Look, Stop, Turn

26 July 2018

So the cat is out of the bag now. You all know that I can’t ride a bike, but the great thing over the last week is realising how welcoming everyone is being. So if you are afraid of taking the first steps into riding, please don’t be. There will be people there to help, you just need to know where to start.

So after my first lesson with Charlene from Addventageous, I spent the week going for rides during my lunch breaks. I’m lucky enough to work at a place that has bikes in the office for staff to use. As I don’t own a bike, the work bike it was.

I felt a lot more relaxed than my first lesson with Charlene. Got the hang of pedalling faster - cornering still needed more work. Also check out these trees in Bicentennial Park in Olympic Park (below)… perfect for practicing turns!

So feeling more confident it was time for lesson number 2.  

Firstly I stopped by Blackman Bicycles to buy a helmet. I don’t mind borrowing the ones from work or Charlene’s, but continually playing about with straps to make sure that particular helmet fits right is time consuming. I don’t have the patience for that. Blackman’s were great – bought a nice, bright blue helmet. I’m not one for dark shades, I like my colours!

Once again I was back on a blue Townie on the Parramatta River, this time it was blowing 35km/h winds! We recap over the breaking styles and how to corner from lesson one on the grass. And then it was onto the pavement - eek!

Being lunchtime and school holidays, there was a lot of people. Charlene placed some helmets in the middle of the path and my job was to do some figure 8’s around the helmets.  Getting your balance for these tight turns was challenging!

More often than not I ended up on the grass as I couldn’t quite get the angle of the turn right to stay completely on the path.  Also very glad Charlene had me turning away from the river - no one wants to end up in the water.

A few key pointers for this is looking where you want to go and making sure you really turn the handle bars for tight corners.

If you are struggling with something, the best advice is to change it up. Struggling with your corners? Go for a long straight ride a few times and then come back to them. Don’t get so frustrated at something that it’s only going to make things worse. Go back to the easy stuff and make it fun again!

After my figure 8’s had improved, I started practising signalling. The first step is getting comfortable taking my hand off the handle bars. We did this by riding straight and just bringing the hand off and touching my knee and then back onto the handle bars.  After doing this a few times with both hands, it was time to bring my hand up to make a 90 degree angle with my arm and back down - slightly harder but still not too bad. Finally, I was holding it for 5 seconds, as you would when you are signalling. This is the one that is tricky!

 

Maintaining balance while lifting the hand up and off the handle bar is difficult. It is something that will take time and practice for me to feel comfortable doing. Definitely, something that I will be practising all this week!    

Along with signalling and turning, also comes the checking - similar to driving. You need to check your blind spots and it’s the same with bike riding. You need to be able to look behind you and get a clear vision of what is coming before you turn.  There are a few ways of doing this depending on how comfortable you are on a bike

  1. Turn your head to look over your shoulder - you should be able to vaguely see if anything is there but not necessarily any details
  2. Leaving your hand on the handlebars but turning your shoulder (and your head will follow) - you should be able to see more with more clarity
  3. Taking your hand off the handlebars, putting it on the seat behind your bum on the direction you want to look - you should have clear vision behind you

All of these bike riding techniques Charlene is teaching, is to be a defensive rider and to have the skills to be able to ride in any condition that presents itself. When on the bike, you want to be prepared for anything that may happen.  If you want to brush up on any of the NSW bicycle laws click here.

I’m off to go for a ride now.  Onto gears next week!

P.s. I’ve also discovered that being saddle sore is definitely a thing!

This piece is not supposed to replace lessons with a qualified instructor. Bicycle NSW strongly advises to seek training from qualified rider leaders or instructors.