It's easy to fumble without guidance and when you're overexcited about finally being able to ride. We've all been there. So here are some lessons learnt. Hopefully, they'll be of good use to you.
1. Too much, too soon, too fast
The real learning starts after you’ve passed your riding test — i.e. when you are out on the road and on your own for the very first time. This is when you learn how to identify and deal with bad road users, obstructions and dangers. Just like any other skill, learning to ride a bike properly will take time and patience, so go easy on yourself.
You’re not going to perfect riding overnight.
2. Take your time with group rides
If you've got friends that have been riding for a while, it's tempting to jump on your bike for a group ride as soon as you've got the chance. Riding with friends can be extremely distracting; you'll constantly want to keep up with more experienced bikers which could be dangerous if you haven't developed sufficient skills, and other riders might not be sympathetic to your lack of experience which could mean you push yourself harder than you should at this early stage.
3. Buying a big/fast/new bike
You'll become a better rider faster by practising and developing your skills on a smaller, slower bike - plus it'll be cheaper to run and insure. Then, once you've had a couple of years of experience and feel confident in your riding, you can trade in your bike for a quicker one. It is also a good idea to start off on a second-hand bike instead of buying a brand new one.
4. Only looking forward
Yes, you're right, it's extremely important to look in the direction you're travelling but you should also be watching everything around you as well – the man in the car to the left that looks like he's getting out; the pedestrians approaching the crossing; the car behind you driving a little too close. You need a 360 degree perception of your surroundings — one that you will master in time and with plenty of practice.
5. Not dressing appropriately
You may see other riders just wearing jeans and a t-shirt and cruising around on hot days, but those thin layers of cotton offer little or no protection from the abrasive road. One rookie wardrobe error that pretty much every rider will do from time to time is to forget to buckle their helmet. This is extremely dangerous, so if you notice it's not locked in place while riding (the strap often clatters about in the wind) pull over as soon as it is safe to do so and buckle up. Don't try to correct it while riding as thick leather gloves and small clasps make this almost impossible and risky.
6. Looking at the very thing you want to avoid
A little like the 360 degree perception mentioned previously, you should remember the mantra, 'if I look at it, I'll hit it'.
This is something that you have to get used to as it's difficult to describe. But, the next time you are riding on a dual carriageway with cat's eyes, try crossing the lanes (where it's safe to do so) once while looking at a cat's eye, and once without.
The serious side to this is when you experience hazards in the road. If you look at the hazard (be it a dead squirrel, discarded takeaway carton, small child or even a corner that you've overcooked) you are far more likely to avoid it if you look at where you want to be rather than the hazard itself.