This isn't a hoop-post, but I think it's still important since so many local hoopers are cyclists! If you're new to city biking, stop right now and check out this video : How to bike in the city (tips for the bicycle curious)
Not all bike riding is a leisurely pedal through the park with Miss Piggy
...sometimes you're in a rush, having a bad day, and just want to be there already
! Sometimes there's a scary bit of traffic that leaves you flustered, primed for more frustrating interactions. Here are some tips for staying calm, collected, and efficient!
7 Tips for Smoother Cycling (without spending any money)
- Drink extra water
. Being hydrated means feeling better and
. Everything else on the road makes sounds - engines, brakes, sirens, pop music flowing from businesses - and so can you! Hum a tune, sing your favourite song, you'll get more oxygen, calm your nerves, and claim your space at the same time.
- Accept the stop lights
. Take the opportunity to pause, to breath, to stretch so that you can be ready to ride hard when the light turns. My view of city riding changed when I realized the stop lights were the universe's way of telling me to take a break! Pausing to observe the intersection will also give you more data for the next time you're zipping past and need to make a quick decision.
- Fill up your tires
. If your tires are low, it's going to take waaaaaaay more energy to get where you're going. Your tires should feel HARD when they are filled to the recommended pressure, written on the sidewall. Any bike shop will lend you a pump, and many have compressed air hoses outside, free to use.
- Minimize distractions.
Any distraction will take your attention away from your ride and may cause problems when you miss turn signals and (auto)body language. The distraction could be waiting for the sound of that important text, being consumed with an upcoming conversation, going over what you should have done in that narrowly-avoided collision, or maybe it's simply feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Whatever it is, take a break and do what you can to steady your focus before getting on the bike, or walk your bike on the sidewalk for a few blocks to get back to the present. Isn't it better to arrive a few minutes late than to arrive flustered, or worse, injured?
- Be a vehicle.
You are a vehicle - so act like it! Ride with car traffic and learn when and how to take the lane. Be visible, day and night. Learn turn signals and use them at every turn until you have the core strength to show them confidently and a habit of showing them consistently. Learn to direct cars to take their right-of-way at 4-way stops so that you can cruise through an empty intersection. Don't ride your bike on the sidewalk, ever
. In the moment it may seem safer, but it's more dangerous
because you're less visible to cars pulling out of drive ways and turning right. You'll also scare the crap out of pedestrians stepping out of stores or walking ahead of you, and it's generally a jerky thing to startle pedestrians.
- Plan your route, and experiment
. The most direct route is not always the best. Going an extra block out of your way to get on a bike path makes the rest of the ride easier, faster, and less stressful. In a grid of one-way streets designed to slow down car traffic, sometimes following the legal direction makes intersections easier to navigate, and sometimes you'll need to ride counter-flow to avoid being shot out onto a busy road with no space for bikes. Read the local bike map for suggested routes, observe traffic flows at intersections, and ask other cyclists about the way they choose.
What did I miss? What helps you ride smoothly and swiftly?