Once you’ve mastered the art of manoeuvring your machine down straight runs the next stage is learning how to alter course by making a turn to the left or right. After all, there is only so much progress you are going to make pedalling back and forward in one direction; indeed in time your interest in the sport will begin to wane as the monotony takes its toll on your enthusiasm.
So while stage two may sound daunting, images arising in your mind of horrendous spills and cuts and bruises, you’ve got to take the leap forward. Certainly if you have aspirations to develop your cycling to the stage where you can commute along lanes and roads among other traffic, then learning how to turn is essential.
Begin your lessons in the local park at a quiet time of the day and with relatively simple turns. The absence of other pedestrians in the park will mean you can concentrate on the manoeuvre without observational distractions and it is unlikely that you will meet anyone coming towards you along the pathway you are turning into: learning to turn can be traumatic enough without the added panic of knowing you have to negotiate passing a pedestrian without endangering either party.
Sense Of Balance
Give yourself plenty of room when preparing to turn; you don’t want to make any sharp manoeuvres that will test your nervousness and underdeveloped sense of balance on a bike. You are going to have to lean into the turn so put some trust in gravity and keep calm.
Taking as an example a right turn, drop your right shoulder to initiate the lean while putting added weight on the pedal underneath your left foot to ensure the bike doesn’t topple over. You don’t want to take the turn too fast, so adjust to the required speed before you begin your turn. On no account try to brake once you have begun the turn as this will compromise manoeuvrability, which, in turn, may cause you to lose your balance.
As you develop this turning manoeuvre, aim to accelerate out of the turn; in other words as you and the bike return to the upright position.
Keep Looking At All Times
So that’s the pure mechanics of the turn out of the way. Now for the other crucial part: observation. Yes, you’ve begun your lessons at a quiet time of day but unless you intend to take your bike out only to the accompaniment of early morning birdsong, you are going to inevitably encounter both pedestrians and other cyclists along the pathways of the local park.
This observational drill is a good introduction to the situations you will encounter further down the road when you begin cycling on the highway. Again, the example is a right turn into another pathway. As your turn approaches, keep an eye on anyone approaching from the other direction as well as anyone on the path you intend to turn into. Keeping looking at all times.
Before beginning your manoeuvre, look over your right shoulder to ensure there isn’t a cycle behind you that may be planning to overtake. Even if the coast is clear from behind, signal your turn by stretching out your right hand to indicate the direction of your manoeuvre – this is a good cycling habit that needs to become second nature. Once you have signalled, take a final check on anyone in front or approaching on your intended path, then proceed with the turn.
As with all aspects of cycling, practice is the key. Not only will it ensure your own safety but the safety of others.