The greenest form of transportation is attached to the bottom of your legs- your feet! The ‘carbon footprint’ of walking is about as small as it gets and it has the additional benefit of being healthy as well. However it takes time, and unless you only have a mile or less to go, getting around by foot can consume a large part of your day. Riding a bicycle, on the other hand, is a lot more efficient. Its’ carbon footprint is equally modest, and in small, relatively level cities like we have here in San Luis Obispo county, you can easily run errands and ride to work in less time than it takes to find a parking space. I began riding a bicycle regularly in my early forties, and have been a member of the San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club (www.slobc.org) as well as several national cycling related organizations ever since. At first I learned a lot about cycling through trial and error, but when I began riding with more experienced riders I gained confidence, greater skill, and achieved a level of fitness that I had not felt since I was 20! If you are new to cycling, or are attracted to the idea of human powered transportation but not sure about how to get started, I would like to share my experience.
First of all, buy a quality bike that fits you from a store that only sells bicycles. You will spend more than you would at Walmart or Costgo, but you will get a bike that is more durable, lighter, and built with higher quality, longer lasting components, as well as one that has been assembled and adjusted by a trained bicycle mechanic. When you buy from a local bike shop the sales person will also make sure that the bike fits you. Nothing will spoil a ride faster than trying to learn on a bike that is too small or too large for you, or is designed for a type of riding you will never engage in.
In addition to a decent bicycle, you will want a helmet, gloves, and, if you find yourself riding a lot, padded bike shorts. Again, your local bike shop can supply you with the proper size of helmet and adjust it correctly. One option for the budget minded is to look at new bikes, find out what size fits you best, and then look for that size in a used bike. I admit to doing exactly that when I first began to ride. However, when I bought my first new bike and had it fitted to me at the bike shop, it was a real revelation. I enjoyed riding more, was more comfortable and rode further with less stress on my body than with the “close enough” used bike I bought at a garage sale for $75.
Once you have a bicycle you like, I recommend that you get some training. When I began riding close to twenty years ago, you got on the bike and hoped for the best. I learned a lot more when I began riding with the San Luis Bicycle Club members, experienced riders all, but nowadays you can actually take classes put on by the City of San Luis and San Luis County Bicycle Coalition (http://slobikelane.org). In the classes trained instructors will help you learn such skills as proper lane positioning, dealing with traffic, and approaching intersections. There is also a more advanced class that teaches you how to deal with a flat tire (it will happen!) and make basic adjustments to the brakes and gears.
There is one thought I would like to leave you with: besides being an efficient means of transportation, bicycling can be a source of fun and adventure. My bicycles have taken me places and allowed me to do things I could only dream about, with people and friends I will treasure all my life. Everyone should have a bike and ride it!
Resources to check out:
Bicycle Coalition: https://bikeslocounty.org/
League of American Bicyclists: http://www.bikeleague.org/
Local Bicycle shops:
Arts SLO Cyclery: http://www.artscyclery.com/
Cambria Bicycle Outfitters (SLO): http://www.cambriabike.com/
Kman Bike/Run Atascadero, Paso: http://www.kmancr.com/
These are only a few of many resources in our county.