“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what a bike can do for your country.”
I love bikes. I love their simplicity, their efficiency, and the countless benefits that they offer. I love riding them, and I love working on them. Now, I am not an avid cyclist. I've never worn spandex in my life, and I’ve never kept track of how many miles I ride (nothing against spandex or tracking progress; just making a point). I'm not any kind of professional bike mechanic either. I know plenty of people who know far more about many technical bike issues than I do. I'm not bike mechanic guru extraordinaire guy. If you've got a $5000 titanium frame road bike, and you're wondering whether or not you should upgrade you're seat post in order to shave an ounce off of the bikes weight, I don't know. But I'd imagine you're bike's plenty light. I have only one purpose: to remind you that bikes are wonderful for your physical and mental health, that you can easily use them far more often than you think, and that they can absolutely make a significant, positive impact on your life, and more broadly, our country's little obesity problem, various growing mental health issues, and….oh yeah, global warming. But anyways….
I think that you should ride a bike. I think you should ride one for fun. I think you should ride one for exercise. And I think you should ride one to get where you need to go. I actually think you should do all three of those things at the same time. The fact is, whether you’re taking a ride around the block, doing a quick errand, or riding to work, you’re going to be getting exercise and having fun. I think, nay, I know, that if you try incorporating a bicycle into your life just for a little while, you will love it and that you will be upset and amazed that you’ve spent all these years living a bikeless life.
Maybe you haven't ridden a bike since you were a kid. Maybe you don't ride a bike because you think that's a kid thing to do. Maybe you don't ride a bike because you think you forget how, and that you'll fall over and look like….well, a kid who's trying to learn how to ride a bike. Actually, if I asked you why you don't ride a bike, you might have an entire list of reasons. Well, I'll try to get 'em all here:
• It hasn't occurred to you to ride a bike – Well, if you've read this far this one's taken care of.
•You don't even know if you have a bike anymore – Take a look in the garage or basement right now. If it turns out that you're bikeless, not a problem. Just go to the Buying a Bike section on the Getting Equipped page to find out how to go about fighting bikelessness at any price level. Seriously, the bike I spend much of my time on of late, I bought for $15, and put maybe another $20 into.
•Your bike is "broken" – Usually, bikes are not broken. The fact is, you just haven't dealt with it in a while, and when that's the case, we tend to feel like it must have become broken or fallen into a state of irreparable disrepair. See the How To page for step-by-step instruction on how to give your bike a quick once-over to find out if, indeed, it is broken.
•Your bike is old and crappy – You might be right about your bike being old, but I bet it isn’t crappy. If the wheels are round, and it has pedals and handlebars, it will work just fine. And improvements are cheap should you decide to make them. See the Getting Equipped page to find out about ways to modify and improve your bike.
•You have a flat tire – Often, this is what people mean when they say that their bike is “broken,” but I listed it separately anyways. I bet there’s a pump somewhere nearby, and chances are, if you pump some air into your flat tire, it will stay inflated. Tires do lose air over the course of time; it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a hole. Also, unlike a car, it’s not the tire that might have a problem, it’s the tube inside the tire, which costs about $5 to replace. So, if you do pump air in, and it doesn’t hold, it’s still a cheap and easy fix. Just check the How To page for step-by-step directions.
•You can’t carry the things you need on a bike – There are actually tons of options in terms of adding cargo carrying capacity to your bike. You’d be surprised at how much you can transport by way of a bike. See the Getting Equipped page for ideas and options for addressing this issue.
•You're "a little out of shape" – Maybe you are, but people smarter than myself say that bicycles are one of, if not the most efficient vehicle on Earth. Basically, what that means is that it takes a relatively small amount of effort for a big return. For example, it takes three times as many calories to walk a mile as it does to ride a bike a mile. See the Health page for all kinds of information on what riding a bike will do for your health and wellness.
• You don't have a helmet – You’re right, you should wear a helmet, and if you don’t have one, you should get one. But again, there’s probably a good chance that you have one collecting dust somewhere. And although you might have cited the last reason as well, meaning that your body has changed shape slightly, I’d be willing to bet your head hasn’t. Truthfully, helmets can by pricy. It’s one of the things that might cost you a few bucks up front, but it’s a one-time expense, and in the grand scheme, it’s really pretty cheap. See the Getting Equipped page for helmet prices and options.
• You don't trust drivers and you don't feel safe – This is a big one. I know people have a lot of fear. And of course, there is danger associated with any activity. But the fact is, statistics show that riding a bicycle is more than 50% safer than driving a car (Ken Kifer). Of course, there are many steps that should be taken in order to ride as safely as possible, and there are countless websites devoted solely to that. See the Safety page for lots of tips and practices for staying safe on your bike, as well as links to other great safety websites.
•It takes too long/The places you tend to go are too far away – Although many of us don’t like to admit it, most folks have a surprisingly small living radius. For many people, the bulk of their driving is made up of their commute to and from work. In cities especially, commuting distances are usually pretty short, although it may not seem that way when you’re sitting in that ridiculous traffic jam that you sit in twice a day five days a week. Take this example: in Canada, among its major cities, the average commute distance is less than five miles. In a car, that probably takes 20 minutes, door to door, considering congestion during rush hour and parking and all. On a bike, it would take a half hour or less. That is not a very significant difference, and anyways, in terms of quality of life, a half-hour on a bicycle really isn’t to be compared with 15 or 20 minutes in traffic. It is infinitely better. See the Convenience/Traffic page for more on travel time comparisons and many other things to consider related to commuting.
•It's too hot – Sometimes it is too hot. Not every day is ideal for riding a bike. But when your riding, let’s not forget that you have a nice breeze on you the whole time. The faster you ride, the more of a breeze that you get. Of course we’re not going to ride our bikes every day of the year, but the fact is, there are plenty of pleasantly rideable days during most months of the year here in New England.
•It's too cold – Sometimes it is too cold. Not every day is ideal for riding a bike. But a little bit of planning and layering of clothes can provide comfort in more weather than you think. Of course we’re not going to ride our bikes every day of the year, but the fact is, there are plenty of pleasantly rideable days during most months of the year here in New England.
•It's too wet – Sometimes it is too wet. I don’t want to ride in the rain either. Of course we’re not going to ride our bikes every day of the year, but the fact is, there are plenty of pleasantly rideable days during most months of the year here in New England.
•You're too busy – We are a busy mess of people. But what I’m doing is not suggesting you add riding a bike onto your ever-growing list of things to do. I’m suggesting you integrate is into your life as a whole, and consequently replace a couple of the things on your list with it. If you’re riding your bike to work and maybe using it to do some errands close enough to home some percentage of the time, you can probably cross off the elusive and often demoralizing “get to the gym” entry from the list - not to mention the “gas up the car” and “get an oil change” entries. And boom, stress level down, calorie burning up, fossil fuel burning down.
•It’s not cool, and you feel childish – There are more followers than leaders, wouldn’t you say? The ones who are leaders go about their lives doing things simply because they make sense to them. They are not concerned with what is “in” or “out.” I have no doubt that if you give bikes a chance, and think about how far you actually travel during an average week, you will come to your own conclusion that bikes make sense a lot of the time. You’re cool, and, I’m sure have some leader in you, and if you’re just doing what you’re doing, because it seems like a good idea to you, people will begin to wonder if they’re missing out on something by not doing it too.