Conquer your fear and thrive when cycling in traffic and on the roads.
Are you scared of cycling on the roads? Maybe you’ve just got your first road bike, and your confidence is not quite there to ride on two wheels through your local town or city. Or maybe you feel especially anxious after a crash or incident with another road user?
Riding on the roads can be freeing, fun, and even a means to get from point A to point B. For some riders, this could mean commuting to and from work or nipping into town for a quick coffee and a cake on a Saturday afternoon. What’s not to love?
But for many beginners, riding on the roads can be scary. So this blog post will provide six tips to help you conquer your fear and build your confidence riding on the roads.
Start on quieter roads
It’s likely not the roads that scare you; it’s the people on the roads. The cars, the impatient drivers beeping at one another as they commute to and from the office, and the high speeds some of the vehicles carry when it’s completely unnecessary.
Instead of riding in the deep end, take it slow and gradually build up your confidence. Start on much quieter roads, and ride during off-peak times, such as those early weekend hours.
The more time you can spend in the saddle outdoors — whether the roads are quiet or not — the sooner you’ll build confidence. Also, you’ll soon realise that, as long as you understand the rules of the road and how to ride safely, it’s simply a matter of believing you’re allowed and deserve to be on the road. And once you understand that, it becomes a lot easier!
Plan your route ahead of time
Knowing where you’re going and how to get there can alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with riding on the roads. For example, you know exactly when to turn left and can prepare in advance by positioning yourself for maximum safety.
Use apps such as Komoot and Strava to plan your routes. You can even find pre-created routes in your area that use less busy roads. These are ideal for building confidence riding outdoors.
TOP TIP: Always read the comments of the routes as well — some riders may highlight particularly sharp corners, things they liked about the route, or other things worth looking out for.
You can use a head unit such as a Wahoo or a Garmin to follow your routes live on screen. Alternatively, you can use your phone, so long as it’s mounted to your bike and not in your hand.
Invest in the right kit
The right kit — both clothing and equipment — can drastically increase your confidence when riding on the roads. Knowing that other road users can see you provides a much-needed sigh of relief. It’s that peace of mind that we crave!
So when riding on the roads, we recommend the following kit to increase your confidence and safety:
A cycling helmet is a must, but arguably the most underrated piece of kit is front lights. Riders often hook a rear light onto their seatpost and that’s it. But front lights can exponentially increase visibility, even during the day!
And, if you want to take your safety a step further, you can invest in advanced rear lights such as the Garmin Varia — it sends alerts to your device to let you know when vehicles are approaching from behind.
Ride with a buddy
We’ve all heard the popular saying, “There’s safety in numbers.” Well, the same applies to riding on the road.
Much like how when you first go to the gym, it can help to have a friend show you how to use the equipment, a more experienced rider can help provide much-needed pointers to keep you safe when riding on two wheels.
Ask for advice on riding position (e.g. don’t ride in the gutters!), when and how to indicate, what hand signals to use, and more. Riding with a friend, even if it’s just once or twice, can help build your confidence and set you up for success.
Ride like everybody wants to hit you
Okay, hear us out. While it’s not necessarily true, adopting the mindset that “everybody wants to hit you” allows you to adjust your riding style and awareness to increase your safety further.
For example, assume that vehicles won’t stop for you, that cars will overtake you in dangerous situations, and that you’ll never be given the standard 1.5-metre distance from other vehicles.
Adopting this mindset often leads to more defensive riding. It’s holding your position on the road, not to anger drivers but to increase the safety of everyone. If it’s a blind corner and a vehicle is trying to overtake, let them know it’s not safe. It’s riding a little further from the curb to avoid potholes and other obstacles in the road, while also discouraging drivers from overtaking you when it’s not safe.
Respect the rules of the road
When riding, always respect the rules of the road. You’re less likely to provoke drivers, and everybody is much safer for it. That means no riding through red lights, always stopping at stop signs, and giving way when required.
Play by the book, and ride to the rules, and you’ll be just fine!
How to get over your fear of cycling on the roads: to summarise
If you feel scared of cycling on the road, you must understand one thing: you’re in your own head. It’s a psychological and emotional response. And while it can be difficult to “just get out there and ride,” starting on quieter roads and building up your confidence will do wonders for conquering your fear.