Cycling tips for beginners: “I’ve cycled around London for years – here’s what you need to know”

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Hollie Richardson
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Cycling vouchers in England.

As part of his controversial health drive, prime minister Boris Johnson has announced major investment into cycling. Here’s everything you need to know about cycling in London in 2020.      

Updated: Tuesday 28 July

Cycling has become the preferred transport of choice, with people continuing to avoid using buses and trains unless absolutely necessary. 

While social distancing measures are in place on all public transport, there is still a lot of anxiety around using it while coronavirus is still out there. 

Also, with the good summer weather we’ve been enjoying, safely cycling in the fresh air rather than sitting on a crowded and stuffy bus has never been more appealing. It’s also a great way of looking after mental health, along with having physical benefits

That probably explains why bike purchases increased by 60% in April alone. And, it’s now led to the government announcing some huge measures to make the UK a more cycling-friendly nation. 

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In June, mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, shared his plans for increasing cycling in London tenfold. According to Khan, Transport for London will work on three areas to make this happen.

  • The “rapid construction” of a strategic cycling network, using temporary materials, with new routes, aimed at reducing crowding on public transport.
  • A “complete transformation” of local town centres so that people can walk and cycle where possible, including widening footways on high streets so that people can safely queue outside shops.
  • Reducing traffic on residential streets and creating “low-traffic neighbourhoods”.

Now, Boris Johnson has released even more cycling plans for England as part of his health drive, calling it a fitness “revolution”.

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From today (Tuesday 28 July), people across England can access £50 bike repair vouchers under the government’s “Fix Your Bike” scheme. An initial 50,000 vouchers will be made available online later in the day on a first-come, first-served basis. GPs in areas of England with poor health will also be encouraged to prescribe cycling, with patients able to access bikes through their local surgery.

Basically: there are going to be a lot more cyclists, taking their bikes out on a much more regular basis. 

    A woman riding a bike
    TfL is making more space for cyclists in London.

    Original article from June 2020

    I’ve been cycling around London for about four years. Although I’m no expert, I’ve experienced the highs and lows, learning a lot about cycling in between. I hadn’t once even entertained the idea of getting a bike in London, but then I went to Copenhagen and came back feeling inspired after zooming around the city on a bike all weekend. I’ve been on the saddle ever since. 

    Here’s what I think you should really know about cycling in London. 

    Buy a second hand bike

    I felt pressured to throw money at a fancy bike, but a friend talked me down to reality and told me just to check Gumtree. There are some absolute pre-loved beauties on there and you can even try haggle down the price. You can find more tips on how to buy a bike here.

    Or buy one through a cycle to work scheme

    Pay for a new bike of in monthly installments by using the Bike2Work or CycleScheme through your employer. Oh, and make sure you invest in a decent lock. 

    Wear your damn helmet

    Sounds really simple, huh? But I’ve had moments of vanity where I’ve nearly left the helmet at home, and it’s just not worth the risk. Embrace that sweaty helmet hair. If you’re unsure about which helmet is best for you, Stylist has rounded up some of the best helmets available to buy.

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    Cycle with a friend

    I’m not going to sugarcoat it: cycling around London for the first time is scary as shit. You need confidence, control and assertiveness. But it takes baby steps to get there. Ask a cyclist friend to tag along with them on a weekend ride. I used to think I really annoyed people by doing this but I absolutely love it when my pals ask me to help them get into cycling now. 

    Claim your space on the road

    If you’re as self-conscious as me, it might feel a bit weird sticking your arm fully out every time you want to take a turn. But after cycling sessions, which you can book for free through, the biggest lesson I learned was to take up space and make myself known to everyone around me. Just make sure you regularly look around and behind you to see what other cyclists, pedestrians and drivers are doing too. 

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    Expect people to shout at you

    People often get really angry at cyclists. Sometimes, it’s warranted – I’ve definitely made some not great decisions on the road (which I’ve always learned from). But the sad fact is female cyclists are twice as likely to be abused or harassed on the roads than men. I don’t have advice on how to react because the main thing is your safety and you need to do whatever you can to remain safe in each situation. The last time I was shouted at, I pulled over somewhere quiet and gathered myself before getting back on the saddle. Do your best not to let this put you off getting back out there. 

    And expect your bike to get stolen

    One bicycle is stolen every six minutes in the UK, and the most recent data shows that 21,745 bikes were reported stolen in London in 2017. It’s awful, but it might help to brace yourself for this potentially happening to you at some point. Insure your bike if it’s valuable but also be emotionally prepared for it (my bike is my baby, after all).

    Enjoy yourself

    Ah, I miss cycling to work – it used to really clear my head before and after a shift. But it’s also just so fun. I love setting off on weekend adventures and getting lost down pretty side streets of London that I’ve not discovered before. I revert to my childhood-self when zooming down the smooth cycle paths, like one of the boys in E.T. Yes, you need to stay alert and safe, but also enjoy it. 

    You can find loads of information about cycle paths, routes, maintenance and more on the TfL website.

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    Images: Getty


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    Hollie Richardson

    Hollie is a digital writer at, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…