How to ride a bike on the road

Cycling on the roads is incredibly safe, with millions of cyclists every day pedalling their way to work or for pleasure.

If you’ve not cycled on the road before, or are returning to cycling on the road after a lay-off, our guide on how to ride a bike on the road is for you!

We can’t cover everything in this guide, but we cover some of the basic cycling rules of the road that will keep you safe while riding.

Highway Code

As soon as you begin to cycle on the road, you are governed by the Highway Code, specifically rules 59 – 82.

This essential piece of legislation is lengthy, but it tells you everything you need to know to stay on the right side of the law. It’s worth a read if you’ve never studied it before, or a refresher if you have. It’s up to you to understand the rules for cyclists and abide by them.

Here are a few of the essential pieces of information you need to know as a rider that will keep you safe on the roads.

Clothing

If you’re heading out on your bike, you should wear safe clothing. Every cyclist should wear:

  • A bike helmet which conforms to current regulations, fits correctly and is secure while you’re riding. All Halfords helmets are road legal and conform to all rules, so you can buy with confidence. 
  • Suitable clothes for riding that won’t get caught up in the moving parts of your bike, such as the wheels and chain.
  • Clothing that improves your visibility to other road users and pedestrians, such as light-coloured or fluorescent clothing. 
  • Reflective clothing and/or accessories that will help you to be seen during the dark. 

Cycling at night

If you’re heading out at night, your bike must have front and rear lights fitted.

Your bike must also have a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). 

Some riders are now using running lights during the day to improve visibility, although this isn’t yet a legal requirement.

Road-legal ride

Your bike must be road legal, which means it’s in a good state of repair and fit to be ridden.

At the most basic level, it should have working front and rear brakes, the gears should work, and it runs smoothly. 

If your bike needs some attention, you can read a selection of simple and straightforward ‘How to’ guides that will help you tackle most jobs. 

If you’d like a professional to ensure your bike is in tip-top condition, then book a Halfords bike service. Our trained and experienced mechanics will provide a complete check of your bike. They will ensure that all of the essential components are running smoothly and carry out all work necessary – all for a low set price.

Tips for riding (Rule 66)

Riding on the roads is about being considerate for other users. It’s about protecting your safety and theirs too.

Here are some simple tips for safe road riding.

  • Keep both hands on the handlebars except when signalling or changing gear
  • Always keep both feet on the pedals
  • If you’re riding in a group, never ride more than two side-by-side. If you’re riding on narrow or busy roads, then ride in single file. 
  • Don’t ride close behind other vehicles, including other cyclists. 
  • Don’t carry anything (such as shopping bags or plastic bags) that could affect your balance or get caught in the wheels or chain.

Signalling

When riding on the road, you have to use signals that tell drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists what you’re about to do. 

The most important signals are to indicate when you are turning a corner, but there are lots of other signals you may need to know. Even if you don’t use them yourself, it’s essential to know the signals other road users may use to indicate upcoming hazards or dangers. 

The Highway Code includes a simple visual guide to the hand signals every cyclist should know. You can view it here

Ride with confidence

When you ride on the roads, you must ride with confidence. Practically, this means riding in a prominent position on the road that keeps you safe. 

Many road riders stay close to the kerb, but this can be dangerous. Scan the road ahead and plan out the route that will keep you safest. This may mean taking a road position that’s closer to the centre. This is especially important when passing parked cars, as an open door could spell disaster. 

Wearing the right clothes and having a properly set-up bike can provide some reassurance, but you’ll only build confidence through regular road riding. 

If you’re unsure or unsteady, then take things slow. Find an area to ride where traffic is low and practice. Start patiently and build your confidence. Riding with more experienced riders or in a group can help you to learn how to ride safely. Watch other riders and see where they position themselves. Experience is the best teacher. 

Every rider should prioritise their own safety and ensure that every journey starts and ends with a smile. 

Halfords Discovery Hub

If you’re searching for new road rides and routes, then check out the Halfords Discovery Hub. You can search through hundreds of the best cycling routes across the UK. Each road ride is graded according to their difficulty and is accompanied by a map and instructions. 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to ride 5 miles or 50, the perfect ride for you is waiting on the Discovery Hub.