People are often a bit surprised when I tell them that I’ve taken up the habit of commuting nearly everywhere by bicycle. Their confusion is understandable – I have no history of practicality, athleticism, or being aware of my surroundings. In fact, the reasons that I waited so long to take a stab at cycling in the first place can be boiled down to a.) my reluctance to get whacked by a vehicle, and b.) my aversion to spandex performance wear. If I can manage to make a two-wheel commute work for me, anyone can. Given the fact that I refuse to tweak the rest of my lifestyle and remain slightly spastic and higher maintenance than average, I present to you a few essential tips I’ve pocketed about effective bicycle riding.
Ascribe an irresponsible weight to aesthetics when selecting your bicycle
As I have divulged, my bike is a vintage fixed-gear Schwinn. It is somewhat inconvenient. It will never recognize itself in an energy bar commercial. It is slow and heavy. On the other hand, though, it is bright yellow and has original handle bars and pretty pedals. There is a dainty slope in the metal where the frame meets the wheel. The front is so wide set that it easily accommodates my woven wicker basket. It makes me happy. I am fairly certain that its verifiable prettiness incentivizes me to ride it more.
Do not live in Columbia Heights
I am gravely serious about this one. I recently relocated to Bloomingdale from Columbia Heights, and it was the wisest commuting decision I have made since I actually got the bike. Pedaling up that hill north of Florida Avenue is like taking shots of cheapo vodka sold in plastic bottles – yeah, you can do it. But you never quite get used to it. And each time you go for it, you’re a bit taken aback by how much it sucks. Except that hill is there every day, and I assume that you don’t take shots of that kind of vodka on a daily basis. Hopefully, you’ve graduated to a glass bottle for everyday use. I mean, have some class.
Wear a helmet
I know this is obvious, and I won’t sugarcoat this. You look like a major dork in a bike helmet. So do I. So do all of your friends. Buying one of the pastel printed helmets or one with a sleeker design won’t help much, either. But, there is also no valid reason that I should have survived as many months as I have as a bike commuter. I am clumsy, have a slow reaction time, and the only person on the road more oblivious than I am at any given time is whatever driver happens to be on my left. I have to assume that the universe has been watching my back and letting all of this slide. I am not about to embarrass it and make it look like a fool riding around with my head unprotected. I’ve got to meet it halfway, here.
Have the right accessories
This might be controversial, but it is perfectly acceptable to bike in heels – The pedal locks safely into the slope beneath the arch of your foot, and as long as you are comfortable maneuvering in heels they may well be safer than slippery flats or sandals. This logic does not apply to wedges, so take those off. That said, I often bike in ballet flats and carry my real shoes in my bag with me. Be sure to procure a tote bag with straps long enough to wrap around your whole body, like a messenger bag. Do not buy a real messenger bag. They are stupid-looking. You’re already wearing a helmet – let’s not make things worse.
Don’t bother wearing bike shorts
I only wear pants when I am hungover, lounging at home, or about to embark on some sort of outdoor adventure activity. This leads to a lot of cycling in skirts and dresses. Conventional wisdom states that I ought to wear bike shorts underneath them, in the interest of modesty. SCREW THAT. For one thing, I somewhat resent the implication that it is a lady’s vocation to defend herself against the cloying gaze of perverts. For another, have those disseminating this advice ever considered the actual physical contours involved in cycling? When I’m perched my bike seat, my legs are pointed downward at a fairly steep angle, and my skirt drapes comfortably above them. The eyes of most would-be crotch-gazers are fairly fair off to my side, on either the sidewalk or inside their cars. All they see is the side of my thigh. For a vantage point that would afford even half a chance of snatching an eyeful (pun intended, obviously,) they’d have to be facing me head-on in a crouching position so as to be eye-level with my sensitive parts. This is both farcical and woefully dangerous, which is probably why I have never seen a person actually doing this. Furthermore, wouldn’t the worst case scenario in this instance just be someone seeing my underpants? And aren’t those made of fabric? And aren’t shorts also made of fabric? I fail to see why one provides an advantage over the other. And in the event that it ever does happen, won’t a desperately-won glimpse of my undergarmets last for merely a fraction of a second? Can the human brain even discern between bike shorts and underoos based on such a limited visual intake? Is it my job to care?
These tips ought to prime you for your commute. From there, well, it’s a lot like riding a bike. Happy riding, ladies.