“To finish first you must first finish” – Bikeability! and youth racing cyclists

08 April 2014

We asked Nick Higgins, a Bikeability Instructor from leading cycle training company BikeRight!, to give his views about the importance of being safe on the roads, and how this can help with training & racing for youth riders.

The title above is a famous quote from record winning Indicar race driver Rick Mears. A quote that is just as apt in cycle racing as it is in any competitive sport. When you’re out on your bike, either in a race, on a training session, or just a ride with your mates, lots of things can bring a premature end to your fun. A puncture, a jammed chain or an encounter with the undergrowth can all ruin months of preparation.

Here’s something else to think about – road safety. Yes a boring subject but one that is nonetheless as important as diet, bike maintenance and race tactics.

Children in England and Wales aged 10 to 12 all have access to Bikeability cycle training at school in either year 5 or 6. Depending on your Local Authority this training will be free or part-subsidised by parents. So how do this and other forms of cycle training help budding youth & junior riders win races?

Staying safe on the road while training and racing

Whatever your age and discipline, at some point you’ll be riding on busy roads. Lots of time trials take place on main A roads for instance, and so do many training sessions. In the UK we have something called National Standards Cycle Training (aka “Bikeability”). This is a nationally-recognised curriculum that was laid down by the Department for Transport, major cycling organisations such as the CTC and British Cycling, road safety organisations such as RoSPA and the AA, as well as training companies like us here at BikeRight!.

I spoke to a youth member of Mossley CRT, 15 year old Archie Stewart. Here’s his view on safety:

I completed Bikeability to Level 3. It has definitely helped me when riding on main roads to my training sessions and when out on club no prescription drugstore rides. There are cycle lanes but you still need to know about road safety for when you are riding on them, because on a bike you are always at risk and riders need to be aware of these risks.

Within National Standards Cycle Training there are three levels:-

  • Level 1 is all about getting on and off a bike, braking, observation and signalling – basic stuff
  • Level 2 equips riders with the skills to tackle back streets and B Roads
  • Level 3 takes things up a notch to cover busy A roads and complex traffic situations

Young riders today may have achieved Level 2 Bikeability at school, but Level 3 is where it’s at! Thinking back to the quote from our friend Rick the racing driver, knowing how to interact with other road users and how to position oneself on busy roads could make the difference between National Anthem or National Health Service.

Confidence, safety and the daily commute

Getting proper cycle training will also set you up to make everyday journeys by bike. A trip to the shops, going to school, college or Uni, or the commute to work – these could all mean facing rush hour traffic and busy roads. However, the more confident and skilled you are in these situations the easier you will find it to incorporate extra training rides in to the everyday routine.

The sprint from the lights, every tight corner or roundabout, and every hill offers the potential to hone your tactics, improve your bike handling and boost your fitness – all done within the law and in a safe and responsible way of course!


For more information about cycle training in your area speak to your local council’s road safety team. Further reading can be found on the BikeRight! website or on the DfT website.


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“To finish first you must first finish” – Bikeability! and youth racing cyclists

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