Getting into cycling: Basic skills

We’ve enlisted the help of a team of experts and Windows 10 to guide a cycling newbie all the way to success in his first sportive, and it's time to get to grips with road riding...

Brought to you in conjunction with Microsoft. 
My name is Oliver, I’m 33 years old, I work as a construction health and safety manager and over the next few weeks I’m attempting to transform myself into a cyclist. But I’m not alone. With the help of my Microsoft technology and regular advice from the experts at Cycling Weekly I’m starting to think that I might just achieve my goal.

In less than a month I will be taking on my first sportive, the 54-mile Hell Fire Corner on November 7. Yes 54 miles. That’s quite a long way but I have a helping hand in the way of Windows 10, which has got me this far. With the team of experts at my beck and call via my desktop and tablet I’ve felt pretty motivated to get started and most importantly to keep going.

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Last month CW Tech guru Henry Robertshaw helped me decide on the right bike for me. After much deliberation, a few Skype calls and a word with my new personal assistant Cortana it was an easy process and as I write this I’ve just returned from a ride on my gleaming BMC Teammachine.

It wasn’t just any ride though, I was putting to use the skills that CW’s Rebecca Charlton says will build the perfect foundations for my switch from rugby player to sportive aficionado.

Back in the capable hands of this week’s expert I was able to make more progress without worrying that I’d end up in a hedge. Although I did worry slightly when Rebecca showed me how the professionals take the descents!

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Rebecca recommended some helpful pages which I could make notes on and save for later

Clipping in

First up I’d been using Cortana to help search the net to find out more about clipless pedals. Although those professional whippets on the TV make it look easy, it seems a lot of people fall over when they first try to use them.

When Rebecca confirmed my fear that I would indeed be riding with my feet firmly attached to my pedals I envisaged myself toppling over in an embarrassing heap on the floor.

Rebecca reminded me to pre-empt the need to unclip by keeping my eyes up ahead at all times, anticipating traffic lights or anything else that would force me to stop; although I still had a few wobbles.

The most helpful thing I learned was that the more relaxed I remained, the easier it was to free my feet from the pedals. The natural temptation is to panic and pull your foot upwards, but in fact it’s much more of a twist out to the side.

She loosened the retention with a multi-tool too so that they weren’t too tight to release, explaining that when I build confidence I’ll probably want them tighter, to achieve the maximum benefit. That being a better power transfer and a reduced chance of accidentally pulling my foot out when I’m accelerating faster.

Clipping out and in

Being able to use clipless pedals can really improve your riding and are worth taking the time to learn


Next up, it felt like we advanced quickly but if I’m going to stay upright at this sportive next month, not to mention get round the thing before it gets dark I still have a lot to learn.

I thought I appreciated how to turn a corner, but it appears there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.

When I was out on the road with Rebecca, she was talking a lot about following her line and looking through the corner to the exit. She explained that looking where I didn’t want to go was tempting, but would do no favours when I was picking up speed in terms of picking a smooth line.

It was quite hard to grasp why what we were doing was any different but when I got home she shared some images of riders in the apex of the corner showing just how much you can lean the bike in the corners. It was only then that I was able to fully appreciate where I could improve. So I’ve just been out to practise and I’m already gaining speed and confidence.

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Cornering is an essential part of bike handling and it was good to be able to see how it should be done


I hit the descents fast and while Rebecca explained that confidence is no bad thing, I did hit the brakes rather rapidly when we approached a blind bend. I got away with it, but she looked a little concerned and so we went through what I’d learned with the cornering and I realised I need to brake more gradually, and sooner to pick the best possible line and control my speed.


And finally, climbing wasn’t something that came naturally to me, with a slightly larger build, but Rebecca taught me some helpful techniques for pacing the hill. My instinct was to hit the hill at full gas to get some momentum, but I went too hard at the bottom and nearly ground to a halt by the summit. I’m learning now to use any preceding descents to gather pace but to avoid dipping into the red. Next week we’re looking at nutrition and I’m sure cleaning up my diet will help on the hills.

I used to look at serious cyclists and think they were a bit obsessed, but the bug has definitely bitten me now. I’m starting to gather quite a wealth of information and so I’ve created a separate desktop dedicated to my cycling journey. My next task is to produce a food diary, so I should probably be on best behaviour in order to share that with you next week.

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Keeping my work and cycling stuff separate was really handy in making sure I stayed on top of it all

Essential points

–  When you first go clipless, stay as relaxed as possible and twist outwards to release your cleat from the pedal, rather than up

– When you’re working on your cornering skills, keep your eyes up ahead and look where you want to go, rather than where you don’t

– When learning new skills, follow the line of a more experienced rider that you trust but always take things at your own pace

– Measure your effort on the hills. If you know it’s going to be a long climb don’t hit the bottom section with a full sprint, but equally if it’s short and sharp try to carry momentum rather than sitting up

To find out more about how to upgrade to Windows 10 visit