Starting out cycling

The bike is hard to beat as a form of transport. It is non-polluting, human powered, takes up little space and is often the quickest form of transport for journeys of less than 5km, especially around towns and cities.

Cycling can be a wonderful leisure-time activity and offers excellent health benefits for relatively little cost.

Get tips to help make cycling more fun and effective for you whether you are riding to work, or for leisure or fitness (Ministry of Health).

Read these Ministry of Health guidelines on cycling in Te Reo Māori.

Getting started, whatever your level

If you are a real beginner, take it easy! If you are breathless and can’t maintain a conversation while you cycle, or your legs are very tired and sore, it means you’re pushing yourself too hard.

When you are starting out, three to four gentle rides a week of 15 to 20 minutes each are enough.

The key to increasing your fitness is to gradually build up the length and intensity of your rides. A good rule-of-thumb to follow when building up your training volume is to increase the length of each ride and total riding time by no more than 10 percent per week.

Your body needs time to recover, so factor in rest days each week and an easier schedule every third week.

Mountain biking is a great way to improve your health – and it is great fun. There may be dedicated mountain bike tracks in your area.

Find out about mountain biking trails around Canterbury.

Go Cycle Christchurch organises short rides around the city especially for new cyclists.

Ask your local bike shop or regional sports trust about cycling clubs in your area, if you want to ride with others. You could also get friends and family along on some fun rides or short trips to the shops, playground, library or pool.

Some cycle safety basics
  • Be visible. Be aware. Be defensive. Be predictable.
  • Remember the New Zealand Road Code and Code for Cyclists both apply to cyclists.
  • Always wear a helmet – it’s required by law! Look for one that meets the Cycle Helmet Safety Standard. Helmets should have a hard shell and a foam liner, and feel snug and comfortable.
  • Cycling at night and in low-light conditions calls for lights, reflectors and bright clothing.
  • Padded shorts, gloves and cycling shoes may make you more comfortable and increase your enjoyment.
Choosing and caring for your bike

There are many different bike options, depending on your requirements. Bikes with a range of gears make cycling easier on undulating and hilly terrain, while bikes with narrow tyres can be more efficient.

Use the NZTA Bike Buyer’s Guide to help you choose the right type and size bike [PDF].

Find out more about electric bikes on the NZTA website.

It makes good sense to keep your bike in safe working order regardless of whether you cycle regularly or haven’t ridden for a while. Have your bike checked annually for safety and road-readiness.

Bike shops often do free safety and maintenance checks, and offer reasonable servicing rates.