Home Power senior editor Ian Woofenden has bicycled more than 20,000 miles in the last five years. Here, he shares his advice on how to get out from behind the steering wheel and behind the handlebars!
I read two things in my youth that had a lasting impression on me. One was that a bicycle is the most energy-efficient way for a person to travel. The other was that if you count up all the time we take to buy, finance, license, insure, maintain, repair, and drive a car, we’re really only going about 10 miles per hour. I haven’t done the research to confirm or deny either statement, but the general drift made complete sense to me as a young person, and started a love of bicycles that has lasted for decades.
But like most Americans, I got caught up in the car culture while raising a family and leading my busy life. My kids are now grown, and I’ve lived without a car for the last five years (I do own a dump truck, and borrow and rent cars as needed). I enjoy the benefits of exercise, lower cost, closer connection to community and nature, as well as what comedian Robin Williams called “the closest you can get to flying.”
Most of us learned to ride bikes when we were young, and the old adage is correct—you don’t forget how to ride, even if you haven’t done it for years. The biggest stumbling block to using your bicycle more is you. Many people find ways to work bicycles into their transportation scheme, ranging from it having a minor part to being a key player.
I encourage you to get on the bike you have, but if you need to buy one, try different bikes first. Borrow friends’ bikes. Rent bikes. Try cheap yard-sale bikes. Talk with local bike nerds and bike shop owners. You’ll gradually find a bike that is suited to your needs. Real-world experience combined with input from others is the best route to improving your rolling stock. Meanwhile, you’ll get all the benefits of getting onto your bike.