Why Now is The Right Time to Start Cycling
7 Tips For A Smooth Ride
"I took up cycling during the COVID-19 restrictions as my gym closed and running started impacting my knees,” says Shaun, a digital marketer and BioLite user. “Cycling was a revelation not only to my joints, but for my mental health. I felt free despite the lockdown and didn't come into contact with anyone."
As billions (yes, billions) of us settle into a new normal of social distancing and couch commutes, we're entering a phase where we're eager to replace old routines with a few new practices that can help us feel more grounded.
May we humbly present: cycling.
It's a great way to bake some movement into your day and helps make your world feel a bit bigger by expanding your daily explorations beyond your block.
Not convinced? Here are three reasons why right now is the perfect time to start cycling:
- Low Impact, High Benefit: Cycling is an aerobic exercise that’s easy on your knees (especially compared to other popular activities like running) and it's accessible for a wide range of experience levels. Whether you’re just starting out or going on a full day ride, it’s a fun way to promote muscle growth, engage your core, and studies show that daily rides can improve heart health.
- Cycling Improves Your Mood. Riding your bike, "increases levels of serotonin and dopamine production in our brains. These are the chemicals that make us feel happy.” This leads to reduced anxiety, lower stress levels, and even increased self esteem. Cycling is a form of self care and who couldn’t use some of that right now?
- Cycling is a Socially Distant Alternative to Public Transit. The thought of getting on a bus or train right now is stressful. Solo biking allows you to keep your distance and get from point a to point b sometimes faster than your bus route all while getting some physical activity in.
The list goes on but there’s no better way to experience the benefits of cycling than getting out there yourself. Before you hit the road, here are 7 tips to have smooth rides during your first couple of months:
1. In the Age of COVID-19, Be a Responsible Cyclist
Safety first is our motto anytime we are cycling but right now, taking extra safety precautions doesn’t just protect you but everyone you ride by. Here are a few recommendations to ensure that everyone on the road is as safe as possible:
- Ride solo. As tempting as it may be to meet up with your friends, ride alone and be conscious of social distancing while riding.
- Yes, you should wear a mask. It isn’t just protecting you but those around you. Whether you wear a Buff pulled up around your face, a homemade bandana mask, or a disposable face mask, here are the CDC’s guidelines to follow.
- Share the road & be patient. 6 feet of distance applies to all of us. Keep your distance from pedestrians and other cyclists. Give yourself extra space when passing and don’t crowd others at stop signs or red lights. When approaching more crowded areas, be patient and let others cross in front of you rather than weaving through crowds.
- Bring everything you need along with you. It won’t be as easy to pop into your local deli, drugstore, or bike shop so pack a lunch or snacks and bring along plenty of water. Be sure to pack hand sanitizer and extra wipes so you can wipe down your bike if you plan to leave it locked somewhere.
- Stay focused on your ride. Don’t bike with headphones in, it limits your senses and awareness of your surroundings. Taking a break from music/headphone stimulation is not just about being safe, it's also good for your brain to unplug from technology for a bit. And please no Instagram Stories or Tik Toks while riding - it’s really unsafe.
- Bike-sharers take extra precaution. If you do opt for a bike sharing option right now, make sure that you have plenty of sanitary wipes to sanitize the bike before your ride. Rather than placing your items in the bike’s basket, pack everything in a pack that’s comfortable to wear on your back.
To keep up on the latest recommendations for outdoor activity, monitor your local guidelines as well as those put out by the CDC.
2. Getting Used to Your Seat Takes Time
It's normal for your butt to feel, well, sore if you don't ride often. As you start out, try cycling a few miles at a time to get comfortable with your bike seat before you head out on an all-day expedition. If you're gearing up for longer rides right away, padded shorts are your friend.
3. Every Cyclist Needs This Safety Combo: Helmet + Light
While many of us take off on rides during the day, it’s important to be prepared for dusk and low light hours. You don’t want to get stranded with no illumination, especially if you're biking to the grocery store where wait times are unpredictable. So that you’re not racing against the sunlight, invest in a reliable front and tail light that allows you to see, but importantly - to be seen. We may be biased, but our Bike Commuter Kit is a great option. It includes a rechargeable HeadLamp for your front light and a PowerLight Mini with included bike mount for your tail light, a sack to keep all supplies in, and a bike cuff to protect your pants from grease. The PowerLight Mini doubles as power packs to charge your phone if you’re ever in a pinch.
And it may seem like a no brainer, but always wear a helmet. A favorite around the BioLite office is the Thousand Heritage helmet - it’s durable, comfortable, and doesn't feel like you have a nerf football on your head.
