|Just me in regular clothes on an older, ordinary bike.|
Since I have a biking blog and tend to get a little zealous about my bike love, people often tell me something like, "I'd really like to get into biking but . . . "
Oh, that but. I understand. It gets in the way of so very many fun things.
In case you're stuck in the buts, as I was for a few months while I was packing and moving, let me give you a few things to think about. No pressure, no guilt here. Just a little nudge to make you consider what's important.
Myth 1: I need the right bike first.
Certainly, you need a bike, but it doesn't have to be a shiny, fancy, carbon fiber or big name bike. Start with what you have. Most of the women bike bloggers I know started biking again as adults on old bikes they liberated from a basement or garage. After riding for a few months on these inexpensive starter bikes, they usually had an idea of what they wanted in their next bike, and that's when they dropped a little cash.
If you don't have a bike and want an inexpensive one, post a want ad on Freecycle, check out Craigslist posts, or hit a secondhand sporting goods store to see what they have. You should be able to get a decent bike for less than $300. If you're getting a new or used bike, I highly recommend stopping in at a local bike shop to get a sense of what size bike would be best for you.
Myth 2: You need a lot of special gear to ride a bike.
Remember those carefree days of childhood when you pedaled around in flip-flops? It can almost be that simple again if you're sticking to bike paths or quiet side streets. If you have a bike and a helmet, you're good to go anywhere.
While jerseys and padded shorts are handy on long rides--I'm talking 20 miles or more-- they're completely unnecessary for trips to the local coffee shop or a cruise around the neighborhood. Try it. Just grab a bike and go.
In biking Meccas like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, all sorts of people bike every day in any kind of weather. They ride beastly heavy bikes in everyday clothes. It's possible here in the U.S. as well, even in temperamental Chicago weather.
So what's with the focus on all of the specific gear in the U.S.? My personal whacko theory is that our culture is about performance and image. We like shopping for just the perfect thing that will prove that we are a member of the club. Lycra proves we're serious, not just some hack.
Take some pressure off yourself and rest assured that you can go biking even though you don't look like Lance Armstrong or Dottie and Trish. Wear something comfy and ride.
Myth 3: Biking is dangerous!
I hear this all the time from women my age and moms of any age, and I understand the fear.
I've had dozens of near misses.
I still ride.
I can pull out all the stats saying that you're far more likely to be victim of a car accident than a bike accident (and you probably already have been), but that doesn't overcome the undeniable sense of danger when you imagine a huge hunk of metal coming at your unprotected body. A car just feels safer.
When I start feeling threatened, I simply remember that almost everyone I know has been in some sort of car accident--some with fatalities--and we all continue to drive. I also head over to Ken Kifer's excellent analysis of bike safety, which basically concludes that cycling is one of the least dangerous activities you can undertake.
You know what's dangerous? Doing nothing.
This Grist article wonderfully summarizes a 2009 study in the Netherlands that concludes, "On average, the estimated health benefits of cycling were substantially larger than the risks relative to car driving for individuals shifting their mode of transport."
Elly Blue says it best. "We never want to hear this, but we're all going to die. Why not get out there and ride your bike first?"