With the rising price of gas, diesel and other fuels, many people are now turning to biking as a good way of getting around their local area and even getting to work. Many workplaces are jumping on the bandwagon and offering incentives to their employees who are willing to give up the car even a few days per week and either bike or take public transit into the office.
Of course, many people have fallen out of the habit of biking and, may have never even considered jumping on their bike to go to work or school. There are quite a few mistakes that people are likely to make when first starting out, such as purchasing a bike that doesn’t suit their needs or spending way too much.
While many bikes sold for sport, such mountain bikes are not really suitable for road biking in most cities. They tend to lack the amenities that are taken for granted with getting a bike in Europe. Commuter bicycles are made with softer, rounded tires that are suited for hugging roads rather than hilltops. They are also usually equipped with bells, lights, kickstands, baskets, a chain guard and fenders.
Making sure your bike isn’t stolen is also very important. Cars may come with locks, but it’s up to you to keep your ride safe when you’re out on biking trips. Though it is far more common now to see racks to chain your bike to than it was even a few years ago, many places are more interested in creating parking spots for cars.
Assuming you can find a reasonably safe place, be sure you invest in a good lock. While there will still be a few determined people that can get through the best locks, if you can’t take your bike in with you somewhere, you can at least be reasonably certain that most people won’t bother a bike locked up in plain sight.
Commuter Biking and Your Road Rules
Learning the rules of the road are also part of safe commuter biking. While you certainly are entitled to a whole lane, and you don’t have to cling to the side whenever a car comes up behind you, it is also required that you signal and ride on the street. Sidewalks are actually more dangerous places for bikes, especially now that more and more people are out walking. You may not ride your bike when drunk, either.
While this hasn’t been very safe in recent years, many municipalities are putting in bike trails and bike lanes that make it much safer to get around, though it is still very important road biking not claim your life. It’s still more dangerous to get in a car and drive around, but you should always be on the lookout for low-traffic routes. While they may not be the shortest route between points, such side street biking adventures are far safer and nicer to enjoy.
In some cities you’ll need to have a helmet. It’s also often required and always a good idea to have lights. This should include a flashing LED lamp that you can clip to what ever is on your back end and most visible. You will probably want to invest in a lamp that will actually light the way for you, especially if you live in a suburban area with less light density.
Biking is not only a great way to save money on your transport, but you can also chuck your membership to the gym. When you get in the habit of making regular biking trips to work and entertainment, you’ll be getting a good workout in, too. You’ll have a chance to enjoy the seasons, especially if you invest in some good clothes to keep inclement weather off. An old biking maxim in milder parts of the country is, “there’s no bad weather, just bad clothes.” Both wool and synthetics are appropriate.
Bike maintenance involves keeping the chain lubricated and dealing with the occasional flat tire. With all the money you’ll be saving on gas, auto maintenance and insurance, you’ll be able to pay someone in your local area a modest fee to do the maintenance for you on a regular schedule.
Many people combine a bus pass with biking when they decide to give up the car. However, you don’t have to give up your car to enjoy the considerable savings that using a bike can offer you when the price of gas closes in on $5/gal ($1.30/L).
Biking is also a good choice for families that want to get out and get some exercise in the neighborhood. You can use this as an excuse to patronize the local economy, visiting nearby restaurants and getting groceries from the local co-op or farmers’ market.
Other related modes of transport include skateboarding, ride sharing, car sharing and using highly efficient vehicles. Scooters, motorcycles and hyper-efficient smart cars are all becoming increasingly popular options for saving on transport costs. But, few are as elegant and problem-free as the biking.