Riding know how

Having some riding know-how will help you ride more safely and confidently.

This section covers some important principles to follow – no matter where you ride. It also offers advice about riding safely on streets. Finally, there are links to resources from other bike organisations, if you are ready for more. 

How to ride safely and confidently 

Follow these five principles to be safe, comfortable and confident in different settings. They apply whether you are riding along a shared path, on streets or testing off-road trails.

Be in control 

These tips (and practice) will help you ride with good control.

  • Start with your pedal in the ‘power position’ (just forward of the highest point of rotation – around ‘2 o’clock’ if you imagine the pedal as the hand of a clock). This makes it easy to start off smoothly. 
  • Use your gears so you can keep the pedals spinning easily. Start in an easy gear and get into the habit of changing into this ‘starting gear’ before you stop.
  • Practise riding in a straight line. Get used to staying straight when you do a ‘head check’ to see what’s behind you, or when taking a hand off the handlebars to signal.
  • Slow down on shared paths to give pedestrians space and time to know you are approaching. Don’t expect people walking to step out of your path – you must give way.
  • Ride so you can stop if you need to, even if you have right of way.

Practise changing gears on a quiet path or local street so it becomes automatic. With practice, you will be able to keep a constant speed in different situations. This will help you ride with better control. 

Be aware of what is around you 

Knowing what is ahead and behind you helps you plan where you need to go. It also helps you to react to your surroundings in plenty of time.

  • Listen out, look ahead and scan around you so you are ready to react if you need to. For example, you might need to slow down for a car backing out of a driveway, a dog off its leash or a person crossing a path. Think about what might happen around you. 
  • Know what is behind you. Always check behind before you change direction on paths and streets. This will help make sure you are not moving into the path of another bike or a car. 
  • Scan the surface you are riding towards in case there is something you need to avoid, like loose gravel or a pothole.

Practise riding along a line (e.g. on a basketball court) and staying straight while you check behind. Try bending your left elbow slightly as you look over your right shoulder. This can help to stop the handlebars turning as you look behind you. 

Be predictable

When you ride in a predictable way, other people know what to expect and can give you space. 

  • Stay left on shared paths unless passing others, and ride at a steady pace. Pull off the path if you need to stop.
  • On streets, ride in a straight line a metre out from the kerb or from parked cars. Don’t weave in and out of the spaces between parked cars. Avoid sudden changes in direction.

Practise riding predictably on quiet local streets. Stay in a straight line away from the kerb and parked cars. 


two adult bike riders waiting at an intersection, both signalling their intention to turn right by holding their right arms out to their side.

Whether on a shared path, trail or street, let others know you are there and what you intend to do. Give people plenty of warning before you stop, turn or pass them. 

There are various ways to communicate:

  • Hand signals – by law, you must signal to turn right, but it is good practice to signal a turn in either direction. Use a straight arm and hold it out for a few seconds.
  • Bell and voice – ring your bell or call out ‘passing’ or ‘coming through’ to let people know you are overtaking or approaching them on a shared path. Calling out ‘stopping’ can help other riders behind you to react. A loud bell also helps get the attention of drivers if you are not sure they have seen you.
  • Eye contact is helpful, especially when turning with other road users on streets. Making eye contact with drivers helps you to know they have seen you and know what you are doing. 

Practise hand signals while riding on a quiet street or path so you become confident to take one hand off the handlebars for several seconds. 

Practise making eye contact with drivers. If you are starting to ride on local streets, make eye contact with drivers when you are turning right or have right of way.

Be visible 

  • On the road, you are more visible to other road users if you ride a metre out from the kerb or parked cars. 
  • Use your lights. By law, you must use lights at night and in low-light. Flashing lights help you to be seen during the day too, especially when it is wet. The Bicycle Network has some useful information on lights and visibility.  
  • Wearing light-coloured or bright clothing makes it easier for people to see you.

Riding in different conditions

The basic principles of good riding always apply: 

  • be in control
  • be aware
  • be predictable
  • communicate and be visible.

But here are some extra tips for riding in different conditions.

sign saying Look bright and use your light! (Day and night)At night 

  • Never ride at night without lights. Lights are a legal requirement for good reason (see why in the video below). Turn them on before it gets dark. 
  • Reflective clothing helps others see you early at night as well. 




Wet roads and paths can be slippery. You may take longer to stop. 

  • Ride cautiously and slow down to give yourself more stopping time. 
  • Low-light conditions reduce visibility, so turn your lights on. 
  • Mudguards on your bike will keep you (and your bike) cleaner and drier. If you are on the street, be aware of water splashing up when cars drive past. 

Hot weather

  • Carry and drink plenty of water on longer rides. 
  • Be sun smart with your clothing and sunscreen. 
  • Wear a helmet with a visor to help shade your face. 

Unsealed paths

  • Turn with care when riding on gravel and other loose surfaces – your tyres have less grip. Avoid hard or sudden braking. Ease your brakes on and off and on again to slow down. 
  • Avoid using ‘goat tracks’ during summer in areas where bindii (pronounced bindi-eye; Tribulus terrestris) grows. The thorns puncture tyres easily and can be frustrating to remove. 
  • If you are going to off-road trails or other remote areas by yourself, let somebody know where and when you will be back.

On-street skills – riding in traffic

When you are ready to ride on streets you can go more places by bike. 

It is likely that you will choose different streets for riding than the streets you would generally drive on. Consider your comfort levels and riding experience when choosing which way you will ride.

Check out our Where to ride section for advice on planning your ride. 

: image of how to do a hook turn on a bicycleTips for riding on the road:

  • Keep out of the ‘door zone’. Ride a metre out from parked cars to avoid the risk of somebody opening a car door in your path. Looking ahead for signs of people in cars also helps you to predict opening doors.
  • Cross intersections on foot. If you don’t feel confident to cross a busy road or intersection, you can get off your bike and cross as a pedestrian.
  • Wait at the front of intersections. If you can do so safely, move to the front of the traffic queue to wait at an intersection. You will be more visible there. Never pass trucks to get to the front though. Wait behind them (see the ‘Large vehicles’ section below). Wait to the right of left-turning traffic if you are going straight at an intersection.
  • Use a hook turn to turn right. Riders can do a hook turn (a right turn from the left side of the road) at any intersection unless a sign bans it. This is often a safer way to turn right. Watch this video from the RACV on how to make a hook turn. 
  • ‘Take a lane’. In low-speed environments, it can be safest to move into the centre of a traffic lane (‘take the lane’). This applies if it is too narrow for cars to pass safely, or when you are preparing to turn right or move through a roundabout. First check behind you to make sure it is safe to move across. Signal by extending your arm.

Large vehicles – watch for blind spots

Trucks and buses – even large utes – have really big blind spots. Drivers cannot see some areas at the front, along the side and behind their vehicle, even when using their side mirrors. 

Never pass large vehicles on the left or stand next to them at intersections. The safe option is to stay back, especially when a large vehicle is turning left. embed this video on keeping your distance


: Image including words Truck turning? Stay back. Stay out of blind spots.

Ready for more?

Many bike-riding organisations have great resources to help you extend your riding skills. Here are some good ones to look at:

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