Thursday, May 16, 2013

BikeWalkLee's Column: Ready to ride bicycle? It's a good month to start

BikeWalkLee's News-Press column this week encourages "newbies" to give biking a try and what steps you need to take to get started.

News-Press "Go Coastal" Section, May 16, 2013

It’s Bike Month, so if you haven’t been on your bike in a while, now’s a good time to get reacquainted with the road. That said, take a few steps before you start out. There are three areas you’ll want to address before you jump into the saddle:

Your bike:
It’s always a good idea to give your bike a once-over before you go on any kind of ride, but it’s particularly important if it’s been a while since you and your bike spent some quality time together. Be certain to check the following:
Tires: Are they sound and properly inflated? (Low tire pressure is the quickest route to a flat.)
Chain: Is it tight (but not too tight) and lubricated?
Saddle: Right height and angle? (Your knees and hands will thank you later.)
Brakes: In good working order? (If you want to be able to go, you also want to be able to stop.)
Other: Everything else appropriately tight or loose. Nothing hanging down or sticking out that might impede forward motion?

Your route:
Do you know where you’re going (more or less)? You’ll want to ride within your comfort level, so if riding in traffic makes you nervous do you know how to avoid it? Current bike maps covering the entire county can be downloaded from or – look for the third edition map.
Do you know how far you want to ride? If you plan out a route that’s 20 miles long and you ride at 10 mph, you’re looking at a two-hour ride – are you ready for that? Google Maps (among others) will map rides using bike-friendly routes (when possible) and can also give you distances and estimated times.
Does someone know where you’re going? It’s not essential to file a ride plan with your significant other, but it never hurts. Or you could consider riding with someone else, which can make the effort good for both fitness and friendship.

Are you dressed appropriately for the bike? Consider good shoes (protects your toes and keeps your feet from getting tired), nothing too loose (that could get caught in the chain or elsewhere) or too tight to lessen chafing and blisters).
Are you dressed appropriately for the climate? Hot and humid is the norm for the next few months, so dress to stay cool – but if rain might threaten you’ll want to be prepared for that, too.
Are you dressed appropriately for safety? Bright colors help you to be seen by others (such as motorists), and helmets are recommended (unless you’re a big fan of head injuries) – and required if you’re under age 16.
Are you ready for the sun? Make sure you protect your skin (sunscreen) and eyes (sunglasses … also good to keep things from flying into your eyes). And never go for a ride without some water to keep you hydrated.
Finally, are you ready for anything? It never hurts to carry a cellphone (in a plastic sealable bag if you’re worried about moisture or in a protective case if you’re worried about damage) and a few dollars.

It only takes a few minutes to prepare, but it can mean the difference between a ride that’s fun rather than frustrating.
— BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County—streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users. Information, statistics and background at

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