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Thursday, May 10, 2012

biking 101 : tips for beginner bikers

woo hoo.
spring + beautiful weather = lots & lots of biking.

i have been a year-round bike commuter for a little over 2 years now & i get tons of questions about biking. i think a lot of folks think that biking is just for super thin men with huge calves & really fast bikes.
well, i am a girl [my calves are pretty sweet] & i dont have a turbo-speedy bike. ;)

i wanted to share my top 6 tips for bikers.
these tips are for YOU!
if you have a bike, you are a biker ;)

1) get a helmet!

seriously! get a helmet. i know a lot of women dont want helmets because a) they are ugly. b) they are a pain in the butt and c) you dont really need one. but please please please ; get a helmet. biking companies are slowly coming to notice all the female bikers & are making more appealing bike gear. plus, a helmet could save your life. i would never ride anywhere [not even around the block] without my helmet. i have a giro & its super cute ;)

2) use your manners!
this is another HUGE biking rule!
nobody likes a jerk-biker. learn biking hand-signals [if you are a CAR, i also suggest you learn them.]

i cant tell you how many close calls i have had because i have properly signaled, but a car wasnt looking // didnt know what the signals meant.
a lot of cars dont like bikers because they think we are wild, rebels that ride on the roads & dont follow the rules. a lot of bikers dont like cars because they think they are too distracted & dont give them enough space.
regardless, we are all out there, we NEED to work together. 
if a car lets you cross at an intersection, USE YOUR MANNERS.
if you are biking on the road, you have to follow the rules. STOP at stop signs [communicate at 4-way stops!] signal your turns and be aware of cars.
with that said, AS A DRIVER, you need to give bikes 3-4 feet of clearance. be patient. no honking or name calling.

*bikers arent out there to ruin your day. bikers are riding to get to point b ; just like you!*

3) light up!

if you are riding anywhere near dusk or dawn, wear [a few] lights. blake & i each ride with 5+ lights whenever it is dark out. we might look like lite-brites, but at least we are safe & visible.
you should ALWAYS have a bright white front light, and 2-3 back [blinking] red lights. we also have clip-on spoke lights that flash as our tires spinn. the more well-lit you are [on trails or the road], the more visible you are. and that is never a bad thing!

4) pack a first aid kit.

a few weeks ago, i posted about how to create a first-aid kit for your bike bag. my kit is made for longer distances, but if you are just riding for 20-30 minutes, you should have a mini-version. falls, scrapes & flat tires can happen, no matter how close [or far] from home.

5) maps, tire tubes & bottles of water
living in portland & minneapolis, i am spoiled [they are the top two biking cities in the nation!]. we have tons of trails [hundreds of miles!!] to navigate. purchasing an in-depth map has been a life-saver for us. if you live in a smaller town, purchasing a map may not be possible.

also, if you are looking to bike to work, or longer rides on the weekend, look into taking a class [ours are offered [free] at REI, the local co-op & community ed] to learn basic bike maintenance skills [changing a tire, lubing a chain, ect]. learning a few basic skills will save you LOTS of money down the road [both in bike repair cost & parts]

and, if you planning on riding for 20-30+ min, i suggest you bring a bottle of water. wind wipes away sweat, so its hard to notice how much water your body is losing. its a great idea [with ANY workout!] to keep yourself properly hydrated.

6) be calm!
i know a lot of folks think that 'getting a bike' means 'having to ride on high-traffic streets'. if you NEED to ride on the road, take side streets ; they are always less traveled. know that YOU have every right to be on the road, just like drivers. stay calm & focused. TURN YOUR MUSIC OFF! and be aware of where the cars are.

TRUE STORY : last summer // fall, i was biking home from work. my route is 95% trail, but before i can get on the trail, i have to cross a busy highway [with a stop light]. i use to ride on the road to cross [since its against the law to ride on the sidewalk]. its only a block or two on the street & i move pretty fast. well, as i was riding, a car at the intersection called me a *****[mean name!] & threw a can of pop at me. the can missed me, but my little feelings were SO hurt.
in my head, biking to work is a good thing to do. it saves the planet, its good for my brain & body, and i LIKE doing it. i couldnt understand how this jerk guy could be so against biking.

the moral of this long story is to BE confident. if someone honks or yells, DONT fight back. no giving the finger or saying insulting things. its not work the risk.

what do you think?
do you have a bike? want to get one?
what questions do you have?
[can i ask you anymore questions?]

i will be back next week with a list of gear that everybody should have when riding!
be safe, everybody!