When the weather is warm, and the gas prices rise, taking your bike to work or to grab the groceries can be an affordable and fun choice. Here is some practical advice from Chip Haynes, author of The Practical Cyclist: Bicycling For Real People, to start pedalling every day.
1. Obey the Rules
I’ve learned that the streets can be a safe place to ride – IF you choose your streets wisely and obey the laws as if you were in a car. You have to ride your bike like the street legal vehicle it is and that means riding on the right with traffic, obeying traffic lights and stop signs. Obeying the law is what keeps you safe.
2. Don’t Be Picky
Just about any bicycle will get you to work. I’ve ridden fixed gear one-speeds, classic English three-speeds and over-the-top multi-speeds and even tricycles to work when I had a lot to carry. They all work – yours will too!
3. Route Matters
It took me quite some time to settle on a route to work and back, and to tell you the truth: the route back is slightly different than the route to work, since traffic patterns change from morning to evening. Still, I do try to ride the same routes every day, at about the same time, and mostly wearing the same jacket and bicycle helmet. I want the regular drivers on those roads to see me and recognize me. I want them to be looking for me and say, “Oh yeah, there’s that bicycle guy!” I don’t want to be a surprise to anyone. Never sneak up on a car driver.
4. Bicycles Need Maintenance
Bicycles are inexpensive, but like everything else, they are going to wear out. Tires, tubes, chains, seats, handgrips, cables-they all need to be replaced from time to time. Check over your commuter bike every week or so, making sure the tires are pumped and everything is tight and snug. Keeping your tires pumped is the number one best thing you can do to keep your bike on the road.
5. Helmets are Important
I always wear a helmet when I ride. I know that can be a bone of contention with many people, but that helmet does help, even if I don’t fall over all that much. (Hardly ever.) Your helmet offers a bright spot of colour out there in traffic, giving you much better visibility in the eyes of the motorists. And that helmet tells them you’re out there on purpose.