Photo by Nicholas Thomas
If you're considering giving cycling a try for the first time since childhood - or ever - these tips will help you get rolling:
Basic equipment - You will need a bicycle that fits you, helmet, white front light and rear taillight - all of which are available at bike shops. You can buy new or used bikes for as little as a few hundred dollars, and some come equipped with integrated accessories, such as lights, fenders, rack/ basket and kickstand. Plan a bicycle shopping outing with a friend and make a day of it.
Fashion - Skinny jeans, tights, bare legs and leggings are ideal for cycling. Roll up loose pant legs or use a leg strap to secure wayward cuffs. Many European bikes have internal gears and chainguards that protect you and your pants or long skirts. Otherwise, pack wipes and be wary of white near greasy chains. Pack a hairbrush and makeup for post-ride retouching.
Don't sweat it! - Biking doesn't have to be a race. You can go at a leisurely pace, get to work or wherever you're going on time and still enjoy some fresh air and a good workout. Just make sure to give yourself enough time.
Buddy up - "Ask to bike with people who know the streets well and can offer pointers on what routes to take," said Kim Burgas, a designer and cyclist in NYC. Start a Facebook group, join meetup.com or just ask around to see if someone you already know wants to join you. Start a bike pool with someone at work. "There are lots of women's group rides these days, which are a great way to meet other women cyclists," suggested Teresa Delfin, founder and CEO of Mountain Mama clothes in California.
Take a course - Cycling courses teach you the basics, including stopping, starting, shifting gears, proper hand signals and the rules of the road. Cycling courses, including women-only classes, are often provided through bicycle associations and local bike co-ops.
Map it out - "Google Maps has a bike option that shows routes for bikes," said Delfin, "but check out their suggestions and confirm with seasoned riders or a local shop before embarking on your urban adventure." Ridethecity.com also provides cyclists with a choice of safe routes across North America. Weekend mornings on quiet side streets are a good time and place to gain confidence on your bike.
Learn basic maintenance - "On a bicycle, you are in control of how you move through the world," said Ainsley Naylor of Bike Pirates in Toronto, ON. "If you can fix your bike, then you are in complete control." Many bike co-ops have women- and trans-only bike repair times that are a safe and non-intimidating way to learn how to repair your bike.