Anna Glowinski

The world would be a better place if there were more bums on saddles. Less pollution, less congestion, less obesity, more community events, more friendship groups and safer roads. Cycling is no longer a niche sport, reserved for the exclusive few and why should it be? If you sometimes find yourself facing blank looks as you regale your colleagues with your latest riding antics, or if you are wondering how to be a better person in general, why don’t you do something good for the world and get a friend into cycling?

Our sport can be intimidating on the outside, there is a lot of expensive kit, and everyone in the know seems to know. It can seem like one big, impenetrable club, although we all know it’s not like that. 

PICK YOUR MOMENT

If someone in your life is complaining about a problem that could be fixed by cycling, point it out to them. Do you know someone who hates squeezing into crowded trains on their commute? Many people feel stuck in the rat race, working through the week on auto-pilot without a hobby to look forward to. Or how about someone who wants to get fitter in 2018, but every year that gym membership they paid for goes unused, because going to the gym is boring? Explain how taking up cycling could provide the solution, be a nice person and offer to buddy up with them to counter any challenges they come up against. Overall, make it welcoming and fun...remember, you’re not trying to convert anyone! You just can be a friendly face to someone who could benefit from your knowledge.

There are very few people who truly aren’t drawn to the idea of having the wind in their hair as they cruise through the open air, they may just have fears or preconceived ideas that create barriers to giving it a go. 

COMMON BARRIERS

Without owning a bike, it is extremely difficult to start cycling! Bike shops often come across as places for people who know what they are looking for but in most cases, they’re a great starting point. Any decent shop will have dedicated staff on-hand to answer all your rookie questions in layman's terms. The Cycle-to-Work Scheme is accepted by most, which will help someone with the finances of their first bike. Offer to go with your soon-to-be-cycling-friend to the shop and help them work out what kind of bike will suit them the most.

TOP TIP TO FIRST BIKE BUYING: Hybrids may be sold as the perfect in-between bike for different disciplines, but often they simply take the joy out of both sides. It would be better to work out if someone wants a commuter, road or mountain bike and start with a beginner-level bike dedicated to the one discipline.

The UK roads can be a terrifying place for a lone-person and their bike, with negative headlines hitting the newspapers, convincing many people that riding to work is a very dangerous option. However, the reality of this is grossly out of proportion, Caspar Hughes, cycle safety campaigner says 

“"Cycling is safe, more people die per mile walked than per mile cycled.* What we need to overcome are the dangers people, especially people new to cycling, face when riding on the road.  Close passes by motor vehicles is one of these dangers, it is incredibly scary when a driver passes within centimetres of you, especially when they are moving much faster.” 


This fear is one of the biggest barriers to people cycling to work and it is understandable. You can introduce someone to one of the many, free National Standard Cycle Training courses offered by many councils. These adult classes are one-to-one with a trained instructor who can demonstrate best practice for road cycle safety and can even meet at home and help create a back road route to work. Or offer to ride with your friend yourself, showing them just how enjoyable it really is.

TOP TIP FOR CYCLE SAFETY ON THE ROADS: See and be seen. Most collisions are caused when a driver doesn’t see a cyclist. There is no need to leave this to chance - make eye contact with all the other road users and don’t make a maneuver until they have seen you.


If your friend is intimidated by clubs and group rides but is not excited by the prospect of riding alone, try explaining that in the world of cycling, there is something for everyone, it is just about finding the right fit. Cycling is far from a solo-sport and one of the most compelling aspects of it is the social life. Cycling clubs are full of all sorts of people, they are one of the few places where a company CEO will be socialising with the cleaner, young kids will be riding alongside grown-ups their teacher’s age, and hipster instagrammers will be pushing pedals with tired but happy new parents. They are a melting pot for the whole of society, where everyone is unified by the simplicity of riding a bike. Offer to meet up with your friend before their first group ride and turn up together, it WON’T be like the first day of school, but the fear of that can be what stops someone from turning up in the first place.

TOP TIPS FOR FINDING A CYCLING GROUP: Google is your friend! Search out some local clubs that are offering what you are into, be it slow road rides to cafes, weekly mountain biking at a trail centre or velodrome skills, and send an email introducing yourself before you turn up. Let them know any apprehensions you have and look for the information they send back to see if they are for you.

Not wanting to look like “a cyclist” is often cited as putting people off starting in the first place. From a bird's eye perspective, maybe it’s not so great donning lumpy, bumpy enhancing lycra, or neon, shapeless rain jackets. Perhaps garish, matching downhill jerseys and trousers pyjama suits are not for you, or a try-hard tattoo sleeve that matches your fixie paint job is just a bit “much.” Maybe your new cycling friend will be too polite to tell you that they think you look ridiculous, so be prepared to pre-empt the topic. For short commuting rides under 5 miles, no specialist clothing is required and for more advanced riding there are any number of styles out there.

TOP TIPS FOR STYLISH CYCLE WEAR: Look away from the mainstream shops and find your individuality amongst one of the thousands of small brands advertising on Instagram. Different countries tend to offer different sports fashion trends, so the global marketplace is your friend.

*https://lcc.org.uk