The Fit Student—Cycling Tips

Want a student-friendly way to blast to class and back?  Tired of standing at the bus, getting snow kicked in your face by motorists?  Then jump on the environmental bandwagon: the bicycle.

Cyclists live fit and healthy but carry their share of road rage tales.  I have many scary cycling stories, too.

For instance, I once felt fear cycling along a four-lane roadway.  But all four lanes laid empty, except me and a man wailing his horn behind me.  Instead of easily passing me, he tried bumping my back tires as he honked nonstop.   I thought, This guy might kill me.  So, I pulled to the side, my heart racing, and stared straight ahead as he swerved as if to swipe me and passed.

Another horror story?  I once read news about a male who raped blonde women on bike paths.  Not long after, on my travels, a scruffy guy blockaded my path with his bike.  I came to a halt.  “What color is your hair?”  He asked.  I stayed silent.  He said, “Brown,” as he pulled his bike aside, waving me to pass.  Ever since, I avoided bike paths, preferring highways and side roads.  Cars and semis just felt safer.

Yet another time, I cycled hyper-speed down an underpass sidewalk.  But a woman appeared from a hidden side entrance.  So I hit my brakes, my bicycle skidding sideways, stopping inches from her toes.  I apologized.  Then, an older woman behind me blurted, “How did you stop so fast? You should be in a hospital!”  So, we chatted about how I learned to take impact through martial arts.  But I peered back at the woman I nearly hit; she was struggling with an anxiety attack.  Ever since, I unmount my bike while passing pedestrians.

It’s not just me though, Yvonne Bambrick and Marc Ngui share cycling tips in their book The Urban Cycling Survival Guide: Need-to-Know Skills and Strategies for Biking in the City:

  • Why cycle? “Cycling significantly improves health and … can greatly reduce … risks linked to cardiovascular disease, Type-2 diabetes, certain forms of cancer, osteoporosis, and depression …” (OECD as cited in Bambrick and Ngui, 11 in chapter Introduction).
  • Other reasons to cycle? “Cycling has a positive effect on emotional health—improving levels of well-being, self-confidence, and tolerance to stress while reducing tiredness, difficulties with sleep, and a range of medical symptoms” (OECD as cited in Bambrick and Ngui, 9 In chapter Introduction).
  • More reasons to cycle? “Say goodbye to your gym membership and slash your spending on public transit and taxis or gas, parking, and car repairs …”  (7 in chapter Introduction).
  • Buy a quality bike from a bike shop. Avoid Canadian Tire, Walmart, or Sport Chek bikes: “A good bike is worth the investment ….  You’ll probably have it for several years—let’s say five years ….  Add up the money you estimate you’ll save every year by riding …  That’s more than enough to pay for a great bike that suits your needs” (68 in Chapter 1).
  • For commuting, buy a road bike, a city bike, or a hybrid bike. Avoid mountain bikes, cruisers, or fat tires for city road riding; they’ll slow you down.
  • Also, buy bikes that fit your body: “When you straddle the bike frame … the top tube should be about … 1 inch … away from your crotch. Ideally, you should be able to stand comfortably without the frame coming into contact with your body” (51 of Chapter 1).
  • As for handlebars, “Your arms should be slightly bent at the elbows and not overextended” (50 in Chapter 1).
  • As for your legs, “you want your knee to be slightly bent when you’ve reached the bottom of the pedal stroke while seated” (48 of Chapter 1).
  • For better comfort, try “replacing the seats … with new spring-loaded hard leather saddles…. Riding should never be a pain in the butt” (46 of Chapter 1).

When I wore ten-pound ankle weights, my calves bulked.  Cars behind me would honk and a male would yell, “Toss the ankle weights, Arnold!”  The message?  When your lady-muscles bulge, some men get mad.  You know, the men with skinny ankles, droopy socks, and calf-implant secret savings.

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