4. Necessity is the Mother of Gear Selection
Before you go on an expensive shopping spree for new gear, do yourself a favor and take your bike for a test drive. Take a few weeks to live with your bike and see what's missing from your rides. By identifying pain points through experience, you’ll be able to find gear that you actually need and avoid buying unnecessary things.
If you’re looking for recommendations on gear, here’s a round up of some of our favorites:
- Bike: PUBLIC Bikes makes reliable starter bikes that come in both fixed & multi-gear options. They are great for everything from casual riding to commuting and they come in a variety of colorways.
- Bike Lights: Get yourself a reliable set of lights to serve as your front and tail light so you can see and be seen.
- A Helmet: Find a comfortable and durable helmet that fits you best and never go on a bike trip without it. We recommend the Thousand Heritage Helmet.
- Storage: Chrome’s Vega 2.0 Transit Brief is comfortable, sleek, and holds all of your gear easily.
- Footwear: If you're not going to the clip-in route, shoes still matter. While cycling is certainly an athletic endeavor, we don't recommend just throwing on your running shoes: the thick soles of many running shoes can actually make connecting with your pedal feel a bit wonky. Choose a shoe that fits well and has a solid sole that enables you to feel fluid with your pedals. Forsake makes some of our favorite shoes because they are weatherproof, super comfortable, and look great on.
- Apparel: When cycling, moisture wicking materials help control your temperature. Chrome’s Merino Hoodie & Madrona 5 Pocket Pant are perfect for riding and make the transition into street wear easy because you don’t have to change. It’s one less excuse to overcome getting out the door.
- Hydration: Versatile, insulated bottles are our favorite because they can keep your drinks hot or cold. Klean Kanteen's TK Wide bottles are great because with a few attachments they can switch from a water bottle to coffee mug. Remember to bring enough water along with you as many public water fountains are closed and trips to the drugstore aren’t as seamless right now.
5. Learn How to Pump Air & Change a Tire
If you plan on adopting biking as a main mode of transportation, learning to maintain your bike is crucial. First things first, learn your way around an air pump. Learn the differences between a Schrader and a Presta valve and how adapters work.
“Keep spare tubes and tire levers with you in case of flats—and learn how to change a tire by yourself,” says Erin at Public Bikes. “It’s not a bad idea to bring along a miniature pump and a traveling tool kit with a multi-tool and wrench, either. That will allow you to make adjustments and address emergency repairs on the fly.”
Many bike shops overloaded with requests and appointments right now so it’s harder to just pop in for a quick fix. Becoming a self reliant cyclist is now more important than ever, here are 4 ways you can be more prepared for your next ride.
6. Plan Your Route and Backup Route Ahead Of Time
Before you hit the road, use a route planning website (Google or Apple Maps both feature biking directions) or see if your city has downloadable bike lane maps.
It’s wise to plan more than one route to your destination in case one area is feeling too crowded. While planning, keep an eye out for areas that might be higher trafficked with people such as parks or streets that are closed for pedestrians only. Once you’ve found a suitable route(s) learn it, and test it out. Be patient when you’re passing parks or approaching denser areas, let crowds pass before you try to navigate through them. Go slow while maintaining your distance.
If you think you’ll need more support, get an armband and play the route while you go. It’s totally okay to be that person who has Google navigating on speaker while you’re learning.
7. Cars and Buses Always Win. Stay Safe By Being Predictable.
"Now that there are less people driving," says Jessica, a cyclist from Austin. "It’s never been a safer, more peaceful time to ride through the city. Maintaining my physical distance from others due to the coronavirus has meant staying off the pedestrian-only trails, which are often packed with people these days - and sticking to the roads."
Traffic may be lighter right now but being aware of your surroundings is still paramount. The reality of the road is that a 3,000 pound vehicle is always going to win. The best way to protect yourself from bad drivers is, “remain predictable,” says Gregory at Recycle-A-Bike. “Many auto-drivers aren't quite sure how to navigate alongside bicyclists and they need you to be predictable in order to ensure your safety. This means: ride in the same direction as auto-traffic and as far to the right as possible, use hand signals when turning or merging lanes (check behind you before actually turning!), and stay on the road in as straight of a line as possible (don't swerve in and out of parking lanes or on and off of sidewalks).”
To avoid that ever-present fear of getting doored, remain alert and keep an eye out for parked cars turning their tail lights. That's a good sign someone is about to get in or out of their car.
With these tips in mind, you’re well on your way to becoming a daily cyclist. We'd love to hear from you! Inspire fellow BioLiters with your own tips and stories of how cycling is helping you power through right now. Please comment on our latest Instagram post or tag us with your tips or advice.