Robert Rowland, co-owner of Boom Cycle gives us his top tips for beginners looking to join the growing UK bike brigade
Some people put it down to the success of the GB cyclists in the 2008 Olympics; others believe that it was Boris Johnson’s mad bike scheme that did the trick. Whatever way you look at it, one thing is true - cycling in the UK is on the rise. In fact, recent studies have shown that the mileage cycled in the UK is up 20% over the last 15 years from 4 billion kms in 1998 to 5.1 billion kms in 2013. Indeed nearly half (a whopping 43%) of the UK population now cycles.
If you’re part of the remaining 57% looking to join the bike brigade then you’ve come to the right place because this week we sat down with Managing Director and co-owner of BOOM Cycle , Robert Rowland, and asked him the five most important questions that will allow you to toss your training wheels to the side and hit the road hard.
1. What are the main health benefits of cycling?
“First of all cycling is a great low impact exercise,” says Robert, “which means that anyone can do it, even those who are starting from a very low base level of fitness.” Typically low-impact workouts are a lot easier on the body, especially on the joints, and can be a great way to get in a heart-pumping workout, while reducing the risk of injury (if hill sprints aren’t really your thing…).
“Once you’ve started cycling,” says Robert, “it’s the perfect format for every type of training - as you can head out for quick hard intervals or very long rides and just build on your base fitness.”
2. How important is it to find the right bike?
Choosing your first bike is a little like deciding on a drastic hair change - get it right and you’ve successfully overhauled an entire area of your life for the better. Get it wrong however, and you’re left dealing with the painful and unpleasant consequences for months to come.
“Not only is choosing the right back important for comfort but also for safety,” says Robert. “You need to feel relaxed as well as secure, but also manoeuvrable - especially when riding in traffic as you can cover long distances. If you don’t, you could end up having to deal with a number of joint pains and body issues.”
Finding the right model is also totally dependent on the person concerned. “It’s very much based on what you want to use the bike for,” says Robert. “But the one thing I would say is to not simply opt for the cheapest available as you’ll end up spending more money by having to constantly maintain and fix it. This way you may end up getting so fed up that you ditch the bike altogether! There are some great bike shops out there with really helpful professionals who can point you in the right direction - so definitely use them!”
3. Which are the best bike shops?
For trendy hotspots, head to shoreditch based Look Mum No Hands , or Cycle Lab & Juice Bar , where visitors can sup coffee, tea or even beer, while perusing bike artefacts and interesting gear with like minded folk.
For those seeking a more technical approach, head over to the holistic hospital for bikes, Cycle Surgery , where bike buffs will be on hand to provide detailed information as well as help see to any equipment problems or questions you may have.
However, for a truly bespoke bike experience, Comtat Cycles is the place to go - here visitors can drool over the most beautiful bikes in the business and also take part in a 3D fitting, for the ultimate tailored result.
4. How essential is it to wear a helmet?
When it comes to biking gear, cycling safety sits right at the top of the priorities list. “A helmet is the most essential piece,” says Robert. “A lot of people take the argument that a helmet won’t help them under a bus, but i’ve had more than one crash where there’s been no traffic around and have cracked my helmet (rather than my head)!” It may not protect you in every accident scenario - but given the choice of braving the busy, bustling roads with or without one - we know which option we’d choose...
Road Cycling UK recommends that when purchasing a helmet in the UK, they should meet the European Union standard, meaning more expensive versions are not necessarily more robust, but typically lighter and better ventilated. Aim to look for absorbent pads, a tactile adjustment dial at the rear or on top of the helmet to tighten or loosen the cradle that holds it to your head, and easily adjustable straps.
5. Is it safe for beginners to ride around a busy city?
“I would thoroughly recommend all beginners get some good practice in somewhere quiet first. The other thing I would do is to always plan your route carefully - if you are going to start commuting then take a look at the route first and avoid big roads and junctions - even if it takes a few extra minutes, it’ll be a more relaxing ride and also probably more scenic.”
Either way, if you’re feeling a little road rusty, Robert recommends Sky Ride as a great base for cycling tips and tricks, as well as a means of meeting up with cycling groups to help build up your experience and etiquette. “Sky Ride is a great place for beginners as it’s a really relaxed environment.”