Myth #1: Biking requires too much gear.
Reality: The basic necessities for cycling are just you, a bike and a helmet. While other gear is nice to have, it can come later. Just get on a bike and go.
Myth #2: It's costly to buy a bike and cycling gear.
Reality: Maybe, but it's far cheaper than buying and operating a car. Per a 2013 AAA study, a car costs an average of $9,122 per year to operate (based on 15,000 miles). Bikes, on the other hand, don't need gas and are free to park. They have fewer components and require less-expensive maintenance.
Myth #3: Only expensive bikes are any good.
Reality: While pricey bikes can be "nicer" to ride, almost any bike in good working condition can get you to where you want to go. It may take you longer or not have gears for uphills, but you will get there.
Myth #4: Biking takes too much time.
Reality: It usually requires extra planning and riding time, but, depending on the distance and traffic, it might actually take less time to bike than it does to drive. Plus, you burn calories and can run errands while you ride.
Myth #5: Bicycling is too dangerous.
Reality: Most cyclists ride for many years without mishap. Acting like a driver, being predictable, wearing bright clothing, being aware of your surroundings, anticipating driver behavior, making eye contact with drivers, having hands ready on brakes, watching for car doors opening, following traffic rules and claiming your lane will help improve your safety. For details, see the REI Expert Advice article, Riding Your Bike in Traffic.
Myth #6: Bike seats are uncomfortable.
Reality: Bikes usually come with a generic, unisex saddle. If yours feels uncomfortable, try upgrading to one with gel padding or one that's gender specific. Bike seats also come in different sizes and shapes, such as cutaway models. For details, see the REI Expert Advice article, Bike Saddles: How to Choose.
Myth #7: I'm clueless about how to maintain my bike.
Reality: That's OK; it's easy to learn the basics. Sign up for a class at your local REI store or take advantage of our online how-to videos and articles. Or, if bike-maintenance is really not your thing, there's no shame in taking your ride to your REI Bike Shop for a professional tune-up or repair.
Myth #8: I'm too out of shape to ride.
Reality: Riding your bike will help you get back into shape. In the beginning, don't be afraid to stop and walk—especially on a hill. The more you bike, the easier it will get. Of course, if you have a serious health condition, check with your doctor before riding.
Myth #9: You can't carry much stuff on a bike.
Reality: You'd be surprised how many groceries or work items you can bring on a bike. Start by wearing a daypack or messenger bag, or add a rack and carry your things in panniers or attachable bags. For even bigger loads, consider a bike trailer.
Myth #10: It's too far for me to commute to work.
Reality: You can always ride just part of the way or only one way. Drive to a different starting point to reduce the distance. Catch a ride to work with someone and bike home. Or take the bus—most have a rack in front for bicycles.
Myth #11: I'll get sweaty.
Reality: Sometimes this can be difficult to avoid, but you can always just ride casually to avoid too much exertion. If possible, ride in the morning when it's cooler. Remember, when you're cycling you will usually catch a breeze to help cool off.
Myth #12: My work clothes will get wrinkled.
Reality: If you decide to ride to work, pack along work clothes with fabrics that are less prone to wrinkles when packed, or use packing folders and cubes to reduce wrinkles. On those days when you're driving or going by bus, bring clothes for your bike-riding days so you don't have to carry them when you ride.
A bike that is in shape makes the ride much more enjoyable. If your bike hasn't been used in a long time or you've noticed a specific problem, take it to your local REI Bike Shop or independent bike shop for a tune-up. If you want to do the tune-up yourself, read our Expert Advice article on bike maintenance, take a class or get a book that teaches the basics of bike maintenance.
Before taking your bike out for a spin, make sure it's comfortable, safe and ready to go. Our video demonstrates some of the pointers explained below:
A helmet can only work if you wear it. In fact, helmets are 85%-88% effective in preventing head and brain injuries. (Source: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, www.nhtsa.gov.) Also, some state or local laws require a helmet, and you could even get a ticket if you don't wear one.
Tip: For your state and selected international info, visit the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute's Web site, www.helmets.org/mandator.htm.
It's also important to have it fit properly. Heads come in different sizes and so do helmets, so get the right size. For tip on adjusting the fit, watch our helmet-fitting video above.
Here are the basic steps:
In the United States, helmets must meet the standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC). A CSPC label may be found inside the helmet or on the packaging.
Tip: For children, don't buy a helmet "to grow into." Get one that fits right for proper protection.
