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Cycling in the City with OVO Bikes - My two-wheeling pearls of wisdom

Cycling in the City with OVO Bikes - My two-wheeling pearls of wisdom
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Keen to join the city cycling revolution - Here’s my top tips for beginner cyclists hitting the road!

 

We’re all about green transport options here - as well as encouraging and supporting members who’ve made the leap to an electric vehicle (EV), we’ve also just announced OVO Bikes. Read more about this exciting new city bike hire scheme here.

 

As a keen cyclist myself I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my city cycling journey and hopefully inspire you to plan a  two-wheel inner-city excursion of your own.

 

Before moving to Bristol around 9 years ago my cycling experience had mostly been on quiet country lanes or entirely car-free bike trails. Moving to a new city and with early morning shifts to get to, I was eager to join the city-cycling revolution and what a better place to start than beautiful hilly Bristol! Like many others - the prospect of jumping on my bike on a busy city street was fairly daunting, however it’s surprising how quickly you learn the tips and tricks of inner-city riding and start to feel comfortable as part of the traffic.

 

So here’s a few things I’ve learnt along the way :

 

Make yourself noticeable

 

Any excuse to wear a bright colourful outfit is good with me! Hi-vis and a decent pair of lights are also key, particularly for dark winter days when the sun never seems to make an appearance.

 

Helmets are life-savers

 

So a little confession to make here, it took me a good few years (and a couple of near-misses) to accept that wearing a ‘dorky’ helmet was definitely better than crashing without one. Whilst we share the roads with bigger and faster vehicles, doing as much as we can to protect ourselves is the wisest option.

 

Know where you’re going

 

There’s nothing worse than ending up on a scary, busy road when there’s a much safer, quieter route you could be whizzing along instead. I learnt this lesson hard when I became a temporary London resident a few years ago.

 

Plan the best route before you set off - I’ve found it’s worth checking the route suggested by google maps with local cyclists, it's not always the best way! Making sure you have an easy way to check you’re en-route as you go (eg. a handle-bar mounted phone-holder) can make all the difference. From personal experience I can say that finding yourself on an inner-city dual carriageway is  terrifying and tear-inducing but thankfully easily avoided!

 

Bikes and trains make a great transport combo

 

Staycation summer is the perfect time to get exploring new cities and what better way than by taking your bike to a new city on the train! I love the freedom cycling gives you to explore new places and there's the added bonus of not having to worry about traffic when getting into the city or finding somewhere to park your car.

 

I used to  fear that I’d ended up stranded on the station platform struggling to find a space for my bike - but these can now be easily booked in advance at no extra cost - some train companies even allow you to reserve a spot via Whatsapp if you’re not sure on the exact train you’ll be getting when you book your ticket. 

 

The future looks wheely great

 

Even in the (comparatively) short time I’ve been on the road there’s been noticeable improvements to the way cyclists are treated and catered for, with new properly separated cycle paths popping up all the time, cycling feels more and more accessible. If there’s one bright side we could take from pandemic life, it’s the benefits that can be made by making space for cyclists.

 

Want to get involved in making cycling safer and easier to start  - Sustrans is the national charity doing just this. There’s plenty of ways you can support them in their mission - find out more here.

 

I’d love to hear your own cycling tips and tales - Already a confident rider? Post a pic of your trusty steed! 

 

Maybe you’d love to start but haven’t quite got pedaling - What’s the biggest obstacle in your path?

 

We’ve also got some great guides to help start your cycling journey here...


24 replies

Userlevel 6
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Folding Bicycles and Buses

I have two bikes, most recent being a folding bike. 

The folding one is great for transporting in a car, or in our case a campervan. 

It is better still for one way cycle trips, where i have cycled one way and got the local bus back with my bike folded. Or where i got tired cycling from Sheffield train station to Bakewell on a very windy day so got the bus back in the afternoon with my bike....

