I asked the people who ride every day around this mecca from a great facebook group called @London Cycling for their top tips for a new cyclist to London. Here are some of the best answers compiled into this post which should hopefully make a good little bit of advice for someone either moving to London or starting to cycle in London for the first time.
1) Don't follow bus routes, use the quiet ways, side streets and there are often lots of roads blocked off to through traffic, but not bikes. Google maps isn't the best for planning bike routes either. Many people recommend Cyclemaps. Also get the TfL cycle route maps. They're free, and they're great.
2) Avoid large roundabouts if at all possible on your route
3) Don't let people bully you into making manoeuvres you're not ready for. Just because they're in a rush/on Strava, doesn't mean you should have to take a risk.
4) Lose the ego. If someone overtakes you, try not to feel aggrieved and like you immediately have to catch them up. Cycle at a speed that you feel safe and comfortable at.
5) Get panniers. You can do everything with panniers, and don't feel like you have to dress the part. I find I get less hassle when I'm dressed like a 'normal' person than when I'm in Lycra/cycling jacket.
6) Don't hug the kerb
7) There's no such thing as too many lights, get lots of lights and reflective gear in winter.
8) Don't lock your bike up anywhere in London that isn't inside a locked building. If that doesn't work for you, get a folding bike and take it in wherever you go. (i do lock my bike up outside sometimes but i have a non-expensive saddle and i only do it for short times, never overnight)
9) Carry a lock! (And use it) Stop frequently to do cool things. Have a coffee, look at art, talk to shopkeepers. You don't have to pay for parking and you can visit all sorts of cool places. (we love these liteloks)
10) Vary your route! I do a regular commute and have to remind myself to keep it interesting by taking the occasional detour! It’s good to know a route well enough to know the hazards and potholes etc, but also important to try and avoid the complacency which comes with familiarity.
11) Explore the canal towpaths. You can get across a lot of London (and beyond) on these and it's generally much quicker and pleasanter than the roads.
12) Invest in some decent gloves for winter riding, which on a crisp night is a great time to be riding through London! (we love these gloves by London brand Loffi, we backed them on kickstarter recently)
Thanks to everyone who contributed to this content, i'm sure its going to be really useful and inspirational to anyone who is a newbee to cycling in London. Be sure to check out the facebook page www.facebook.com/groups/LondonCycling/
Hi. I only saw your post in london cycling after You had published what i think is an excellent article from my perspective as a leader of social bike rides for new and inexperienced cyclists.
i disagree with only one point – i think the canal towpaths are unpleasant to ride, as they are too narrow, crowded and hazardous. please see the attached video clip from my youtube channel for detailed comments https://youtu.be/U5H9yLeX3ac
i would urge people new to cycling in london to join a social ride or two – you’ll meet like-minded people and get good advice on routes local to you. the london cycling campaign has details for every borough, or simply ask the good people on the london cycling facebook page for their help.
one last request – please turn off caps lock – all this shouting has given me a headache!
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