So, you want to join the bike brigade. Well come on in! There’s plenty of room. More than 15km of shiny new cycle corridors, to be precise.
The Covid health crisis has sparked a riding revolution, according to longtime bike commuter Boris Johnson, who wants the pandemic to lead to a “golden age of cycling”. GPs have been encouraged to prescribe bike vouchers, £13 million a year has been put towards adult cycling proficiency tests and £50 repair vouchers are up for grabs.
It’s all part of a £2 billion cycling package and the capital is key: Sadiq Khan plans to turn parts of central London into “one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city in the world”, with bollard-protected bike lanes popping up from Hampstead Road to Park Lane.
So, what if you’re not a saddle-junkie already? First, forget everything you’ve heard about middle-aged men in Lycra. You don’t have to live in padded cycle shorts and speak in speed stats to join the peloton. From folding versus e-bike tribes to city-ready cycling gear, this is your cycleopedia.
On yer bike
The most important issue? Which bike. Priority number one is comfort, says Craig Myers, recreation manager for Cycling UK. If you don’t fancy spending hours bent over your handlebars, don’t. Dutch-style bikes such as Pippa Middleton’s £800 vintage Pashley can often be safer for city-cycling given they force you to sit upright (sorry, road racers). The key is to try before you buy, says Pearce Sampson of Evans Cycles. For longer commutes he’d recommend a hybrid or road bike, while folding bikes are sensible if bike storage is limited or you’re braving rush hour at Clapham Junction. Aldi now sells a folding bike for £299. Many lower-framed models are designed for women, but Specialized takes a genderless approach, with a bike range to fit 85 per cent of riders and special saddles for women. Its £90 Women’s Power Saddle mimics the equilibrium within soft tissue to relieve pressure and numbness.
For long commutes: Pinnacle Arkose Gravel Bike, £1,350, evanscycles.com
For relaxed riding: Specialized Sirrus 1.0 Hybrid, £480, evanscycles.com
For the train: Decathlon Tilt Folding Bike, £199, decathlon.co.uk
For Instagram points: Elops Low Frame City Bike, £250, decathlon.co.uk
The smartest way to save money: join the up-cycling revolution. Cycling UK begins a series of free bike repair pop-up events this weekend and second-hand bike sales are booming on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree. Visit bikeregister.com to check the bike hasn’t been stolen. If you can’t buy upfront, the Government’s tax-free Cycle to Work scheme takes discounted payments out of your monthly salary, while Buzzbike’s subscription offers you a bike and riding kit from £17 a month.
E question of sport
First, pick your tribe: are you cycling for the sweatwork, or to beat the bus? If the latter, consider joining the electric bike brigade. Victoria Pendleton has a range with Halfords, and Volt Bikes has seen a 300 per cent boom in sales over lockdown. Prices start at £1,499.
The luxe one: Pendleton Somerby, £999, halfords.com
The one for girls: Liv Thrive E+ 2 Pro, £2,749, liv-cycling.com
The folding one: Volt Metro LS, £1,499, voltbikes.co.uk
Don’t let the side down with your excuses about helmet hair: you’ll look more of an idiot without one. Collapsible models will fit in your handbag — Hedkayse’s claims to be the world’s toughest, while Swedish firm Hovding’s is an airbag you wear as a collar that inflates within 0.1 seconds of a collision.
For summer riding: FWE Ridgeway, £30, evanscycles.com
For glam points: Sawako Helmet, £98, cyclechic.co.uk
For folding up: Hedkayse, £150, hedkayse.com
For smart alerts: Hovding 3 Airbag, £249, hovding.com
Use protection. Litelok’s Gold Wearable (£100) is the world’s lightest, flexible Sold Secure Gold bike lock. Linka’s smart Leo lock (£205) remembers your location and alerts you if it’s been tampered with. Double up with a D-lock for extra security: Halfords’ Core D Lock (£30) is good value, while Kryptonite’s NY Fahgettaboudit D-lock (£120) has an Anti-Theft Protection Offer. If your wheels are stolen by the lock being broken, Kryptonite will pay you back the cost of your bike
Lights are essential if you’re going to end up cycling home in the dark. Laserlight’s Burner Set (£156) is a strong power duo; the rear one alerts cars when you press your brakes. See.Sense’s Icon2 (£150) smart lights automatically flash brighter and faster at junctions or in traffic. For extra visibility, there’s Orb’s bottle light (£30), which glows orange in your bike bottle holder.
Other tech to consider: if bad drivers are your nemesis, get a headcam like GoPro’s Hero model (£199). And do your duty and use a bell: Knog’s Oi Classic wraps (£16.99) around handlebars for a sleek look and Evans’ FWE Bell (£4.99) rings louder than many that are three times the price.
Happily, cycling shorts are this summer’s go-to sweatwork look. Lululemon’s sweat-wicking Wunder Under Shorts (£48) have side pockets for your phone and Sweaty Betty’s High Shine Shorts (£45) are non-see-through so you won’t flash the bloke behind you. To stand out, try adidas’s tie-dye cycling shorts (£28) or Topshop’s leopard-print pair (£12). Or skip the office outfit change altogether. AI personal styling service Stitch Fix now offers bespoke bike-to-boardroom wardrobes. Just let your virtual stylist know your cyclewear preferences and Stitch Fix’s team will send your clothes within days (from £15).
You’ve got the kit, now what about the route? Beeline Velo (£99) is a navigator that shows a single arrow so you won’t get distracted by maps. Blubel’s smart bell (£79) is like Beeline but with an added focus on safety. Lights indicate which way to go and you can ring the bell to flag hazards to other users.
Or mount your phone on your handlebars and let an app do the work. Komoot offers directions in your ear, while Cyclemeter turns your phone into a bike computer. Other apps: CityCylist (for quiet streets and shortcuts); Strava (Instagram for fitness); Haynes Bike Repair Guide (DIY video tutorials); and Fill That Hole (for reporting potholes).
The best way to brush up on the capital’s written (and unwritten) rules: take a road test. Cycling charity Bikeability Trust is offering 3,000 adults free proficiency courses from this month, while Cycling UK’s new Back on Your Bike bundle is specifically aimed at newbies or returning cyclists. The £15 refresher scheme includes six months of liability insurance, discounts at top cycling retailers and a newsletter.
For a boost, check out Decathlon’s take on the Tube map which tells you how many calories you’re burning and CO2 you’re saving by cycling. Paddington to Oxford Circus burns 84 calories and saves the planet 111g of CO2 emissions, and it only takes two minutes longer than the Tube. You’ll save the £2.40 fare, too — earn your coffee in more ways than one.