Getting started - getting ready to ride and build confidence

You will enjoy riding more if you set yourself up well from the start.

You will enjoy riding more if you set yourself up well from the start. This section covers:

  • fitting your bike and helmet properly
  • what to wear
  • how to carry stuff with you
  • how to transport your bike by car
  • how to keep your bike secure. 

Riding tips towards the end of the guide will help you build riding confidence. 


Before you head off on a ride, you will need: 

female adult facing forwards wearing a correctly fitted bicycle helmet

  • Lights – when riding in low light, you must have a white front light and a rear red light. The light can be steady or flashing but must be seen from 200 metres. Even during the day, flashing lights help other people see you.
  • A bell – this is a legal requirement and a handy way to let people know you are approaching.
  • A lock – keep your bike secure when not riding it.
  • A pump – have one at home or carry one on the bike to keep your tyres inflated.

Make sure your bike fits 

It is important that your bike fits you. You should be able to comfortably reach the handlebars and squeeze the brakes when sitting on the seat. A bike retailer can help you choose and set up your bike. 

Adjust the seat height so when you are sitting on the bike your leg is almost straight when the pedal is at its lowest point. You should be able to touch the ground with both feet when seated.

If you are not sure how to adjust your seat, read the Basic bike maintenance section. 

Check your bike is ready to ride

Before you ride, take a minute to check it is safe to ride with an ABCD+ check [PDF 1.32Mb]

This video shows how to do a quick check over to make sure your bike is ready to ride.

Watch the video

If you would like more detail, head to the ABCD+ check in our Basic bike maintenance section

Check your helmet

Choose the right-sized helmet for you. It should sit snugly and not move around on your head. 

Check it meets the Australian/New Zealand safety standard. (Look for the endorsement sticker when you buy a helmet.) 

Adjust your helmet using the two-finger test: 

  • The gap between your eyebrows and the helmet should be no more than two fingers wide. 
  • The strap under your chin should be tight enough to allow only two fingers to fit between the strap and your chin/neck. 
  • Adjust the side buckles so the straps make a ‘V’ that meets just under your ears.

What to wear

You don’t need special clothes to ride a bike.

two adults bike riding side by side, on a local street.

  • Wear something you feel comfortable riding in. Make sure you can pedal easily. 
  • Make sure anything loose (e.g. wide trousers) is kept well clear of the chain to avoid it getting caught. (Tuck your pants into your socks or use a clip to keep them out of the way.)
  • A windproof or waterproof jacket is handy if it is likely to be cold or wet.
  • You must wear a securely fitted helmet when riding. 
  • Wearing light-coloured or bright clothing may make it easier for people to see you. Use flashing lights, whether it is day or night.

How to carry your stuff

Whether you are going for a trail ride, to the shops or out for a coffee, you might want to carry things with you.

image of adult bike rider, waiting on a drive way to turn out into a local street.

There are various options for carrying large and small amounts on your bike, including carrying children. Read more in our Choosing the right bike for you section. 

Parking and locking your bike

If you need to leave your bike somewhere, make sure it is safe and secure. Here are some tips for locking your bike:

  • Secure your bike frame (not just the wheel) to a solid object using a good lock. A D-lock (named for its shape) is most secure.
  • Lock to a bike parking hoop if there is one. If not, find a pole or railing to secure your bike.
  • Don’t make your bike a hazard for others. Park away from walking access areas.
  • Park in a place you feel comfortable in. It should be visible from the street or nearby buildings, and have people around.
  • Some locations like shopping centres or workplaces may have secure, off-street parking.
  • Many train stations have Parkiteer parking cages  so you can safely leave your bike at a station. Parkiteer is a Public Transport Victoria service operated by the Bicycle Network. You need to register and pay an annual access fee to use it. You can find Parkiteer locations on the Bicycle Network website.  

The Bicycle Network has more handy tips on keeping your bike secure.  

Transporting your bike by car

You may sometimes want to drive to the start of your ride. There are several options for transporting bikes by car, depending on the car and the number and size of bikes:

  • In the back of the car – a bike may fit on its side in the boot, especially if the rear seats fold down. You may need to remove the front wheel to make it fit. A retailer or bike-riding friend can show you how to do this if you haven’t done it before. 
  • Bike rack on a tow bar – a specially designed bike rack may fit up to six bikes depending on the rack design and the sizes of the bikes. 
    If you have a bike rack fitted you must ensure the car’s numberplate can be seen from 20 metres. You can buy bike rack number plates from VicRoads
  • Bike rack on roof racks – you can fit two bikes on the roof of most cars using specially designed racks, usually with the front wheel removed. Make sure you can lift the bikes on before buying a rack. 

Building confidence on the bike

Take it easy

: image of two adult bike riders riding along a shared path

If you are learning to ride, or returning to the bike after a long break, ride in your comfort zone to begin with. Don’t overdo it. Start with shorter rides. If you want to ride longer distances, build up gradually to let your muscles adjust. 

Spend time on quiet paths getting used to being on the bike. Practise riding with good control before you go to busier areas. 

Brakes – get used to using them

Your right brake lever controls the front brake; your left lever controls the rear brake. Get into the habit of squeezing both brake levers together to stop. 

The front brake has more stopping power. But the back brake helps control your speed. Although it is best to use both brakes together to stop, you can slow down using the back brake by itself.

Gears – use them to make your ride easier

If your bike has gears, practise changing them. This will teach you which gears make it easier and harder to pedal. 

Being in a low (easy-to-pedal) gear when you start off makes it easier to start smoothly and build up speed. 

Get into the habit of changing into a lower gear before you come to a stop. This makes it easier to get started again.

Change gears regularly so you turn the pedals at about the same rate all the time. Change into a lower (easier) gear when you are going up hills. Switch to a higher gear as you ride down. 

Connect with friends, groups and support

Image of a group of adult bike riders chatting to each other to the side of a shared path, with a view of the river and city.

If you are just starting out or returning to riding it really helps to connect with other riders. Ask colleagues or friends who have been riding for a while for their tips, or go riding together. You may want to sign up for a bike skills training course to learn more and have fun.

Our Bike riding support section links you to groups, training, services and information. It will help you find people to ride with. The guide can also add to your skills for all types of riding, whether you are riding to the shops, along a trail or on a road.

Our guides on Where to ride and Riding know-how will help you plan your rides and give you skills for confident and safe riding.

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