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Guide for Beginning and Returning Cyclists

Cycling is a fun and easily accessible activity, like all things we must start from the beginning.


Exercise is good for you! This is a no brainer but many people don’t do it. All the science is there at your finger tips, but a small synopsis can’t hurt:

Increased blood flow makes you have more energy and heal faster.

It helps strengthen your muscles, heart and lungs.

Exercise is proven to be a more effective way to combat depression then drugs.

There’s more but that is more than enough I’d say to get you riding again.

Also though,

Being out in your local environment and interacting with it at the pace of a bike ride is pleasurable, you’ll see things you don’t see while in a car.

Cycling is a very low impact way to get your body moving.

You can do it very late into life.

You can do it with your family and friends at a much lower cost than most other types of group outings like the moves or amusement parks.

And most importantly, it is fun!

Fun, it at the core of the whole thing. Bicycle riding is fun; well, it can be fun, a few things about that:

How much fun you have is up to you, having a positive mindset is equally important to the bike riding itself. If you think you’ll hate it, you will, if you think it will be fun it most likely will be. Up to you.

Having a good baseline of fitness will enable you to focus on the joys of bike riding. Once you get in some semblance of shape it is easier to stay in shape than get in shape. In regards to fitness for bike riding, there is no real upper limit. If you keep challenging yourself you will get stronger and stronger. “Spinning” in some gym is not the same as bike riding, you work a lot of other muscles riding a bike a “spinning” bike will never utilize. Also, you’re using your eyes and ears to look around you-you are being stimulated mentally on a bike ride, a tactile, visceral experience that cannot be attained in a gym. Besides, are you a hamster or a human being?

Eventually you can transform yourself from someone that looks at exercise and bike riding as a chore you have to do to stay healthy to something you look forward to. Once you get to this point you can pass this guide off to someone else. Why? Because you’ll be having fun!

A way to save money and time.

Instead of getting in your car for short trips, you can take your bicycle instead. According to the National Household Travel Survey, half of all trips are three miles or less from ones home, but fewer than 2 percent of those trips are made by bicycle, while 72 percent of them are driven. Private vehicles like cars, pick-up trucks, and SUVs, account for 60 percent of trips of a mile or less.

A mile is a very bikeable distance. A mile from your house should be a “no drive zone” where you bike that distance instead. Bikes can easily be set up with racks and baskets to become cargo haulers, one can go further by utilizing trailers and cargo bikes but that is more advanced so we won’t get into it here. But going down to the store to get a gallon of milk? After you do this for a while you will see how it is a way to save money on gas and wear and tear on your car and you save time too by not having to find parking when you get there and when you get back to your house, you get to go from door to door-how can you beat that?

Getting back into the saddle.

It may have been years or even decades since you have ridden a bike that is ok, you can get back in the saddle. You’ll need to develop a strategy that works for you, some pointers:

The seat will hurt. Yes, your butt will scream in agony no matter how big of a bike seat you slap on your bike. If you have not ridden in a long time, keep in mind car seats, office chairs and your chairs at home are 4-6 times larger than the biggest bike seat and have way more cushioning, you will not be able to make the transition without a little toughening up of the ol’ backside. A big seat will offset some of this but not all, you’ll have to ride several times a week to develop some toughness on your booty.

You don’t have to sit the whole time you ride, stand up on the pedals when you can to give your butt a break.

Gel seat covers don’t work very well, they slide around and that creates a chaffy situation, I’d stay away from them.

Like a new pair of shoes, you will need to invest in some time riding to break in your backside, if you follow the above guidelines it should take a few weeks to acclimate. 

Like I said above, you need to go out 3-4 times a week to gain any real heath/fitness benefit from bike riding. The trick is to make getting on the bike easy as possible, other wise you may decide to not go.

Have the bike ready to go and easily accessible.  According to pundits of the human brain, a 20 second barrier between doing something you’re ambivalent about will make you not do it.

Hanging your bike on a hook is a sure fire way to never use it.

Having it behind a bunch of things will make getting out the door seem to hard and you won’t go.

A bicycle gets ridden and average of 16 miles in its lifetime! That means most of them never get ridden-sad but true.

