At Let’s Go Ludlow, we are all about sharing, so here are some tips to help you get on that bike.
1. Confidence and security: Feel the fear and do it anyway
More men ride than women in the UK. Men cycled up to three times more on average than females in England in 2017 and studies show that the two big factors in gender disparity are security and confidence.
It was a great concern for me and based on an informal poll among my female friends, the main reasons for not cycling were a lack of confidence about how well they ride a bike and fear of cycling on the road.
The best way to conquer fear and worry is to find support. Find an experienced cyclist who is comfortable shepherding you and is happy to teach you road safety as well as changing gears. I can tell you that it is not intuitive to every beginner. Did I say that I fell off? Twice?
Another alternative is to join a supportive group. Thereare a number across cycling-mad Shropshire and herein Ludlow you’ll find Ludlow Cycling Club. And if you cannot find one, then perhaps you can start one.
Salopian Tube group in Ludlow is a female-only biking group where no one is left behind. Everyone cycles at the same speed. The group rides start as soon as the days become longer in February.
2. Cycle gear: What do I need?
Make sure your bike is road safe. I had Suzanne to thank for assessing my bike before I used it. One of my first lessons was tyres are not self-inflating. (I know, when will technology catch up with our needs?) To inflate tires you require a bike pump; lesson number two: buy a bike pump and a suitable valve.
I highly recommend taking your bike to a cycle repair shop for an MOT if you are not up to doing it yourself. We have Pearce Cycles and Epic Cycles in Ludlow who will happily conduct bike fitting by appointment. Make sure your bike is set up at the correct height and for the most comfort in the arms and shoulders. If you have an Isla bike, you can set up an appointment not only for an MOT but also to help you set up your bike.
It is about having fun and feeling good after all and there’s nothing worse than a poorly set up bike hindering progress or, pun intended, deflating your hard-won enthusiasm.
You can find excellent tutorials here on all the basics of biking and care.
As for the question of clothing: the recommendation is you don’t need special gear to head out for a ride, but a good helmet is must and be ready for the elements. It must also be said that there’s nothing wrong with splashing out on a little comfort particularly if you plan to keep cycling.
Padding in your clothing certainly helps in the beginning with a sore bum (I found excellent cycle tights at Aldi) and personally, I don’t like having cold hands or feet so gloves and good shoes are a requirement.
Finally, although as a beginner, the plan is to go out when the sun is high so I can see every bump on a path, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the need for good lights on your bike and high-vis gear if you are thinking ofroad cycling.
3. Location, location, location
Have access to bike, now travel but where? If it’s a question of confidence, then find a cycle path that is off road. Practice in an empty car parking lot.
In Ludlow, Mortimer Forest has enough fire tracks to help you go the distance without dealing with traffic. If you want to cycle with the kids, Secret Hills Discovery Centre in Craven Arms is also good.
It may take some planning but I have found a couple of country lanes or estates where traffic is light to non-existent. I walk my bike to those spots and look forward to the day I cycle all the way.
I also discovered Cycling UK has a great journey planner which allows you to find the quietest, balanced or fastest route between two points.
Your local cycle shop and social media could be helpful in this regard and are excellent resources for both routes and cycle groups!
We can agree that Shropshire and the Marches have some of the most scene-stealing settings for cycle rides.
All it takes is an image to get you fired up and there are plenty of people who show you the real joy of cycling and document it on Instagram.
Here are some of the most inspiring we’ve found:
Andy Tennant: Professional Cyclist just to see how the other half lives
British Cycling: getting Britain cycling
Feather Cycles: For the technical amongst us, this bicycle frame builder gets jazzy with the gear
Jered Gruber: have bike will travel, the setting, the bike, the photography
Katie Holden: Another professional cyclist who #mylife if I was an adventurer
Ihavethisthingwithbikes:label says what it does
Islabikes_uk: See the pleasure behind the scenes
Rapha: For the love of the gear
Velovixenuk: women’s gear
Read story: How to begin cycling in Ludlow