Now Is the Time to Get Into Bicycles
As long as you do it safely, pedal-powered two-wheel fun is a great way to take advantage of empty streets.
You're going nuts with coronavirus-mandated cabin fever. Your gym is probably closed. Lethargy and inertia are starting to set in. What are you going to do to prevent your butt from slowly melting like a marshmallow? The roads are nearly empty, the outside air is cleaner than it's been in decades and the spring weather is lovely. It's bicycle time.
Before you close this tab in a white-hot fit of spandex-fueled rage, hear me out. These open surface streets are the stuff of your third-grade dreams, and that sensation of speed hasn't changed from your pre-car days. It's a feeling that's always relative to the vehicle you're in, which is why flying down a straight at 30 mph on a bicycle can feel more insane than doing the same at 150 mph in a computer-aided, downforce-happy modern McLaren. (That's just another Tuesday in said McLaren.)
Most shelter-in-place orders exempt outdoor exercise, making it a valid, legal reason to be out of your home. Your neighbors are probably still jogging around, walking their dogs and yes, cycling. Join them.
And by "join them," I mean "Go ride a bike alone while keeping a safe distance from everyone but the folks you were already quarantining with." You never know—someone out there may have kept their crowded Spring Break plans or licked a toilet seat because this is America and you can't tell them what to do. It's still safe to ride right now, but err on the side of caution and give people their space.
You can even throw a basket or a backpack on and run your rare but unavoidable errands. The longer it takes for you to get there is more time spent outside of your home's depressing walls. Trust me, a person who's been working from home for five and a half years: just seeing other people around is a nice reminder that you're not actually alone. Wave to them! Be friendly!
You should still check your latest local restrictions before heading out the door. Some of the hardest-hit areas keep tightening their rules on outdoor activity. Regardless of what they are and how antsy you are inside your own home, you should stay in if you're sick, immunocompromised or have any doubts as to whether you've been exposed to the novel coronavirus.
Following your local rules also includes traffic laws. You hate that guy who blasts through intersections, won't stay in his lane and abruptly darts in front of you when you're driving. Don't become that guy on a bicycle. Most importantly, do what you can to stay out of our over-stressed medical system. That means wearing a helmet and riding within your limits. Don't try any sweet jumps for the first time, for example.
Best of all, bicycles are cheap, even for those of us who have -$0 as a budget due to unemployment or cuts in pay. Riding costs nothing, and there are deals to be had on places like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. If you have any issues with your two-wheeled purchase, many COVID-19-related orders allow bike shops to stay open for parts and repair.
I recently picked up a bike with 27 speeds to cope with the big hill between my house and the nearest trail. I didn't even know bikes came with 27 speeds now when I started looking, but I'm going to make good use of those lower, easier to pedal gears on the uphill run. I opted for fatter tires, too, to better deal with some of the unpaved paths around town.
I know that some of us don't have that kind of topography to worry about. I used to live in North Texas, for Pete's sake, much of which is as flat as a pancake. So, what advice would you give someone who wants to get a bicycle that's a bit more sophisticated than their old nineties teal ride with removable training wheels? Drop your best advice in the comments below.
Despite all the horribleness around us, it is still spring, and it's going to be beautiful outside if it isn't already. Taking a few laps around the neighborhood is one way to stay social, albeit from a distance. Go take a slower, closer look at everything you usually speed past on your commute. Riding around your city is an inexpensive way to make the most of this, so go have some fun.
And if you have cycling tips during coronavirus, or have discovered your love of pedal-powered two-wheeled fun right now, let us know about your experience in the comments.
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