upcoming hill. Conversely, shift to a higher gear when you pick up speed riding on flat or downhill terrain. This will help you maintain a consistent speed and make your ride more efficient.
Also, don't forget to gear down at the traffic lights especially if you're running a derailleur based drivetrain. I've been guilty of this many a times when the traffic light turns red suddenly and I had to pull of an emergency break so as not to beat the read light. Unless your running an internal hub bicycle, which allows for shifting while stationary, try to anticipate traffic stops that are coming and make the appropriate shifts to a lower gear.
8. Practice proper bike-handling skills
In order to ride safely and confidently, it's important to have good bike-handling skills. That said, while cycling more will definitely help with this, some skills have to be practiced deliberately. Practice braking, turning, and navigating obstacles, track standing, signalling, cycling with one hand, eating on a bike and looking behind you in a controlled environment to improve your skills. This will help you feel more comfortable on your bike. Most importantly, it will also help you avoid accidents. Check out our article on 5 important bike skills for beginners if you would like more details on what to practice.
9. Use proper cycling posture
Maintaining proper cycling posture will help you ride more efficiently and comfortably. This also translates into a ride that is more fun! Keep your back straight and your arms relaxed. Try not to over-grip the handlebars even if it feels scary at first. The fact is that just a light touch is more than sufficient to keep you going where you need to. Make sure that your saddle fits your bum and that it's adjusted properly too, as this point of contact will affect your posture. If you aren't sure, you could always contact us for some advise. We'll be able to make adjustments to your bike (regardless of whether you bought it from us or not) or recommend you a bike that fits your unique proportions!
We hope that this article for those of you just starting out your cycling journey. For the rest of you - please remember that we were all once new to this too, so let's have a positive attitude and try not to be too judgmental. More people cycling is always a good thing!