Five Things to Know Before Bicycling

Bicycle being repaired in Portland, Ore.1. Get Your Bicycle Checked Out

Before you head out on a ride, check the ABCs: Air in the tires, Brakes that stop the bicycle, Chain and cranks in place, and wheels firmly attached to the frame. If you haven't ridden this bicycle in a while, take your bicycle to your local bicycle shop and get a tune-up. Your bike is a wonderfully simple and efficient machine, but needs some TLC—and you don't want to break down your first time out. Most bike dealers have specials to check the essentials (brakes, gears, tires, etc.) and squirt oil in all the right places.

2. Get Yourself Checked Out

If you really haven't ridden in a long time, it might be wise to check in with your doctor and see if there's any reason you shouldn't be saddling up and going for a spin. Bicycling is such a great way to get the recommended daily dose of exercise that chances are your doctor will encourage you to go for it. Don't try and ride 50 miles straight away; take it slowly and you'll enjoy the ride and still be able to walk again the next day.

3. Deck Yourself Out with the Latest Gear

Simplicity is certainly one of the attractions of bicycling—you can just hop on your bike and start riding. But, there's also a lot of equipment available to make your ride safer and more comfortable. Things have come a long way since the days of the wool cycling shorts... for example:

  • A wide variety of helmets are available in different styles and price ranges. Your local bike dealer will help you get the right size and fit.
  • A sturdy lock is essential if you're planning on riding your bike and leaving it somewhere for awhile.
  • Front and rear lights and reflectors are required, and make good sense, if you're going to be riding at night or during dusk.
  • Padded shorts, gloves, and other special clothing will make longer rides more comfortable, but probably aren't necessary for riding to the grocery store and back.

4. Find a Safe Place to Practice

Again, if you really haven't ridden in a long time, it makes sense to regain your confidence on the bike and practice somewhere safe as opposed to on the main road to work. Find a quiet street, trail, playground, or empty parking lot and get back in touch with your bike handling skills. Practice looking behind you, making turns, stopping suddenly, dodging rocks or potholes, changing gears, and even getting on and off. If you are using toe clips or clipless pedals, take a few extra minutes to remind yourself how to get your feet out in a hurry!

5. Have Fun

Bicycling is fun, healthy, safe, convenient, and by riding you are setting a great example for others. So above all have a great time riding. Communities across the United States celebrate National Bike Month and other bicycle-related events and activities, so find out what's going on in your community, and have a great ride.