This blog was originally posted on BikeArlington.
We’ve all be there – wanting to hop on our bike, but just feel like there are too many barriers to biking to work or biking around Arlington in general. If biking isn’t part of your daily routine or even your normal workout routine, it can definitely feel like a challenge.
For anyone new to the biking world, joining the pack can feel daunting and downright overwhelming. While the crew at BikeArlington might seem like old pros – it’s important to remember that we were all once in noob shoes at some point.
1. Identify Your Route
Basic common sense for any new rider is that you need to know where you’re going before you set out for your adventure. Ask yourself a few basic questions - Do you know what roads you’ll take? Are you going to ride on paths or trails?
If you don’t know the answers, it’s time to switch to Google and ask for directions. As a walker/biker/bus rider – I like to look at the driving directions first. Yes, the DRIVING directions. Why? Because I want to know the fastest way to get to where I want to go. After I’ve identified a quick route, I switch to pedestrian mode (if on my phone) or cyclist mode (if on a desktop) and I compare the routes. Move on to Step 2 to determine the best route for your ride.
2. Download the BikeArlington Comfort Map
If you’re new to biking in the County, the BikeArlington Comfort Map should be your new best friend. The map has been designed to show you roads and trails rated by comfort level, rather than facility.
The gist? Blue lanes are where it’s at for new riders. Blue routes are multi-use paths through quiet neighborhoods or streets with less traffic and lower driving speeds. Grow your confidence on these blue lanes and graduate to yellow where traffic volume may be a little heavier.
Special note: blue lanes are also a great way to learn where bike infrastructure is located in Arlington County. Roads with bike lanes have a darker outline along the edge.
Click to download and save the map.
3. Plan Your Morning Routine
If you decide to bike to work, think about and plan out your morning routine. What does that look like at the office? Is there anything you normally do at home that will be disrupted?
Are there showers?
YES: Great! Stock up on mini shampoo bottles and soap to keep at your desk. Bring in your suits on a Monday so you have them hanging and ready to go.
NO: Rats! Is there a gym nearby where you can use shower facilities only? Is a shower even necessary? What about a simple wash cloth or baby wipes? Hey – if it’s good enough for that bundle of joy, it’s good enough for us too.
Did you brush your teeth?
YES: Because adulting is hard, but good. Also, hygiene queen.
NO: It’s okay, you have a brush and some paste at work because you’re a boy scout and always prepared.
Did you pack your lunch?
YES: Leftovers for the win.
NO: Yeah, me neither. Let’s just grab a salad at District Taco.
Whatever it is you do at home in the morning, just find a way to do it at the office. Routines are important for a reason. Start your day on a strong and organized foot.
4. Phone a Friend
Know someone who loves to bike already? Great – CALL THEM UP! Or text, that’s cool too. And ask them to ride with you sometime, to help boost your biking confidence. Even better if they’ll bike your identified route with you – practice makes perfect.
If you’re biking to work, look for other cyclists at your building. Form a bike train. I first learned to bike to work by following a colleague one morning. She showed me the best roads to take and streets to avoid.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Ride with someone who isn’t a newbie and somewhere down the line, pay it forward. You can also find plenty of knowledgeable bike commuters on Washington Area Bike Forum commuter page who are more than willing to answer any question or even lead you on your first commute. It’s happened many times.
5. You Do You
There are no rules to biking when it comes to attire or speed – just be comfortable. So if you want to bike in a dress or in yoga pants, that’s your decision. You also don’t need to race down the trails – go at a pace that suits you.
It’s easy to get intimidated out there with so much spandex flying by, but at the end of the day, everyone’s bike rolls the same way. So just remember, you do you and enjoy the ride.
Photo Credit: Sam Kittner/Kittner.com