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Cycling

Whether you use a bike for fun or to get to school or work, cycling is a good means of getting around. It is fast, environmentally friendly, and can help you keep fit.

Getting started

Getting started is easy - all you need is a roadworthy bike, a safety helmet and some means of making yourself visible. Your local cycle dealer can advise you on the most suitable bike for your needs.

Before you start, there are some basic things you need to do to ensure that you and your bike are ready for the road:

  • take your bike for a check-up at your local cycle shop
  • make sure your bike is the right height and weight for you
  • make sure your bike is suitable for your purposes - a town bike, for example, will be no good for off-road riding
  • make sure there is a place to carry bags if you need them
  • cycling can be quite a vigorous activity, so it is important that you are physically prepared. Do some simple warm-up exercises before setting off

Cycle training

It may be some time since you last used a bike, or you could be completely new to cycling. Either way, it is worth investing time in a cycle training course.

A new three-level national training standard has been developed to provide cyclists with all the skills they need to cycle safely. You can find details of trainers near you by calling the National Cycle Training Helpline on 0870 607 0415 or checking on the CTC (national cyclists' organisation) website.

Equipment

Some basic equipment is advisable to make cycling safe and enjoyable, including:

  • a safety helmet
  • a bell to let pedestrians and motorists know you are there
  • front and rear lights, plus spare batteries, and a red rear reflector for cycling at night
  • reflective clothing for cycling after dark
  • puncture repair kit and tyre pump
  • a small emergency toolkit containing spanners, tyre levers and allen keys
  • a sturdy lock
  • wet weather gear
  • a rucksack for carrying small items

Find cycle paths and routes in your area

Many local councils publish cycle maps displaying off-road routes and safer on-road routes. Some authorities make this information available online and through Tourist Information Centres.

The National Cycle Network (NCN) is a national network of on-and-off-road cycle routes promoted by the transport charity Sustrans. You can access full details on the Sustrans website.

You can also use the Directgov cycle planner to plan a cycling route in the following areas:

  • Derby
  • Exeter
  • Greater Bristol
  • Greater Leicester
  • Greater Manchester
  • Lancaster
  • Merseyside
  • Oxford
  • Peterborough
  • Worcester

In London, you can plan your cycle journey using the Transport for London journey planner.

The London Cycle Network also provides online cycling information for London, including downloadable maps of each borough. Alternatively, you can ask your local train or tube station for printed versions of this material.

Taking bikes on trains

Combining rail and bike journeys can be difficult at peak travel times. Conventional bikes are generally restricted, but you can take folding bikes for free and without restrictions, unless otherwise stated.

Different rules apply for different rail operators, so check with National Rail Enquiries on 08457 48 49 50 for more details of the services in your area.

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