Advice to a new cyclist?

Every now and then a new cyclists stumbles across this site looking for advice on how to get started commuting by bicycle.

I think the best advice is to just start, but with cycling its often a bit more complicated cause you first need a bicycle.

Here’s our correspondence…..

I stumbled on this website through Facebook and the winter cycling booth.  I’m a young student who would like to start biking, but I don’t know where to start! I have a brother in Toronto that is encouraging me to start but I would like some help in understanding what the best bike for me would be… or where in the city I can buy an affordable yet reliable bike.

I then asked a bunch of questions.

And got this lovely reply :)

Why do you want to bike?
Commuting would be the main reason since the GRT doesn’t run at the hours I need it to run near my house. I would also like to get fit while biking!
What are the distances you’d like to bike?  How long do you see yourself taking on a bike trip?
I have google mapped my route for work and back. It is about a 30 minute bike ride. Mainly going into downtown and uptown Waterloo. I don’t think I would bike for more than a couple of hours.
What kind of surfaces would you like to bike on?
I think the road would be the smoothest. But I mean I know that gravel would also be something I might be biking on.
What amount have you budgeted for bicycle? Or what is a bicycle worth to you?
I’m willing to put down around $200 this time. I believe a good bicycle could be worth a couple hundred dollars.
Have you ever taken a driver’s ed course? Ie. Do you know the rules on the road? How confident do you feel about riding in traffic?
Yes I have taken a drivers ed course, I have my G license. I don’t know how confident I feel riding in traffic… I feel like drivers in K-W aren’t really use to sharing the roads.
What kind of weather / seasons do you want to ride in? 
I would ride in all seasons expect winter! The snow makes it hard and the cold.
Well I can’t wait to start biking after this winter is gone!
Thank you!

Here’s my response. Would you add any thing different? Did I miss anything?

My recommendation on type of bicycle would be a hybrid or step-thru, upright bicycle. For city cycling my bike of choice is an upright, dutch-styled bicycle that can carry a load and is also comfortable. I’ve stated hybrid bicycle, because with a budget of $200 you’ll probably have better success finding a used hybrid rather than a used upright bicycle. These types of bicycles will handle pavement, smooth dirt trails and gravel roads just fine. And when you want to ride in cold weather, both of these will serve you well.

With a budget of $200, I’d recommend a used bicycle. You could look at either Recycle Cycles in downtown Kitchener or one of my favourite bicycle shops in the region Guelph’s Back Peddling. If you can’t find a used bike that fits at Recycle Cycles, you won’t be disappointed with the trip to Back Peddling. Fit is important.

Since you’re a licensed driver, you’re familar with the rules of the road :) However, as a cyclist you’ll want to be familiar with the portions of the highway traffic act that are meaningful to you as a cyclist. Here’s two resources; The Toronto Cyclists Handbook, Cycling Skills – Ontario’s Guide to Cycling.

You may also consider taking a CAN-BIKE cycling course, there are several excellent instructors in the area. I’ve taken a couple of these courses, hosted by the City of Waterloo and although they have a significant time commitment, they teach the skills needed to safely and predictably cycle in traffic. By teach, I mean taking these courses ingrains cycling skills in your muscle memory. Stay tuned and I’ll broadcast when the City of Waterloo has firmed their 2015 dates for CAN-Bike courses. Here’s what I learned in a 16hr course, in 5 minutes.

Did I forget anything?