Experiences of Cycle Training

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  • If you have had cycle training then here's a place to let other people know what you thought of it. It doesn't have to be positive; constructive criticism is always welcome.

  • I was trained by Will. I found it useful. I learnt quite a few points and, possibly more importantly, I had certain practices affirmed as good practices. I am now a more confident rider and make eyes at all the drivers.

    I am arranging for Will to train my wife and daughters. His style is gentle but assuring. He is well suited to the role. Highly recommended.

  • Why thankyou Clive. I might, when there is time, merge an edited version of the existing Cycle Training thread in to this one to save people having to repeat what they have already posted.

  • Will is a lovely chap - damn normal dj service will be resumed

    skydancer took my cycle training, similar to cliveo it affirmed some of my good practice but also made me aware of things to watch out for and areas to improve in my cycling

    it has hugely improved my enjoyment of being on a bike.

    I would suggest all cyclists do it (no I am not an alias)

  • I recently had training from Will and yes he is a damn good fella but more importantly he also really knows his stuff.

    It is a really good idea to have some training whatever level you're at. I knew I was a reasonably competent rider but there are things like when to hold your position whilst in traffic and the importance of strong eye contact which you feel more confident about doing after this training.

    The thing with the training is that you get to practice in the big bad world and have the feedback instantly on how you did and what to do differently, you dont have to agree with everything but its a pretty stress free way of cycling.

    The bonus was how to defeat the nodders undertaking - by having your own personal trainer block the inside so you can practice a left turn, well maybe thats not so practical!

  • I am going to re-post some of the experiences detailed in the Cycle Training thread.
    This is Dancing James' full account of the training he had last year (from Skydancer)

    The intentions were to minimize conflict on the road, undo bad habits and gain extra knowledge.

    Initially we started in Hyde Park, being assessed on level 1 skills, such as basic check of the bike, getting on and off, stopping steering etc. The second part of level 1 was also done in the park, stopping quickly, swerving to avoid things, signalling and looking behind whilst signalling.

    Though my bike control was rated as excellent I quickly discovered that especially when looking over my left shoulder that I wobble a fair bit, as such this is now part of my homework, to improve my rear vision whilst maintaining a line. One really useful tip was which ever shoulder you are looking over let go of the handlebars on that side and your shoulder will drop a little, thus expanding your horizon.

    We then moved on to level 2. I was asked about my road position and explained that the reason why i was so far into the road was having recently seen the outcome of a car dooring incident. Surprisingly it was suggested that I should actually be more assertive in the lane, occupy the lane by filling it like a car would.

    Level 2 is about basic road navigation and safety, when and where to signal, going from major to minor roads and vice versa, observing potential risks etc.

    A useful tip when starting off is rather than pushing off from the kerb, it can be better to stand on the edge of the road (eg if there were parking spaces stand just a little proud of the edge of the cars. This starts to establish your presence, and you can see how cars slow down and start to give you a wider birth.

    Probably my weakest area was road positioning at junctions, tending to take the corners too tightly. This gives cars the potential to over take me as they go round, and with left hand turns it means if there is a car parked around the corner then I will be forced into it. At junctions still behave as if I deserve a car size amount of room, do not shrink up in an effort to be nice, it just puts me at greater risk.

    I was commended on my looking back however when following the instructor it became apparent that he looks back even more frequently. There was a "no surprises" ethos, so the more you observe the less likely anything is going to be a surprise.

    Another weakness was after observing, and signalling I would execute turnings without taking a final glance, especially when pulling in to the roadside when stopping. This becomes more hazardous when you are taking a more assertive line as there are probably a lot of cyclists who may undertake you as you are slowing down.

    It was stressed how important it is to make eye contact where possible, at night of course this will be more difficult so its important to take less risks. If they have not seen me then I should not behave as if I think they should.

    Interestingly it appears that being more assertive may reduce my levels of conflict, by engaging other users more in the communication (holding line, signalling intention etc) this should mean there are less surprises for car drivers and less reason for them to use the horn sharply or similar.

