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Getting on a bike is just like getting behind the wheel. It is fun, AND you should know how to ride well to keep yourself and others around you safe. Having a bike that fits your needs, knowing how to ride it well, following traffic laws designed to keep you safe, and taking care of your bike (just as you would a car) are important parts of being a safe cyclist and superior rider.
Starting Out: Smart Riding Basics:
The Bike: Choosing the Right Bike Basic Riding Habits
The Equipment: Choosing Accessories Signaling & Traffic Laws
The Route: Where should I Ride? Caring for Yourself & Others
Choose a Bike that fits you:
Be honest with yourself. Most of us don’t need a super expensive bike to ride comfortably around town.
What you need is a bike that fits:
1) Your height
2) Where you want to ride
3) How often you want to ride
If you find yourself being sold a flashy bike, leave that shop. A good shop is your ally and will help you find a bike that fits your needs. Read more about buying a bike that fits your cycling lifestyle.
Once you find a bike that fits your cycling needs, make sure the bike is adjusted to fit your body. This allows the right bike to fit you the right way. Read more about how to adjust your bike to fit your body. Or watch this video on adjusting your seat thanks to The League.
There are many essential accessories like helmets, locks, and lights. Other accessories, like bike racks, bags, fenders and trailer are not essential to riding but can make your bike more versatile.
Love your brain. Wear a helmet. And always buy it new. Your helmet should fit snug, level and stable. Selecting a bike helmet is easy and can complement your individuality, like a tie, glasses, or a purse. Just make sure you fit your helmet properly.
You need to see and be seen. For nighttime and poor weather conditions, bike lights are required by law in most states and are a must have, because reflectors are not always as effective as a bike light for making you visible. Read More about selecting the right light for you thanks to Easy cycling. Also, read reviews of bike lights.
U-Locks and Chains are both good for preventing theft using different tools. Two locks provide ideal protection but are not always necessary. You will want both for more expensive bikes as well as seat locks and other anti-theft measures. *See Locking Your Bike for more details*
Racks and Bags:
Racks and Bags are not essential. If you want to bike more often but only need to carry minimal cargo, a backpack can suffice. If you’re industrious, you’re your own bucket carriers for the rear rack, just make sure whatever you use balances the bike and doesn’t interfere with your pedaling.
Interested in other accessories?
Choosing Point A-B:
Starting off, use parallel residential roads, roads with low traffic volume and lower speed limits, rather than heavily trafficked roads. Stick to roads with traffic signals and clearly marked crossings and turn lanes. Your confidence and comfort is a large part of safe cycling – that and ride time. Read More
Google Bike Maps is also pretty useful and accurate for bike-able routes; though, it doesn’t tell you about elevation change. Read some other safe walking and biking route tips from the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration.
Read more about bicycle seats, handle bar styles, fenders, cloths, mirrors, trailers, cycling computers (avoid distractions!!!) thanks to ebicycles. Or talk to other cyclists folks at your local bike shop or other.
Ride Smart: Much of the information and videos in this section is thanks to the work of the League of American Bicyclists. Better World Club Supports the efforts of The League and encourages you to do the same.
*Click on the subject title to view a short video on the subject.*
Basics Riding Habits:
Be Seen. Be Heard. Communicate your intent to others. Be Assertive (Never Aggressive). Be Alert. Know your bike. Obey the law. And Remember: Speed still kills. Ride Smart. Read more on basic riding habits or Rules of the Road.
Starting and Stopping:
It is important to start and stop without wobbling on the road. Watch a video on starting and stopping. Note: If you can sit on the saddle while the bike is stopped, your seat may be too low. Make sure your saddle is properly adjusted.
Make sure motorists and other cyclists know you are planning to turn BEFORE you start turning. Use a bell, horn, or your voice to tell other cyclists you are passing from behind. Don’t be afraid to be friendly. We all love being on our bikes!
Be a good role model. Your safety, the safety of others, and the image of bicyclists in your community depends on you. You have the same rights and duties as drivers. Obey traffic signals and stop signs. Ride with traffic; use the rightmost lane headed in the direction you are going. More on Traffic laws and safety from The League. Also see SFBC’s Rules of the Road. We highly endorse.
Caring For Yourself:
Bicycling is supposed to feel great – sometimes challenging uphill or on difficult terrain, but the one thing bicycling should not be is painful. The late Sheldon Brown has a WebMD-like page for cycling pains. For advice, click where it hurts, really, anywhere! When in doubt, consult your local bike shop, or pick the brains of other cyclists – they would love to talk shop with you!
