Fear of traffic is one of the biggest barriers new riders face. Don’t let your first ride be 10km into the CBD in peak hour when you’ve got an important meeting first thing! Instead, start small with short, low-stress rides, to your friend’s place or the local shops. This will get your confidence up and give you a feel for the bike.
Joining your local bicycle user group can be another great way to learn bike skills from peers. Some groups organise fun social rides to local chocolate stores, markets and the beach.
Remember the three Cs: common sense, caution and courtesy. Experts say cyclists should assume all drivers have a visibility problem with vehicles that aren’t cars — though hopefully the more cyclists there are on the roads, the less true this will be.
Avoid the temptation to try to go as fast as motor vehicles — it’ll just make it more likely you need a shower at the other end, as well as dramatically increasing your stress levels.
Ride with a gap between you and parked cars – lots of cycling accidents are caused by car doors opening without warning. But about 80% of all bike accidents don’t involve anyone else — they’re just down to operator error. So if your skills are really rusty, join a cycling group or course (even some community colleges offer them).
The route you take is all-important to how comfortable your ride is. Many people avoid riding because of busy roads, but cyclists use a different mental map to drivers and where possible use quiet traffic back streets rather than main roads. There are some terrific bike maps and online tools you can use to help you find a route that suits you (see Useful links). You may discover pleasant streets in your area that you didn’t know existed.
You can also boost your visibility and confidence by riding with a buddy. This might be a friend, a work colleague, or even a 'bike bus' (a group of people who cycle the same route to a timetable: see hop on the bike bus).
Once you're comfortable on your bike you can gain inspiration by riding with a big group. There are plenty of events — find out more from your local bike user group or state bike organisation (see Useful links).
Many States hold a bike week, with lots of fun events. Try a day ride where thousands of people of all ages take to the roads together, like Melbourne’s famous Around the Bay in a Day and Sydney’s Spring Cycle (both on October 19 2008) and Perth’s Great Bike Ride. All these rides have shorter distance options for kids and beginners.
If you’re getting serious, try a 'Big Ride' where you camp at night and ride over several days — your local bike group can point you in the right direction. National Ride to Work Day is 15 October 2008 and Ride to School Day is 12 March — these are held annually.