Taking up Bicycling Again as an Adult
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This book is not for the put-your-head-down-and-ride-like-the-wind-while-only-seeing-the-pavement-and-the-tire-in-front-of-you-rider. It is a primer for adults who want to get back into cycling but have been putting it off because they are unsure of how to go about it. The author covers, in plain language, with a touch of humor, starting out, buying the bike, equipment, where to ride, the rules of the road, more comfortable riding, and riding more seriously. He gives common sense suggestions for safer, more enjoyable cycling, and answers questions he has been asked over the years by adults interested in taking up bicycling again. The book is written with two aims in mind: To encourage adults to take up cycling again and to help them get started.

Chapter 3--Starting to Ride


Now that you have either fixed up the old bike or bought a new one, you are ready to hit the trail and start reaping the benefits of cycling.  Great, you won’t regret it.  There are some things you should know as you start your new regimen of fitness and fun.


When friends or new acquaintances find out that I ride bicycle semi-seriously they often comment that they have considered cycling for exercise and enjoyment but just aren’t sure how to go about doing it.  They wonder how long the rides should be, what equipment is necessary, where they should go to ride (trails or roads), and other questions that aren’t terribly important in and of themselves, but, when combined, tend to discourage getting started. 


One of the good things about cycling is you can do it right from your home.  While loading the bike on the car or in the van and taking it to a park or bike trail is certainly a nice option, it is by no means necessary.  City streets and county roads make for excellent riding and can be reached easily on the bike (they’re at the end of your driveway).  While big city streets and heavily-traveled roads are a bit tricky and should be avoided whenever possible, they shouldn’t keep you from getting to less busy roads.  I lived in a high-rise apartment building in downtown St. Paul, Minn. (which has a great trail system) for a year and enjoyed numerous bike trails that could be reached with only a few minutes of riding in traffic.  Unless you are planning a longer ride (more than an hour) the time and energy used to pack up the bike and drive to a trail can often be better used by just biking around the neighborhood.  In many cases the bike trail to which you are going can be reached by bike if you factor the time to-and-from into your biking time.  And riding around the neighborhood has another benefit--you discover things (houses, parks, gardens, neighbors) that you never get a chance to, or have reason to, pass in your car.


Another good thing about cycling is that you don’t have to be on track for an Olympic medal to get exercise.  Don’t be discouraged when other cyclists (some of whom look as if they are, indeed, on track for a medal) pass you.  It isn’t a race, there is no trophy; you are out there for you, no one else.  As long as you are getting exercise and enjoying it you are winning.


Traffic Laws


Obey all traffic laws.  According to the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation  bicycles have all the rights and responsibilities of a motor vehicle, including the right to operate in a traffic lane and ride in the roadway.  Cyclists must stop at stop signs and stop lights, signal turns, ride with the flow of traffic, never against it, and ride as far to the right of the roadway as practicable.  Cyclists are allowed to ride two abreast in a driving lane but should move to single-file to allow faster traffic to pass.  Motorists must at all times maintain a three-foot clearance when passing a bicycle and, when a motor vehicle is overtaking a bicycle, the bicycle has the right-of-way.  Check the traffic laws in your own state but I believe that most states have similar laws.  Ride courteously; treat motorists as you want to be treated when you are driving.  Not long ago I was driving a main street in my area and came upon two cyclists riding side-by-side, one on the shoulder and one in the driving lane.  The street was one with a driving lane in each direction and a center, "Left Turn Only" lane.  The car in front of me had to go into the "Left Turn Only" lane to pass them (in Minnesota it’s illegal to pass in the "Left Turn Only" lane) and as I approached I tapped on my horn once to let the cyclist in the driving lane know I was approaching hoping he would move to single file.  The cyclist did not move, however, even though it would have been easy to do, and I had to pass him illegally (or hold up other traffic).  Keep in mind that while cyclists do have the right to be in the roadway, the roads were built for faster, larger vehicles.  Also be aware that some motorists just don’t like cyclists in the roadway whatever the law says and just plain refuse to share the road.  Watch out for them.     

Bruce Wynkoop has been cycling seriously as an adult for twenty-five years. After knee and back pain forced him to give up jogging he needed a form of exercise that wasn’t so hard on his body. Starting with short rides and quickly working up to longer ones, he soon came to enjoy it so much that he wondered why more people don’t do it. He now averages 2500 miles a season on his road and hybrid bicycles (combined) and has ridden numerous cross-state rides, both in supported rides put on by organizations and self-supported rides with just a couple of friends. He has ridden the Natchez Trace in Mississippi, The Great River Road from St. Paul to St. Louis, the KATY Trail in Missouri, the George Mickelson Trail in South Dakota, around Lake Champlain, through Holland, North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park and South Dakota’s Badlands National Park, and many other interesting places. He considers himself a “serious-casual” cyclist, rides for exercise and pleasure, not for ego, and says, “I don’t ride fast, but I can ride all day.” He hasn’t ridden in the Tour de France, won any cycling awards, or set any records for riding across the country (even for his age group), and has no desire to do so. He has, however, cycled extensively, loves to cycle, and thinks the world would be a better place if more people cycled.


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