Looking for an easy and affordable way to enjoy the outdoors and live more Green? Wishing you could find a stress-free and more manageable approach to getting your everyday commute done? Here is the '411' on how-to, what-to, and 'really?!'.
Commuting by bicycle involes stuff. Planning is key. We have many people that start with doing the ride to conquer cancer or something of that nature and, it morphs into using their bicycle to get to and from work daily.
Lets start with the planning;
You get the idea to ride a bicycle more... for whatever-your-reasons. Now, you need a bike. Going to the local bike shop (aka LBS), will start you off. Not knowing what is out on the market, what choices you have and who-else is doing what; can actually be of benefit to the newbie rider. You aren't so cluttered with opinions and your idea of getting out and riding can really be done your own way. And, if you have done all the research on the web, talking with friends and others and you know what you want, your still in good here.
This is important: This trip will only be a reconnaissance trip. You are not spending money on the first trip out unless you know exactly what you want. Take your time. Search out friends for names of Local Bike Shops that they deal with and why. Remember that if you have a problem, of the bicycle type, you need somewhere where you feel comfortable and confident going to resolve the problems. Check out a few shops. Talk to the staff, Owners and managers. If you're not feeling the vibe, then try another one.
Make A List: Having a list of what you want to accomplish over the next four (4) years is important! Remember that you are going to spend a chunk of change and you do not want to cringe when you walk by the bike hanging 'where-ever' in your place. Look at your lifestyle, and decide how you think you want it to change. Look at your needs; Do you need to carry clothing and tools to and from work? Maybe you need to carry a laptop or formal attire to change into when you get there. Write this stuff down! Check with the boss at work, and see if they have a program for bicycle commuters, or if this is even going to apply to your scope and function of your job.
Check with the other immediate family members; who is picking up the kids after school? How? Can my kids do this too? All these things must be planned out before getting yourself into a large purchase decision. Again, writing it all down will help you stay focused and on track with your goals.
Setting a Budget: Make sure you plan for the extras. Many bicycles today are 'bare-bones'. Meaning they do not come with the required small stuff; rack, fenders, kick-stand, lights or clothing. This is where the Internet can help out alot. Use it to look at different products and get an idea of what you like and what you don't and some of the pricing. I said... get an idea of pricing. Local Bike Shops are similarily priced to the web but they will vary, so be prepared for somethings to be more.
Choosing a particular bicycle should be done at a bike shop. This is where the people at the bike shop will help you assess your needs and explain the difference so you get the right product for you. Measurements, fittings, long & short term goals, and all, can be accomodated by the staff at the bike shop.
Now you go to the local bike shop that you have chosen, and have them get you set-up with the basics. I say the basics because, you will figure out pretty quickly once you start riding, what you need and what you don't. You can always make another trip to the bike shop to have things changed or installed, or get the things you know you want. This is easier on the budget as well.
Here is the caveat: The people at the bike shop will set you up properly. The emotions though, on both sides will be running high and, the tendancy to buy more than you need is up. If you follow the aforementioned steps, you will be very happy.
Your ride and food: Once you start riding, you will notice that your eating habits and food bills are changing. There are a bevy of books out on the market and in bike shops that will explain nutrition, regularity and all of that. Please do your due- dilligence to keep informed about "you- the- engine". Everyone is different and these types of things are very important to ensure your longevity.
Stuff: Ok, so you have your things for daily commuting for the first couple of months. Now we need to start looking into the next two seasons that will affect your riding habits and habitat.
1) Rain Gear - Warm and dry beats cold and wet everytime! Don't cheap out on these essentials. They cost more than anything you have ever seen before and yes, they are worth it. $90 for a pair of gloves??!! Yes. $250 for a jacket??!! Yes. $100 for shoe covers - for real???! Yes. The prices are worthy of the products. They have been tested and trusted by many people in the biking community for a long time. If in doubt, ask the folks at your bike shop. Remember, this is you; you are the engine on your bicycle. If your sick, your ride is sick.
2) Chee-Chee- itis - This will happen naturally. You will find lots of things you desire to adorn your ride and yourself, as the days and months go on. Sometimes, its a new light, sometimes it could be a 1980's Fido-Dido doll. What-ever you find, remember that this is part of the reward to yourself for getting out of the car and riding your bike. Let it happen. Have fun with it. Who knows... maybe you can't live without it. My advice is: Don't take that chance!
Deciding to ride all year 'round: Thankfully, here on the 'wet' coast, we can. Let me also say that, some precautions are required for the months of December to March. Riding while it is wet or dry is not generally considered difficult. Riding when there is black ice or frost or snow however, is of concern. You are the only one to make this choice to ride through the conditions, for good or bad. Remember, there is no right or wrong answer here, just what your best experiences tell you. So, with that in mind, here are a few suggestions for the winter ride:
~ Studded tires. These are exactly like what you think they are. And they do a great job at keeping your ride going.
~ Safety Vest. Being seen in the darker conditions is important.
~ Lights to see by. These generally consist of the rechargable style and are over the $100 price point. Oh, by the way, don't forget to put just as good lights on the rear as well.