Folding bikes are also great for trains, just fold them and take them on as luggage, never had to book, but worth checking on any route you plan to take. 

https://www.thetrainline.com/trains/great-britain/bikes-on-trains

If you get a folding bike, check out the range of gears to make sure it will be OK for hills. Some folding bikes have setups for mostly flat towns. But many can have different gears fitted. 

I still use both bikes, all depends where i am going. 

Hiring bikes is a great way to try out cycling if you haven't done it for a long time. You will always get suggested routes from the hire company in my experience. We had a day tour of Tallinn in Estonia on bikes with a local and got to learn so much about their life and culture and see so much more than if we were simply walking. We were very lucky as it was just us two booked. 

 

 

Userlevel 7

Nice post, @Jess_OVO - some really good tips to follow there. 

 

Wearing a helmet is a big one, it’s just so easy to get into the habit of wearing one, it’s easy to not notice once it’s on, and you have that extra amount of safety. 

 

Very excited to see the launch of OVO Bikes, starting in Glasgow. I was actually in this fantastic city in June, and I had my bike with me!

 

I must say, I really loved cycling around in that city. I stayed in a hostel with a friend, right next to Kelvingrove Park. The park is great to ride through, and it links to the river Kelvin. This is a great river with cycle and walking lanes all along it. With thick coverage of trees, it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of Glasgow! Then a huge iron bridge or two appears to remind you where you are.

 

Really, so enjoyable riding around there. It’s such a good way to get around a new place to really see it. As Ted Simon described in his ‘Jupiter’s Travels’ book about going on a motorbike around the world, being exposed to the elements as you are on a bike is a great way to see, smell, even taste the place you’re travelling through. 

 

We then went from Glasgow to the isle of Sky, and I went on a 3.5 hour whopper of a ride along the north east coast of the island. Here’s my trusty steed about halfway round:

 

 

As you might be able to tell, this bike is supposed to be a mountain bike, with front suspension, and thick tires. As it happens, the tires were never really optimised for proper down hill mountain biking, and they’re even less optimised now with the tread starting to wear out. 

 

But I really like this bike, which I’d class more as a ‘gravel bike’. It can do just about anything, to an OK standard. Roads, gravel, off road, grass. It’s a true hybrid, and I like it. Although I don’t really like the colour that much. When I bought it, it was direct from the manufacturer. But I only had the previous year’s colour scheme to go off. That showed the bike as white and blue vs this bright green. It’s called the Green Goblin as a result. 

 

Hiring bikes is a great way to try out cycling if you haven't done it for a long time. You will always get suggested routes from the hire company in my experience. We had a day tour of Tallinn in Estonia on bikes with a local and got to learn so much about their life and culture and see so much more than if we were simply walking. We were very lucky as it was just us two booked. 

 

@Jeffus if you’re anywhere near Glasgow, or very soon, Cardiff. you have to check out the new OVO Bikes:

 

 

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@Jeffus if you’re anywhere near Glasgow, or very soon, Cardiff. you have to check out the new OVO Bikes:

 

 

We will definitely try the OVO bikes if we are in the area.

Reasonable price i think. I do wish we could transform a lot of places so walking and cycling (and in some places public transport) was as easy and convenient as driving a car. 

Userlevel 7

Totally agree, @Jeffus - making cycling safer and more accessible would transform our cities!

 

Some great tips on taking a folding bike on public transport too - really combining the best green transport options!

 

 

We will definitely try the OVO bikes if we are in the area.

 

Keep your eyes peeled for another OVO bike city launching soon - we’ve also designed a cycling tour of these cities which include stops at some great green businesses, perfect for a day out! :bike:

 

Anyone else tempted to try out our new wheels? @Blastoise186@Jequinlan@Transparent@juliamc@Gingernut49@Glaikit@EverythingNeedsAUserName@david8@Cwriggers@sylm_2000@D10hul@ArundaleP@hecate@knight@hydrosam 

 

 

Userlevel 5
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You won't get me on two wheels again! Happy to be in an EV on four wheels. 

Userlevel 2

I saw a tweet about this the other day @jess and was encouraged and excited, as I am an avid cyclist. 

