Get There by Bike: Tips to Get Started Bicycling

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As kids, many of us learned the joy and simplicity of riding a bike. I remember when my parents first let my brother and me ride down to the convenience store a few blocks away. My first glimpse of independence! Today, I’m lucky to live in a city where I can bike almost everywhere. And I don’t need spandex and energy bars to make it work.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t live in places where we can use bikes every day, instead of cars. Most of the U.S. as we know it was built under the dominant logic of cars and trucks — suburbs, interstates, long commutes, and unfriendly roads. That can be a lot of momentum to push against.

Today, let’s talk about the baby steps: how to get started biking.

1. Pick a bike. The best bike, as the saying goes, is the one you already have. (Or maybe the one your neighbor has, or your spouse!) You don’t need to buy anything new, though it’s definitely worth taking it to your local shop for a quick tune-up each year.

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2. Start small. The most important thing is to start getting comfortable with your bike. Maybe biking to school or work isn’t really possible — between shuttling kids or errands to pick up groceries — but I bet there are a couple of trips you make every week that could be done by bike. The playground? The liquor store? Your evening stroll around the neighborhood?

3. Learn the rules. Mostly, this means to be smart. Wear a helmet, be predictable, check for cars and signal if you’re turning. Don’t ride against traffic, don’t weave in and out of parked cars. Learn more or find a class near you!

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4. Bring a friend or two! It’s more fun when you have someone to talk with, someone with more experience, or when you can be the person with more experience.

5. Ask for help. It’s OK to be a non-expert! If one road seems particularly dicey for bikes, ask for recommended alternate routes. Head to a bike shop, and see if they have any lights, reflectors, or helmet safety advice. And your bike will probably fit you better if you get the seat and handlebars adjusted to your size.

Photo by MorBCN, via Flickr. Artwork via Bikeyface, www.bikeyface.com, which is an excellent source for bike-related whimsy and advice!

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