By Rachel Lankester, Mutton Club Editor
Want the freedom to go where you like, when you like and zip through traffic like a knife through butter? After the Olympics and all the British medals in the sport, cycling took off in the UK like nothing else. The Tour de Yorkshire made cycling even more popular.
If you cycle to and from work, that’s your exercise done for the day too. It’s less pressure on older joints than running and gets you quickly from A to B, often-times zipping past rush hour traffic.
But getting on your bike can be dangerous, especially for women, the statistics tell us. In London, for example, 2/3 of cycle deaths are women, which is a pretty awful statistic.
Why is this? Researchers can’t say for certain, but there is a school of thought that suggests women get into more trouble because they are less aggressive cyclists than men. We ride as if we’re sorry we’re taking up too much room.
I used to ride to work every day when I needed to leave the house which I no longer do! It was fun and exhilarating. I loved the freedom it gave me. No waiting for a train or bus. Not getting stuck in traffic.
It was 40 minutes door to door and I mapped out a route that was the safest and quietest possible. Cycle lanes in cities like London have often improved massively in recent years.
I always say that you have to cycle as if you are a car – take up space and never be embarrassed to take up space no matter how much you think you may be annoying whoever is behind you. As well as cycle lanes being better, I’ve also noticed that London drivers at least are more accommodating of cyclists now.
Just don’t be one of those cyclists who goes through red lights! You get us all a bad name with other road users!
Top tips for cycling
So what are my top tips for getting out and about on two wheels as a slightly older cyclist?
- If you’re going to cycle in a city or town and you’re new to cycling, you’d be well advised to get some training. Many local councils now have cycle training available and it’s often free.
- If trainers say it’s personal choice whether to wear a helmet or not, for goodness sake make the choice to wear one. A helmet will significantly improve your chances of survival in the event of a collision.
- Next, make sure your bike is roadworthy. If your bike isn’t new and already checked out by the shop where you bought it, get a service at the local bike shop just to be sure it’s in road-worthy condition – and do this once a year if you’re cycling regularly.
- Make sure you are visible when you’re on the bike. You may not want to wear a fluorescent jacket but there are reasons why many top cyclists do. It makes you much more visible to drivers who are having to make split second decisions on the road.
- When you’re riding at night, have the best lights you can afford because otherwise you could easily be missed and it’s just not worth the risk. In the countryside, you will be invisible without lights at night.
- Keep your tyres pumped up to the right pressure – you’ll be amazed what a difference it makes to the effort you need to keep those pedals turning. Flat tyres mean tired quadriceps. Remember to stretch those muscles too if you don’t want to get stiff or do yourself an injury.
- Watch out for and avoid potholes – in the town and the countryside.
- Regularly check your brakes. You never know when you might need them.
- Be a confident but defensive rider. Don’t ride along the edge of the road as if you’re embarrassed to be there. Be assertive. Take up as much room as you feel you need, especially where the road is narrow and you don’t want a car to pass too closely. This is just as important when cycling on rural roads as in the city. You don’t want to be overtaken too closely at speed.
- When passing a parked car, allow at least the depth of a car door between you and the car. Otherwise, if the door gets opened without you being seen, there’s a risk you could be knocked off and into the path of another vehicle. Not nice.
- Always assume you haven’t been seen unless it’s proven otherwise – much safer that way. Make eye contact with drivers at junctions to be sure they have seen you.
- Never go up the inside of a big vehicle that has stopped and is approaching a junction. If you can’t see the vehicle’s mirrors, the driver can’t see you. Better to hang back even if they are not indicating left. You never know when they may decide to turn left and across your path.
So there are my top tips for getting on your bike and staying safe. If you pay attention to safety, cycling is fantastic exercise and free transport wherever you want to go. Waterproof trousers and jacket allow you to get out on the road no matter the weather. Commuting by bike sets you up for the day, boosts energy and means you’ve exercised before you even send that first email.
So get out on the open road and feel the wind in your hair!
Rachel Lankester is the founder of Magnificent Midlife, author, host of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast, a midlife mentor and editor of the Mutton Club online magazine. After an initially devastating early menopause at 41, she dedicated herself to helping women vibrantly transition through the sometimes messy middle of life, helping them cope better with menopause and ageing in general, and create magnificent next chapters. She’s been featured in/on BBC Woman’s Hour, The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Thrive Global, Authority Magazine, The Age Buster, Woman’s Weekly, Prima Magazine, eShe, Tatler HK and Woman’s Own amongst others. She believes we just get better with age. Get her book Magnificent Midlife: Transform Your Middle Years, Menopause and Beyond which was recommended in the New York Times.
Last Updated on February 2, 2023 by Editorial Staff