I’m currently looking for a new bike, ideally folding with a battery, to get me from our quite rural house, to the train station into Leeds where my office is based

Not timeboxed currently but will be something as and when returning to the office happens.

I can see these initiatives working more for urban city dwellers or tourists, with the latter probably needing more support to avoid inadvertently cycling on a major A road whilst trying to navigate the city they’re visiting.

 

Having visited Glasgow a few times, maybe helping people on how best to get from the centre, to the West End to say the necropolis would really help out?

But again, another initiative which makes you proud that your custom is with a business sharing similar values :grinning:

 

P.s - helmets and hi-vis are important, but more fundamental to me is lights, even during the day - they help out so much raise awareness for drivers, and my other top tip is to gain confidence using simple hand signals (no, not those ones) to indicate you’re going right, left or slowing down.

Finally (for definite this time) - lets remove the cycling MAMIL stigmatism hey, and lets all go a bit more Dutch

 
Userlevel 5
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I would if we were closer but if I am in the area I’ll give it a go. Great idea!

Userlevel 7
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@Cwriggers wrote:

I’m currently looking for a new bike, ideally folding with a battery, to get me from our quite rural house, to the train station into Leeds where my office is based

I wonder how long it might be before we see railway stations with e-bike lockers which include a charging point and solar-panels on the roof?

Userlevel 2

I treated myself to an e-bike last year for commuting too and from work. I now do 20 miles/day most days. I wish i started it years ago.  I have the car for when the weather isnt on my side. I feel better and fitter and theres really no down side for me. Although my wifes reaction when she realised how much i spent on the bike wasn’t that great :)

 

 

 

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@Jess_OVO 

Your tips make good sense - be visible, be confident (know where you are going, don’t skulk in the gutter), be confident (don’t wobble, learn how to use gears effectively).

And I’d add don’t p*** drvers off by being arrogant and expecting them always to move out of your way or know what you are going to do. Be aware of what other traffic is likely to do, eg how a big lorry will cut off space inside a turn and anticipate car & van drivers opening doors soon after stopping - ie all the skills you’d use when driving a car or motorbike yourself.

I grew up riding my bike in inner London. I took to making eye contact with drivers (taxis especially) before moving into their path, at roundabouts or turning across traffic. Thankfully there are few who will run you over while looking at you :zipper_mouth:  Lorries and buses however - best to give way.

For a long time now all my cycling is recreational - too many hills, too much wet weather and few facilties in the workplace.

I think the jury is out on using bike and train for a combined commuting journey - depends on your job, the train line you have to use and your own inclination - so maybe not for the majority.

I’d say bikes on commuting trains should be an adjunct to public transport. I’d rather the transport authorites concentrated on improvements like bus/train timetable integration and better ticket options for part time workers (which would alos benefit those wanting to cycle, but not every day).

 

Userlevel 2

Don't fully quote me on this, but Leeds I suspect has this. At least a secure lock up for bikes. Manchester via Edinburgh Cycle Exchange have been talking about putting this in place but wonder if it conflicts with their soon to be re-launched city bike rental offering

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I’m not a cyclist, but I’m suggesting that the train operators have this the wrong way around, @Cwriggers .

If more people (post Covid) are wanting to live in rural areas, but work still requires them in a city like Leeds, then surely the bike-lockers are needed at the rural train stations aren’t they?

When the commuter arrives at the city station, and they want to travel the last mile to an office, then that’s when they’d use a hire-bike like the ones that OVO has in Glasgow.

I can also see an increased use in other forms of green-energy transport being able to operate in such a city environment. Hydrogen-fueled buses, e-scooters and (eventually) autonomous EV-platforms are all contenders.

But to encourage that technological evolution to occur, the commuter must be confident to leave their own expensive bike at a rural station. That needs secure lockers, not just a rusty bike-rack.

 

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I’m afraid I’ve not ridden bikes for over 20 years and I don’t plan to ride again. I’m hopeless!

