Cycling: getting back in the saddle

Cycling in and around Leeds? Well what can I say. First, be prepared. Helmets are a must, they may not be the in look, but in this instance, keeping one’s brains intact overrides the lack of beauty.

Secondly, lights, these help you to be seen, when daylight is not at it’s brightest. Thirdly, Hi-Viz jackets are a great invention, especially this time of year, again helps you to be seen, not quite a fashion accessory, but it can just save your life. Shadows can come a cropper so easily … be bright, be seen. Finally, a bloody good lock, buy a decent one, you don’t want to return to an empty rack.

Now, you have the kit, and you have the bike, if not and you want to give it a go, beg, borrow but don’t steal. Both Dewsbury Road and Middleton Libraries lend out bikes. Try it first before splashing out. There are always some bargains to be found should you like it.

2½ years ago, after over 30 years out of the saddle, I thought I’d give it a go, again. I loved cycling as a child, back then the roads were much quieter. So getting back onto two wheels became quite daunting, but once I’d got used to the saddle (tip: buy padded pants!) it was a case of where to go and what to do.

There are many, many cycle routes in and around Leeds. The canal is a great ride if you want to go off road, but please to be aware of pedestrians, they do have priority right of way. Near the city centre is usually a bit busier, but as you get further out, you find it calms down. It is relatively flat, but going towards Shipley, there are several locks with uphill (downhill on the way back) stretches. Going under the bridges can be quite nerve-racking too.

Now negotiating the city centre. Well I started commuting to work by bicycle. From where I live, door to door, from my house to work, by bus took 30 minutes, by bike a whole 12 minutes. Once you know your route, and find the best route, it’s amazing.

From most surrounding areas of Leeds there are cycle routes into the city centre, some shared pathways with pedestrians, some segregated stretches and some just a line in the road. Beware, some designated cycleways can be confusing, most are straightforward, just stop and have a think. I found with certain less clear ones, that I use the main part of the road.

No matter where you cycle, you must adhere to the highway code, that means stopping at red lights, going the right way down a one-way street, (some have a cycleway going the opposite way, these are marked, and very convenient). Your first few trips negotiating the city centre can see your bike seat bypassing the padding and disappearing up the back of beyond, but as with everything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

With a bike, you go at your own speed and you can beat traffic into and around town. You can access the whole of the city centre. Each journey costs nothing, it is totally free. Free parking, some employers even provide locked sheltered storage (Victoria Gate being one of them). It is absolutely ZERO emissions. It’s great for exercise, it can be as gentle as you like, increases blood flow, good cardio, burns calories, and builds a cracking set of leg muscles. Sometimes the views in front aren’t too bad either, (sadly not the case for the person cycling behind me, sorry, but needs must).

It’s a great tonic for mental health too, just being out in the fresh air, sun on your face and wind in your hair, along the canal, heavenly. Traffic jams, 9 times out of 10, you can whizz past standing traffic, waving on your way past and be home with a hot (or cold) drink before the car drivers have even got 100 yards.

Now the downside. Drivers of motorised vehicles, whilst 99% of drivers will be courteous (I love these drivers) you do get the odd few that aren’t. Everybody has a name for these, that can’t be used in print. Be very aware of everything around you. Listening to music through headphones is a big no-no, you need to be able to hear what’s going on around you.

You are small and without the security of a cocoon, extra caution is needed with buses and lorries. Rule of thumb, if you can’t see his wing mirror, he can’t see you, stay well back and never pull alongside these vehicles at lights, they can’t see you.
The weather! Don’t let it put you off, waterproofs on, layer up. You will always warm up and dry off at the other end. Oh, and have the time at the other end to have a hot drink.

That’s it for now. I hope to see more of you out on the road. Stay safe and enjoy.


This post was written by Cheryl Johnson-Hartlebury

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2 Replies to “Cycling: getting back in the saddle”

  1. I bought a bicycle again last year, after 25+ years off them, to get fit again after ferrying the family around in cars, only trouble was, not long after I was diagnosed with cancer, but went out when I felt up to it, lately I’ve been getting out a bit more often ( but I work away so not as often as I’d like) but thinking of doing a few longer rides this year, but by the by, there’s some good advice in your post, good & sensible, but I’ve got a hybrid with a padded, suspended seat so not got the underwear as you suggest, any more cycling advice appreciated

  2. Please also get a bell & ring it when coming up behind pedestrians, in time for them to get out of the way, when walking you can usually hear other walkers coming up behind but you don’t hear bicycle’s, as well as been dangerous to an unaware pedestrian (especially when you have bad knees which mean you don’t always walk in a straight line) it can also be scary when a bicycle suddenly comes past you within inches. Thanks to all those who do warn me.

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