Tips For First Time Bicycle CommutersPosted May 14, 2014 | Promotions by Theme or Event
May is National Bike Month and many commuters opt this month to hop on a bike for the first time in a in a while and venture to the office on their bikes. Obviously, biking is a great source of exercise, but it also gives a sense of freedom that no other transportation method can create. Bike to work day is on May 16th and if you are planning on riding your bike on this day, there are some common concerns that may come up before you head out.
What do I need?
You can easily bike on a budget. There are a few absolutely essential items you will need.
- A bike, of course
- A Bike Bottle (stay hydrated)
- A helmet (did you know that helmets can reduce the risk of injury by 85%)
- Sunglasses (it is easier to ride without the sun in your eyes)
- A bell (handy for alerting pedestrians and the like)
- Comfy clothing riding clothes (more about this later)
- A backpack (always a good idea as well as a basket or panniers to carry your stuff)
- Lights and/or reflectors (you may be riding in the dark)
- A lock (a good rule of thumb is the more expensive your bike, the more expensive the lock)
Plan Your Route
You may know the best route to get to where you are going in your car, but that route can be vastly different from the route you are going to want to take on your bike. Most routes need a bit of tweaking for maximized bike efficiency and safety. There are a ton of apps that you can download to help plan the best route that are great for newbies and veterans alike. If you know other cyclist, they can be a great resource. They may know shortcuts or areas to avoid. If you are planning on biking to work for the first time, you may want to consider a weekend test run without any pressure.
How to Look Good After Biking To Work
Depending on the distance of your commute, you may be able to ride in your work clothes. Some commutes can be a real workout while others are more practical. If your commute is longer than 20 to 30 minutes you may want to ride in cycling clothing. Freshen up and change in to more professional attire once you arrive at work. Ideally you could keep a change of clothing at your office. You may also chose to do your hair (or if you wear makeup) once you get to the office.
Helpful Tips for Biking
- Treat every car as though its doors are already open.
You never know when someone will want to get out of their car. The best thing to do is stay out of their reach.
- If it’s nighttime and you don’t have lights, don’t bother riding.
You should have white lights in the front of your bicycle and red lights in the back. Without them you are an invisible obstacle at night. Don’t make yourself liable for an accident.
- Know what a “right hook” is and anticipate it.
If you are approaching an intersection, driveway, or empty parking space, get used to checking behind you for cars turning right. They won’t always check for you.
- Expect the “left cross,” and learn to look for the signs.
When you’re waiting at a red light, sometimes you can just tell the driver waiting across the intersection is going to try and turn left without waiting for you to cross. Plan for their recklessness and you can avoid a crash.
- Build a sense of the door zone and its location as you ride, stay clear at all costs.
Hugging parked cars to avoid passing cars is a trap; you’re much more likely to be doored than hit from behind.
- Practice starting from a foot-down standstill until you can do so without wobbling.
A straight, confident start is an important skill to have in your biking arsenal. It will help you get off the line safely, and ahead of traffic.
- If a vehicle weighs over 5 tons (trucks, busses, etc.), it probably cannot see you.
Even with lots of mirrors, they’re essentially driving blind. You should always give these vehicles a wide berth. The same goes for anything with a trailer.
- Plug your handlebar ends.
If you fall and land on your handlebars and do not have plugs you could end up taking a core sample of yourself. Prevent this from happening. Having handlebar plugs, could save your life.
- Stop at all red lights, pause at all stop signs, and yield for pedestrians in crosswalks.
Cyclists must obey virtually the same signs and rules of the road as vehicles. Plus you don’t want to give drivers any reason to be aggressive toward you or the opportunity to blame you for a crash.
- Always use hand signals to show which direction you’re heading.
Remember to have fun while biking. You’re not checking your phone, you’re completely offline. This is an incredible opportunity to clear your head and get to know your city in a new way. If you participate in Bike to Work Day, please let us know how it went in the comments below.