Think back to the last time someone told you “it’s just like riding a bike!”, implying that the activity at hand should not only be easily performed but virtually ingrained into your very being as if you’re some kind of pre-programmed automaton. Let's say for hypothetical reasons that this old saying, did not provide you with the ease of mind intended. Not only are you less confident about your abilities to do the task at hand, but you’re now questioning when the last time you even rode a bike and whether or not you still can. Now that you’ve confronted your inner skeptic, it's time to stop speaking hypothetically. Perhaps it's time to reevaluate everything you think you know about riding a bike. Sure, you used to ride BMX’s and Banana Bikes as a kid but that was how long ago?
If you’re like many and haven't ridden a bike since your childhood then here are the only two factors you need to consider when making the first move getting back onto your bike: bikes haven't changed since the last time you’ve ridden one, and if you can recall, the learning curve of riding a bike is comparable to the learning curve of walking and talking. Despite all the new developments in cycling, the fundamentals of riding a bike have not changed. You still climb onto the seat one leg at a time, pedal to go, and brake to stop.
First things first, finding a bike to get back onto. Whether you’re dusting off the old beach cruiser, or just hopping on one of those ubiquitous Citi bikes in order to start riding again, you’re going to need a bike that you’re comfortable on, essentially one you can put all of your trust and faith in. Comfort and function come first. Make sure the bike you’re riding fits you not only aesthetically, but physically.
Odds are, you’ve grown since you’ve last ridden that cruiser, meaning you might have to do some adjusting in order to achieve at least the most minimal of comfort on that old cruiser.
It’s important to take it slow when delving back into the bike life. There’s nothing more discouraging than a sprain or worse, a crash, on one of your re-debut rides. Pace yourself, riding solo or with a companion for 40 minutes at a comfortable speed, barely breaking a sweat. Doing this is a promising routine as it conditions your muscles and brain for endurance and strength that will soon be needed when performing longer, faster commutes.
Perhaps the most effective way to clear any anxiety that comes with biking again is to ride with a partner. Whether it’s a friend, a sibling or a parent riding with someone you’re comfortable with, -meaning you’re totally fine falling in front of-, will surely grant you the confidence to make the leap back into biking routinely.
As for safety, bikes still come with the same risk. However, urban life is far more fast paced than it was 20 to 30 years ago. Cars go faster and drivers have more distractions. Without exaggerating, it's fair to say that riding during the 21st century requires the alertness of a watchmen off of both Adderall and two shots of cafecito. Riding bike in the city now requires a new mindset, one must now assume that every driver around them is not only incompetent but maniacal. You must take the responsibility of the driver and drive for them, meaning, you as the cyclist take the initiative to make sure it is known where and when you’re turning, when you’re crossing and when a car is driving too close for comfort. Reading traffic is a skill that comes progressively through experience, so the best advice is to go out and experience it through the eyes of an automobile driver and take into account all the inconveniences pedestrians and cyclists give whilst traveling aside your speeding tin can. Take all the bad you’ve experienced from driving and use it as a force to be a safer, more considerate cyclist.
When riding, it is also advised that unless you have a honeycomb for a head, ride with a helmet. When riding, always: know where you are, staying aware of your surroundings, and where you’re headed. Keep some cash stuffed into a your sock or shoe for emergencies and always ride with lights at night.
Now that you know the basics of getting back into biking you might feel more self-assured the next time someone mentions that hackneyed old phrase, “it's like riding a bike!”.