Town Cycling Techniques

There are various things cyclists can do to improve their safety and comfort on busy roads. The following techniques can help to make the cyclist more visible and make their progress easier. An excellent guide to cycling techniques is Cyclecraft by John Franklin: every cyclist should have a copy.

Don’t Ride in the Gutter

Many cyclists ride very close to the kerb, in the hope that they’ll be further from passing cars. Unfortunately this usually has the effect of encouraging cars to pass without thinking. Problems with riding close to the kerb are:

  • You have little space to steer if you wobble.
  • You seem to be out of the way of cars, who will pass with little care.
  • You will find all the puncture-making stuff on the road.
  • You will find more potholes, drain gratings, etc.

Try to ride in the tracks where the cars’ left wheels go. You are much more visible here, you can ride on the smooth and clean part of the road, and car drivers need to think before passing you. You can experiment with this – try riding close to the kerb and then further out, and see how much space the traffic gives you in each case.

When passing parked cars, make sure you watch for people opening their doors: ideally you should leave enough space to avoid a suddenly-opened door protruding without warning into the “door zone”.

Keep you tyres pumped up

Soft tyres make cycling very hard work, and can affect the steering. Sadly most bike pumps don’t work very well, and need a lot of effort to get tyres hard. If you cycle regularly it can be worth investing in a “track pump” which stands on the ground so you can pump with both hands. A bicycle tyre pressure gauge can also be useful if you don’t have one built into your pump.

Use your gears if you have them

The most efficient way to cycle is to turn the pedals relatively quickly, perhaps at a jogging pace, but using your gears so that you don’t have to push too hard. Try to push the pedals round in circles rather than just up and down – pushing hard downwards when the pedal’s already at the bottom doesn’t do any good at all.

Look behind when indicating

Looking behind you when indicating to turn right is much more effective than simply indicating. Somehow seeing your face helps car drivers realise you’re human and squashable.

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