While a bike is one of the most efficient (and fun!) ways to navigate around your hometown, it’s definitely more than a little intimidating to get started with city biking. Once you give it a try though, I think you’ll find it more than worth the initial challenge!
This is a guest blog post from Deborah, a Po Campo brand ambassador in Washington D.C.
Some tips for getting started with how to bike in a city:
Plan your route ahead of time
Google offers bike routes on its map features which are different from walking or driving directions because they take into account which streets have bike lanes. These routes might add a little extra time than if you just went from Point A to Point B, but they will give you a safer and easier ride, which is great no matter where you are in starting your bike journey. Once you know your bike lines a little better you can start experimenting or planning your own routes, but following a bike route is always a great choice.
Test ride on a weekend
Say you have a specific city ride in mind, such as commuting from your home to work. Once you’ve mapped it out it’s a good idea to test it on the weekend or another time when you know it will be lower traffic/volume out on the road. Bring a friend and make your test ride a fun time to get to know your route so you can tackle it confidently come the workweek.
Go on a group ride
Most bike shops offer group rides throughout the week in the evening as well as on weekends. Some start in the city and head out onto bike trails, others are in the city the whole time. With fun themes (I’ve been on rides to libraries, breweries, local murals, gardens and monuments to name a few) and group leaders looking out for you a group ride is a perfect way to experience city riding without any of the responsibility of plotting your own course. And you get to meet other cyclists along the way.
Make friends with other people who bike. And bike with them!
I’m sure you already have friends who bike but you might not think to “bikepool” with them to and from events. Asking a friend who’s more experienced at riding to join you when you go out to dinner together or to a movie is a great way to get more confident at city biking.
Keep a bike repair kit handy (or a list of your closest bike shops)
You’re probably going to get a flat while out riding in a city full of potholes. So it’s a good idea to have a portable kit to help you take care of that issue when it arises (and to know how to use it!) A good reference for putting a bike repair kit together can be found here: http://thesweethome.com/reviews/best-bike-patch-kit/ If you are caught without your kit, or feel nervous about repairing your bike on your own, you can also take your bike to the nearest shop – either put it on a bus, in an UBER XL or you can carry it if your shop is close enough. Just don’t ride on your flat and risk messing up your wheel.
This is easily the most important tip. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Don’t assume drivers see you and always obey traffic signals when crossing streets. If you’re biking at night make sure you have lights on both the front and back of your bike. Wear something colorful or reflective. Add a bell and use it announce you are nearby to pedestrians who wander in to the bike line.
Enjoy yourself :)
Biking is a great way to explore your city. Take your time getting to know the streets in your city and the traffic patterns. The more your ride, the more confident you’ll feel!
Deborah Heller is a cyclist based in Washington DC and a Seattle native. In addition to biking everywhere she enjoys captaining her bocce team, reading, and visiting National Park Sites.