Tips for cycling in a new city
March 8th 2017
Becky Forgrave is our first Flatbike Guest Blogger. Do you have something to share too?
Hardcore cycling athletes may disagree with me on this, but biking should be comfortable. This is why it is important to choose a frame size that fits, adjust it for even better fit, and buy a seat that still feels good after a long ride.
But cycling comfort goes beyond the bike and includes the ride itself. We like to bike where it is safe, and we know where to go. This changes when you move to a new city and it can be a challenge to feel comfortable biking in the new location.
I have moved across the country four times in the past six years, from Seattle WA, to central Maine, to southern Louisiana, to Portland OR, to now recently Pittsburgh PA. While the traffic rules remain the same across the country (3 feet of space etc.), the biking culture is vastly different in each of these places, and I have learned some good strategies on how to be comfortable in cycling even when the area is new.
1. Don’t wait until you “know” the city before taking your bicycle out into it.
Using a bicycle is often the best way to explore a new urban area because, if you get lost or find yourself confronted by a one-way street opposite of how you want to travel, just pull off, dismount and you are now a pedestrian (No need to find car parking, drive around the block or anything else).
2. Buy a bike map and hang it on your wall.
Almost every city has a bike map that you can find at any bike store, often for free. But the trick is to hang it on the wall. Unfolding a big map is tricky and annoying mid-ride and you won’t use it. Just hang the map up and you will learn the good routes as you look at the map a bunch of times.
3. Find a bike co-op.
Any bike shop works to get you a map, but to find a cycling community it takes a bit more effort. The best situation co-op where bike enthusiasts of all levels hang out to share in their collective love of the two-wheeled lifestyle. You can often learn maintenance skills, buy discounted parts, and often join in low-key group rides. Not every city has something like this, and often it requires asking around, but well worth the effort.
4. Notice the type of car responses you get to being a cycling on the road, and adapt behavior.
This is the biggest difference among all the places I have lived and biked. With aggressive cars, it is important to take the lane, so they don’t try to pass too close. Some cars are very hesitant (especially in cities with few cyclists), so it is very necessary to always motion where you are going, or they will try to pass at inopportune moment.
Finally, a note about moving cross- country with a bicycle: putting a bike on top of the car can have you lose 1 up to 5 mpg if it is really windy. This really adds up after 3000 miles. So a bike that fits inside the car can be a valuable decision if you move a lot.