    I am also going to work on my royal wave and smile, instead of taking their use of horn etc as an act of aggression it is merely them acknowledging my place on the road, at least it means they have seen me.

    All in all I learned a great deal and was actually quite reassured that I am doing a fair bit correctly. There is something for all of us to learn from the experience and I would suggest that anyone who is at all nervous should investigate the training route. The instructors are very very patient, I did levels 1, 2 and 3 in an hour and a bit, but they have been known to spend a couple of sessions per level with less confident road users.

    As for my first journey afterwards, it felt really good. I was more confident about holding my line, as such it opened up a little more space in front of me and thus I could actually travel faster. I am also more content to wait than to filter up to the front of junctions.

    My conclusion was that it was a valuable and constructive use of my time, and I would suggest it to most cyclists to brush up on knowledge and safety.

    There was nothing I would contradict about what I was told and I feel that my confidence will increase whilst hopefully reducing the number of incidents where people try to kill me.

  • This was from A EF

    Did some training recently, level 3. Well worth it. Helped me to tweak and improve the points I was getting right, but strangely not being confident enough with (even though I considered myself a confident rider) and even approval of things you are already doing is good.

    One of the main things it got across to me was to make it really obvious what you're doing to other road users around you. Eg. don't just swerve and pull out to the right at the last minute to get round a parked car and expect the car driving behind you to realise that's what you're going to do. Make a longer more obvious movement into the right position to pass the parked car, quite far in advance of passing it. Sounds obvious when you know, but when you're in a car you often have to guess what cyclists might do as it's easier to ride more erratically and make sharper movments on bike than in a car. To people that don't cycle this isn't obvious.

    Loads of useful tips and info to be had from a bit of training. I'd recommend it to anyone who gets the chance.

  • This from Balki

    On Thursday evening I went for cycle training with WiganWill.

    I've been recommending training to a number of new cyclists as a means of building basic skills and confidence. I was advocating something which I'd never done, and really knew little about so I thought I'd take one. I think I'm a reasonably competent rider, but I'm also not so egocentric to think there wasn't much to learn from a long-term London courier. I'd guess Will would spend more time in the saddle on a working day than I would in a week.... and learn I did.

    We started with some basic stuff, some stop/starts and little tests to see how well I held my line while looking behind me. We also looked at best technique for emergency stops. Talking this through at the time we identified a tendency to skid the rear out a bit and not really use the brake in dicey situations. In initiating the skid, I come out of the saddle. Tips from Will about keeping the weight as far back as possible and applying the brake had a discernible affect on stopping distance once I had a few shots at it (though I didn't look quite as rad, which was disappointing). This was all done away from traffic in a little carpark.

    All went pretty smoothly and we moved on to some quiet intersections to talk about road positioning. This highlighted a tendency of mine to move to a position which would allow a vehicle to move past. For example when stopped at a T-junction to turn right, I'd be close to the centre white line. Will questioned me about this asking if there was enough space to pass on the left. The best I could answer was 'maybe'. Obviously this situation lends itself to vehicles trying to squeeze through the gap which is not ideal. There was a big emphasis here on assessing the conditions when approaching the intersection, checking behind well in advance so there were no surprises, and communicating with the other road users by head checks, eye contact, road position and hand signals if required. I'm sure you've all noticed that a head check will often create space around you.

    We then went out for a ride to find some busy intersections. Before we approached, we spent a bit of time off the bike talking about where we wanted to be and what we were doing, and the appropriate place/time to filter. Obviously you need to assess the situation based on a number of factors, most of which I guess you tend to do without really thinking about them, i.e how long the cars have been waiting for lights, the space up the outside/between rows etc. On a couple of occasions when I would have filtered, we were better served by stopping behind the row of cars in order to retain the primary lane position. In retrospect, the delay this caused us was negligible and I felt in a much safer position in what was a pretty shitty intersection for bikes.

    The key messages were to obtain/maintain the primary road position, be seen, and communicate with the other road users.

    I made a couple of poor decisions on the day, sprinting for a gap in front of a cab to get around a bus, and turning right across traffic in poor conditions through a small gap. Im not sure the manoeuvers were inherently unsafe, but in light of what we'd been doing during the lesson they were clearly a bit shit and could have been better executed not just for me, but for the other road users.

