A Beginner's Guide to Cycle Commuting 5: Adjusting to Life with your New Bike

MICK ALLAN concludes this five part series by detailing some of the physical changes that take place within new riders.

Whatever your previous mode of transport, there will be a short period of adjustment as you adapt to life with a bike. For your body it's all good news: No matter how hard it seems at first, it will get easier. Most people become aware after about three weeks of regular cycling that they feel noticeably, if not profoundly, fitter. Your cardiovascular system will have adapted to the new exercise regime. Many people find they sleep better and are more mentally alert during the day. The exercise induced endorphin release, the enhanced sense of wellbeing and improved muscle tone are all part of the package.

You're bound to make a few errors in the first few months, under or over dressing for the conditions, forgetting to pack your lights, putting your helmet on back to front. Don't panic, in no time at all it'll all become second nature. Instead of puffing and panting up the slightest incline you'll zoom up them in the perfect gear. You'll have become a cyclist.

Route planning. Cycles travel differently to cars (and buses and trains), we can use more direct routes, dedicated cycle paths where available and, if we need to, simply get off and push. Our route planning should reflect this difference. Incorporate parks, canal towpaths or river-side paths into your journeys. Quiet leafy residential roads often run parallel to the busy main thoroughfares. Vary your route. Explore your world, you may be surprised at what you find.

Your local council produces cycling maps showing dedicated cycle facilities and recommended quiet routes. Draw a pencil line from A to B and see where it takes you.

Road sense. You may already have a portion of road sense and be quite a confident cyclist. Don't let that put you off getting some adult cycle training. The Cycling Proficiency Test of old was been well and truly overhauled for the 21st century with the new National Standards for Cycle Training. Recommended even for regular, confident and experienced cyclists, National Standard Cycle Training is available through your local council offices and may even be free. It's considered to be a greater safety aid than wearing a helmet, better to avoid an accident in the first place through best practice.

Modern cycle training stresses the fundamental importance of good road positioning. That is to say, not riding in the gutter. Cyclists, need we be reminded, have every right to use the road and every right to go about our business without being squeezed for road space by drivers whose knowledge of the Highway Code may be less than extensive. Holding position assertively obliges drivers to overtake only when safe to do so and is the best survival tool we have at our disposal.

And finally, if there is one piece of advice that you take away from here I hope it's this;

Gear one is low. Try to always be in a gear that feels too low/ easy/ spinny/ soft.

Three rather than four. Four rather than five.

Pushing high/ hard/ slow gears puts unnecessary strain on your joints and on the transmission of your bike. Pushing hard on the pedals promotes muscle bulk so if you want muscley legs go ahead and push a high gear.

Spinning fast in a low gear promotes excellent cardiovascular health, reduces strain on your joints and on your bike, allows you to accelerate quicker and you get quicker gear changes. But the bottom line really is a bottom line, spinning gives you a lovely well defined bum and lean legs.

What more could you possibly ask for?

Welcome to cycling!

Read more in this series:

Choosing the Right Bike, Sizing and Equipment

Safety Wear and Other Equipment

Cycle Security

Maintenance and Roadside Repairs