September 1st, 2011 by Zachary Shahan
I write about cool bike stories here a lot, since bicycling is both one the best ways to green your life and is one of the best ways to make your life more relaxing, healthier, and more enjoyable.
But, one of the things I strive for here on Planetsave is finding ways to help people make positive changes in their lives, not just talk about how cool green living is.
So, to help break down the mental barrier to bicycling for transportation purposes, which truly is the biggest barrier for most people, I thought I’d drop a few tips on you. These are things that helped me get started long before I was a bicycle enthusiast.
- If you don’t have a bike, don’t concern yourself with getting the best bike in the world right off the bat, and then put off doing so forever. Getting a decent bike for cheap is fine, and then you can upgrade later when you have a better idea of what your preferences are and what you’d like.
- Go on a bike ride just a little outside your normal range. My “normal range” when I started biking for transportation purposes was based on my experience bicycling as a kid. So, it was just the small neighborhood around me. This is likely the normal range for the large majority of non-transportation bikers. I felt a little like a bird leaving the nest when I finally decided to bike to college, which was basically in my neighborhood, too, and then to work (which was a slow 40-minute bike ride away) — I felt nervous and excited at the same time. I quickly realized how easy bicycling outside my neighborhood was and realized I felt much better bicycling than driving (of course, that didn’t make me stop driving on numerous occasions, for some reason, but that’s a story for another day). Bottom line — just try going out of your normal range a bit, especially for some useful purpose. It is empowering and interesting.
- Bicycling doesn’t need to be a strenuous activity. In the U.S., many bicyclists bike super fast and treat it like a sport. No problem, you can have that approach if you like it. But I don’t think that will ever be an approach that works for the majority of people. I have always been a take-it-easy, enjoy-the-ease-and-ride-of-a-bicycle, and don’t-work-up-a-sweat kind of bicyclist. Bicycling is “the most efficient mode of transport” — it uses less energy per mile than walking. Even in hot and sunny Florida (where I’m from), you don’t have to work up a sweat bicycling (sometimes, that is). It can actually cool you off, as you exert very little energy and get a cool breeze in return. In the Netherlands, where I lived and studied for 5 months or so, everyone bikes the take-it-easy way, and they are probably the leading country in the Western world for bicycling — no coincidence, I would say. The Amish, another bicycle-loving population, also ride in this way (the only bicyclists I would ever pass on my 40-minute rides to work were Amish on big tricycles).
- Go on a bike ride with friends. As with most things, the thing that gets many people (probably most people) to start bicycling is someone they know taking them on a ride, or encouraging them to go on a ride (yes, this is how I got started bicycling for transportation purposes at the age of 19). We are influenced by our friends. Also, bicycling is quite a fun thing to do with friends. Get together with some friends and go on a recreational or utilitarian bike ride… go on a bike ride to the park for a picnic… go on a bike ride to the grocery store or a bike ride to the beach. .. try it out and see where it leads you.
I would bet money that if you tried out these suggestions you would see bicycling in a different light and might even become an avid bicyclists, improving your health and whole life along the way. Ready to go?
If you’ve got more tips, please drop them in the comments below. Would love to hear what others think are some good tips to get started bicycling.
Image via me (Zachary Shahan)
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