It may be a no-brainer on which route you want to take, but if you're not sure:
Ask a fellow cyclist: If there is a friend or coworker who already bikes to work, talk to him or her. Contact a local biking club or bike shop. Sometimes they will have local insights you can't find online.
Go online: Check the websites of local biking clubs, city transportation departments or your state's Department of Transportation. Message boards can be helpful, too. Ones in your area can assist you with routes or answer questions you might have.
When selecting your route, consider road construction, heavy traffic, crime problem areas, dogs, hills and whether or not the streets have a bike lane or shoulder.
Tip: Try Google's directions at maps.google.com, zoom into your area then type your start and end address. Click and drag on it to change routes. You get a route and mileage totals, too.
To ride a bike, you just need to know how to pedal, steer and stop. Get reacquainted the fundamentals of controlling your momentum. Remember to always follow the rules of the road and be aware of your surroundings.
If it has been a while since you last saddled up, here are a few tips for your first time out:
Tip: Keep the pedals in a horizontal position when braking. This helps provide more braking power and keeps your feet away from any road hazards.
Tip: Find a friend or coworker who can be a mentor. Or consider a basic road biking class with the REI Outdoor School.
Shifting at the optimum times will make your ride easier. You don't want to be pedaling in a high gear when going uphill; you'll be exhausted. You want to use a lower gear so you aren't pushing on the pedals so hard.
You'll also have more fun when cruising on the downhill in a high gear at a fast speed. The easier it is to pedal, the more you can shift up. Or, you can take the downhill slowly and pump the brakes to decease speed.
Whatever gear combination you're using, try to keep the chain so it is not being stretched diagonally. For instance, avoid being on a high chainring and first gear (as shown in this top-view illustration). This approach encourages a longer chainring life.
If you have a bike computer on your bike, you can check the cadence (the number of times your pedals go around per minute). The most efficient cadence, or pedaling rate, is between 70 to 90 revolutions per minute.
Maybe you're one of the lucky ones who have a designated bike path to use or a marked bike lane. But at some time or some place, you'll probably have to ride in traffic.
It's really not that scary. In general, bicyclists follow the same rules of the road as car drivers. Just pretend you're driving your car instead of your bike. In this way, drivers know what to expect, and it's safer for everyone. Riding guidelines:
Tip: Just because you're on a bike, doesn't mean you can't be cited for a traffic violation. Follow the rules of the road.
This is a common discussion among cyclists, especially those of us who ride only occasionally. Our thoughts:
You want to see and be seen when visibility is poor:
In wet or cold weather:
If you're just riding to the park-and-ride, look for a secure way to store your bike there after you hop a bus or do a carpool or vanpool. Some transit facilities have lockers for this purpose.
No matter where you ride, it's a good idea to secure your bike.
OK, you've taken a few short rides, and now you're ready for more. This is the time to start thinking about a few of the extras that will make your rides more comfortable. For a printer-friendly version of this, go to our Basic Bike Checklist.
Unless you're just riding around the block, you should always carry these items.
Tip: If purchasing a spare tube, make sure you choose a compatible size. Tire/tube size information can be found on the sidewall of most tires.
Bring some or all of these based on your needs.
For casual rides or short commutes, you may want to just wear your casual/work clothes. For longer rides or commutes, wear more traditional cycling gear for greater riding comfort. You can always change at your workplace or destination if necessary.
Recommendations in approximate order of usefulness:
Recommendations in approximate order of need:
This depends on your personal preferences and how much you want to take with you:
Cleaning Up: If you're fortunate enough to have showers at your workplace, you have it easy. If not, you're not completely out of luck. Try these suggestions:
Q: Is a more expensive helmet safer?
A: No, all helmets must meet CSPC standards. Helmets increase in price for comfort or performance features such as more vents or less weight.
Q: What should I do if it rains?
A: You don't have to bike that day, or you can dress in cycling rain gear and still ride comfortably.
Q: What if there are no showers at my work?
A: If you can, ride to work at a casual pace so you don't get too sweaty. You can ride home at a faster pace for a better workout. Some people don't shower, others find a nearby gym.
Q: What's the best way to carry groceries or work home?
A: There are many types of gear-carrying solutions for bikes, ranging from daypacks to panniers. For carrying kids, dogs or really big gear loads, consider a bike trailer.
Q: Where can I learn about bicycle repair?
By Linda Ellingsen
Read Author Bio
Last updated: 10/07/2013
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