Tips For Urban Bikers

Quite a few people I know are getting inspired to park their cars and bike.  I am thrilled. More bikes means less cars.  Less cars means less dependency on oil.

Less dependency means prices go down. Of course when oil prices go down that means more people will start driving but I’m willing to bet that some bikers, like us, will fall in love with it and go bike only.

Biking communities are healthier and higher quality.  Residents are happier and more satisfied.  There is less traffic congestion and road rage.  Bikers are more aware of their communities and therefore more apt to be involved.  Without having to pay for vehicle upkeep, gas and insurance they have more disposable income.  Urban biking is a win win situation for everyone.

Despite all this, I wasn’t always this thrilled with it. The first few weeks my butt ached, I always had black grease stains on my right leg and I went thru a bike tube a week. At $8 a pop we wondered how we were saving. Then we started learning tips from other full time bikers and things got much easier.  Now I love riding my bike so much I usually turn down offers for car rides.

It was knowing how to do it that made all the difference.  Each little tip made the whole thing easier and more enjoyable until we got to where we are now: loving the ride.  Here’s our top five most helpful tips for successful urban biking.

1. Dress smart. Has anyone ever told you not to bike in flip flops?  I scoffed at that advice until I lost my big toe nail to an accident. I also refused to wear long pants… until I skidded across a rainy sidewalk on my hands and knees.  I still have the scars to remind me.  I learned quickly that a lot of pain can be avoided by simply dressing sensibly. When I purchase new clothes I think of how it will hold up on a bike.  Skinny leg jeans don’t catch in the chain and dark colors don’t show grease.  Dress for success has a whole new meaning for me now.

2. Light things up. Originally I refused bike lights. I would slice thru the darkness like a silent shadow and I loved the feeling of anonymity it gave.  Then I hit a log that had found it’s way across the sidewalk and almost launched over the handlebars.  I bought lights then but let the batteries run out causing the aforementioned accident that claimed my big toe nail.  I learned that, unless you’re a ninja, lights are good.

3. Prepare to pack. If you only bike you will find yourself  carrying things at some point. I always wear a backpack and have a basket and bungee cord on the back.  Today I carried back a 12 pound ham, a large jar of peanut butter, a box of powdered milk and some sport things for my husband. That was a light day.  I’ve carried 20 pound bags of cat food, gallons of milk, bags of potatoes… for big shopping trips we use a kid’s bike wagon we bought for $20 from a garage sale.

4. Rain happens. I used to dread downpours.  I knew enough to keep a plastic poncho in my back pack and a zip lock baggy for my phone, camera and Kindle.  What I couldn’t figure it is how to keep the rain from blinding me.  A friend and long time urban biker told me to keep a baseball cap with my rain gear.  The big bill keeps your eyes dry.  I also learned to bring my clothes for work and change there if the weather’s bad.  My last discovery was Frog Togs – awesome, breathable and waterproof. Rain happens, but it doesn’t have to ruin your day.

5. Don’t skip the maintenance. One of my worst crashes was caused by my bike light going out.  I knew the battery was going dead but I was too busy to put in a fresh one. When I lay tangled and bleeding in a gutter at 4 am I really regretted not taking 5 minutes to change batteries. Chains need to be lubricated and replaced or they ruin gears.  Tires need to be properly inflated or they wear faster.  If your bike is your transportation it needs to be cared for.  We cleared out a living room couch so the bikes can be stored dry inside.  We also do regular checks for tire pressure and keep the more expensive puncture proof tubes in.

I encourage everyone who can to start riding your bike more.  In the last six months I’ve gotten in better shape than I ever have been.  I’ve gone from being a size 16 to a size 10 while eating cheesecake and Baby Ruths everyday. That fact alone is enough to keep me pedaling.

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith publishes fiction and nonfiction books across multiple genres and she has been included in various anthologies, newspapers and online publications. In the past she has served as a host for JournalJabber online radio talk show and has been interviewed on National Public Radio for her nonfiction work.
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