Basic cycling skills

Learn and practise the following basic skills at a suitable place away from any traffic and where you can do so safely and without causing any inconvenience or risk to others.

Do not ride on the road until you can ride your cycle with good balancing and steering, starting and stopping --- well enough for you to concentrate on and cope with the dangers of the road and other traffic.

Moving off -- practise this skill following a narrow path as you become more competent. Use a low gear, if fitted.

Slowing down and stopping -- practise progressive controlled braking bringing your cycle to a stop smoothly and in the exact place required. Try it at speed. On a wet surface it will be more difficult.

Basic cycling skillsPedalling, balancing and steering -- use the balls of your feet to pedal. At low speeds, for precise control of your cycle do not free-wheel but keep pedalling, applying the brakes simultaneously when necessary. Try steering around markers or other obstacles.

Emergency braking -- try and practise emergency braking by stopping as quickly as you can. Ask a friend to give you a signal.

When you have mastered these skills try them again but practise looking behind you and carrying out the correct signals. You can find advice on what to do and when to do it in this chapter.


Use the rear brake for smooth gradual slowing down. Use the front brake for more abrupt and efficient braking. Learn which hand works which particular brake. When braking apply the rear brake before the front brake. Only brake when the front wheel is straight.

A system for safe cycling

Before moving off, stopping and turning left or right, always carry out the following routine:

  • Think -- Think carefully what you want to do and allow sufficient time to do it.
  • Look -- Check if it is safe to manoeuvre; look ahead and look behind.
  • Signal -- Signal what you intend to do, provided it is safe. Arm signals must be correct, clear and given in plenty of time.

Only when these steps have been taken it is safe to start, stop or change speed or direction.