Cycling Safety

Safety concerns can be a significant barrier to cycling for many people. Here is some useful advice to help you cycle safely and build your confidence.

Don't forget - you can also sign up to our free cycle confidence sessions to help you develop your skills.

You're ready to ride - is your bike?

Before you can even think about getting out there and giving it a go, you need to make sure your bike is in good working order and safe to ride. The 'M check' is an easy and effective way of making sure all the major parts of your bike are working as they should. Below are the areas to focus on. You can also watch this useful video on how to perform the 'M check'.

Wheels

Check your wheels are tightly fitted and the lever is secure in the closed position. If your bike has bolts instead of quick release, make sure these are tight.

Spokes

Check the spokes aren't loose and that they are of equal tension. You can do this by plucking each spoke with your finger and making sure they all make a similar sound.

Tyres

Is there enough air in your tyres? Squeeze the sides between your thumb and forefinger - it should feel hard with little give, like an apple. Some pumps have a pressure gauge so you can pump the tyre up to the recommended pressure, which is usually printed on the side of the tyre. Note there are two types of valve fitting - Presta (long and thin) and Schrader (thicker and slightly shorter). You should also check your tyres to make sure they're not worn.

Seat post

Check the seat post isn't loose and that you've not exceeded the seat post limit. Tighten the seat post clamp using an allen key if necessary. Give the seat another check once you're done to make sure it's secure.

Chain

Make sure your chain is well oiled - but not too much!

Pedals

Check the cranks are on tight, spin smoothly and don't creak.

Handlebars

Check there are bar plugs at the end of your handlebars. The front wheel and stem shouldn't move independently - if so, tighten the stem bolts. Check handlebar clamp bolts are equally tight. You can do this by standing in front of the bike, holding the front wheel between your knees and twisting the handlebars. You can prevent any movement by tightening the stem bolts and the handlebar clamp with an allen key.

Headset

Make sure you can't hear any rocking or clicking in the bearings. You can do this by firmly grasping the head tube with one hand and applying the front brake with the other hand. This will steady the front of the bike so that you can shake the headset to establish any rocking or clicking in the bearings.

Brakes

Check both brakes are working. If the brake lever pulls against the handlebar grip, it needs to be adjusted.

If a brake cable needs adjusting, loosen the bolt, pull the cable tighter and then tighten the bolt to finish. Most brakes have small adjustor screws – check that both are moving. If not, turn the small adjustor screw on the stationary side until both sides are moving again.

Also check that the brake block pulls flat to the rim. If this is not the case, use an allen key to tighten the block in the correct position. This is done while applying the brake.

Finally, check the front brake by applying the brake and pushing the bike forwards, and check the back brake by applying the brake and pulling the bike backwards.

Frame

Look for any cracks or damage. This check requires particular focus on the area where the frame joins the head tube.

Bicycle lights

It's important to make sure your bike is fitted with working lights and reflectors to make sure you can see and be seen. When cycling in the dark, you are required by law to have a white light on the front and a red light on the rear. These can clip onto your bike, backpack or your clothes.

Bike security

Follow these simple steps to keep your bike secure and prevent it from being stolen.

1. Never leave your bike unlocked. Lock your frame to something solid and invest in a good quality, "Sold Secure" lock. D-locks are sturdy but consider using a cable lock as well to secure any quick-release parts of your bike. Finally, make sure your lock is off the ground.

2. Take quick-release parts and accessories with you.

3. Don't leave valuable bikes in public places for a long time – even when locked.

4. If you have a garage, use it and lock it.

5. Note your bike make, model and frame number.

6. A photograph of you and your bike together will help to prove ownership.

7. You can register your bike with Immobilise or Bike Register (UK wide), a service used by the police to match found bikes to their owners. You could also security code your bike with www.retainagroup.com 

8. Consider insurance - if you have home insurance, this may cover your bike automatically or you may need to add it as an extra. Valuable bikes may need to be insured separately to provide cover when you're out and about.

9. Be cautious when using apps such as Strava, Garmin Connect and MapMyRide which can be used by thieves to target valuable bikes. Ensure your privacy settings are secure. Don't start or stop your GPS tracker outside your house and avoid logging regular routes such as your commute.

Cycling safely

Your bike's ready to go - now make sure you are! Here are our top tips to help you cycle safely and confidently.

You can also visit our Get Cycle Savvy page for useful videos about safe cycling, bike maintenance and more.

Know your signs

Cyclists must obey all traffic signals and signs - refer to The Highway Code if you would like to brush up on your knowledge.

Watch out for car doors

Ride at least three feet away from parked cars to avoid car doors unexpectedly opening into your path.

Positioning

Try to ride about two feet away from the edge of the road and, whenever approaching a junction, roundabout, queue of traffic or potential hazard, move into the middle of the lane to make yourself visible to other road users.

Scanning

Be aware of your surroundings at all times and avoid wearing headphones and other distractions. Before turning, always check around you to make sure you know what the traffic is doing. Check over your left shoulder before turning left and over your right shoulder before turning right. Being alert to the traffic in this way allows you to make informed decisions, stay safe and be courteous to other road users.

Signalling

Signalling helps you to communicate your intentions clearly to other road users and is crucial to riding safely. Always signal left or right before turning or, to stop, hold your arm at a right angle with your hand raised in the air.

Covering brakes

Having two fingers on your brakes means you are prepared to brake suddenly and come to a stop very quickly in an emergency situation.

Filtering through traffic

Never go down the left side of vehicles that might be turning to the left - always hang back.

Kit

If you choose to wear a helmet, make sure it fits properly and that it sits horizontally on your head without moving around. You should be able to fit two fingers tightly between your chin and the strap.

It's also a good idea to take a spare inner tube and pump with you when out cycling.

Other useful tools include a multi-tool and a tyre lever.