Bicycle handling basics

Riding confidently and predictably in traffic sends the message that you belong on the road. Basic bike handling skills will also enhance your efficiency, making your ride more enjoyable. 

START strong

Getting off to a good start includes starting with stability. Start in a low gear and gradually build speed. 

  1. Engage both brakes.
  2. Position one pedal in the 2 o’clock power position. 
  3. Put all your weight on this pedal; then release the brakes.
  4. Stand up on the pedal and simultaneously ease yourself back onto the saddle.
  5. Keep your grip on the handlebars firm but relaxed so you will not wobble.
  6. As you gain speed, shift to higher gears.

STOP safely

Stopping is arguably more important than going when it comes to safe riding. 

  1. Free one foot if you use toe clips, straps or clipless pedals. 
  2. To slow, apply both brakes evenly. Your front brake actually accounts for 70% of your braking power. 
  3. As you slow, shift down a few gears to make it easier to start up again.
  4. Just as you come to a complete stop, turn the handlebars slightly away from the side you step down. The bike will lean slightly to this side, making it easier to step down.
  5. Step down off the seat and put one foot down. You will find that one side is more natural than the other. Putting your foot down sends a clear message that you are stopping to other cyclists, motorists and law enforcement. 
  6. As you are stopped, reposition your pedal into the power position so that you are ready to start again. 

RIDE in a straight line

This important skill may sound simple, but it is an essential aspect of riding predictably. 

  1. Use small adjustments of the handlebars and leaning your bike to correct your line. 
  2.  Look up and ahead rather than staring at your front tire.
  3. Do not weave in and out of parked cars as you ride along. Hold your line. 

SCAN for traffic

Whether you are riding in traffic or on a trail, you need to be aware of and communicate with those around you. Scanning behind for overtaking traffic is especially crucial when merging or changing lanes. The trick is to maintain a straight line while looking over 
your shoulder. 

  1. Relax or remove the hand on the side you are scanning to avoid turning the handlebars as you scan. Some riders rest that hand on their thigh or hip. 
  2. Slightly tighten your grip on the other hand for balance and control.
  3. Briefly turn your head to look over your shoulder to scan behind you. You may need to do this a few times. 

SIGNAL your intentions

A large part of riding predictably is letting others know what you plan to do before you do it. Hand signals are a vital communication tool. Always signal your intent when turning, changing lanes and changing position within the lane. 

SHIFT for efficiency

Using a range of gears allows you to ride more efficiently and reduce fatigue, and is especially helpful for tackling the varied topography of our region. If done right, you can exert nearly the same pedaling effort riding up a hill, down a hill or on level ground. The three key components are cadence, gears and shifting. 


For good efficiency and low impact on your knees, an optimal pedaling cadence of 75 – 95 revolutions per minute (rpm) is recommended. You can maintain a comfortable, efficient cadence by shifting gears to adjust to changes in terrain. 


Bikes may have gears in the front and/or in the rear, depending on the style of bicycle and the style of intended riding. 
Most gears are external, but some bikes have internal hubs.


Shifting allows you to move between the gears to maintain a steady cadence and effort over a variety of terrain.