However, the tech that nextbike are using to make this possible… Now that’s some pretty cool kit there!

Userlevel 2

I’m not a cyclist, but I’m suggesting that the train operators have this the wrong way around, @Cwriggers .

If more people (post Covid) are wanting to live in rural areas, but work still requires them in a city like Leeds, then surely the bike-lockers are needed at the rural train stations aren’t they?

When the commuter arrives at the city station, and they want to travel the last mile to an office, then that’s when they’d use a hire-bike like the ones that OVO has in Glasgow.

I can also see an increased use in other forms of green-energy transport being able to operate in such a city environment. Hydrogen-fueled buses, e-scooters and (eventually) autonomous EV-platforms are all contenders.

But to encourage that technological evolution to occur, the commuter must be confident to leave their own expensive bike at a rural station. That needs secure lockers, not just a rusty bike-rack.

 

Hi @Transparent,

 

My own use case is similar to my colleagues where we cycle from home to our rural train station which then takes us into the city and then we walk to our offices. But it would be ideal if all train stations had safe and reliable storage for bikes and their peripherals. 

 

Cycling UK have been doing some campaigning on this and I've been contributing with my local cycling club on it, because whilst there are places to lock up a bike they tend to be quite basic metal structures to connect a chain lock to, meaning you still have your lights, and helmet to carry around. 

 

Now add on the ability to put a bit of charge on your e-bile we need to think more progressively around how to support users trying to step away from traditional Internal Combustion Engine vehicles

Userlevel 7
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I’ve seen secure cycle storage at some unattended Park&Ride sites, so I’ve just had a look online. CyclePods in Kent have a wide range of options, including this vertical locker which would probably be suitable for the most rural of rail stations:

This is heavy-weight, made from steel and has space for your helmet too.

As you have other work colleagues who also cycle to a rail-head @Cwriggers then it might be time to start writing to Network Rail and your County Council representative. To check that your local station is owned by Network Rail, download the list here from the Commons Library.

Moreover if lockers with added solar-panels and e-bike charging points haven’t been trialed before, then there’s probably a route to apply to BEIS for an Innovation Grant.

 

Userlevel 7
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I think I have another solution too actually. Check this out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcZSU40RBrg

And I already suspect Tim and Jess won’t touch that video, probably because they’ll suspect it to be Rick Astley Never Gonna Give You Up again. But I promise you it’s actually not that at all.

Behold the power of Japanese engineering! XD

Userlevel 2

Very good @Blastoise186 but as they always says, "nobody does it better than Utrecht"

 

Ok, so maybe nobody has ever said that but when it comes to cycling they should…

 

https://youtu.be/aVuUX32PYEI

Userlevel 7
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I saw that video too actually and considered mentioning it here! XD

But I’m a tech geek and the one in Ultrecht doesn’t have enough tech or overengineered stuff in it to meet my standards. :stuck_out_tongue:

Userlevel 7
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You won't get me on two wheels again! Happy to be in an EV on four wheels. 

This, bikes are just aggressive to all other road users in my experience,  just a danger to all. 

Userlevel 7

I think I have another solution too actually. Check this out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcZSU40RBrg

Behold the power of Japanese engineering! XD

 

Very good @Blastoise186 but as they always says, "nobody does it better than Utrecht"

 

Ok, so maybe nobody has ever said that but when it comes to cycling they should…

 

https://youtu.be/aVuUX32PYEI

 

Apparently the Dutch actually beat the Japanese in building the first automated underground bike parking garage, they really do cycling well over there!

 

 

Userlevel 7
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NNNOOOOOOO!!!!!! Japan didn’t invent the automated bicycle storage machine?!?! :open_mouth:

What is this witchcraft that the Dutch have done?

But yeah, I’m afraid I’ll never be on two wheels again (unless it’s a Segway, those are fun!). I just can’t balance myself on a bike.

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I have long been an avid cyclist. Though when I moved to Sheffield and then had a family, this dropped off for a few years and it is really hard to get back into when you live in such a hilly city!