    Anyone who knows Will, either in person or through this forum will know that the bloke can communicate. His professionalism was exceptional and as soon as we started, it was all business. I'd have no hesitation recommending this. For me I think the most beneficial part was just chatting though the intersections and strategies for a couple of hours. It really brought the road safety mantra to the front of my mind. Almost immediately I found myself riding a bit differently, more assertively, positioning myself earlier and thinking a bit more. I still like to mash it, but I think I'll be choosing the right times to do it, and doing it from a better road position.

    Good fun too!

  • Velo Libre's experience

    Had mine today, will a guy called Will working freelance for Camden Council.

    After we met, he told me about this "M" method for checking your bike before you ride off. This involves checking things are tight and functioning etc, goes front wheel, (nuts and bearings), front brake, headset, handlebars/stem, bottom bracket, cranks, pedals, seatpost, seat, back brake, rear wheel (nuts and bearings) which seemed like a good check to make sure your bike wasn't going to fall apart. Then we did setting off, i.e., put yourself in a position where you can be seen and can see. Next, emergency stops. This involved hard front braking whilst locking your elbows and shifting weight back. Was a little difficult for me to get perfect technique, as either weight centred caused my back wheel to lift (and skid) and weight back was a bit awkward still pedalling, so I had a few practises. We then went over positioning for turning onto and off a more major road onto a minor one, and discussed my route. He had some TfL cycling maps and showed me a less busy route down to regents park. We then carried on, modifying my commuting route to less busy roads, and discussing various elements of positioning and signalling on the way. At the end he said I was an excellent cyclist who had good positioning but that I could be more assertive with my hand signals (i tended to do them too low, rather than perpendicular to my body).

    What I felt could have been emphasised more was the appropriate way to filter, but we did go over some of this (i.e. anticipating lights changing, cars changing lanes, doors opening etc).

    I would recommend it to anyone.

  • From KattieP

    Been meaning to do this for a while. I had my cycle training last saturday. All in all - glad I did it. My trainer was extremely passionate and enthuastic about the whole thing. She gave me a call beforehand and asked what I wanted to get out of it. I said I was a fairly experienced cyclist. She suggested we cycle a bit of my route to work which made great sense since I do it 2x a day.
    Anyway - we started out in Brockwell park with her assessing my basic skills (ability to look over both shoulders, and emergency swerves/stops). Then we went onto some quite streets and talked about filtering into traffic and what is best for different situations. Doing the route to work was really helpful and I now realise my lane positioning at lights (esp around Kennington) should be more central. She pointed out to me that I shouldn't always try to get in front of cars at lights and that sometimes that just pis*es drivers off and achieves nothing. Very important to assess traffic both ahead and behind you.
    All in all a really useful couple of hours and for the measley sum of £8 (thanks to lambeth council subsidising it), I highly recommend - everyone would get something out of it.

  • From Arvy

    Another recommendation to do cycle training.
    Having ridden in the London's famous London for 5 years, I was skeptical but am happy to have spent 2 hours doing this.

    As many councils offer this free, there is absolutely NO reason not take some training. I learned a couple of little things (like positioning at junctions, and general road position and even emergency stops) which immediately helped.

    My trainer was lovely lfgss member ShannonBall so there are even "people like us" who did this and if you pay council tax, start getting your money's worth - check your bill to find out your local council

  • Cycle training with will; everything went textbook perfect, it pretty much confirm what I already know about how to work with the traffic as smoothly as possible.

    However this isn't to said that the season wasn't a waste of time, far from it. For instance like mounting the bike and joining the traffic from behind a parked car, what I didn't notice that the likelihood of getting notice that I'm about to pull away from behind a parked car is that they couldn't see the bike, solution? mount further onto the road where my presence is more noticeable.
    The other thing is learning some useful trick, such as what to do with a bus behind you and a bus stop in front of you, usually my way of proceeding is to drop back a little bit to allow the bus ample room and speed to overtake me safety and arrive at the bus stop if required (which is fine if the gap between you and the bus stop is fairly large), however Will taught me a better way to deal with it is to take the lane a bit more not letting the bus overtake you if it given the chance while near a bus stop.

