Most of us had our first taste of freedom on a bike, when at the age of four or five, we explored our neighbourhoods atop a rickety bicycle with training wheels.
Cycling is one of the most exhilarating experiences a child can have, but many children stop cycling as they get older and outgrow their kiddie bikes.
That was certainly the case for me, I stopped cycling and only picked it up again years later when I was 18 and doing National Service.
But coming back to two wheels as an adult can be intimidating, I remember having many questions such as:
Where can I ride? What kind of bicycle and safety gear should I get? What are the rules I have to follow?
If you are thinking about picking up cycling or have just started cycling, here are some tips you might find useful.
WHAT KIND OF CYCLIST ARE YOU?
The first question to ask yourself is what do you want to use your bike for? Are you looking for a speedy road bike or mountain bike to go on the road or trails?
Or do you want a reliable folding bike which you can use for commuting and running errands and which you can take on the train?
Getting a bike that suits your needs and is the right size for you should be the first consideration.
Riding a bike that is too big or too small can be uncomfortable, and could lead to aches and pains when riding. Visit a local bike shop which will be able to help you get the ride you need.
Whether you ride on the road, on the footpaths, or on cycle paths in the park, cycling is inherently a risky activity. This is why wearing and having proper safety gear is important. Here is what you need.
1. A helmet
Singapore has no mandatory helmet laws for cycling, but that does not mean you should go without one. If you are riding on the road, helmets are absolutely essential. They protect your head.
I have had three nasty crashes on the road – twice during triathlons and once on a training ride – and all three times, my helmet took the impact of the falls and cracked.
If I had not been wearing one, I might have died, or suffered serious injury.
2. Lights and visible clothing
The new Active Mobility Bill passed by Parliament last month will require cyclists to have both front and rear lights if riding at night.
But go one step further and wear bright, coloured clothing as well. Being visible is in your interest: Both pedestrians and drivers will be able to see you coming in time to react.
1. Know and obey traffic rules
At the moment, cyclists do not require a driving license to ride on the roads, but riders should at least know what the basic traffic rules are.
Mr Steven Lim, president of the Safe Cycling Task Force, says riders need to know three important ones:
– Stop at red lights
– Keep left
– Be aware of traffic around you
Never beat the red light. “Cyclists need to obey traffic rules, just like any other vehicle,” said Mr Lim.
2. Riding at low speed
One key skill to master is how to handle your bike at low speeds – it is an important skill that beginners would find useful, whether they are are riding in traffic, or navigating crowds on the pavement.
Mr Lim says beginner cyclists often panic when they see crowds whether on the footpaths, or in parks.
Knowing that you can handle your bike at low speeds will give you confidence. You can practise this by setting up a simple circuit in the shape of a square in a car park and learning how to ride around the tight corners.
Some cycling groups such as Love Cycling SG, also conduct cycling clinics every so often, and experienced riders there would be able to show you the ropes.
The group posts about these clinics on its Facebook page.
3. Riding with one hand
Once you have mastered that, learning to ride with one hand is next.
This will allow you to put your hand out to signal to drivers or pedestrians whether you intend to turn left or right, or when you are stopping.
WHERE CAN YOU RIDE?
After Parliament passed new laws in January governing bicycles and personal mobility devices, people can ride bicycles just about anywhere – on the roads, footpaths, cycling paths and shared paths.
Plan your route
If you are thinking about using your bike as a mode of commute, or to get anywhere on your bike planning your route is one of the most important things to do.
The National Parks Board has a map of the Park Connector Network on its website, which is a good starting point.
It is often a lot better to pick a longer route that has less traffic (be it vehicular or foot traffic) or has parts where there are dedicated cycling paths.
It might take you a little longer, but you will be much safer.
Related story: Active mobility theme for Car-Free Sunday this weekend