If you’re planning on riding your bike abroad, or renting one, there are a few things you need to think about before you jump in the saddle. Every country has it’s own unique set of rules – it’s own version of the Highway Code – and it pays to brush up a little on what they are to save you embarrassment / pain later.
Here are a few tips to help you brush up on your road cycling safety abroad.
1. Which side of the road should you be on?
Us Brits have our own sense of the right side of the road, the right. Most other places, including Europe, like you to be on the left. Keep this in mind or you’re gonna get some angry drivers… and pedestrians… and cyclists.
2. Are you covered?
Make sure your travel insurance covers you for bicycle accident claims, especially for the kind of cycling you’re doing. It’d be awful to have an accident and then have to spend the time fundraising for money for what you need, or even worse, your family fundraising. Just make sure you’re properly covered for the different kinds of cycling you’ll be doing.
Also, make sure your bike is sufficiently covered too, if you’re taking your own.
3. Is the bike good enough?
I’ve hired some right shoddy excuses for a cycle as I’ve travelled the world, I survived, but I wouldn’t really recommend it. Give the bike a check over before you hand over any money and if you have any qualms, now’s the time to raise them.
Check the saddle doesn’t move when you sit on it, that the handlebars are at the right level, that the tyres are pumped and the chain doesn’t look too rusty.
Best Types of Bicycles for Beginners
Whether you’re looking for the optimal men’s bike or the best women’s bike, there are a few styles that work well for riders just starting out.
Made for laid-back riding, a cruiser bike is an ideal fit for a new cyclist. With a wide, comfortable seat and a novice-friendly upright riding position, the cruiser bike offers a smooth ride. Best for routes that are relatively flat, cruiser bikes typically come with a few speeds, wide tires and handlebars that allow the rider to sit up straight. Variants on the cruiser model include comfort bikes and flat-foot comfort bikes, each of which offer a slightly different riding experience.
Cruiser bikes are a great choice for short commutes, leisurely rides or cruising by the beach.
Pulling in features from both road and mountain bicycles, hybrid bikes can take on a wide variety of trail types. Beginner-friendly features like wider tires, upright handlebars and comfortable seats make these bikes work for new cyclists, and are common on both a men’s bike and a women’s bike. Hybrid bikes are best for riding on paved and unpaved trails, taking short commutes and pedalling around town. They can handle rougher surfaces than a road bike and offer a faster, smoother ride on paved roads than a mountain bike.
Also known as commuter and urban bicycles, city bikes are made for taking to the streets. Features like fenders and skirt guards keep the tires from kicking up dirt and grime, meaning this sub-category of bikes can be used for riding to work in everyday clothing. With some similar traits as hybrid and cruiser models, city bikes offer a similarly smooth ride and comfortable pedaling position. They have fewer gear and speed options than a road or mountain model, so new riders can learn the ins and outs of the bike quickly.
4. Always wear a helmet
Even if you’re just popping to the shops, make sure to wear a helmet. And if your hire shop doesn’t have them, go somewhere else. Some travel insurance policies will be invalid if you’re not wearing your helmet, AND you could die. Just do it. It might seem annoying but it’l be more annoying to have lasting head injuries.
When you’re cycling in a new environment with different road laws, and in a. Different language, all that stimulation makes cycling and finding your way even harder.
5. Pack for your journey
Make sure you’re travelling with water, a puncture repair kit, your phone and some cash. One of the best things about travelling by bicycle is that you can travel quite far, quite easily, BUT that means you can also get quite lost, quite easily.
6. Check the weather
Other countries have torrential downpours never seen before in England, seriously, you need to prepare for them. No matter how warm and sunny it feels in the morning in Asia / the Caribbean / America, by the afternoon it could be persisting it down. Make sure you’re ready for whatever the weather will throw at you and don’t set out in bad weather if you don’t have to. The road will be slippery, anyone else using the road has less visibility and you won’t be able to see or cycle as clearly.
7. Make sure you can be seen
Don’t cycle at night unless you have lights and are wearing something bright. Don’t sneak behind cars or lorries where you can’t be seen. Make eye contact with other drivers and use your bell to signal to other road and cycle lane users that you’re there. As a cyclist you’re quick and slick, but it’s not the idea to keep yourself secret.
Let yourself be seen!
More on cycling abroad