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Swapping Your Car for a Bike - A Beginners Guide

Cycling in the city may seem intimidating at first, but once you try, you will not want to go back to public transport. Why spend money on spin classes if you can save your dollars and get in shape on the daily? 

Opting for the bike lane

Commuting on a bike is good for your health, your wallet and even for the planet. And you will never be late for work because of train delays or traffic. 

Unfortunately, a car-centric culture prevails and not many American cities are as cycle-friendly as Copenhagen or Amsterdam. However, there is an increasing number of bike lanes springing up all across the country; in 2017, New York City had 1,333 miles, compared to 513 miles in 2006. 

Atlanta, Chicago and Baltimore all have exciting initiatives in place to push cycling forward, and Fort Collins, CO; Wausau, WI; and Boulder, CO are already confirmed cycling heavens

This trend is proof that both the public and the authorities increasingly put their hopes in cycling as a remedy for many of modern society’s ailments, such as congestion and obesity

Getting started on your bike

For many of us, learning to cycle is one of our most cherished childhood memories. Regaining your independence as a cycling commuter can be just as exhilarating! To thoroughly enjoy this experience, you have to be well prepared, but there is no point in spending a fortune on a new bike. Focus on road rules, safety equipment and slowly easing yourself into navigating traffic. 

If your commute is long and leads through busy streets, do a few practice runs at shorter distances outside of rush hour.

Safety first: a bicycle commuter checklist 

HELMET

Although not obligatory in all states, it is always a good idea to wear one. (Airbag collars are an increasingly popular alternative.) 

LIGHTS 

Even if you are not planning on cycling in the dark, equip your bike with lights. Better safe than sorry! White for the front; red for the back. 

HIGH-VIS 

They might not be the latest fashion trend, but adding a touch of high-vis to your cycling outfit is another way to increase your safety. 

LAWS

Cycling rules vary from state to state and include regulations for cycling on the sidewalks, wearing a helmet, and, most importantly, abiding by traffic laws. Before taking to the streets, check your state bike laws.  

SKILLS

In terms of skill, urban cycling is as demanding as driving a car in rush hour traffic and racing in the Tour de France combined. It takes time to learn how to navigate the streets on two wheels. You can take a course or at least hunt for advice online to ask more experienced cyclists. 

SERVICE

Like your car, your bicycle has to be roadworthy. A good mechanic should service it at least once a year. (Although you should at least learn how to fix a puncture yourself.)

LOCK 

If your bike has to be parked on the street while you are at work, be sure to spend money on a good lock. In most cities, a d-lock and cables are a must. 

OUTFIT 

If your commute is longer than a couple of miles, you will most likely need to change your clothes, especially in winter. Two approaches seem to dominate the cycling fashion: the latest technical gear vs. old gym sweats mixed with an even older skiing jacket. 

As long as you follow similar layering principles applied to your backcountry adventures, you will stay comfortable and dry. Pro Tip: in colder months, never forget your gloves!

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