Whether you are going to work or heading to the grocery, among other places, cycling is fun, cheap, and eco-friendly! In the same way, urban biking can be overwhelming and unsafe for new riders. From investing in the right gear to learning the basic techniques, you have a lot of things to learn.
To be a safe and savvy urban rider, you need to know a few bike commuter tips, including those that are listed below. Doing these things will help improve your experience when riding a commuter bike!
10 Bike Commuter Tips for First-Timers
While urban biking is for everyone, it can be scary. It might take a while before you get used to it. The tips listed below will make it easier.
1. Get the Right Bike
While a commuter bike has been a category of its own in recent years, this does not mean that you have to buy a bike that exclusively falls into such a group. The best bike to use for city rides is one that you are most comfortable with, so there are no rules to follow or break!
Generally, however, you need a bike with flat pedals, upright geometry, simple gearing, comfortable seat, and skinny tires. In most cases, a road bike will be more than enough as it is designed for urban biking. It offers a relaxed experience for your daily commute.
While mountain bikes and beach cruisers are good choices, they can be too big for congested streets, and hence, might make it easy to bump into almost anything, including both pedestrians and cars.
Your goal is to choose a bike that is small enough to easily navigate the city, especially if you live in a place with narrow alleys or congested roads. It should be lightweight and user-friendly, which will prevent biking from being a dreaded chore.
2. Check Your Bike
Regardless of the bike that you will pick for your commute, the most important is to do a regular inspection. As much as possible, do it before leaving your house. This way, you can prevent problems once you are on the road. If there is an issue, deal with it before setting off.
As a part of regular bike maintenance, check all parts at least once a month. See to it that everything is in perfect condition. This is crucial for your safety.
More so, before you hit the road for your commute, give your bike a quick once-over. Check the bike tire pressure. See to it that the chain is clean and properly lubricated. Check the brakes to make sure that they are working. Especially if you are commuting at night, do not forget to test the lights.
To get your bike ready for the ride, consider having the tools that you will need in case you encounter a problem on the road. If practical, bring a bike tool kit. However, the latter is often too big and heavy for your daily commute. At the very least, consider having a mini bike pump, which you can conveniently mount on the frame.
3. Gear Up for Your Safety
One of the most important bike commuter tips is to invest in the right safety gear. Even if you will be riding on paved surfaces, you can still be prone to accidents. From being hit by a car to colliding with an inanimate object, such as a pole, there are plenty of risks. To stay safe, below are the most important to have:
- Helmet: A bike helmet is non-negotiable when it comes to your safety gear. It protects your head in case of a crash or collision. Choose a lightweight helmet that comes with strategic vents for proper ventilation.
- Lights: For nighttime or low-light riding, you should never leave without lights on your bike. You can install front or rear bike lights so you do not have to go through the hassle of holding a flashlight as you cycle.
- Bell: Using a bike bell is important when you are commuting, especially on busy roads. You don’t have to shout at the person in front to warn that you are coming. Simply ringing the bell will do the trick.
- First Aid Kit: You’ll never know what can happen on the road. Sometimes, regardless of how careful you are, you can still end up in an accident. Always have a first aid kit ready in your bag.
4. Plan Your Route
Planning will help make your urban biking experience better. This way, you can anticipate the obstacles and prepare how to confront them. This is especially the case if the bike commute will be far.
You will need a map. Go online and use tools like Google Maps to help plan your route better. By simply inputting the origin and destination, the map can automatically plan the best route for you to take. You will also know how long it will take to get to wherever you are going.
By thoroughly planning your direction, you know the most bike-friendly roads you can take. Depending on where you live, bikes are off-limits in certain areas, so you need to know which ones you must avoid.
5. Know the Road Rules
Learning bicycle road rules is one of the crucial bike commuter tips for every beginner. You should be aware of the laws to prevent being in trouble. Most importantly, the rules are present to help keep you safe on your daily commute. Below are some of the most important rules you need to know:
- Go with the flow and follow the direction of the traffic. See to it that you are on the right lane depending on the direction where you are heading.
- Use bike lanes. They are created for a reason, making sure that you do not go head to head with cars and pedestrians.
- Respect the traffic lights. They apply to bikes in the same way that they apply to cars.
