IN his latest article, Paul Ashman of Swindon Recycles Cycling Club has advice for novice cyclists who want to ensure their first rides are safe, enjoyable and stress-free.

So you’ve got your bike, you’ve got your helmet, you’ve got your necessary essentials to get you riding.

What next? How should you go about planning that first ride?

The first thing is to make sure you don’t try to go too fast or too far – don’t run before you can walk.

If you plan a ride that’s of a shorter distance but you still feel quite fresh after that ride, you can always add an extra bit on. If you go too far, you run the risk of getting stranded.

To some people, even going out and just doing maybe two or three miles will seem like an absolute marathon.

What I always say is that on those first few rides, pick a sensible distance within a few miles but always create the ride as a loop – think about coming back to your starting point.

What you don’t want to do is plan for, say, three or four miles out from the centre of Swindon to – for example - the Three Trees farm shop and café at Chiseldon and be absolutely exhausted at that point and still have to go back.

Keep the early rides flat if possible. We all enjoy going downhill on a bike, but what goes down has got to come up!

For certain people there will be hills involved. I live in Old Town and I know that every ride I do will have to finish with a hill back up into Old Town.

Cycle paths and off-road are the best option. We have a wealth of cycle paths in Swindon; people can go on to the website [] or visit the central library and pick up the cycle route map for Swindon.

That lists all the cycle paths around Swindon.

If you don’t want to face traffic yet, there’s no shame at all in strolling with your bike to a cycle path. If you are in the early stages of your cycling, traffic can be quite daunting.

Depending on where you live in Swindon, an absolute great place to go and get yourself off the road for some nice flat riding is around Lydiard Park.

It is generally flat bar the odd slight incline. When we talk about something being flat, we don’t mean pan-flat because pan-flat doesn’t exist unless we live in the Norfolk Broads or Holland!

Lydiard Park is great because it’s away from the traffic, there are big open pathways which are hard and smooth, there is plenty of space for cyclists and walkers alike and it has amenities.

You don’t know if on your first ride, after a mile or two, you have to take a breather. You have the amenities at Lydiard Park.

Similar to Lydiard Park is Coate Water, but bear in mind that some areas of Coate Water are rougher for cyclists. Through the trees it’s a little more up and down and there will be the odd tree root and things like that.

But still, there is a set path that goes around and there are amenities.

In terms of paths we also have the Flyers – set cycle routes which come from the outskirts of Swindon to the centre. An option for your loop could be to look at one of these.

They are traffic-free and fully signposted.

Some people might ask how far they are going.

There are a couple of very good phone apps, Strava and Ride With GPS.

They allow you to track and save your ride and give bits of information such as average speed and maximum speed.

Alternatively, you can buy a cycle-mounted computer, which you can pick up very reasonably online as cheaply as about £20.

Pros and cons between the two? The cycle-mounted computer is always there in front of you, but it has fewer features.

The phone apps are very good but unless you invest in a bracket they will always be in your pocket.

Swindon has miles of cycle paths – get the map, plan a route, go out and explore!