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Some people who are "getting started with bicycling" are five years
old and literally doing just
that. Some people getting started with bicycling are fifty-five, but with
a whole different base of knowledge than a five year old. Some people are getting started
(again) after having not bicycled
for decades. And some people might see their move up from the occasional
recreation cycling to trying to become regular bicycle commuters as "getting
started with bicycling." Because there are so many different
"starting points" you may need to read this with a little creativity.
Tips For Getting Started Bicycling:
- Have fun getting into bicycle. Include a farmers market, street fair,
bakery, ice cream stand or espresso kiosk on you trip. The experience
should bring a smile to your face.
- Like any new (or expanding) experience, expect to take some time building your skill set,
confidence, strength and endurance. Feel comfortable getting into
- Select a bike you are comfortable riding; it also needs to be in
good working order.
Accept that the comfortable bike that you pick starting out might not be the
most comfortable bike a couple years down the road as you pick-up you pace and
increase your distance, so there might be additional bicycles in your future.
An example of this is; "comfort bikes" tend to be comfortable for a half-hour
ride at 6 mph (10 km/h), but start to loose some of their comfort when you are
on an hour ride at 12 mph (20 km/h).
[Tip: A good bike shop is a good resource for helping you sort out the
different kinds of bikes and their advantages and disadvantages.] We have
posted some specific information on Choosing
and Buying a Kids Bike.
- Learn the basics of bicycling: balance, starting, pedaling, stopping and
turning. If you don't know how to bicycle
there are some tips at "Learning to Bicycle Without Pain, Teaching
Bicycling Without Strain."
- Learn on-road skills like the rules of the road, being predictable, how to
select lane position, signaling and making turns. We have an article for
adults working with children heading out to roads at
Teach Your Child Well. If you
will be bicycling with a group we have posted some additional tips on
Group Riding Safety and Etiquette
(PDF format) .
- Make a plan and set some goals for the development of your bicycling. This
can include the number of times a week that you will bicycle and the distance.
You can set some goals for building your distance and/or increasing your
speed. If you plan involves doing something like commuting to work, but
you can't initially bicycle the whole distance look for strategies to build up
to it. For example: If you live 12 miles (20km) from work you might
initially take your bike on the car/bus/rail to within 3 miles (5 km) of work
and bike from there. Or you could bike the first 3 miles, lock your bike
up and bus/rail from there. As your strength, stamina and confidence
increases you can lengthen the distance of the bicycling.
- Pick Your Route: Depending upon how fixed your origins and destination are
you will probably have to balance safety, convenience and aesthetics. It
is sometimes best to reconnaissance of your route on the weekend, and/or with
the help of a car. If you are not totally acquainted with the gears on
your bike it is good to pick a relatively flat route (this allows you to start
with the front gear in the middle chainring and then can concentrate on just
changing gears with your right hand (rear gears) and learn how these work.
As this becomes second nature to you, move on to routes with more topography
that require changing the front gears (left hand). If it is practical you
might want to scout out several routes for different moods. [Tip: Members of the local
bicycle club are a good place to look for help on this. To find a bicycle map
of a particular city go to
www.bing.com/search?q=bicycle+map+city&go=&form=QBLH&qs=n, replace "city"
in the URL with the location you are looking for.] Test your route on a day off when you are not under pressure; not only do you learn the route, you test your equipment
and learn about how long the ride takes.
- Route Safety: Parsing the safest route can be complex. Be ready to
think! Don't assume that what is best route for a motor-vehicle is best for a
bicyclist -- but you also can't assume that it isn't. If you can take
advantage of infrastructure that was design for bicycles this might be the
route to go. But this isn't a guarantee. Bicycle facilities often
intersect with motor vehicles in ways that put bicyclist in very ambiguous
positions about right-of-way and for visibility. These intersection can
be as or more dangerous than alternative on-road route that might be on
low-traffic volume roads. Many bicycle/non-motorized facilities are
poorly designed; being too narrow, too curvy, and/or too poorly maintained for
the user volumes. Some bike lanes are essential striped "door zones" for the
cars parked next to them -- car doors opening in your path are not your
friend. On hills you might find it safest to go down hill using the road lane
(because your speed, the irregular surface, and a lot of penetrations of the
sidewalk make it more dangerous) Up hill the sidewalk (still riding with
traffic) may be the place to be. If you are going use a trail it is worth
reviewing Guide to Sharing Multi-use, Non-motorized Trail Etiquette
- Clothing: Select comfortable clothing. Some people do a lifetime of
bicycling without every getting any specialized bicycle clothing. If you are
going to go the direction of specialized clothing, the first piece is likely
to be shorts. There are options to lycra! In addition to skin
tight shorts (which are designed to be worn without underwear), there are a
wide variety of baggy bike shorts, and specially designed underwear (i.e.
Andiamo) which can help make
almost any loose street clothes comfortable for cycling. By select light, bright colored
outerwear you can't make yourself more visible -- even if it is only an
oversized white or Hawaiian shirt from the thrift store. Expendable
oversized outerwear also can help keep garments under it cleaner, if that is a
- Shoes: The sign that your shoes are not working for you is cramps in your
feet. Usually the solution is a stiffer sole. There are two
strategies here: buy an expensive shoe designed for bicycling, or some people
can get away with buying a cheaper gym-type shoe, which often have stiffer
soles (and less arch support) with lower prices.
- Load: If you are going to be carrying very much (tools, patches, pump,
food, camera, extra cloths) it is usually easier to carry it on the bike than
on your back. Get bike handle bar bag, trunk pack or panniers, or a ruck sack -- longer rides
and heavier loads favor
- Weather: Develop your skills and build your confidence when the weather is
comfortable. As you get some miles under your belt you can choose what
you want to tackle in terms of extreme weather conditions. Depending
upon the local climate and the cost effectiveness of specialized clothes you
can invest in foul weather gear for foul weather as the need arises.
Eventually you might make bicycling into a year round activity, or you might
not. Generally, it is best if your foul weather gear is designed for cycling.
- Security: If you expect to be stopping and leaving your bike buy a lock; learn where to park and how to use the lock for maximum effectiveness.
- Abandoning the Bicycling: There are times when because of the weather, a
mechanical problem or family emergency that you may need to have your bicycle
routine interrupted. Depending upon the circumstances you lock you bike,
change to taxi/bus/rail and return to retrieve you bicycle at a late time.
Increasingly it is practical to take you bike along on the taxi/bus/rail.
The money you save and the health benefits you gain will probably far exceed
the occasion emergency expense that you might incur.
- Personal Protective Equipment: Helmets and gloves top the list of PPE. Wear a helmet.
Even with good training on how to ride like a vehicle, and
riding defensively, accidents occasionally happen; studies show that helmets can reduce the
severity of the injury. When people do fall often they go down on their
hands. Glove can reduce the amount of gravel that you have to dig out of
your palms. Reflector and lights are also part of this but probably are
not essential when you are "getting started" on a nice sunny day. They
still aren't a bad idea and you should certainly use them once you start
riding in any kind of low light conditions.
Selecting a Bike |
Bicycle Safety Checklist (PDF) |
Benefits of Bicycling |
Bicycle Parking Criteria
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