You may not know this, but May is National Bike Month and the 20th (this Friday) is National Bike to Work Day. But if you’re not a cycling enthusiast (or even bike confident), the idea of hopping on a small, 2-wheeled, you-powered vehicle and sailing off toward work may seem a little daunting. So we hit up our in-house cycling expert, Blair Cerny, for a little practical advice on how to ease your bike-to-work apprehensions.
1. First (and most obviously) you’ll need a bicycle. If you don’t have one, see if you can borrow or rent one. Most major cities have a number of bike rental options, from tourist places that rent by the day to stands that rent by the hour. If you live in a more rural area, check with your local bike shop (chances are you have at least one). The best part about renting is that you can take Bike to Work Day for a spin (so to speak) before deciding if it’s a viable everyday option.
2. Next up, you should learn how to change a flat tire. If there’s one single piece of bicycle maintenance that everyone should know, this is it. But don’t stress … it’s pretty easy. All you need to change a flat are tire levers, a pump, and a new inner tube (make sure it’s the right size!). Trust me, if you can change the tire on your car (and, of course, you can), then you can easily change a bike tire.
3. You’re also going to need something to carry your stuff in. If you don’t have a medium-sized knapsack or backpack, it might be time to invest in one. Seriously. A backpack should give you plenty of space to hold a change of clothes, your tire repair supplies, your lunch, your laptop, and whatever else you need. (You should also throw in a stick of deodorant and maybe a hand towel, just in case you get a little sweaty.) Here’s a comprehensive packing list to get you on your way.
4. You’re almost ready to roll! All you need to do now is plot your course. Google maps has a great new feature that will show you bike-friendly routes. After you enter your starting and ending locations and get your directions, just click the little bicycle icon. (There are also buttons for taking the bus and walking!) If that’s not enough detail for you, most cities offer online and printed versions of cycling maps that show which streets have bike lanes, and even list the grades of the inclines along the way.
5. On your ride, it’s important to follow the rules of the road. Your bicycle is considered to be a vehicle under almost every vehicle code in the nation, which means you have to stop at red lights and stop signs, and signal your intentions. Ride on the right side of the road, not on the sidewalk — that’s illegal everywhere. Watch out for pedestrians and potholes, and most important, beware of people swinging their doors open to exit their parked cars.