Contrary to the advice of “paid” advocates in the bike industry anyone that is contemplating bike riding should not start with short bike rides. Short bike rides are for your grandmother. If you are going to get any benefit from bike riding then start commuting to work even when the distance is 10 miles or more. Why not just start with a short ride? Don’t I have to work up to the longer distance? Advocates are wrong about most people physical strength and assume people are weak. You know if you are weak. Advocates are cutting you off right when you should be encouraged. So, let’s look how a 10 mile ride shapes up so you can take it to the limit.
The factors that we have to concern ourselves with are not only your physical health but also, the bike you choose, the route you choose and the topography and weather. Most of us can ride 10 miles one way. The hard part is the psychological wall we have towards time and space. A bike ride might take one hour the first time you ride 10 miles. Take heart this is OK. Time is reduced when you build strength and you can cover more space in less time. Now, what about the bike you choose? A heavy Schwinn Varsity or department store bike is only going to hinder your efforts. With the price of gasoline today not getting any cheaper, the cost of half a dozen tanks of gas will buy you a pretty decent used bike on Craigslist. Go to my Rider Reach for information on bike fit so you will be armed with basic knowledge when shopping around.
It’s a wonderful thing to have Google Maps for route choice. Use the bike map route tab and keep in mind that your bike ride will be on streets that you don’t normally drive. Here are tips to consider when you are commuting. The time of day you are riding can mean more or less traffic. The direction you ride may mean heading into a wind. Most of us don’t live in a direct line to work so look for flat areas around hilly routes. Look for a route that parallels the roads you drive. Seek bike trails if there are any. Ask people for directions if you are unsure of where your route is taking you. Take time to discover the hidden short cuts which are inevitable in all urban environments.
A longish ride beats the heck out of the short rides that only short-sighted people recommend. A long ride gets you out of the neighborhood. It makes you think about all that encompasses bike riding in the first place. You have to think or god forbid plan. I know this is hard for most people when all they have experienced is car driving where forgetting your keys in the house is the most thinking they have to do! So plan ahead for the conditions. It’s fun to actually think about what we might wear to bike ride. Or how a range of temperatures really is something we can get to know making us less fearful of the weather. A long ride will get your blood going. That’s not real scientific but that is what you want to accomplish. A short ride does not do this, that is unless you are weak, feeble or so out of shape that dying would be a better alternative. So for the advocates calling for short bike rides of 2 miles or less, please consider that mileage is great only if there is something of interest within that distance. For many urban dwellers, specifically those that are not in the 12 major biking cities in America, the distances they have to ride for everyday things is often 4 to 5 miles. Think Indianapolis for example. The city is sprawling and for half a million people the corner variety store just doesn’t cut it for everyday stuff.
Take the long bike ride to work and when you do get on your bike for a short ride you will be stronger for it. Occupy you city now with bikes, be tough!