If you’re thinking about becoming a more active commuter and have chosen cycling as your activity, then there’s a few things you should do before you sell your car and commit full time. This is my list of top 4 things to do before you jump in with both feet.
Purchase a Bicycle
No duh. Of course purchase a bicycle. It’s actually not as easy as it sounds. Evaluate your hardware needs first. There’s a bewildering number of bike options out there. Here’s my tips to help you along.
New or Used
Buy two used bikes from Craigslist with interchangeable parts if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty and spending time in the garage. Designate the best looking one as your “bike” and the other as your parts. You’ll probably have to make adjustments before riding the first time. And keep the speed down for a while in case it falls apart under you.
If you prefer to just bike on your bikes and not have to touch them with a grease gun, the go to a pro bike shop and buy one. You’re going to use this bike hard so don’t buy one from a store where you have to take it elsewhere to be assembled.
Mountain, Road or Other
Mountain bikes are more versatile than road bikes. You can ride it 4 seasons. The tires are fatter and your posture is more comfortable. On the other hand, a mountain bike is heavy compared to alternatives and fat tires have increased friction on the pavement.
Road bikes are easier to pedal. They have skinny, high pressure tires that reduce friction. You better have another commuting plan for winter though. If you take those skinny tires in the snow, you’re going to spend a lot of time on your ass.
Hybrid bicycles are an exciting option. Tires sizes between mountain and road, geared higher than a mountain bike, yet with a more upright seating than a road bike. I’ve never owned one. Sounds dreamy though.
Make the Bike Yours
If your first day on a new bike is weird and awkward, don’t let it throw you. You need practice. But heavy traffic is not the place to start cutting your teeth. Ride the bike around your neighbourhood for a couple evenings before taking it out to the show. You want to be confident on your bike, maneuver it easily so when things come up on the road, you’ll be able to react quickly. You also want to be able to manipulate the controls quickly and adeptly.
Plan Your Route
Your biking route to work might be the same as your driving route. But there might be obstacles. It can be intimidating crossing freeway overpasses when there’s on and off ramps. Take an extra day and find a quiet, low traffic route to bike to and fro. When you’re more experienced, then opt for the more direct route. If you have to be in higher traffic areas on your way to work, try to get away from the worst of it. Through parking lots or alleys. As a last resort, get on the sidewalk if you feel your safety is threatened. If you do ride on the sidewalk, go as slow as the pedestrians, or better yet, get off and walk.
Get Your Attire Settled
Actually, this is better done as you become accustomed to making the trek, but I thought I’d mention it here. I’m a firm believer that comfort is king when I’m cycling or running, or performing any other kind of physical activity. If you’re going a short distance and slowly, that might mean no special gear required. If you’re going a little farther and like to get your pulse up when biking, then invest in some technical stuff that wicks sweat and keeps your body temps normal. Comfort today means you’re likely to bike again tomorrow rather than opt for the car.
You can make your first commute a little easier and more enjoyable if you take these precautions and evaluate your needs carefully ahead of time. Well worth the time and effort. Less frustration, safer, more comfortable means more riding.