- Respect pedestrians, especially when they have the right of way. Use the bike’s bell to warn people that you are coming.
- Yield when you are about to turn, especially when you are in a corner. Even if you are in a hurry, slow down when there are blind spots.
- Check the laws in your city, state, or country. Bike road rules may vary from one place to another.
6. Learn the Hand Signals
Unlike cars, most bikes do not have lights that can signal your intention to others, such as when you are turning left or right. Instead, you will rely on cycling hand signals to warn others about what you intend to do.
Learning how to do and read hand signals is an important skill for urban biking. Aside from staying safe, it allows you to respect others. Below are some of the hand signals you should know:
- Turning Left: Simply point your hand to the left side at least 10 meters before approaching a turn.
- Turning Right: Point your hand to the right at least 10 meters before approaching a turn.
- Stopping: Raise a clenched fist to signal your intention to stop.
- Slowing Down: Open your palms facing the ground and act as if you are patting a dog. This signals an obstruction, and hence, the need to slow down.
- Pothole: Use your index finger to point at the pothole. This warns the rider at the back of an incoming obstruction.
- Move Ahead: Open your hand and signal a forward movement to indicate that the rider at the back should go first.
7. Be a Defensive Biker
Among the many bike commuter tips, one of the most essential is to learn how you can become a defensive rider. When you are defensive, you will always be in control. This also minimizes the likelihood that you will be surprised by what others will do. It is all about riding with suspicion and acting as if everyone will knock you down.
To cycle defensively, you should give yourself enough space. Do not go where it is tight. There should always be room for you to move freely.
You should also know the road rules and hand signals, as indicated above. You do not need to be looking over your shoulders all the time. Learn how to use your hands properly to signal your intention.
As you are anticipating the worst when you are a defensive cyclist, ensure full protection before you leave. The bare minimum safety gear should include a helmet to protect your head. Knee and elbow pads are also good to have for beginners. Although, some people would feel like wearing them can be a hassle. However, it is best to be safe than sorry!
8. Dress Appropriately
There is no right or wrong when it comes to how first-time commuters should dress. At the end of the day, the most important is that you are comfortable with your biking wear.
Mind the weather when you are deciding what to wear. During the summer months, wear something comfortable, such as shorts or clothes made of lightweight and breathable fabrics. In the winter, on the other hand, go for layers and insulation. For winter bike commuting, wear gloves, jackets, pants, and anything else that will make you feel warmer.
If you are commuting on your way to work, you do not need to dress in office attire. Especially if the ride will be long and on a hot day, you will end up sweating. By the time you get to the office, you will look bad. A good practice is to leave clothes in the office so that you can change once you get there.
For a night ride in your commuter bike, wear high-visibility clothing. This way, you can be easily seen by others and you can stay safe on the road!
9. Carry Your Stuff Properly
Whether it is your stuff for the office or things you brought from the grocery store, know how to carry your stuff properly. One mistake most beginners commit is to use a backpack. However, especially when it is heavy, this can put unnecessary strain on your back and can also affect your balance.
Adding a rear rack is one of the wisest things to do if you would like to optimize the available storage space on your bike. Bike baskets can also do the same thing. If you want to protect your stuff from the rain, you can also consider the installation of bike panniers. For the small stuff, handlebar bags can also be promising.
Regardless of how you choose to carry your stuff, watch out for the weight. Do not carry more than what the bike can hold. Otherwise, you will have a hard time riding the bike. To add, excess weight can also be a safety issue.
10. Keep on Practicing
Practice makes perfect, even when it comes to commuting. At first, you might not be confident to head out on the road in your bike because of the fear that you can hit a car or a person or that you may be the one to be hit. The best way to overcome your fear is to ride more often.
Joining a group ride is also a great way for you to practice. Not to mention, it is a great way to meet new friends and expand your network. Especially when you are riding with experienced commuters, you can learn a lot of things from other people.
While you practice, have fun! Bike commuting should not feel like a chore so that you will be motivated to do it often. Make it something that you enjoy doing!
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In sum, urban biking is a great way to save money and do something good for the environment. However, for novices, this can be an intimidating experience, especially if you have to deal with streets crowded by cars and pedestrians. From planning your route to carrying your stuff properly, take note of the bike commuter tips mentioned above to stay safe and sound on the road!