Updated: Sep 5, 2019
Bikes. Your first taste of freedom as a child. Freewheeling downhill, wind in your hair. Riding around the streets with your pals feeling more grown-up than you are. And in my case, pretending that your bike is actually a horse!
Years pass, you find yourself a ‘grown-up' with a family of your own and you've not ridden a bike (or horse) in years. It can be quite daunting getting back into cycling, not just because of all the new types of bikes (it used to be mountain or road, now there's cross, enduro, downhill, road, hybrid…the list goes on), but also because of having to tackle roads and traffic whilst remembering how to actually ride! This is the situation I found myself in recently. Our kids are big enough to ride bikes and want to do family bike rides together. One problem, Mummy’s kinda forgotten how!
It’s for this reason that I signed up to Cycling Scotland’s free adult cycle training back in May. I could ride a bike and as long as I didn’t try anything ‘technical’ or go on the roads, I was fine. But I wanted to build up my confidence for cycling on the roads and polish up my handling skills so that I could keep up with our kids.
The adult cycle training was perfect. I booked a day and time that suited me and the trainer immediately put me at my ease. I never felt embarrassed by my lack of knowledge or experience. The training started with looking at road safety scenarios on a laptop before moving outside to run through some basic mechanical checks on my bike. Then it was time for me to show off my riding skills (ahem!). Taking to the local park, I was shown and practised emergency stops, various handling skills, and doing tight(ish) u-turns. Ah, the u-turn, my kryptonite! I don’t know what it is, but ask me to do a tight turn on a bike and my arms and shoulders freeze and I then stutter around the corner or have to stop. Several (OK, many) u-turns later and a good few laughs with my instructor, my u-turn came on leaps and bounds. After clearing the rust from my cycling skills, we worked through several road safety examples and practised signalling and manoeuvring around quiet streets. From there to a busy main road, complete with temporary traffic lights and many tourist drivers, where my confidence in my new skills was tested. I was surprised by how assertive I had to be – something that doesn't come naturally to me – but to stay safe you have to confidently assert your position on the road. With my instructor at my back shouting encouragement and instruction I soon got to grips with the situation, my fear subsiding with the necessity to concentrate on my road position and that of all other road users. After a few times up and down the road, I started to enjoy it and not over-think what I was doing.
My training was an afternoon very well spent. I am now much more confident on my bike and continue to practise my u-turns as well as working on a few other foibles! I have a much better understanding of my rights on the road as a cyclist and consequently, I'm much more willing to cycle on roads now. I cycled to work this morning and arrived feeling positive, refreshed and ready for the day. My bike might not be a horse, but that's OK (for now)!