Getting in Gear
Have you ever felt like you were being held captive by your car? Forced to drive to work each day and run errands, and filling up much too often to get it all done? But it doesn’t just stop there. What about the loan payments? Then there’s the mechanic. And don’t forget about paying for parking anytime you try to park downtown. You start to think to yourself, “There has to be a better option.”
Think Pedal Power
Maybe the thought never crossed your mind, or you’ve just dismissed bicyclists as health nuts, but did it occur to you that they’re saving money? I’m sure this isn’t news to you: riding a bike costs less than driving your car. But do you realize how much? For a quick estimate of how much you can save per trip, check out the Bike Commute Calculator at the Bike to Work Day website. The site posits that the average driver spends$9,641 per year on car related expenses, and that’s just one year. Imagine if you could save that; it would be like getting a pretty hefty raise. You could even purchase a Mustang pool table. Well, almost.
But let’s remove our heads from the clouds and get real. You probably aren’t going to get rid of your car altogether, or turn it into a pool table. But, you still stand to save a significant amount by riding your bike as much as possible. The time you spend riding will amount to less wear put on your car, helping it to last longer. Your insurance rates may also change for the better if you cut your daily commute out of your driving habits. Some organizations even offer a cash bonus as an incentive. For example, the League of Michigan Bicyclists offers up to $20 per month… not much, but it’s certainly better than nothing.
If you’re not willing to go hardcore with a new bike, do what I’d do: Check Craigslist and garage sales.
And saving money is only the beginning. What if I said you could get in shape? Reduce your carbon footprint? Cure cancer? Well, that last one there is more of a guess, but you catch my drift.
Planning Your Route
Before you get wrapped up in picking out a bike, consider what you’ll be using it for. If you plan on commuting, plot out a route.The League of Michigan Bicyclists had a nice pamphlet targeted toward someone new to the prospect of biking to work. The best route is, of course, a safe one. The League warns against riding on sidewalks, a dangerous practice because it puts bicyclists out of the sights and minds of drivers. Look for a route on roads with less traffic, wide right lanes, and paved shoulders or bike lanes.
A test ride on a day off can give you some valuable insight. However you may need a bike for that…
Picking THE Bike
If you’re lucky, you may have a bike on hand that should serve your transportation needs. Think about the places you’ll be going and the terrain you’ll be covering. Also, consider distance; if you aren’t going to travel more than a mile or two, the style of bike won’t be a huge factor. Still got that Schwinn of your youth on hand? Go ahead, have a ball.
Don’t despair if you don’t think you could make the trip twice in one day. You may be able to ride in the morning and use public transportation to get home when time isn’t as much of an issue.
However, once time starts to become a factor, and you have multiple miles to cover, you may want something with a number of speeds and better riding position. A road bike with the drop handlebars can help. It isn’t just for the Tour de France, the design of these bikes is meant to get you were you want as quickly as possible. You’ll notice the difference.
There’s also the “hybrid” style bike for someone who would rather have a more upright position. These bikes may not be as speedy, but they do offer a little more stability and still offer the speeds to get you up a modest hill.
For the more uneven terrain, there’s always the mountain bike. Like the hybrid, it has an upright riding position but with wider tires to take on dirt, gravel, and maybe even some potholes. The ample speeds available on one of these will come in handy for someone looking to tackle some large hills on their route.
If you’re not willing to go hardcore with a new bike, do what I’d do: Check Craigslist and garage sales. When getting a used bike, be sure to give it a test ride. Aim for a bike that was built for someone your size. This means you should at least be able to stand flat on your feet over the main crossbar. For more detailed info, the manufacturer’s website and online forums could give you the specific weight/height class.
Making the Route Work
Once you have a bike and a route in mind, be sure to take a practice run before you depend on it to get you to work. Take a mental note of any trouble spots. Are there any hills you had trouble with? Any spots with more traffic than you’re comfortable with? Fine tune your route to work for you. When the ride is over, think about your level of energy. Don’t despair if you don’t think you could make the trip twice in one day. You may be able to ride in the morning and use public transportation to get home when time isn’t as much of an issue.
So go out there and get those pedals pumping. You’ll be glad you did. And come back next week for some additional tips for carrying gear on your bike.
League of Michigan Bicyclists."League of Michigan Bicyclists." Bicycling 101.League of Michigan Bicyclists, n.d. Web. 30 May 2013.
Tirelesstraveler. "Save Money By Bicycle Riding." HubPages.N.p., 10 Oct. 2012. Web. 30 May 2013.