You have been adulting for years now. A key indicator of your success is how things you used to do on the reg as a pre-teen are totally alarming to you now. Gone are the days of hurtling down a metal slide face first and going on spontaneous journeys with your 3 best friends to look at a dead body. You have survival instincts now, sharp and honed from years of questionable decisions.
And that’s why you have such magnificent confidence when telling people why you don’t ride bikes anymore. “In this city?” you say, “Everybody I know has been doored or is one pothole away from extinction.”
Are you smart or just scared? We vote for the latter having just tossed ourselves back into the game after a decade+ hiatus. Don’t you want to feel the wind through your hair through your protective helmet? Don’t you want to be free from the tyranny of bus schedules and the limits of your own two feet?
But we feel you. It’s taken a lot of work to keep the bod free of harm for this long and tossing it onto the street to mingle with cars while perched on a vulnerable tube of metal goes against all common sense.
Here are our tips for biking while adult—and living to tell about it.
1. Get the right sized bike. You will only add to your terror if you are teetering around on a bike that’s too big for you. Doesn’t matter if it was the coolest one in the bike shop that day, you should be able to put both feet on the ground and have clearance over the top tube. Getting the right sized bike for the type of riding you’re planning on doing is your TOP PRIORITY.
2. It’s called Google Maps. Scared you’ll go for a jaunty little ride only to realize you’re trapped in the middle of a six corner intersection? Use the internetting skills you’ve honed as a sedentary citizen to rock the hell out of Google Maps before going on a longer ride. Chicago for example lets you look up the safer bike routes to get you to your destination. Or you can go old school and just look at the street view of any questionable parts of your route.
3. Take the side streets. Ain’t no shame in avoiding the busy streets while you’re getting your riding chops back. Often there’s a less traffic-y route if you’re willing to ride a few extra minutes. Bonus: Usually more scenic and shady, too.
4. Slow the F down. If you’re seriously worried about getting doored, don’t go so fast. You’ll have more time to scan parked cars for signs of movement and if someone pops a door open, you’ll have more reaction time to stop. Or just won’t nail it so hard.
5. Learn how to signal properly. OK this one is tough when you’re too wobbly to lift your hands off the handlebars without veering violently off course. That doesn’t mean you are excused from knowing how you should be signaling, so keep on making little awkward half attempts until you get comfortable.
6. Own the beginner’s left. Turning left on your bike is the scariest part of city riding. You’re in the middle of traffic, cars breathing down on you and you better have some giddy up when the light turns green. Avoid this until you’re more comfortable by going pedestrian for a minute, crossing straight at the crosswalk and then crossing again on with the walk signal before moving safely back into traffic. Just respect the hell out of the pedestrians because you’re on their turf now.
7. You’ll get used to the nakedness. Your first day back on the road you will feel like every car is about to hit you and every door is going to open in front of you. Savor that fresh terror because it won’t last long. In a day or two you’ll be cruising around like a pro, blissful and laughing at that scared ass person you used to be.
Oh yah, and GET A HELMET. Yes you will look 10x dorkier than all the unfettered hipsters and bike share riders but inside you know that you are the righteous blend of 12-year old thrill seeker and noggin-respecting adult that they can only dream of.
Got more tips for the bike-fearing adults out there? Share them in the comments.
Photo Credit: CC BY – N.D. 2.0 / Bill Selak