More than just a cycling lesson
Want to cycle more regularly but feeling nervous about riding on the roads? Most London boroughs, and some other parts of the country, offer free training to build your confidence. Ana Blanco tried it out.
Seeing people cycling around London has always fascinated me. Apart from saving money, I consider cycling to be one of the best ways to embrace the spirit of the city where I live. That’s why I took my first class to learn how to ride a bike more confidently and ride safely on the roads. Having cycled very little when I was a child, it was exactly what I needed.
Early in the morning, the tutor and I went to a pedestrian walkway where I was taught the basics: how to check tyres and brakes, to use gears correctly, to stop quickly with control, to avoid objects, to look back, to do hand signals … but what I learned that day went beyond just technical skills.
Learning to cycle taught me three important lessons:
1. Don’t judge before you try
I confess I was ignorant about how hard learning to cycle properly might be. I knew how to keep my balance, which made me think that the rest was a piece of cake. In this case, ignorance encouraged me to do it, but it reminded me that sometimes things look easier than they are.
2. Where you look is where you go
At first, it was difficult to avoid objects. In one of my attempts to escape crashing them, the tutor said: “Don’t look at obstacles, look at the path you want to go.” That simple and logical guidance had a magical effect on me and made me wonder: how many times have I focused my attention in an obstacle in order to avoid it? Placing my gaze on the goal was an eye-opening advice.
3. The more relaxed, the better
I’ve always thought that feeling uncomfortable is a sign that I’m doing things differently from what I’m used to, which is good because it means I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, too many instructions in my head and trying to follow them well made me feel quite stressed, and therefore less effective. Actually, ‘Stop thinking too much’ was another piece of advice from the tutor followed by this instruction: “The more relaxed, the better… like everything in life!”
After a bit of a bottom aching, it’s time for me to do my homework: practice and practice until I feel ready and “relaxed” for a second lesson, where I will start cycling on quiet roads.
Fancy a free cycling lesson?
Most London boroughs subsidised training courses. If you work, live or study in one of those, you’re entitled to free cycling lessons. To find out more, visit Cycle Confident and Cycling Instructor websites.
If you live outside London, contact your local council to see if they offer a similar service, or visit the Bikeability website for more about learning to ride a bike as an adult.