Looking for cycling tips for beginners? Jo Holtan discusses her journey starting out as a cyclist, and the tips and advice she wished she had been given.

Now that summer is here it’s a great time to dig your bike out of the shed and get out and about on two wheels.  If you’re thinking about starting cycling, then today I’ve got a great guest post from a lady that I really admire – Jo Holtan.  

Edinburgh-based Jo took up cycling just a few years ago and cycles on her trusty secondhand bike.  Jo tells me “I’m not a cyclist.  My cycling kit does not match.  My cycling shoes are a pair of beaten-up New Balances I bought on sale at the Mall of America three years ago.  But I do ride my bike everywhere“. I love this philosophy, I can really relate to it.

Cycling Tips for Beginners

Today Jo shares her cycling tips for beginners:

lady on a bike

Just over two years ago I started cycling and quickly became inspired by how cycling changed the way I felt about the city streets, my legs, and even my style. Here are some things I’ve learned about cycling – my non-trite cycling tips for beginners if you will – that I wish I had been told at the start.

It’s not about skirts, heels or lycra

When I first started cycling, it seemed the only role models were either the cycle-chic women who wore flowing skirts on stylish expensive bikes. That or women who were competitively riding slick expensive bikes.  

While I can be competitive and I often wear skirts, neither felt accessible for the cyclist I wanted to be.  I began to experiment with my everyday style to see how I could put it on two wheels and make it waterproof.  I came to realise that what you wear when you are cycling doesn’t matter.

As long as you are wearing a style that represents you and makes you feel confident on your bike – be it wearing skirts, heels, or lycra – you can cycle in it!

cycling tips for beginners

Cycling is about feeling connected to your journey

There is an amazing intimacy with cycling.  Not only do learn the landscape of the streets, secret shortcuts, and the bends and potholes of your path – but you also connect with people in a way you just wouldn’t on a bus or in a car.  There is an openness that comes. And while sometimes this can mean conflict, the meaningful interactions with strangers at stoplights or while passing just can’t be beaten.

It’s connecting to your strength

Cycling has changed the way I view my body, especially my legs.  The stronger I am, the faster I get to where I am going.  I am more aware of how my diet impacts my commute. And how doing a few sun salutations in the morning makes the cycle into the city centre much easier.

It’s about owning your experience

It’s a fact that there are barriers to cycling.  And while there are a lot of high-level changes that need to be made, there are small innovations that can make a real difference.  

Recently I connected with Sarah from Snook, a service design firm in Glasgow.  Together, we launched Cyclehack. This is a 48-hour event aimed at making cities more cycle-friendly.  With our new member Matt on board, the weekend in June has developed to include designing and prototyping ideas based on barriers to cycling.  Along with our global partners, all our cycle hacks will be uploaded to an Open Source Catalogue to share with the world.

It’s about being afraid

Yes, it’s scary to start cycling. It’s scary to cycle in different cities. To put your bike on a train for the first time, or approach an unfamiliar and large roundabout.  It’s scary to be at a traffic light with other cyclists, especially those that are competitive.  But you always get back on your bike.  You feel more confident in your route.  And then there’s the moment when your legs take you uphill at a decent speed.  Facing your fear and celebrating your successes, no matter how small – that’s what’s cycling is all about. It’s one cycling tip that I really wish I had been told.

Cycling is about the bike

I remember the exact moment when I met my bike and since then we’ve been inseparable.  A used Saracen from the late 80s, she rides like a dream and has become essential to who I am as a cyclist.  I know that some people collect bikes and have ones for all the different cycling experiences. However, I’m happy with just one, at least for now. Therefore, pick a bike that makes you happy. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You just have to want to ride it.


Thanks Jo for these fantastic cycling tips for beginners. Need any more convincing to get on your bike? Try this post on why cycling is good for you!

All photos c/o Jo Holtan.

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