As with most things that you try out for the first time, biking to work the first few times can be an intimidating experience. However, a little prep and forethought can go a long way in making you feel more comfortable in the saddle.
If you’re a newbie to bike commuting, check out the seven biggest blunders beginner bike commuters make below. Note—this isn’t intended for new Capital Bikeshare riders, check out our other blog for some fun bikeshare facts.
1. Poor Route Planning
The last thing you want when you first start biking to work is to end up on a major road with no bike lanes or a route that you thought was fastest but includes the world’s biggest incline. Figuring out a good route beforehand can save you stress, time, and less sore legs.
Google Maps’ biking directions usually work great. I’ll sometimes do Street View too if it’s a new area I’ve never been to so I can get an idea of the surroundings and any potential inclines. We also highly recommend BikeArlington's Comfort Map.
2. Unprepared for the Cold
I typically warm up after the first mile, except for my hands and ears. If it’s under 45 degrees and they’re not covered, I want to die.
I finally have a good pair of gloves (thanks for the goalie gloves, Dad!) and just purchased these fabulous things called Earbags to cover my ears under my helmet. Seriously, it makes the ride much more manageable in the cold.
3. Not Locking Your Bike Properly
Get a U-Lock, people—and don’t just lock your front wheel. This is standard advice when it comes to bike security. Be sure to register it for free with the Arlington County Police Department too.
4. Dimly Lit or Non-Existent Bike Lights
Having a good front white light and rear red light is important to be visible to cars and other road users (and required in Virginia). However, I’ve found that having a bright front light is really helpful in avoiding potholes, bumps, and other elements on the road that are usually visible during the day.
5. Carrying Everything on Your Back
The first year I biked to work, I rode with a backpack that include my work clothes, shoes, lunch, etc. When I finally got a rear rack and detachable bag to go with it, let’s just say it was life-changing. If you plan on biking relatively often, consider getting a front basket or rear rack for your stuff—it’s so freeing!
6. Deflated Tires
Speaking of life-changing, I rode my bike for months, using a hand-held pump and doing the “touch test” to determine if my tires were inflated enough. Turns out once I actually used a floor pump with a gauge I realized I had been riding about 40 PSI below what was required for my tires.
I felt like I was in the Tour de France once I actually inflated my tires to the right level. You can typically find the PSI on the side of your bike tires, and you can always stop in to any bike store to use their pumps so you know it’s inflated enough.
7. Not Using a Bell
I’m also a runner, and one of my biggest pet peeves is when bike riders fly by me on the trail without giving any warning or alert. Handlebar bells are super cheap and are helpful whether you’re going around other trail users or passing another rider in the bike lane. If you don’t have a bell, at least say “on your left."
For tips and advice, feel free to check out our friends at BikeArlington for more information.
Photo Credit: Sam Kittner/Kittner.com