Bike Across Cultures is taking place in Richmond Park on Saturday 18th June and we asked Ernest Pang who will be a Bike Doctor on the day to share his thoughts on riding a bike safely as well as some maintenance tips
My name is Ernest Pang. I am a cycling instructor at Cycle Training UK and Wandsworth Council, and ride leader at British Cycling. Most of my work involves teaching Bikeability, first time riding and bike maintenance. I have been working with EMAG since 2010. Welcome to this year’s event, whether you are new or returning to cycling, or a regular cyclist looking to improve your experience.
Cycling is a form of transport. It is for everyone and, whatever your age, level of ability or mobility, you can always find enjoyment in cycling. In the future we anticipate that many more people will cycle, there will be more public acceptance of cycling and conditions for cyclists will improve. Cycling safely on road is perfectly possible for you and your children. You can increase your skills and confidence through cycle training and with these tips.
Be Considerate of other People
When cycling in parks, canal towpaths, bridleways and green spaces, be considerate with people who are walking. Remember they have priority. Consider riding at walking speed in tight spaces with people on foot – and dogs. Walkers including children and dogs do not always move in straight lines! Cycle slowly, ensuring you have good control skills including swerving techniques and emergency braking.
Give other cyclists space when passing, enough for them to swerve. If you need to stay behind them give yourself enough space to stop if they do. If you are riding behind someone walking, consider if you really need to pass them.
You could wait and pass when there is space. Ask politely to overtake and thank them after they let you past. Avoid ringing your bell insistently if someone is walking in front of you. A polite greeting is often more agreeable than bell ringing. Narrow towpaths are not ideal for commuting, rather it should be viewed more as a route for recreational cycling. If you want to cycle quickly use an alternative on-road route. Familiarise yourself with signs that indicate spaces where you can share paths and pavements with walkers.
Cycling on the Road Safety Tips
Cycling in parks and cycle paths is fine but you are missing out on the freedom to cycle quickly to where you want to go. Cycling on the pavement is against the law. Never ride in the gutter, but at least a ‘door’s width’ away from parked cars and the kerb. Ride in the stream of traffic when you can match its speed. Check behind frequently, especially before changing position on the road. Looking behind attracts the attention of drivers as well as ensuring that you know what is happening around you. Communicate your intentions with eye contact front and behind, hand signals and road positioning. Aim to arrive at junctions away from the kerb and the centre line, whether you are turning left or right, or going straight ahead. This prevents you being squeezed out of position by other drivers.
Be aware of blind spots of HGV, buses and other large vehicles. You could be at risk if cycling on the left of them as they turn left. Ensure that you are positioned with enough space behind and in front of them, so the driver in the cabin can see you.
If you can’t see the mirror the driver probably can’t see you. Arrive at, and move through roundabouts, in the middle of the most appropriate lane.
If you are nervous about cycling on the road consider taking a cycle training lesson. Most local boroughs offer free or subsidised lessons. London based companies can apply for cycling services for their employees through TfL Cycling Workplaces.
A bit of Maintenance can do Wonders
You’d be amazed how a good clean will rid your bike of maintenance gremlins. Washing your bike with soapy water will keep the bike running smoothly and components will last longer. You’ll find the recommended pressure level on your tyre. To test if the tyre is fully inflated squeeze the walls of the tyre – there should be very little ‘give’. Fully pumped up tyres will help prevent the bike getting punctures and make for a faster ride. Removing debris such as glass and stones from your tyres means you are less prone to punctures. Check the tread and sidewalls for any excessive wear or cracks.
Check your chain every now and then and apply a tiny steady stream of oil to the rollers between the chain links. Oil when it feels dry or squeaky. Use a proper bicycle chain oil and wipe off excess on the outside.
Tighten your brake cables when the brake levers start to come too close to the handlebar grips. Turn the barrel adjuster anticlockwise to take up the cable slack. Check the condition of your brake pads and replace them when they have worn to the limit mark or the grooves on the pads have disappeared. The rim sidewall should be flat without deep scour marks or ridges. Look out for loose spokes. Check that the wheel quick release or axle nuts are done up correctly. If these are loose then your wheel could fall off. Don’t ignore any clanking, creaking or clanging, get it checked as soon as you can. The noise won’t go away and it will probably get worse. Carry a puncture repair kit and spare inner tube, a pump and a small multi-tool or spanner.
Having the maintenance skills to repair your bike is extremely satisfying. Why not take a maintenance course and learn how to do it yourself?
Want a Free Health Check for your Bicycle?
I will be hosting a Dr Bike session at Bike Across Cultures. It is a free health check for your bike. Learn how to check your bike for roadworthiness and get some cycling advice. Brakes are adjusted, tyres are pumped to the correct pressure and your bike can be adjusted to fit you properly. If there are any major issues I can advise what needs to be done at a workshop.
Bike Across Cultures takes place on 18th June 2016. For more information please visit this link.