As the weather is heating up and Amber and I just purchased new bikes, I decided to re-post some of my blogs regarding the “sport” of recreational cycling. I originally posted this in May of 2006 when I was riding my bike to work and back on a pretty regular basis. Enjoy!
Now that it’s getting warmer, I’ve been spending a lot more time on my bike. There are a few reasons for this:
- It’s a lot of fun.
- It’s good exercise.
- (And probably the most important) Amber and I now only have one car to help cut down on pollution and to save money, so I’ve been riding my bike while she has the car to get to work and back.
First off, when I say “bike” I don’t mean the Harley or even the moped … I mean the Trek bicycle. That’s right … I’m nowhere near cool enough to own or ride a motorcycle. I’m sure I lost a few of you right there in the shock of all that, but it’s true.
I think most people who (like me) are far too slow to reasonably ride in traffic (I have trouble traveling over 20 mph, and going up hills I’m lucky to keep a steady 10) would say that they hate riding anywhere near cars.
Seriously … all you crazy drivers out there take head: be nice to the friendly loser riding his or her bike on the sidewalk because they can’t keep up with traffic.
In fact, I try my hardest to find “alternate” routes to get places that don’t require me to be anywhere near traffic at all. Paths, “greenbelts”, and parks are great for this, but the hard part is that there are very few connections between the different areas. Thus, the biker is forced to enter the path of traffic at one point or another during their journeys.
Here are some rules I follow while riding in or around traffic:
- Pretend the cars don’t exist. That’s right … turn up the ‘ol iPod and cruise like there aren’t any cars, stop-lights, or tomorrows. This may not be terribly safe but it gives those stuck-up jerks driving cars the finger without really giving them the finger (which is better, I think). It’s basically saying, “Yeah, I’m far too important and happy riding my bike to notice you and your big car. Two tons … yawn … big deal.”
- Don’t take crap from the cars. If you come to an intersection where you have the right-of-way and a car is going anyway, just go. Sometimes you have to take one for the biking team to keep our way of transportation respectable. If you bow out of every challenge (even against a large SUV), you are doing a disservice to yourself and the entire biking community. We’ll all send you get-well-soon cards while you’re in the hospital getting ready for your next ride.
- Pretend the traffic rules don’t apply to you because they don’t (at least they shouldn’t … you’re on a bike not in a car, right?) Run stop signs, red-lights (including the little stop hand thing), and cross in the middle of the road away from cross-walks when it’s convenient and/or necessary (based on your personal judgment; take your pick). When you’re on your bike, you have the advantage of owning both the sidewalk and the road (kind of like a new driver, but perpetually) so use that to your benefit. That will show those SUV driving gas-hoarders that their “fast” and “convenient” travel is vastly below our form of transportation!
- Finally, anticipate your stops. If you are going to pull up to a curb and actually wait for the light to change in your favor, be sure to shift into a lower gear so that you don’t look like a pathetically weak fool starting out when the light does change and you can go. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked like a total loser and weakling because I forgot to shift down to an easier gear before I came to a stop. I think most of you know what I’m talking about … you sort of wobble a bit while your legs are struggling to get some momentum going. Granted, eventually you get going and you’re fine, but those five to ten seconds of monumental struggle make us all look bad. And, if you try to correct yourself by shifting as soon as you start peddling, it’s even worse (I’m sure you all know why, so I’m going to leave it at that).
That’s all for now! Hopefully these tips increase your skill and knowledge of our beloved hobby (or requirement, as the case may be).