Biking is a great way to get around town, save money on gas, and get some exercise. While you likely learned to ride a bike as a kid, chances are you weren’t commuting across the city to your office job or sharing the road with cars, trucks, and other motorized vehicles. While it can be intimidating at first, a little bit of planning will go a long way and help you ride with confidence. Here’s a quick guide to get you out on the road and enjoying life on two wheels.
Take care of your bike
Just like a car, your bike needs regular maintenance and attention. Ignoring problems will not only cost you more money in the long run, but it could put your safety at risk, too. You can learn how to do most basic bike maintenance yourself, but a local bike shop can also help you out for a reasonable fee if that’s more your speed. At the very least, before hitting the road or trails, you should always:
- check your tire pressure,
- lubricate your chain,
- test your brakes, and
- make sure your wheels are tightly fastened.
Always remember to properly lock up your bike to prevent it from being stolen, too.
Take care of yourself
A properly fitted helmet can save your life, but the goal is always to avoid accidents altogether. The biggest favour you can do for yourself, drivers in motorized vehicles, other cyclists, and pedestrians is to be as visible as possible. This means:
- wearing bright colours,
- having reflectors on your bike and clothes, and
- mounting both front and rear lights.
You’ll also need a loud bell to help communicate with others on the road. This comes in handy, especially when you’re passing parked cars that could swing open a door at any moment. Finally, always look at the weather forecast before leaving home so you can dress appropriately — even when it looks cloudy outside, you’ll likely be thankful for sunscreen and sunglasses.
Know the written and unwritten rules of the road
For the most part, riding a bike in traffic is very similar to driving a car. You still have to signal to change lanes or make a turn, yield to pedestrians, pass on the left, and obey all posted signs. In cities where there are bikes lanes, there may be signs specifically for cyclists, so keep an eye out for those.
You’ll want to ride about one metre from the curb or parked cars. This will give you some space to move around potholes or debris on the road without swerving into traffic. As a general rule, always bike in a straight line and be as predictable as possible for drivers. Bike laws are different across the country, so make yourself a coffee and settle in for some reading to familiarize yourself with local rules.
Plan your route
Unless you want to get stuck struggling up a hill or trapped between city buses, planning your route is the easiest way to take stress out of your ride. You’ll want to find a map of local bike lanes and take advantage of them as much as possible. They’re like a magical yellow brick road of urban cycling (sorry Toto, no dogs allowed in the bike lane). You may also be able to cut through parks that have paths. You’ll slowly learn the best routes in your city that help you avoid traffic, potholes, and hills to keep you feeling safe.
Keep your eyes open
While you likely travel much slower on your bike than you do in your car, you’re also much more vulnerable. You’ll want to keep an eye out for pedestrians crossing the street, cars making turns through bike lanes or pulling out of street parking spots, and other obstacles. In rural areas, roads may not be as well maintained or as clear as they are in bigger cities, so you may have to deal with branches, larger potholes, or gravel. You may also find yourself navigating your way around slow moving farm equipment. Remember to watch out for deer crossings, too! In major cities, keep an eye out for light rail tracks that are notorious for catching cyclists’ wheels.
While spring, fall, and winter can each bring their own set of challenges when it comes to biking, this guide should get you into gear for the dry, warm summer months. Happy pedalling and stay safe!
Did you know you may be able to insure your bike under your home, condo, or tenant insurance policy? Talk to your licensed insurance broker to learn more today.
Share this post on Facebook or Twitter to help other cyclists stay safe this season, too.