While bicycles and all their accoutrements are indeed tasty icing on the beautiful cake of life, let us not forget about the party itself – The ride. I could write all day about bikes, parts, racing, apparel, and, of course, my opinions, but the soirée on the road is exactly what it is all about. I have ridden from the mountains to the beaches, in the heat, in the cold, in the wet, and in the dry. Along the way I have learned some important do’s-n-don’ts, which I am happy to share with all while you are out there “Partying.”
The city streets, bicycle trails (including river trails), rural roads, mountain roads, you name it, all are viable places to explore the world and your fitness. I personally am in this gig for fitness and fun, so I vary my own activities to just about every venue I can roll wheels on (yes, even dirt trails). Keep the fun and enjoyment of the ride going, and you will stave off the boredom that can set in from doing the same thing week-in and week-out.
Where to ride?
It depends on your goals and potential growth with cycling. Is it for fun and fitness, to make new friends, test your limits, or go racing? All have a different place to match their purpose, and all carry a certain amount of hazards to go along with the fun. Riding for fitness can take you almost anywhere, from city streets, to the bike trails, to the beach, and yes, even the mountains (however, this can square you with one negative aspect of cycling in general - Motor Vehicles). Making new friends and testing one’s limits can indeed go hand-in-hand, so tread lightly here. If you prefer racing, then the only thing you must look out for are the riders that either “Win it, or Bin it.” Remember, they usually do not crash their brains out alone.
A quick note about bike trails. Walkers and runners seem to forget why these paths were created in the first place. Much as freeways were created for fast moving traffic, bike trails were created to keep cyclists moving and away from cars and pedestrians. The worst offenders are the insanely stupid “Opposite Direction” runners whom think it is our responsibility to avoid THEM and force cyclists to get out of THEIR way. In short, Morons, they be.
Sometimes, it just feels like we have a bulls-eye on us.
As for the streets (where the bulk of riders ply their trade), here are some places (and times-of day) to avoid.
School zones are an accident waiting to happen. Parents always seem to be in a rush to not only get in and drop-off/fetch their kid but to get out, as well. Avoid schools in the mornings and the late afternoons. This is when it is the most dangerous, and, don’t forget the children that inadvertently dash into the street right in front of you, of course.
Next, apartment complexes and mobile home parks can be lethal to your health. There are way too much in-n-out activities at these locations, and it is here I have the most serious run-ins with vehicles. Another similar place are shopping centers. Again, way too much in-n-out traffic for your safety.
Intersections, especially those with designated Left Turn Lanes. These are particularly dangerous because vehicles will not see you and make that left turn right in front of your path. Why? Well, if drivers fail to see other vehicles (including trucks and buses), then a cyclist has zero chance of being seen by some of these, well, complete Zero’s behind the wheel. The times I have about shit by bib shorts were due to cars turning left into me. And guess what? In each case they kept going, proving my contention that they did not see me, did not care, or most likely, both.
So, is it all Doom & Gloom?
No, of course not. Even with all of the vehicular dangers out there, think back to why we all started to ride in the first place – That Golden Rule of Cycling: FUN. Remember why you started to ride if you begin to feel the fun slipping out of cycling (and yes, it will happen). Nothing will get you off of the bike quicker than if it makes you apprehensive or becomes a chore.
So, above all, make sure you have a good time, obey all traffic laws, and remain as visible as you can at all times. I have previously written articles about bright clothing and LED lighting even during the day to give ourselves as much of an edge as we can get.
Have a good time out there, and no quitting. That is how clothing racks are born.
Remember- Be safe out there.