Eyeing that dusty and spider web-covered two-wheeler stacked over there in the corner of the garage with the camping gear, old paint cans and whatnot?
I am lucky enough to live in the Denver area, which is one of the most bicycle friendly metro areas in the country, but these tips apply just about anywhere.
While government entities are becoming more bike-friendly, after listening to the bicycling advocates, the drivers have yet to figure this out – so BE CAREFUL OUT THERE. A free two-pound bag of birdseed for anyone who knows where that phrase, Be Careful Out There, came from. Just kidding. I will not send you any birdseed. Those of you who like classic television know from where the line came.
I am going to assume you know how to ride a bike, so this little missive is on safety only, since if you get creamed by a speeding SUV, your equipment, food, water, apparel, and training routines will mean very little if you are dead.
Safety. Bare minimum.
Helmet. Make sure it fits you well. Go to a bike shop if you need advice. If you do not worry about head lice, get your helmet at the local thrift store, but make sure it has no signs of an impact. If it does, it will not adequately protect your noggin.
Eye Protection. A good pair of sunglasses work fine during the day, but not at night. Try the bike shop again and get a good pair of cycling glasses.
Reflectors. Your bike should have a white reflector on the front, a red one on the back and yellow or white ones in the spokes of each wheel. Do not ride without these. Go to your bike shop to get them.
Lights. Even if you do not plan it, you might get caught having to ride after dark. A good white electric light for the front and a flashing red light for the back are the minimums. Your bike shop can help you out there.
Shoes. You do not need specialized cycling shoes at the starting level, but you do need shoes. Harder soles work a little better, but matter little. If you ride a bike in flip-flops or sandals you are just asking for trouble. Your pedal can get tangled between what they call the sole on a flip-flop and your foot. Worst case, you can seriously injure your foot or even lose a toe if you have an accident or hit a curb.
Route. Avoid roads at all cost. Bike paths make this easy. Use the off-road bike paths or sidewalks. Yes, in most places you can ride on sidewalks as long as you do not mow down pedestrians. If there are no decent sidewalks or pathways available, use some of the streets that have brightly marked bike lanes, but DO NOT TRUST DRIVERS, even if they are legally required to give you a few feet of space. Your last resort is using a regular street, but only as a last resort. I do not recommend it. Way too many bad drivers. Or drunk ones.
Crosswalks. Use them. A lot of your tax dollars went into designing and building these handy facilities. Cross busy streets IN THE CROSSWALK. You can ride or walk your bike. Hit the button for the traffic light if there is one, wait for and then use the pedestrian signal.
Stop Signs/Stop Lights. Obey them. If you do not, you are nuts.
Cars and Trucks. They kill you or maim you for life. Do not assume anything. Even the best drivers do not see you right away because their brains are programmed to look for a big car, not a little ole you. That half a second can mean your life. I watch the eyes of the driver and if the driver does not see me, I slow down and prepare to stop until the driver and I lock glances, even if I have the right of way. I also watch the wheels of the car, which is a much easier and quicker way to see if the car is moving or not. Those backward spinning wheel decorations are a bit frustrating, fairly stupid looking, and are a passing fad.
Control. Make sure you are always under control. There is no need to hurry or ride like you are in la Tour De France. Speed kills, and at least one cyclist in this country has been arrested for manslaughter after he mowed down an oldster in a crosswalk.
Water. Take some with you and drink it. Go to the bike shop and get a water bottle and bottle cage for your machine.
Food. Do not go cycling hungry. Take a protein bar or something with you so your blood sugar does not drop. Dizziness and cycling do not go hand in hand.
First Ride? If you have not ridden in a long while, take it easy. Just ride a mile or two, very slowly, the first time out. Gradually extend your rides. Starting off with a ten mile ride if you have not ridden in six months or a year, or longer, is sheer stupidity.
That is enough finger-wagging for now. Go out and ride.
Coincidentally, a good friend of mine, Vic Bengston, lives in Denver as well. Vic, like me, is a baby boomer, only he is a figment of my imagination. After spending the bulk of his prime working years in the corporate world, Vic has returned to his first love, investigative journalism. He gets into all sorts of predicaments as he chases down killers in his fictional world. He has a dusty bike back in the dark recesses of his garage like you and me. You can read about him in his latest adventure, WATER: A Vic Bengston Investigation. You’ll find Kindle. Nook, and other eBooks at the usual places, paperbacks at Amazon and Colorado bookstores, or my website, richardjschneider.com.
Good riding. And good reading.