    £40 isn't wasted at all, in fact it made me feel a bit happier knowing that the manoeuvre I've made is definitely the correct manoeuvre to work with the traffic. Not only that it also made me feel more reassured on teaching the missus how to ride a bicycle a year and a half ago, even though I'm 100% confident that she'll be fine riding on the road on her own nowadays, regardless of what route she took.

    Even if you feel you're an 100% competent cyclist, it's still worth taking.

  • Oliver feels more confident cycling in wet weather, he has better control by using a lower gear to enable improved grip of the road surface. He confirmed concerns he had about local cycle routes and lanes as not being useful for his route and he understands better the function of both brakes through exploring emergency stopping techniques.

    Not doing skids then Oliver?

  • I did some cycling training with someone other than Will (a really great guy called Jim).

    I'm a confident and comptent cyclist but having read a fair few posts about the beneifts I thought I'd give it a go.

    I'm glad I did because as others had said it confirmed what I was doing was right and I also learnt a few new things (for example when approaching certain junctions I wasn't 'taking the lane' - I do now). I did it with my local authority (Richmond) and it only cost £15 for 2 hours and I even got a free D-lock and some maps!

    It made me realise that everytime a driver acts like a cock it's not because I've done something wrong but because they are indeed twats (I wanted to make sure like).

  • was it a decent d-lock or a crap one? if someone's giving away fahg minis...

  • Not doing skids then Oliver?

    Heh, indeed. I can't and don't skid. I think I did the training before I got my fixed bike, too.

  • was it a decent d-lock or a crap one? if someone's giving away fahg minis...

    From memory it was a Krypto series 3. Not brilliant but it'll do for my girlfriend's bike.

  • I think I did the training before I got my fixed bike, too.

    Oliver, this must have been some time ago. I would strongly recommend refresher training once every few years, just in order to iron out bad habits and affirm good ones. Give Will a call. You will find it most worthwhile.

  • Oliver, this must have been some time ago. I would strongly recommend refresher training once every few years, just in order to iron out bad habits and affirm good ones. Give Will a call. You will find it most worthwhile.

    Quite right, Clive.

  • Randomly I saw a group of people doing this today as I walked to the shops and back.
    I slowed down and listened in sounded alot like the CBT training i'd just done for my
    motorbike. Sounded like they were getting obvious but good advice.

  • I just completed 2 hours or so with David Showell, the boss of Cycle Confident. The kind folk at Westminster paid for it all, since I work there. I've been on the roads for 25 years but seem to have an actual scrape or worse every year or couple of years, and get cut up enough to make my blood boil every couple of days, so I was just looking to reduce the frequency of these mishaps.

    He started off with a quick check of my bike - slack chain! - asked if I was happy with my brakes, and offered to adjust them if I wasn't confident enough to do it myself, which I thought was kind. I learned something pretty quickly which was to get on the bike in the road, and starting from the kerb side of the bike. I never did this before, since it's a little harder than getting on from the off side, due to it being lower on the kerb side, but he made the point that if something goes wrong it's much easier to jump to safety when you don't have a bike in the way.

    A quick check of my ability to look behind me, and we were off, following my homeward bound commute. Right away he noticed I weave about a lot and don't look behind me, which was certainly true. My line was quite good, but for the first mile or so, the recurring theme was, "Be more aware of who's behind you." After I dropped him at a couple of lights and he saw me power-weave up through the Soho traffic, he got to the nub of my problem. "You're a nutter," he said, "I've never seen anyone ride so fast and so aggressively through traffic as you".

    Despite the way it reads in print, he was totally non-judgemental about it, and pointed out a few points from the previous mile where I'd abruptly changed course while 'making progress' and could have been taken out by someone who didn't know where I was going next. He made the point that if you're moving very fast, there is less opportunity for another road user to see you and judge your intent. I never thought about this, but it seems obvious now that if someone is only glancing in their rear view mirror, side mirrors or over a shoulder, then the faster you go, the less likely you are to be in their field of view in the instant of the glance.

