11 June 2013

6 Tips for the Beginning Bike Commuter

The weather is heating up and spring is turning into summer, which means more and more fair-weather cyclists are using their two-wheeled transport to get where they need to go. Which is great! Studies show people who ride their bikes to work are more focused and have better concentration, which easily leads to getting more done in, likely, a better mood.

But for the first-time bike commuter, handling the streets can be a little nerve-racking, especially in urban areas or places with very little bike infrastructure. But no worries. Here are a few tips to get you started pedaling to work more comfortably:

Plan your route in advance

Chances are your bike commute to work will be along a different route than a drive, walk or public transportation trip would. You'll definitely want to map out the best and safest way to get there before you need to leave. Depending on how far of a distance you'll need to travel, your route might take you on several different backstreets, rather than a straight shot on a major road, so you'll want to give yourself plenty of time to memorize the route. If you don't know the streets well enough to juge whether they're best for bikes, then check out Google Maps' bicycling directions option. They aren't always the best, since the technology is still in beta—but they're still fairly reliable.

Don't be afraid

If you're terribly nervous when you set out on a bike, it's going to show in the way you ride—which ultimately means you're going to be riding worse and more susceptible to having an accident. If you've never cycled so close to cars before, the first several times can be really scary. But just relax, pay attention, follow the rules of the road and you should be fine. 

But use caution

When you're on a bike riding in traffic, it's a good idea to ride with the assumption that not everyone can see you all of the time. So when you approach an area you could very easily be right-hooked, maybe hold back and be sure the driver is going to stop before you power through. Or when you see a vehicle park, maybe give a wider berth around the door if you can, just in case they open it without looking. That's not to say you should assume the absolute worse in every situation. Not at all. Just maintain a good awareness of your surroundings.

Dress comfortably

Though it largely depends on how far you'll be traveling, the weather and what kind of office environment you work in, you might want to ride in different clothes than you plan to wear all day at work. That's not an issue here at BicyclingHub.com, since we have a friendly, laid-back, bike-friendly atmosphere. But if you work in a business wear kind of office or your ride is long enough you'll likely get pretty sweaty, wear something comfortable to ride in that won't cause any chafing and will be nice and breathable. (Hint: cycling apparel will make your longer commute much more comfortable.)

Know your signals

At least here in Portland, more often than not cyclists don't use hand signals. But you really should if it's safe to lift your hands off the handlebar to do so. It's a nice way of alerting drivers and other cyclists of what your plans are and can easily help you avoid an accident. For a left turn, hold your left arm out. To indicate a right turn, either hold your left arm at a 90-degree angle with your fingers pointing up or hold your right arm out. When you're slowing or stopping, hold your left arm at a 90-degree angle with your fingers pointing down.

Have fun!

What's the point of riding a bike if not to get your endorphins flowing and have a good time? Smile and enjoy yourself, even if you have to deal with a rough climb. It's way better than sitting in traffic, am I right?

1 comment:

Abigail said...

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