Cycling is a unique way to experience and enjoy the city, but it’s always worthwhile feeling comfortable and safe on the roads. That’s why we’ve put together a beginner’s guide on everything you need to know about riding in London.
1. Know your route
Despite there being huge improvements to London’s cycling network over the last couple of years such as the fantastic Super Cycle Highway, we would always recommend knowing where you are going. This will allow you to keep your head up and focus on (and enjoy) the cities surroundings, rather than getting distracted and caught up with directions.
Cyclists in London take an average of over 800,000 trips a day, with a great surge in commuters by bike as a result of the pandemic. Commuting is a great way to explore the city and so we’d suggest that you challenge yourself and find different options to head into or back from work… as you never know, one day there may be roadworks and you may have to find that alternative route. Furthermore, if you know your area and research your route, you’d be surprised as to how many cycle paths there are in London… you just need to find them.
Another top tip is to learn the regulations of public transport. What, when and how you can bring bikes on London transport as different rail networks will have different regulations. For more information on, visit the Tfl website - https://tfl.gov.uk/.
2. Taking care
When cycling in London, as with cycling in any city, you’ve got to be aware of your surroundings. There will be traffic of all shapes and sizes sharing the road with you so it’s important that you are confident and know the rules of the road. Make sure to always obey the Highway Code and be predictable, stay in your lane and make clear signals to alert those around you to your next move. This way, you’re less likely to surprise other road users whilst also making your presence known to people in vehicles around you.
Look out for pedestrians stepping in to the road, or people getting out of taxis, especially around the tourist hotspots. The updated Highway Code encourages cyclists to take the centre of the lane where possible which should keep you out of trouble in these situations.
Additionally, make sure that your bike is in roadworthy condition (more about that later), and that you’re prepared for changeable weather conditions as we are in the UK after all, and ensure your lights are working when cycling after dark. USB lights are a great option because once you get to work, you can plug them in and ready for the commute home or charge them with a powerbank on the go!
Learn more about cycle safety tips on the London Cycling Campaign website - https://lcc.org.uk/.
3. What you should wear
Our advice would be to always wear a helmet, but ultimately that’s personal preference. Commuting in and around the traffic of London, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Additionally, we’d also suggest some eyewear to protect your eyes from the dust and dirt of the road, vehicle emissions, etc. They don’t have to be expensive, bicycle specific or even tinted, just an ordinary pair of glasses or sunglasses would do.
Make sure you wear comfortable clothing and pack a light rain jacket just in case you get caught in a shower. Something windproof would also be ideal as the British weather conditions are extremely changeable. If you are commuting, you could leave a pair of shoes or set of clothes in the office to change into so that you don’t have to sit around in your sweaty clothes all day!
4. What bike should you ride
We’re not going to go into depth as to what the ‘perfect’ bike is for London, as there isn’t one… everyone has their personal preferences. However, we’ve got a few recommendations when choosing what bike to ride in the city.
If you’re commuting, a suitably light, robust and comfortable bike will be your best friend. One that isn’t going to fall apart and won’t be too hard to handle. Additionally, if you’re looking to integrate with public transport, small folding bikes are a fantastic option (such as a Brompton bicycle). Lastly, if you’re wanting to cruise around the city, E-bikes are great as they will allow you to go further and for longer for the same effort on a pedal bike.
Whatever style of bike you ride, you should always ride a well maintained bike as it’s less likely for something to wear out and break, ultimately causing you more stress on your journey or commute to work. We can help you here with our comprehensive range of bicycle services.
5. Bike security in London
Bike theft in London is sadly not uncommon, however there a number of ways to prevent your bike from being stolen. We would always suggest buy the best, most robust lock you can afford (for example, a Sold Secure lock). Although be prepared that you will need to carry the lock in your backpack or to have it attached onto the bike. If you can, don’t leave your bike out overnight and try to lock it in busy areas with high visibility. It is also worth making sure that you have your bikes insured, and that you have checked the conditions in your policy to ensure you’re well covered.