There have been many tropes of lockdown life – banana bread, sourdough starters, shaved heads – but not all of these popular activities should be left behind in the land of isolation. Public transport is still a risk and cabs are expensive and so people have been turning to cycling so much that bikes seem to be in even shorter supply than dumbbells. If 2020 is the year we make the UK more of a cycling nation, perhaps one good thing will have come out of this whole meshugas. 

It’s all well and good to be cycling a bit more, of course, but how do you make sure your commute is safe, your weekend cycle comfortable, your journey to your friend’s house as easy as booking an Uber? We called upon our cycling expert, and in many ways the patron saint of bikes himself, Geraint Thomas, to teach you how to bring more of the Tour into our daily lives. 

Buying your bike

“If you’re buying a secondhand bike, or using a bike you’ve had for a few years, give it a good service: make sure the tires aren’t worn and don’t have holes in them. You don’t want to go out five to ten miles from home, realise you have a problem and then try and get back. It’s worth having a service at a local bike shop and making sure it’s all well for the road. If you’re buying a new bike, of course, it’s different.

“There are so many types of bike, from proper racers and road bikes, hybrid bikes, which are a hybrid between road and mountain bikes, and then mountain bikes with the big fat tires that are purely for off-road. What you need to do is decide what you’re going to use it for: a hybrid is one of the better ones to go for, but there’s also Bromptons that you can take on the train with you. It depends what you need it for. Like I said, bike shops can help you with that as well.

“Just get out and get doing it. There’s things you can learn, but the key thing is the set up: make sure you’ve got the right bike for what you want to do and know the route well, especially if you’re new to it. A five-mile detour can be make or break.”

Correct form

“I think a good rule of thumb is you always want the ball of your foot in the centre of the pedal – that’s one of the biggest mistakes I see people making while they ride a bike for the first time. It’s just so much more efficient. If you’re riding with your heel or your arch on the pedal you waste a lot more energy.

“You want to be able to sit on the saddle with one foot able to touch the ground – that’s a good rule of thumb. Not necessarily the whole foot, flat, but the ability to balance on your toes almost. That’s to make sure you don’t have it too low and you don’t want it so high that the leg is completely straight when at the bottom of your stroke.

“If you’re buying a bike from a bike shop, I’m sure the store will be willing to help you out and set you up. There’s no better thing to do than go to a local bike shop where they know what they’re talking about and where they’ll make sure you’re set up properly.

“It can be tedious to set up properly and make sure the bike is right, but when you start riding and you’ve cracked all this you can just go out and enjoy it a lot more. Also, have some spares with you, some Allen keys, maybe an inner tube, so you can patch yourself up and be on your way. I take it for granted that people would know how to change a tire but if you do get a flat tire, ask someone who knows how to help.”

Finding your perfect route

“When you get out, if you’re new to it all, it’s about staying relatively close to home. If you’ve run out of energy or you’re super tired or having a bit of an issue then it’s easy to get back. The more self-sufficient you are, the better all round.

“I think in bigger cities there’s a lot of bike paths – in Cardiff there’s the Taff Trail, which runs along the river – but there are a lot of bike-friendly routes so it’s being aware of them. If you’re used to public transport or driving a car you don’t tend to look at those sorts of things, so you might not be aware of them.

“If you are starting out, these will help build your confidence before taking on A roads. Bus lanes can be used by cyclists but you will have buses on there, which can be a bit daunting. Plot a decent route to wherever you want to go and if you’re in a local bike shop or around other riders, ask to go out with them or ask for a few tips on good routes they know. That’s always good, a bit of inside knowledge.” 

Etiquette on the road

“You don’t want to be riding in the gutter, but don’t ride in the middle of the road and make it harder for cars to come past. Wear reflective materials and have some good lights, especially if riding at dawn or dusk. Just try to be aware of what’s around you, give clear signals, stick your arm out – just basic stuff, really. There’s nothing really too complicated about it.”

Fitting cycling into your workout

“It’s just a great way to get out and keep fit generally. You get to travel further than on a run, it’s easier on your joints and you can also actually cruise for a bit.

“If you want to cycle for a few hours, cycling with a Turbo Trainer is always good. You can use online interactive programmes where you can ride with friends and groups – that’s really efficient as you can go out for 30 minutes and have a really good workout.

“If you’re out on the road, there’s all kinds of things you could do: find a little loop, then do one lap fast, then another easy, then another one fast – just optimise that time. If you’ve got enough time to do five to ten hours a week, make that time productive rather than just rolling around and stopping at lights all the time. You can suddenly get to the end and realise you’ve not had much of a workout. 

“It all depends on your experience and how fit you are, really. Getting on the bike is a great way to workout and exercise. I ride my bike nearly every day but, even in the off season, those three to four weeks off the bike, after ten days you’re itching to get back on it. You feel better for it. I feel lethargic, tired and grumpy and then even getting on the bike for an hour clears your head. Whether you’re training hard or wanting to improve or just enjoying time with family and friends, it’s a great way of exercising.” 

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