Try and make your transition to getting on your bike minimal as possible, you don’t need to don a “cycling costume” to ride a bike. You should be able to pull up to your home from work, get out of your car and then throw a leg over you bike and go. If you hesitate, you lose the drive. The hardest part is to overcome the barrier in your mind to go for a ride, once you’re riding though that barrier was just a fiction in your head like it always was, you just did not realize it.

Start Small.

You don’t need to go on long rides in the beginning that will make you sore for days and thus not want to ride again. Start by just going around your block. Try and do one lap, then two, three etc. Once you feel comfortable doing that you can expand your range, it is essential to keep expanding how much you ride though if you want to get any real benefit from it. 

Don’t fool yourself into thinking because you went around the block once, you’ve gotten sufficient exercise or gained any benefit from it, that is like going to the gym and sitting on a piece of equipment looking at your phone (yes, I’ve seen that a lot). It does not really count; you’re just playing a trick on yourself. The mantra is ride and ride often! Real progress and the return on your investment in yourself will only begin to show a yield after lots and lots of doing, there is no cheat code for heath and fitness, never has been, and never will be. You have to put the time in.

The 1,2,3 Rule.

The 1,2,3 Rule is a game you can play with yourself to increase your cycling distance. Start by making a map of where your house is and draw a 1 mile radius circle with your house being in the center of that circle. This one mile radius is your bike only distance. In that radius you try to make all trips one mile radius or less from your house. Keep doing this until it becomes easy for you. Once it gets easy, bump that radius up to two miles. Then when that gets easy, go to three. After a while you’ll see that these very short distances are easily bikeable and you will not be lagging behind motor traffic by much as you can take side streets and zig-zag though traffic patters, something a car cannot do.

Don’t compare.

Don’t worry about those packs of lycra-clad rodies you see on the weekends. You do not need to try and be like the Lance. A pro cyclist rides 7-8oo miles week. We’re not talking about that here; you can get in shape and really enjoy yourself on a beach cruiser, a more grounded, realistic goal. Not saying you can’t explore getting into more advanced forms of cycling, you can, with enough time and self-discipline it is attainable.

The use and storage of cars takes up a lot of room.

In Los Angeles, while car parking takes up 17,020,594 square meters of land, as much as nearly 1,400 soccer fields. At the moment, cars spend around 95% of the time parked, and only 5% of the time in use. Huge swaths of cities, either in parking lots, garages, or street parking spaces, are used as storage for cars (while, at the same time, many cities struggle to find enough land to build housing to keep up with demand).

There is nothing wrong with having a car; the utility of a bicycle is very under utilized.

Running Errands and Commuting by Bike

You can run many errands and commute to work by bike. Once you get a rhythm going you’ll see how accessible the idea is. A few pointers:

A grocery getter bike should have baskets and fenders, and it should be a little beat down or ugly looking to deter theft. A nice shiny “commuter bike” locked up in front of a grocery store is a prime theft target. A beater bike is good camouflage, baskets and fenders reduce the risk of being target by thieves. 

 No matter how quick you’re going to go into a place, lock your bike. It only takes seconds for it to disappear.

Lock it though the frame to something secure, don’t lock the wheel only. If you can, lock both the frame and the wheels. It takes a minute or two to properly secure your bike and will take way longer if you have to walk home because someone stole your unlocked or improperly locked bicycle. 

Cable locks only keep honest people honest; they can be defeated with simple hand tools while a u-lock requires power tools in most cases to defeat. If you create a 9 minute barrier to a bike thief from getting your bike, it most likely won’t get stolen.

Commuting by bike is super awesome! If you can ride to work, it is well worth it. You get a little decompression on the way home, a bad day at work can be processed on the ride and when you get home, you’re in a better state of mind. Can you put a dollar amount on that? Priceless!!!

If you work in an office that requires office attire, you may need a set of bike riding clothes to change out of when you get to work. However, an old shoe lace around your right pant leg will protect your pants from chain grease. Fenders will do the rest.

Before you begin the commuter journey, best to ride the route on a day off and time your self so you know how long it will take. Don’t race there, ride at a normal pace. Over time, the time the commute takes will lessen.

If you do this, you’ll need to lean how to change out a flat tire. Flats happen, and they will happen to you. Being prepared for this inevitable circumstance is paramount in your bike commuting adventure.