Since I moved to London and got my first bike, and especially since Michael moved to London, I have slowly slowly been cycling more and more as I gained more confidence on the road. Recently, when the ‘Boris bikes‘ came into being, cycling has become that much more easier. Michael’s parents also gave me a year access for the scheme for my birthday so since returning to London from my holiday I have started cycling half-way in to uni and back out every day (I do the rest of the trip on the bus as the scheme doesn’t reach where we live).
I like the cycle hire scheme as it allows me to cycle when I feel like it without being obliged to cycle the other way. Also, I can just get a bike, dock it at the other end, and walk off without a care in the world for the bike! So far I have only had problems once where the docking station was not allowing anyone to take bikes out, so we had to go round the corner to another docking station. Another time I couldn’t manage to pull the bike out of the docking station and a guy saw me struggling and came to pull it out for me (*sweet smile*), and another time there were no bikes left, but people soon came to drop off their bikes and I could be off. So all in all not many problems. Also, I have managed to keep all my trips to under 30 mins (trip to uni takes around 20mins each way), so I haven’t been charged – go me!
Nevertheless, I am very much aware that I am lacking quite a bit in bike knowledge, especially that concerning safety, such as positioning on the road. I have been trying to get some cycle training through cycletraining.co.uk. For some reason it hasn’t happened – until today! I got a call earlier this week, and a lesson was scheduled for today 12:45-14:45. I was to meet my trainer, Paul Schwarz, near Gladstone Park just down the road from where we live (I now realise that the fact that he looked familiar was that I had met him at one of the ‘Dr. Bike’ events organised by cycletastic).
The cycle training consisted first of all of a look at the bike. Some things needed a bit of tuning but over all it was OK. Then we started on the training. I learnt the ABCD check before leaving on a trip (Air – Brakes – Chain – Direction), as well as the 4 B’s of emergency stopping (Brakes, Brace, Balance, Sit Back). We also did some exercises in stopping and starting (press the brakes when you’re getting on the bike so it doesn’t move), as well as in swerving, looking and signalling. From there we then got on the road for some training on turning into and out of roads etc.
I felt like the training has consolidated a lot of what I was doing without knowing why, as well as corrected quite a lot of what I was doing to help me maintain a better position on the road. During the evaluation at the end we decided that I have now attained a level 2.8 on the bikeability scale (from an initial 1.7). We also identified that what I gained most in was in learning how to stop (no – I no longer need to jump off the bike to stop – weee!) and how to use gears better. I do however need to practice more keeping my hands on the brakes at all times, staying visible when on the road, and most importantly to LOOK around me all the time to be aware of what is going on.
So if you’re in London and need some more confidence with cycling, do look for cycle training! Luckily for me the London Cycle Challenge paid for this session since I was involved in the scheme. There is still more to learn, but I would like to practice what I learnt now before going on to further training, and hopefully someone will sponsor me that training session as well, as I cannot afford it much otherwise unfortunately. I also plan to take some cycle maintenance courses through cycletastic, to hopefully become that better a cycler! So far I have only learnt how to fix a puncture (sort of!).
Wish me luck!