So, like many others, we invested in an e-bike during COVID and this was every bit as brilliant as expected. If you have never tried one, I really recommend hiring one. We first used them on holiday in Lanzarote one year.

Now I can, even when quite unfit, easily go on a 30km bike ride through the quiet back roads of Sheffield and surroundings (at least 1/3 of Sheffield is in the Peak District).

The bike is a hybrid with front suspension (a first for me) so taking bridleways and green lanes is no problem. Though it is quite heavy of course. Even unfit, the bike will assist for a good 60km. If you were fit, that would be much longer.

The downside is that it is quite expensive (actually one of the cheaper e-bikes but still £700 or so) and so leaving it anywhere is not something you do lightly. I would love to see more secure bike parking that’s for sure. Sheffield station does have a secure bike park though which is inside the bike shop at the station - clever idea.

I don’t go for much fancy gear these days but a pair of under-shorts with padding is a great investment for those longer rides :-)  A helmet is a must of course - I just got a new one with built-in visor and rear light - not expensive from Amazon. I also like wearing fingerless gloves - saved my palms a few times when I was doing a lot of cycling.

I love to see cities that support cycling and that have cycle schemes active so well-done Ovo for running one in Glasgow. There was a scheme in Sheffield for a while, not sure what went wrong but it was closed down.

As both a cyclist and a motorist, I can see both sides of the issues where both types of transport are involved. Cyclists HAVE to be quite aggressive sometimes on the road in order to counter bad driving and bad pot-holes. The Netherlands have this much better sewn up - drivers HAVE to give way to cyclists always and any accident between the 2 is assumed to be the drivers fault and they have to prove otherwise. It certainly makes you a lot more cautious!

Personally, I think that the UK should open up the usage of other alternative vehicles as well. Powered scooters for example. I know that there have been a couple of recent bad incidents but they are far fewer than fatal car accidents. If the UK really wants to get people out of cars then useful alternatives MUST be provided. Motorised scooters are convenient, lighter and smaller than e-bikes and ideal for shorter and mixed-mode travel. They open up all sorts of other options such as edge-of-city parking.

I’ve also participated in a number of local government surveys on road use and cycling recently and encourage others to do the the same.

Userlevel 7

Great to hear about your e-bike, @knight - got to admit would love a bit of extra help on the hills around Bristol sometimes (sounds like we’re on par with Sheffield in terms of our steep city-streets!)

How long does it take to charge up the bike before a 30km ride? Our content team have made this great guide to e-bikes but we’re always on the look-out for some more personal stories if you’d ever be keen to write a blog-post about your trusty wheels?

 

Also agree about the combination of cycling with other green transport methods. We’ve got a e-scooter rental scheme here in Bristol now too, which has been a welcome back-up option for me when the bike’s being serviced. @NinjaGeek has also written about his love of all things e-scooter here:scooter:

 

The Netherlands are setting a great example in how to get cycling right - had the best cycling trip from Nijmigen to Amsterdam a few years ago. Literally every road had a well marked, properly segregated cycle path, no need for aggressive cycling when the infrastructure keeps you safe! Let hope we can catchup soon (although underground bike parking seems a long way off!)

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If there’s one thing I will say, it’s definitely clear that Nextbike (who run OVO Bikes alongside OVO as the sponsor) have massively improved their tech and infrastructure over the years.

They’ve gone from you having to punch in codes at station terminals to release a bike and having a separate bike lock to park the bike temporarily (with all the hassle that brings!), to the new system where you can just scan a QR Code with an app to release a bike and be able to return the bike simply by taking it back into one of the stations and locking the frame with a simple lever to end the session - which will also recharge the e-bikes as long as you’ve docked them properly.

The Framelock method is also a bit easier than the legacy BikeComputer method in my opinion. It never really made much sense that you had to scan a QR Code with the app and then punch in the unlock code into the bike itself to release the lock and then pull out the metal locking bar from the front axle to actually get the bike out of the station (and also remember to put the locking bar back in and confirm the return on the bike when you were done).

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