Thanks to CJ Lou, the One Sport Ninja, for this blog post. And while this particular post may not be about eBikes…, it is about commuting by bicycle in the urban environment. Something that all cyclists can appreciate and share their experiences about.
I remember my first bike–a black cruiser bicycle with a comfortable saddle and handlebars, complete with knobby but medium-sized tires. Riding it was probably my go-to activity every Saturday and Sunday morning while most kids my age would still be sleeping in. I became so accustomed to morning biking that even in college I would still bike to class no matter how far my classes were.
After finishing college, I began working in the city–an environment drastically different from where I grew up and went to college. Because the city streets were notoriously dangerous, crowded, and complicated, my parents strongly opposed my biking to work and urged me to try public transportation or Uber. I quickly was hooked on the convenience of Uber–I mean, who doesn’t like to sleep in and call a car at the push of a smartphone app? As the first half year went by, I barely biked, and I could feel my body and metabolism slowly deteriorating.
The Damage Done
A little more than two years later, I was 20 pounds heavier than I was previously, and I could barely even make myself run a full mile in one session. I was extremely disappointed at the physical state I was in. Throughout the day I would get easily lethargic, drowsy, and even my motivation to do simple things like socialize with friends decreased. These physical problems compounded with my only-increasing costs of commuting via Uber or Lyft were detrimental to my mental and physical health. On days when Uber charges were ridiculous, I even tried renting a car for a few days to try my hand at driving. The one-way streets were hectic and the parking charges were just a few dollars shy of that ridiculous Uber price I tried to avoid. Not to mention the city streets only got busier and my commute, in turn, became longer due to daily traffic jams.
I wasn’t getting any younger, I wasn’t proud of how I looked or lived my life, and I knew something needed to change.
The Changes I Made
Determined to get back to a healthy physical state that most people in their early and mid-20’s should be in, I started to incorporate more fitness into my daily regimen. Sacrificing some sleep time in the morning, I began to walk further to a bus stop to take the bus rather than using ridesharing apps. However, when the weather became cold and the days started getting darker earlier, I became more uncomfortable walking outside at night. While I was getting some exercise in by walking from and to bus stops, I lengthened my commute time because public transportation was often delayed and overcrowded.
As a result, I turned back to the only mode of transportation I have yet to try in my urban environment–biking. Recalling the black hybrid bike from my adolescence, I browsed for the best men’s hybrid bikes to hopefully reignite my love for biking in the city. After some research, I decided to purchase a hybrid bike that seemed to give me the riding comfort and sustainability I needed on my daily commute. After some assembly, my new hybrid bike and I were ready to go.
The fears I had about cycling in the city quickly dwindled as my years of experience with navigating around the city kicked in as I maneuvered my bike flawlessly through the streets. I admit I was out of practice at first, but there was no going back. Cruising down the streets, passing by the still cars in what it seems to be perpetual traffic jams, I was pleasantly reminded of my college days.
Half a year later, I am fitter than ever, more awake through the day, have lost the 20 pounds I gained, and felt more pumped for work every single day than I have ever been since day 1. Shaving off 20 minutes from my original commute meant that I could get to work earlier, leave earlier, and sometimes even beat the rush hour. Overall, returning to biking for my commute has made me happier, healthier, and fitter than I ever was back when I was 23.
Now for the most important part — my safety tips for bike commuting.
How to stay safe on your commute, especially if you’re a beginner
Even though cycling to work isn’t necessarily dangerous–you don’t have to worry about wild animals, predators, or terrible road conditions–but there are still a few things to keep in mind.
Equip yourself with protection
For the simple reason that you’ll be on the road, you need to equip yourself with effective headgear. In the unlikely event of an accident, you always want to protect your head. The helmet It’s your first line of defense against any potential injury. Even if you’ll be riding on bike paths, you need a helmet. Careless bikers, stray animals and bad conditions can cause a crash, and injuring your head can have detrimental consequences.
Familiarize yourself with road safety regulations
You are no longer driving or a passenger–you are someone who controls a vehicle on the road. As a result, as a first-timer you should at least brush up on what is expected of the biking commuters on the road.
I don’t want to scare you, but data has shown that there are more fatalities from cycling accidents than from car crashes. Why, you think? No matter how durable your bike or your helmet is, a car driver is much more protected in his larger car than you are on your bike.
Aside from the generally accepted rules, your local city may have other specific laws. This is why you want to know and grasp all these regulations.
As a rule of thumb, be cognizant of other road users. Shoulder check before you make a turn, mind the turn signals at vehicles in front of you when approaching intersections. Pass on the left and always alert others that you are about to pass them.
Stay visible to others on the road
In a world where everyone is on their phones or busy thinking about the next project or event, mistakes can easily occur when a driver or pedestrian fail to see you zooming by an intersection.
To prevent tragedies, be sure to wear vibrantly colored, reflective clothing to stay visible to everyone else on the road. This ensures that other bikers, car drivers, and pedestrians will be able to identify you even if you ride into the dark of the night.
Equally, you’ll need a source of light to help improve your visibility. Be sure to purchase blinking or bright lights for both the front and rear end of your bike to stay visible at night. The lights are not for your eyes, but for the eyes of the drivers and pedestrians around you.
Dress and prepare accordingly
While it is all great and dandy that you found your dream mode of transportation to work, it is unavoidable that biking will make you sweaty–and perhaps stinky? Be sure to pack some deodorant, a change of clothes, and a hairbrush to ensure that your helmet hair is not permanent throughout the day.
At the end of the day, remember that you are still going to work and depends on what you do, you need to look neat and “put-together.” Staying safe should always be your priority, but be sure to equip yourself for any foreseen “beauty” disasters that may arise at the same time.
In a nutshell, bike commuting is the way to go
Do it for your health
Cycling is an amazing form of exercise, and biking to work ensures you get enough exercise on the daily. Studies have proven that regular physical activity is linked to health benefits including, decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, obesity and much more.
Fun Fact: Did you know that an average road cyclist burns about forty calories per mile at a relatively sedate fifteen miles per hour? This implies that by having a weekly commitment of just five hours on your bike, you could potentially burn a whopping 3,000 calories!
Do it for the environment
Biking in the city is a great way to commute and to stay eco-friendly. Many cities across the country face problems with traffic jams and air pollution everyday. Some studies show that in the U.S., auto vehicles contribute up to 75% of carbon monoxide pollution. It is just not worth it.
By using your hybrid bike to commute, you’ll not only be skipping those intimidating jams, but you’ll also be lessening the traffic and pollution burden on your environment as well.
Do it for your wallet
Other than perhaps bike maintenance fees, you don’t need to shell out a lot of money for your bike. There is no gas, no fuel, that needs to power your bike! However, with some of that money saved, I strongly encourage you to invest in high-quality bike safety gear. Other than that, all you need is a hybrid bike, safety gear, and a great waterproof backpack, and you are ready to go.
Good luck on your future commutes!
CJ Lou, the One Sport Ninja
Editor’s Note: Thanks to CJ Lou for contributing his story to our Blog. We love to hear from our readers and customers and if you have something you’d like to share we’ve be very interested in hearing about your cycling stories, experiences and adventures. Send us your stories to: firstname.lastname@example.org