Getting Started

Need a Bike? Make sure you purchase a bike that is appropriate for your size and intended style of riding. Road Bikes are great for fast riding on smooth pavement and feature ultra-light bicycles. Mountain Bike are built to endure the rigors of off-roading but are very heavy, which could make commuting difficult. A Hybrid Bike is the best of both worlds. It’s lighter than a mountain bike but has a more upright riding position than a road bike, which is sometimes more comfortable for a first-time rider. When picking a bike, be sure that you can fully extend your legs as you pedal. This will help you not only maximize the power of your push but also increase your comfort while riding. And make sure you ride the bike to test it!

You can definitely find some good values on sites like Craigslist but be sure to use caution when going to make a purchase. The Average Joe Cyclist has some great suggestions on things to look out for when buying a used bike. If you’re unsure about what kind of bicycle best suits your needs, stop in at your local bike shop. The folks running them are great people passionate about cycling and would love to help you become a convert.

Have a lot to carry? Is a heavy backpack literally throwing off your biking groove? Many would suggest a carrying rack: these attach to the back axel and to the seatpost. Using bungee cords to hold things on the rack, you can hold some pretty large/weighty items. How to install a carrying rack.

For the love of whatever deities you pray to, wear a helmet. According to a recent study: “Head injuries are responsible for around three-quarters of deaths among bicyclists involved in crashes. Facial injuries are also common… Wearing a helmet reduced the risk of head or brain injury by approximately two-thirds or more, regardless of whether the crash involved a motor vehicle. Injuries to the mid and upper face were also markedly reduced.”

Take it Easy: If you’ve never biked more than around your block as kid, it can be strenuous to start biking again. Don’t force yourself to go for a 20 mile loop. Initially, take short routes and gradually increase your riding time to build up endurance. The many bike trails around Durham are great for such training activities. If you push yourself too hard, too soon, you may end up giving up on cycling and we definitely don’t want that.

No place to lock your bike outside your apartment? Try vinyl coated hooks—these can be bought at most hardware stores and screw right into wall or ceiling studs.  They’ll allow you to keep your bike secure inside without having to sacrifice floor space. Alternately, you could use a spring-loaded bike pole, easily found in cycling shops or online. If you’re keeping it outside, remember that wooden railings are easily sawed and thus not the most secure.

Winter is coming—lubricate your bike! Don’t let it become dry or squeaky. Important places to keep lubricated: the back gear assembly (lay the bike on its side, put some lubricant on the hub, let it work itself in), the brakes (lubricate the place where the arms connect to the frame and where they connect to each other), and the brake levers (lubricate the pivot points). If you ride often in the rain or snow (or both, #durhamproblems), drip lube in the top openings of the brake/derailleur cable housings. DON’T do this is you have Teflon housings or self-lubricating cables.

Navigating the urban jungle that is DurhamHere is a link to some detailed tutorials you’ll find useful if your daily route is less than ideal, ranging from bunnyhops to stairs and tight turns.

Get a saddle back and mini toolkit: Whether you’re loosening this or tightening that, it’s a great idea to keep a multipurpose bike tool on hand at all times. You can find them in stores or online. A saddle bag that fits under your seat is a perfect storage location.

Additional resources: Durham Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory CommitteeUrban Biker Tips, and Duke Cycling.

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