Remember when you were twelve and you would just get on your bike and fly? It was so liberating, propelling yourself ever forward with the wind sweeping through your hair. Do you ever miss that feeling?
Unless you are a diehard biker, you probably have a bike from the 80s stashed in a dusty corner of your garage, not used since that vacation a few summers ago. The tires might be flat, the chain starting to stiffen, the paint slowly chipping. You always talk about picking it back up again—going for long rides on country roads on Sunday mornings—but it’s a little intimidating, especially going at it alone.
I know a lot of people, especially 50+, who love the idea of biking, but haven’t actually found the momentum to get started. They biked in their youth, but family, work and life simply just got in the way. Well, I’m here to tell you that you can and should start biking again, and it’s not as intimidating as you make it out to be.
Biking is an easy skill to pick back up, even if you haven’t biked since you were twelve. (And if you’ve never pedaled in your life, never fear! There are plenty of resources out there in the world, and even online on sites and forums.) Here are some basic tips to help ease you back in to the wonderful world of cycling:
Tune up your bike (or get a bike). The most important thing is to make sure your bike is safe to ride. Bring your bike in to your local bike shop for a tune up. While you’re there, ask them if they could give you a rundown on basic maintenance, like changing a flat and lubing your chain. Otherwise, there are plenty of internet sources that can be helpful. Believe me, as someone who has little interest in mechanics, it’s easy.
Don’t have a bike? Borrow a friend’s who is similarly sized, scour Craigslist and Pinkbike, or check in with your bike shop. It’s your choice, whether to get new or used. I always recommend starting out with something really affordable and gently used. That way, when you want to buy a bike in the future, you can skip the expensive entry-level steeds that most people outgrow within a few months of riding.
Be prepared. Get your kit ready. Always wear your helmet. Carry a spare tube, a tire lever, hand pump/CO2 cartridge and tiny patch kit in a pouch or backpack in case you get an easy-to-fix flat. And make sure you have plenty of water to stay hydrated. If you are leaving your bike in town, you’ll probably need a basic U-lock. From there, you can always add more and more accessories, depending on what kind of rider you are, but those are the necessities to get you on the road and moving.
Get a crew. If you want to ride alone, go for it, but it’s easier to build a new habit if a friend is in it with you. Find a supportive community, whether it be your family, friends, neighbors, church, social media or coworkers. Odds are, someone you know is a bike lover and would be happy to ride with you, or at least give you a tip or two on the weekends. And if not, hey, that’s what your local bike shop is there for.
Don’t worry if you’re out of shape. The beautiful thing about biking is anybody can do it. It doesn’t require a ton of intricate muscle activation and is based in a simple seated position. If you are coming back to biking after years of a non-fitnesscentric lifestyle, go easy on yourself. Don’t push yourself too hard too fast, or you might get discouraged. Just the simple act of getting outside and rolling down the block for 10 minutes is a great start. Just focus on pedaling and enjoying being outdoors.
Bike regularly. Biking is an exercise people of all ages love and stick with simply because it’s fun and easy. You don’t have to go to a gym—just hop on and go. Join a community ride (ask your bike shop) or have a friend meet you on bikes at the farmer’s market. Just keep riding and you’ll soon wonder how you went so many years without it.
If you feel like you might want to start cycling again, you should absolutely do it! Cycling is fun and healthy, whether your twelve or seventy two. Don’t be intimidated. It’s all about getting out there in the fresh air, moving your body and having a blast!