Do you remember the first time you ever rode a bike? Maybe you fell and freaked your parents out. Or maybe you made a break for it as soon as you got the hang of it. (Just for the purpose of freaking your parents out.)
Maybe you never had the opportunity or felt the desire to learn, until now. Which is where the following tips and links might come in handy.
I remember my first ride like it was yesterday: my steed was (what seemed to be at the time) a snazzy green two-wheeler. My parents were helping me keep my balance at first and finally let me find my own way to frantic pedaling freedom as soon as I stopped wobbling dangerously.
Riding a bike is addictive. It’s healthy. And provided you do it safely, it’s a great way to commute to and from work, and even to do your grocery shopping without having to worry about dropping a month’s worth of your hard-earned cash on pumping gas into your hungry, hungry hippo of a car.
Let’s summon our inner party pooper for a second here, by remembering that the rules which apply to automobilists are often the same for cyclists as well, and that a 4000-pound car doesn’t leave much chance to a mostly unprotected 30-pound bicycle frame with you on it.
Respecting the rules of the road, but also the automobilists you’ll encounter and other cyclists who surround you is key to keeping your ride fun and even more importantly, safe for all.
Here are a few tips to get you started, coming at you not from an expert, but from a lifelong cycling fan.
How to choose the bike that’s right for you
It depends on what the purpose of your bike will be. Will it be to commute? To exercise? For recreation? Do you live in the mountains, or do you plan to ride there during the weekends? How much money are you willing to invest in it?
Pick a bike store with expert salespersons to guide you on which bike will be best suited for your needs. You can also do your own online research, but it is best to refrain from purchasing a bike online without “trying it on for size”. Just like shoes, it’s important to get a feel for the bike before buying it, and most (good) stores will let you test drive their cycles until you find the one that fits like a glove.
Another bonus of choosing a serious bike store as opposed to buying your ride from a chain store is that some of them will perform a yearly basic tune-up at no charge, so ask about it when you purchase your bike.
How to keep your bike healthy
Just like you, its owner, your bike performs best with a yearly checkup to make sure that everything is in working order and fit for the road.
Of course, routine maintenance should be a far more frequent ritual, and should include checking that the tires are properly inflated, along with wiping off pesky mud and dirt from the frame and other delicate parts, so that your steed functions at its best and shines like a jewel. Which leads me to the next point.
Invest in a good lock, no matter where you live. Or even better: take your bike inside your living quarters with you. As peachy as it’d be to pretend the world is one big happy place, bike thieves and other troublemakers run rampant and one thing you don’t want to experience is waking up one day to find someone snatched your precious wheels.
How to get healthy in order to be a biking superhero
You don’t need much preparation to get on the road. If it has been a long time since you last rode a bike, or the first time ever, consider brushing up on your biking skills by practicing on safe, lonely roads before riding in busier areas.
Fuel up on slow carbohydrates to make sure your energy levels keep on giving, allowing for longer and more fulfilling rides.
Be sure to have plenty of water handy, because depending on how intense your ride is and on the season, you will get dehydrated fast.
Most bikes come with an attachment that allows you to carry a bottle of water right on the frame, but if yours doesn’t, just put a super-sized bottle of water in your backpack and take frequent breaks. Or get yourself a CamelBak, if you’re having too much fun to even want to think of interrupting your ride.
While you’re at it, grab some fresh or dried fruit and nuts, or a vegan energy bar (either homemade or store-bought, like Clif, Luna or Larabar): it won’t weigh much in your bag or in your stomach, and it’s better to have something to munch on rather than experiencing hypoglycemia and regretting not having anything to pump energy back into you.
Since we’re on the subject of chugging down liquids: perhaps a bit random of a tip, but don’t drink (alcohol) and ride. While there seems to be no specific law for cyclists who drink & ride as opposed to automobilists who drink & drive, you could still be arrested for public intoxication. Not to mention, you put yourself and others at risk just the same.
To helmet or not to helmet, that is the question
If there is one big point of contention among cyclists, it would be whether one should wear a helmet or not, provided it isn’t an actual requirement by law where you live.
Granted, it will make you look like an alien that bears a strong resemblance with an oversized mushroom, but the point is to keep your brain looking plump and happy (remember the very non-vegan demonstration with the egg dropped alone versus the egg dropped wearing a helmet?), and it’s not like you’re making a fashion statement while riding on bike lanes a mere couple of feet away from speeding, massive and unforgiving cars.
Check out this page for tips on how to choose the best helmet for your needs.
Be sure to check out this site for even more useful and in-depth info, and above all else: enjoy the ride!