The Santander Cycle Hire scheme has rapidly become an iconic part of London’s transport mix. Westminster has 173 hire stations around the borough and with the cost at low as 25 pence a day for unlimited trips under 30 minutes, it's one of the fastest, cheapest and most convenient ways to get around. A full explanation of the scheme as well as maps showing the hire points, is available at Transport for London.
Online deals may look appealing but your local bike shop will be able to offer tailored advice on bike size and fitting and should offer to perform the bike's first service for free, which makes them great value. When your bike eventually needs servicing, you will be going to the local shop in any case so it's worth getting to know them from the start.
There are many types of bikes to accommodate the wide variety of uses they can be put to. Be clear about what you want to do with your bike and the local bike shop will be able to help you choose. Most bikes are versatile enough to be used in a variety of situations but a little thought about what you want to do will help narrow down the choice.
'You get what you pay for' is very true when it comes to bicycles. A reliable new bike that will last and be comfortable to use can be bought for about £200 and up. You can spend more money to get lighter, better engineered or more specialist components.
Second hand bikes are available from bike shops and online. A bike shop will know where the bike has come from and hopefully have serviced it as well. If buying online be aware that you are buying the bike 'as seen' and always check the frame number at www.bikeregister.com and www.immobilise.com to make sure seller actually owns the bike.
There are a great many products out there aimed at cyclists, not all of which are essential. Here is a brief list of the most useful ones.
No special clothing is required to ride a bike, particularly if your journeys are shorter. Comfortable clothes that you can move around in will be just fine.
Anything you wear that could get caught in the chain or wheels needs to be tucked in or tied away.
If you think you might get caught in the rain, you should invest in a set of inexpensive waterproof/breathable over trousers and top. There are also rain capes that are popular with many people. In reality, you very rarely need rain gear as it tends to rain for only a few minutes and you can just stop for a coffee and cake until it passes.
If you choose to wear a helmet it is essential that it fits correctly and that the straps and buckles are adjusted. This means it must cover your forehead and not move about. The chin strap should snugly accommodate two fingers between the buckle and your chin. A badly fitted helmet will offer almost no benefit and may introduce its own risks. Your bike shop should be able to help with this. Helmets should conform to British Standards BS EN 1078:1997
You can cover a lot of ground on a bike. There is a wealth of mapping tools available online. Here are some favourites:
Large vehicles like HGVs have blind spots along either side and just in front of them. Be very wary when passing them and never do so if there is a chance the vehicle could turn across your path. Listen for their turning warning sounds and look for indicators at the side of the HGVs. Should you find yourself next to a large vehicle just before a junction, do not proceed until you are absolutely sure it is going straight on and not simply taking the turn wide. Be very careful around guard rails at corners - they can trap you.
If you have been riding for a while, you may have started using some of the busier and more direct routes. Whatever your level of experience, as a self taught individual there may be gaps in your knowledge. Experienced riders benefit from a one-on-one city cycling course in that it fills in those gaps, builds confidence in tackling busier junctions and confirms good practice.
When you first begin riding in London, stick to the parks and quiet streets as your confidence builds. Once you're able to signal and look around without wobbling, you can start to expand your journeys. You are the best judge of the conditions and it is important to learn to trust your instincts. A free city cycling course will help refine your bike control, grow your confidence and offer a really useful introduction to the road.
Have it serviced or do a bike maintenance class. It is very simple to keep a bike in order with a small amount of knowledge and a few tools. Are the tyres pumped up hard? Do both the breaks work well? Is the chain running smoothly and lightly oiled?
Anything you do on the road should begin with a really good look all around. Make eye contact with other people.
Remember to have a second look in the direction you are turning before you do it there may be something near to you... like another bike.
This small measure improves your reaction time and reduces your stopping distance.
Include the time needed to signal and the time needed for others to respond in your planning. Have a 'plan B' if they do not respond.
This means riding away from the gutter and well clear of parked cars in case someone opens a door. Imagine all the parked car doors are hanging wide open. Riding in this position makes you more visible to all other users including pedestrians who may step out between parked vehicles.
Where the lane becomes too narrow for people to pass you safely, look behind and move to the centre of the lane in good time.
This will deter close overtaking. Whether turning or going straight ahead, it is best not to overtake just before a junction.
This will ensure that you have been seen.
It really helps those around you to help you.
It can lead to problems. Sometimes it is best to get to the front, at other times it is better to hang back amongst the other traffic. You are already using one of the fastest modes of transport in London. Take your time and enjoy the ride.
And remember we also have foreign visitors more used to traffic on the other side of the road
You can only use pavements where you see this sign:
Hi viz clothing may make you more visible, particularly where it incorporates reflective strips, which are very effective at night.
If you wear a helmet it is essential that it fits correctly and that the straps and buckles are adjusted. This means it must cover your forehead and not move about. The chin strap should snugly accommodate two fingers between the buckle and your chin. A badly fitted helmet will offer almost no benefit and may introduce its own risks. Your bike shop should be able to help with this. Helmets should conform to British Standards BS EN 1078:1997.
A bike thief will go for the easiest bike to take. So make sure yours is the best secured bike in the rack.
Remember to be considerate to pedestrians - ensure that your bike isn’t blocking the footway and can’t fall over or act as a trip hazard.
For more information on bike security, visit TfL.
Bike marking through the Bike Register scheme is available free of charge at events we run in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police Cycle Task force.
Whether you're an old hand or an absolute beginner, spending some time with one of our qualified instructors will improve your control, enjoyment and safety while cycling.