    A little later on in the journey (to Halfords, to exploit the BOGOF computer mishap and land some tasty shorts) a bendy bus conveniently cut me up and, had I not jumped on the brakes, would have pushed me on to the pavement, which would have been disastrous at those speeds. David showed how I could have avoided this situation, had I spotted the bus stop ahead and been aware of the bus behind me. The rest of the lesson was focused on not going at breakneck speed everywhere, and communicating manoeuvring intent through eye contact, hand signal and road position. I'd always thought that if you have to signal, your road position wasn't clear enough, but he laid out several situations where position isn't enough and encouraged really assertive hand signals to help drivers back off a bit and give you a bit more room.

    As a trainer, I thought David was really good. He had a hard task having to be the angel on my shoulder, on the matter of speed. While he was making the point that by going at breakneck speed I might make a few more minutes, the devil was whispering, "But you'll WIN!" Win what? I guess is the question, but I've always seen just about any journey as a competition between me and the rest of the road, chasing down any cyclist who happened to pass me while I was day dreaming, and generally acting like a 17 year old boy racer in his first XR2i. David was really helpful in both identifying this attitude and suggesting, for the first time, that going as fast as possible isn't the best way to ride in traffic. I'd definitely recommend a lesson of this kind to anyone. Like I said, even with a quarter century of road cycling behind me, there was plenty to learn.

  • Chocky; thanks for that write up, really interesting that it's not just about how you cycle a certain way but why and how we all, I think, develop habits and ways of doing stuff. Often it's about under-confidence though not, by the sound of it, in your case :)

  • This from Vee Vee

    I found it a bit so so. When I contacted cycle training uk I told them that I had done cycle training almost 2 years ago and have been riding in London for two years. The training started with the basics like emergency braking, always using the two brakes at the same time, looking behind and indicating etc.. Then we went along very quiet roads where we spent a lot of time talking about positioning, turning left and right. We eventually went on the road, I had to ride less than 10k an hour as she was struggling to keep up. I got a little stern "you are going quite fast so you couldn't hear me when I told you to go left". I had been going very slowly.

    Anyway at the end we went from Stockwell until after the Oval and back again. There is a stretch on the A3 just before the Oval where cars tend to undertake so I told her that I wanted to go through there. So we did, I looked back a few times as we went along. About 4 cars undertook us. Then I continued, I looked back and couldn't see her, slowed down, looked back, looked back. I stopped eventually and she arrives, pretty pissed off "you never looked back! I told you to turn left, you don't look behind, if you had you would have noticed that I wasn't there. The same on that stretch of road, people undertook you because you don't look behind, I looked behind all the time. It's after 1200, I need to go somewhere!". I apologised (although pointed out that cars still undertook us even when she looked back) and let her get on with the telling off.. . She relaxed a bit, gave me my sheet. I looked at the time it was 1205. But basically I don't feel more confident if anything probably less confident and a bit useless! :) Apart from the end she was quite nice and I learnt new things but it felt like training for grannies maybe also my fault as I should have been more clear on what I wanted to learn but she should also have been more clear on when to stop and where we were going.

    I tried to practice looking back on my way home, she told me to look back every 3-4 parked cars. I found this a bit difficult and confusing as I normally spend a lot of time scanning for obstacles ahead obviously depending on what is going on and where I'm heading to. So any tips welcome.

  • Sounds like some weird francophobia going on - or your trainer was getting a bit hypoglycaemic or something :S

    Looking back every 3-4 cars makes no sense without context. It depends how densely they're parked, surely? And anyway, counting cars is far too monomaniacal. When I glance behind is based on a plethora of stimuli, ranging from sensory input/perceived hazards, to local knowledge, to wishing to communicate my intentions, and so on; as I'm sure it is for you.

    If you were left with your confidence dented, did you get a chance to offer formal feedback? And can you request another go with an alternative trainer? Apologies if this was discussed on another thread already.

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Experiences of Cycle Training

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