Gas prices aren’t as high as they used to be, but they certainly aren’t cheap either. My fiance and I made a point of buying a home close to our workplace (5.5 miles away for me, 5 miles for him) so we could bicycle in.
I know that not everyone will be able to do this, but if not bicycling to work, why not that quick trip to the grocery store? To the coffee shop? To a restaurant or bar?
I like to think of bicycling as not only self-sufficient, but also efficient. It lengthens my commute by 15 minutes, but I’m combining my commute with my daily workout (and cheap ‘ol me doesn’t have to pay for a gym membership). Why do one thing if you can do two things at once?
IF YOU DON’T HAVE A BICYCLE: Get one! Check craigslist or ebay. Buying a new bicycle is a lot like buying a new car – it decreases in value as soon as you drive it off the lot. I was able to get mine brand new off of craigslist – the man had purchased it from ebay for his wife, but she didn’t like the color.
Consider what type of bicycle you want. Most commonly you’ll see road bicycles, mountain bicycles, and cruisers.
Road bicycles are the fastest. They’re the ones with the thin tires and the ram’s horn handle bars. They take a little getting used to, and you cannot ride them over rough terrain. I even have to slow down at railroad tracks. I purchased mine for $320.
Mountain bicycles are a tad slower. You sit a bit more upright on these, and you can take them over many types of terrain. These are the easiest to find (in my experience) on craigslist. I purchased one for $75, and another for $150.
Cruisers are the slowest of the bunch. You sit upright, they have wide seats, and they are very comfortable. They’re perfect for cruising around town. You probably won’t get much of a work out on one of these, but if your priority is a comfy, breezy ride, this is the bicycle for you. I’ve never purchased one, but I think you’d spend around the same as for an inexpensive mountain bike.
TIPS FOR THE RIDE:
1. MP3 player or iPod. Music will help make your ride go a lot faster, so you won’t be endlessly pedaling and wondering, “Am I there yet?”
2. Check your maps and surroundings. Bicycles can go places cars cannot. Is there a shortcut to your destination? I cut through a park on my way to work, and it saves me at least a mile.
3. Mentally divide your route into parts. It’s a way of breaking things down, so if you’re riding several miles, the task won’t seem quite so daunting. I think of my ride as a 4-part ride. 3 long roads, and then downtown.
4. Don’t give up too quickly and stay consistent! The first few times I rode the 5.5 miles to work and the other 5.5 miles back I was pooped. It was agonizing. But then the next time was easier, and the next even easier. Now riding back and forth to work is a breeze. I often almost broke down and drove my car, but peer pressure from my fiance kept me riding.
5. Think of your long-term rewards. The $$ you’ll be saving. Being in shape. No emissions.
6. A decent bag. This can make or break the ride. I have an L.L. Bean backpack with padded straps and a reinforced back. My fiance has a Timbuk2 with a padded strap. If you get something that is roomy and sits comfortably, you can pile in the groceries/laptop/whatever and barely notice the extra weight.
7. A water bottle holder and a water bottle. Still have to install one on my new bicycle, but on hot days, this makes things much more pleasant.
All-in-all, I spend between $20-35 on gas a month. Not bad!
LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE: Buy a Kryptonite U-lock. Don’t bother with the cable locks – they’re useless unless your bicycle looks like it’s not even worth the time. I had my bicycle locked up right outside a coffee shop in broad daylight with a cable lock. It was stolen, and I had to walk home. Spend a little more $$ now, save a lot more later!
Coming soon…homemade deodorant!