~ Bellaclava. Preventing frostbite, windburn, and general coldness, can be achived by this product. It covers the head under the helmet, and this includes the ears, without being too bulky.
Keep your bike in top mechanical condition. Repair or replace faulty parts sooner rather than later. It’s a loser’s game to milk “just one more ride” out of worn brake pads, a frayed cable, or tires with a threadbare tread or bulging sidewall. Your first line of defense against the challenges of the real world is a bike with all parts in good working order. Bring you bike into our shop for a free estimate and expert repair.
Cycling is unique because its arena is the open road. That’s the same place frequented by motorized traffic, potholes, snarling dogs and absentminded pedestrians.
But sometimes we’re our own worst enemy. Inattention and poor technique can put us on the pavement as fast as any hazard. Use these tips and you’ll be less likely to take a tumble.
Always ride with your head up. While cruising along, it’s tempting to stare at the whirling pattern of the front spokes or fixate on your cyclo-computer’s numbers. A momentary downward glance that lasts just a second too long can mean riding into a problem that could easily have been avoided.
Focus. The smooth and rhythmic motion of pedaling can become hypnotic. Daydreaming cyclists have crashed into the back of parked cars, wandered far into the traffic lane or blithely ridden off the road. Don’t let yourself be separated from the outside world by the vivid canvases created by your imagination. Keep your head in the game.
It’s every rider’s fate to flat. But it’s relatively easy to limit the frequency.
Choose your line with care. The best way to avoid punctures is also the easiest: Steer around broken glass, road rubble and potholes.
Use tires with a Kevlar belt under the tread. Kevlar does a good job of stopping nasty things from penetrating. Inspect the tread after every ride for embedded debris. Remember, most punctures are caused by something sticking to the tread and working through during numerous wheel revolutions. Replace tires before they become so thin that they’re virtually defenseless against pointy things.
Check inflation pressure every couple of days. Tubes are slightly porous and may lose several pounds of pressure each day. Soft tires slow you down, corner poorly, wear fast, and don’t protect your rims against metal-bending impacts.
Hitting potholes can bend your rims beyond repair. If the chasm is deep enough, it will send you hurtling over the handlebar when you bury the front wheel and the bike suddenly stops. Here’s a primer on pothole evasion.
Note where potholes lurk on your normal routes. Plan your line well in advance to avoid them. Don’t expect the road to be in the same condition every day. Potholes have a habit of sprouting up out of nowhere, especially in the winter and early spring due to the daily freeze/thaw cycle.
Treat potholes like glass. Ride around them, first checking behind for traffic. Be mindful of riding partners when you change your line. Newly minted potholes present a double hazard — the chasm itself, and the chunks of shattered pavement around it. If the pothole doesn’t bend your wheel, the sharp bits of rubble might puncture your tire. Give these highway craters a wide berth.
Unlike most dangers, tracks can’t be ridden around. You can suffer an instant crash if your tires slip on the shiny steel rails. Ride with extreme caution and follow these safety tips.
Slow down! Tracks are rough, and even if you don’t crash you could get a pinch flat. This happens when you ride into something abrupt, like a rail, and it pinches the tube between the tire and rim, slicing two little holes in the tube.
Rise slightly off the saddle. Have equal weight on your hands and feet. Let the bike chatter beneath you. Use your flexed arms and legs as shock absorbers.
Cross tracks at a right angle. If the rails are diagonal to the road and you cross them at an angle, your front wheel can be twisted out from under you. A perpendicular passage is essential in the rain. Wet metal tracks are incredibly slippery. The slightest imbalance or abrupt move can send you sprawling.
It’s better to slow down, square up, and creep across.
Additional Slick Spots
Painted lines. These can be slippery, especially the wide markings for pedestrian crossings at intersections. The paint fills in the asphalt’s texture, producing a surface that’s uncertain when dry and deadly when wet. The danger is worse when the paint is new.
Dry oil slicks. These may be nearly invisible, but you can spot them as darker streaks on a gray pavement. Be real careful in corners. You aren’t safe if you ride through oil on the straights. The greased tread might slip in a corner just ahead.
Wet oil slicks. If it rains, a small oily patch can grow until it covers the whole lane. Be on the lookout for the telltale multi-colored water. There’s no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, only a black-and-blue meeting with the pavement.
Wet metal. If it’s been raining and you come upon anything metal in the road (manhole cover, steel-deck bridge, road-repair plate), it’s as treacherous as riding on ice. Cross it with the bike absolutely upright. Even a slight lean can cause the wheels to slip. Smart riders walk their bikes across wet steel bridges.
Wet leaves. Be very careful in the fall, or you will. Even if the road is dry, there can be moisture trapped between leaves littering the pavement. When you see leaves in a corner, slow down and round the bend with your bike upright, not angled.
Sewer grates. Some old ones have bars that run parallel to the street and are wide enough to let a bike wheel fall through. If this happens, you can look forward to plastic surgery and possibly a lifetime of lawsuit riches. Many municipalities have replaced such grates with bicycle-friendly versions, but be careful in case a town hasn’t gotten the message yet.
Now, Get out & ride!