With spring officially upon us, millions of urban commuters are beginning to shed their quilted coats and search for excuses to spend more time outside. Commuting to work by bicycle can be a great way to savor the sunshine and jump-start your fitness routine while being eco-friendly. While inexperienced city cyclists might feel intimidated by busy streets and speedy drivers, it is easy to gain confidence quickly while navigating a city on two wheels. After over a decade of riding and working with bicycles in Tampa and NYC, bike mechanic, Max Boyajian is familiar with the challenges cyclists face in crowded areas. He shared a few tips for starting out as a bike commuter.
Stay away from parked cars
Riding too close to parked cars can be dangerous. Many drivers do not check for bikes after they’ve parked, which increases the risk of opening their car doors right into an oncoming cyclist. Cyclists have the right to ride in the center of a lane – cars will naturally pass them when it is safe.
Keep calm with drivers
Even if they are following the rules of the road, city cyclists are bound to get honked at by irritated drivers. Although it is startling at first, they can’t let it rattle them. Cyclists should also avoid provoking drivers unnecessarily. Try not to make them angry, because they’re surrounded by a few tons of steel. "You've got to learn how to be honked at," Boyajian says.
Anticipate weather conditions, and plan accordingly
If you plan on cycling in all weather, you’ll need the proper gear. Waterproof outerwear can protect you from rain. Keep your clothes still professional-looking by installing fenders onto your wheels. "They might look a dumb, but they're better than a strip of mud across your back," Boyajian says.
Be prepared for common problems
Simple multi-use tools are easy to carry, and can help you address minor performance issues on the fly. Cyclists can save money by learning how to change their own air tubes instead of visiting a bike shop to repair every flat. Keeping your tires fully inflated will also help your bike ride as smoothly as possible, which many people forget if they haven’t ridden recently. If a bike hasn’t been used through the winter, the tires will need air. If you don’t own your own pump, almost every bike shop has free air available to allow passing cyclists to fill up their tires.
Don't get sweaty
"Bringing a backpack with a change of clothes is helpful, but you can also dress in lightweight clothes and ride at a casual pace if you don't want to bring extra stuff," Boyajian says.
One last thing
"Get a basket or a rack," Boyajian says. "Just do it. It will change your life. I will accept thank yous for this advice later."