Caring for Others:
Be courteous to other cyclists on the road, and make sure they know when you’re passing. Share the road with motorist – especially folks with disabilities and taxis that need to use the space we ride in. Be friendly. Say 'hi' or stop for a disabled cyclist to be sure they are alright. We all cycle for different reasons, but we all love it, and we are all part of the cycling community – citywide, statewide, and worldwide. Be proud to be a cyclist, and take care of each other out there.
You can watch videos and read articles, but nothing replaces getting on your bike in a safe location to get a feel for your new ride. Remember to ride and practice at your level. If you want to take classes or connect with other cyclists, connect with your local bike shops and community groups, or just say 'hi' on the road
*also check out this great resource. Thanks to Jesse White and the State of Illinois.
Locking your bike:
The more people around your bike, the less likely someone will brave a bolt cutter on your lock. The 'Sheldon Brown (RIP)' Lock Technique: By locking your back wheel inside the rear triangle, you protect your wheel and the frame. It's nearly impossible to cut the rim of a wheel. Just make sure your lock is around the rim and through the triangle. Read More thanks to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
Must See: Bicycle Habitat’s Hal Ruzal gives advice on streetfilms.org for Locking Your Bike.
Fixing a flat tire:
There are a few simple tools and parts you’ll need before you can change your flat (like a spare tube and/or patch). After that, fixing a flat is a snap. Read more about changing your tire.
Cleaning the chain and other bike parts:
Cleaning your bike chain and breaks periodically will keep them responding in top shape and will extend the lifespan of those parts. Read more for Step by step instructions. Ask your local bike shop or search online if you are looking for eco-friendly cleaning agents or bike grease. They are easy to find.
Theft, Damage, and Liability Insurance.
Ten things you should ask your homeowner/renters insurance before insuring your bike, thanks to Velosurance. If you don't have sufficient coverage for your bike through homeowners, or if your rates would skyrocket if you ever filed a claim, then consider coverage for just your bike. Insurance is available in most states. Where Can I Get My Bike Insured? Velosurance, Balance Insurance, and Spoke Bicycle Insurance are the options we know of.
Better World Club, can cover your Bicycle Roadside Assistance.
Accident Insurance For Yourself.
BWC does not offer Accident insurance for Cyclists at this time. Balance Insurance, where available is a great option. Personal injury protection (PIP) through your auto insurance as well as Uninsured/Uninsured motorist (UI/UIM) and Umbrella insurance policies can provide coverage while you are cycling. If you have questions about your coverage, talk to your insurance provider, or give our insurance partners a call.
For Massachusetts Residents:
Toll Free: 1.888.299.2993
Professional Quality Video Tutorials and books:
BicycleTutor.com: Bike Repair Videos
Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair
Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance (DVD)
Park SK-1 Home Mechanic Starter Tool Kit
The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance and Repair
Whenever possible, purchase gear used or new from local cyclists or bike shops.
Biking on Wet Leaves, Cleaning Your Bike, Sheldon Brown’s DIY Repair Articles, Comparing Metals for Bikes, Sheldon Brown’s Articles for Commuters, Sheldon Brown’s Articles for Beginner Cyclists, On Commuting, Be a Roll Model, Bike saddle height, Ride Smart, Compare bike lights, Mapmyride.com, youtube.com (search for bicycle maintenance)
Better World Club is about more than bicycle roadside assistance. We believe bicycling is a great addition to your transportation lifestyle. We encourage you to get connected, get informed, and get involved in your local or national bicycling community. Together, we can reshape the health, mobility, and economic potential of our communities. Bikes are a part of our brightest future.
Bicycle Transportation Authority of Oregon Adventure Cycling
San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Trailnet.org
The Bike League National Rails to Trails
Bike To Work Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates
Sheldonbrown.com Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition
Bikewhenever.com KenKeifer's Bike Pages
Easycycling.com Cycling Across America
Want to know what is happening around you? Check your local bike shop for more information about events and activities in your area.
Seattle, WA Portland, ME
Bike Blog, WA New York City, NY
Portland, OR Chicago, IL
BTA, OR Chain Link, IL
San Francisco, CA Washington D.C. and The Wash Cycle, D.C.
Los Angeles, CA Orlando, FL
San Diego, CA Boston, MA
And all the shops participating in your promotional roadside assistance for newly purchased bikes!
If you have suggestions or submissions for groups, shops, or content, please contact us.