Sunday, March 23, 2008

Top 10: Tips for transportation cycling

I've been saying this for a while, but spring is practically here. With it comes "driving season" and increasing gasoline prices. More importantly, though, people are starting to wipe the dust off of their bikes and hit the paths. Whether you ride for fun every year, or you've not even sat on a bike in a decade or more, here are some tips to help you out if you plan on riding your bike instead of driving for some of your trips this year.

10) Learn basic bicycle maintenance. If you're replacing your car with a bicycle for some of your shorter trips, you will probably be riding your bicycle more miles than you used to, or you may be riding a bike for the first time in a while. Park Tool and Sheldon Brown both have excellent instructions for bicycle repair. Start with the basics: Cleaning and lubricating your chain, fixing a flat tire, or maybe adjusting your brakes and shifters. In the dead of summer, it might take a week to get your bike back from the shop if you take it in for a flat tire. You can fix it yourself with very few tools, and it's easier than you may think.

9) Get some tools. This goes with #10, but you should have enough tools to do minor adjustments to your bike. Honestly, I got by for almost six months needing no more tools than what came on the Park MTB-3 multi-tool. I keep it with me while commuting for road-side repairs.

8) Learn how to pick a good route. Don't think like a driver. Instead, think of lesser-known roads that may be a block or two away from the big roads you normally drive on. Think of little alleyways or sidewalks between cul-de-sacs, and how you can utilize multi-use paths. If in doubt, check out Veloroutes or other cycling map sites to see if anyone has plotted some good routes. You may also ask in the bike forums regional discussions to see if someone local knows some decent routes.

7) Logistics. Figure out how you're going to get yourself, your stuff, and your bike to and from your destination and stored safely, and get a plan laid out. This is mostly concerning commuting to work by bicycle, but you should also have some idea of how you're going to handle your errands if you should choose to do those by bike as well. Securing your bike, cleaning up if you get dirty or sweaty, and transporting your clothes are things to think about.

6) Take The Lane! Tim Grahl put together an excellent article outlining five reasons to claim the lane with your bike. I can't convey it any better than he did. By staying off of the main arterials, you usually avoid the necessity to use sidewalks. They still have their place for certain situations, but if you're not commuting on a bike path, you should probably be commuting out in the middle of the road where you can be seen.

5) Be visible. Bright colors. Reflective materials on you and your bike. High contrast. At least one bright, red tail light should be lit up even during the day. A second, blinking light is great, too. Headlights when it's dim outside, and a blinking front light even during the day is a good idea. Always, always have DOT-legal reflectors on your bike. There's no good reason not to. It doesn't matter how "cool" you think you look on your bike. To drivers, cyclists on the road all look dorky. Might as well go all out, right?

4) Don't skimp on the bike. I know this hurts to think about, but bikes you find at sporting goods stores, toy aisles of big-box stores and the like are sold and marketed as toys. Things that 100-pound 13-year-olds will ride for a summer and forget about. You wouldn't buy a Power Wheels to get you around town, would you? If you already have an old bike, there's not much harm in getting it fixed up and checked out. If you're going to buy a new bike, I recommend going to a specialty bicycle shop. If you can find a used bike cheap that the shop tech agrees will hold up to your riding, you could get away with spending under $150. Otherwise, consider the $350 price point "entry level" for new mountain and hybrid bikes, and $500 the entry level for new road bikes. You're shopping for a replacement vehicle, not a toy. If unsure, browse the new CBB Commuter Bikes Database for bike ideas.

3) Give yourself some time to adjust. It took me a few weeks to get my routine figured out and for my body to get used to riding a bike again.

2) Learn your local "village". Knowing all those little shops near your home, near your popular destinations (such as work, parks, etc) and along the way is a great way to find stuff that's easily reachable on a bike. You might be surprised by what is nearby. After looking around, I found that there are few places I need to go that are more than 2 miles from my home or office.

1) Stay motivated. Come up with fun goals or get a riding buddy to keep yourself motivated. Soon enough, you'll be hooked!


Anonymous said...

> you usually avoid
> the necessity to use sidewalks

Necessity? Necessity!!!

SideWALKS are for pedestrians. Not bike commuters doing 15-20 MPH.

Walkers, doggies, kiddies, cars cutting out of driveways, none expect bikes!

Only bike RIDERS use sidewalks, and then only until age 14.

If you're not comfortable DRIVING YOUR BIKE as any other road traffic, pick a different route until you're comfortable, take the driving lessons offered by certified teachers, and read the web!

It's easy to learn, easy to stay safe.

It's a LOT safer to drive like you mean it, drive like you know what you're doing, and drive exactly the way everyone else on the road expects you to drive.



Noah said...

Easy there, trigger.

Yes, sidewalks ARE for pedestrians, and if you use roads that are insanely busy, you might find yourself forced to use a sidewalk on a bike, which is why I said to pick your routes wisely and get off those insane arterial roadways when you can do so.

If you read what I said, you'll see my intent wasn't to promote sidewalk usage, but to say "if you feel the necessity to use a sidewalk on a certain stretch of road, you probably shouldn't be riding on that stretch of road"

Privacy Policy

This site is driven by software that uses third-party cookies from Google (Blogger, AdSense, Feedburner and their associates.) Cookies are small pieces of non-executable data stored by your web browser, often for the purpose of storing preferences or data from previous visits to a site. No individual user is directly tracked by this or any other means, but I do use the aggregate data for statistics purposes.

By leaving a link or e-mail address in my comments (including your blogger profile or website URL), you acknowledge that the published comment and associated links will be available to the public and that they will likely be clicked on.