Getting ready to ride

Whether it’s your first time riding a bike or you’re getting back into the saddle after a break. Here’s some information to help you get started:

The ABC’s

Basic bike safety means checking that your bike is safe to ride before every trip! Doing your ABC’s is the easiest way to do this:

Air -  Squeeze your tires to check the tire pressure. Your tires should feel hard like a potato and not soft like a tomato. If your tire pressure is low, it will feel more difficult to pedal, and you will be more likely to get a flat tire. Fix the problem by inflating the tire with a bike pump.  If you don’t have a pump at home, most bike shops will let you use theirs for free if you ask nicely!

Brakes – Test one brake at a time (the right lever controls the rear brake, the left lever controls the front brake). When you test your front brake and push forwards on the handlebars, it should engage quickly and cause the back wheel to lift off the ground. When you test your rear brake and push forwards on the handlebars, the bike should either not move, or only drag while the rear wheel is locked.

Chain & Cables – Crouch down with your ear to the chain and move your pedal backwards. What can you hear? Are there any loud and unusual sounds of clicking or crunching? Or is it a fairly quiet click of the chain links moving? If there is anything that doesn’t sound right it’s probably worth a quick visit to a mechanic. Also, do a quick visual check of your brake & shifting cables - make sure they’re not tangled and there are no torn or frayed cables. 

To complete your safety check – check your quick-release levers(likely on your wheels and seat post) and make sure they are tight.

What to Wear/Carry

The most important thing is that you feel comfortable on your bike! If you’re thinking of starting to ride to work, there’s no need to go out and purchase some top-of-the-range gear straight away. Once you’ve done the journey a few times in the clothes that you already have and feel comfortable in (whether that’s athletic clothes or normal clothes), think about whether there are some things that would make the ride more comfortable - maybe some padded bike shorts would help, or maybe you’re happy as you are! 

It is a legal requirement to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle in BC. If your helmet is fitted correctly, you should only be able to fit two fingers between your eyebrows and the top of the helmet, there should be a V-shaped strap under your ears, and there should only be a two-finger space between your chin and the chin strap. Check out our helmet fit video on youtube for demonstration.  do a “2V2” check to fit it properly  

At night you’re also required to use lights, but we recommend using them all the time as studies have found that lights during the day can lower your risk of being hit by 47%.  Make sure you have one white front light and one red rear light + rear reflector mounted on your bike or person. Any other equipment is your choice but good places to start for city cycling are panniers or a basket to carry stuff, a rain jacket (we live in the Pacific NorthWest - we’ve gotta be realistic here!), some reflective clothing, and a good quality bike lock (here are some tips from us on how to stop bike theft)

Know your rights and responsibilities

According to the Motor Vehicle Act of BC:

A person on a bicycle has the same rights and duties as a motor vehicle driver 

This means that bicycles are expected to obey all rules of the road and bicycles have the same rights as other vehicles to be on the road! Check out BikeSense BC for an in-depth look at the rights and responsibilities of cyclists. We’ve also put together a free, online resource to help you get familiar with them. 

Think about your Needs While Riding

The need to MOVE.  As a cyclist, you need to be able to react to other road users & road conditions, so it’s important to leave yourself as much space as possible, and avoid squeezing between other road users so that you are able to move where necessary. 

The need to be SEEN.  Cyclists are one of the smaller and less visible users of the road, therefore, you want to place yourself in the sightline of other road users as much as possible and stay out of blind spots. Bright or reflective clothing and lights will help! 

The need to be CLEAR.  You should use all tools at your disposal (hand signals, bells, horns, eye contact, and body language) to communicate clearly with others.

The need to do what is EXPECTED. What you do on the road should never be a surprise to anyone. That means following the rules of the road,  and riding in straight lines wherever possible. 

What's next?

Make sure to have a read of our other web resource pages on e-biking, route-planning, cycling with children, basic bike maintenance and cycling in the fall and winter. We also have a HUB resource page that has a lot of helpful information about cycling in Metro Vancouver

If you want to take your learning a step further, check out our free StreetWise Cycling Online resource that can help you begin your cycling journey with confidence. 

Our webinars take place throughout the summer, check here for recordings of them in the meantime. You can learn more about getting ready to ride in our Intro to City Cycling webinar. 

Want to take a cycling course in person? We run courses for the general public and can also run courses for your workplace or community.