There are lots of good reasons to take more trips and run more errands by bike. From being eco-friendly with a low carbon footprint to saving money on gas, maintenance and insurance to boosting fitness and reducing stress, bicycles are one of the best choices you can make for daily transportation.
While taking the next step and replacing your car with a bicycle can have a positive impact on your life, there are some adjustments you’ll have to make for the transition to be a smooth one.
The most important decision you’ll have to make is buying a bike that fits your daily needs. An e-bike is a great choice for most people who are replacing a car with a bike because it can help you travel great distances and reach moderate speeds more easily. If you have a family, you’ll probably need to transport children, requiring either child seats or a trailer. E-bikes help power heavier loads and are more comfortable for handling daily chores. If you’re single and live in an urban environment, you may be able to get away with a more traditional hybrid or commuter bike. Another option is the cargo bike, which can be purchased with electric motors as well.
While the shortest or fastest route might be the best option in a car, the safest route with the least amount of traffic is often the priority when traveling by bike. The good news is, apps like MapMyRide can help you choose popular cycling routes and use less traveled roads that have bike lanes so you don’t have to worry about busy streets. Mapping out all of your everyday routes (grocery store, coffee shop, the office, etc.) also helps you figure out how many miles you’ll be traveling per day and which of your daily tasks can be combined into one trip to make your day more efficient.
If you have too many miles to cover per day, you can always combine your bike commute with public transportation. Most trains and buses can carry bicycles, making it easy to bike part of the way and utilize alternative methods for the rest. Obtain public transportation maps and schedules for bus and train routes and figure out which pick up times might work. A few trial runs may be needed before you find the best route.
From groceries to kids and supplies for a home repair, think about all the things you haul in a car. To make the switch, you’ll need to be able to haul most of these same items on a bike. While this might seem unreasonable, it can be done — and many people around the world make it work on a daily basis. Here are a few things to consider purchasing for your bike that will make hauling essentials easier than you might think:
- Trailer: While you won’t need to attach this to your bike for every ride, it makes towing more than one child and large loads from the grocery store much easier. I’ve even seen people use bike trailers to move household goods.
- Cargo racks: At a minimum, make sure the bike you buy has attachments for cargo racks. This allows you to strap down panniers or other cargo bags to make carrying your stuff much easier.
- Child seat: If you only have one small child, a child seat is easy to install and makes getting around with a little one pretty easy.
- Bike bell: There’s really no other way to alert pedestrians and other cyclists that you’re in their space, and having one is an easy way to avoid unnecessary collisions.
- Basket: Yes, this may look old-fashioned to some of you. But a basket on the front of your bike can be really handy when you need to carry a few extra items and don’t have room in one of your bags. A trolley tote is another option.
Just like maintenance for your car, if you’re going to use a bike every day for transportation you’ll need to ensure it continues to run smoothly. Luckily bike maintenance is easy to learn and doesn’t take a lot of mechanical knowledge. Washing your bike and cleaning your drivetrain are two such tasks you should do at least once per week. Alternatively, there are some common mistakes you’ll want to avoid that can end up saving you a lot of time and money at your local bike shop, like over-tightening bolts and using too much lube. Also, be sure to keep an eye on your parts and change them out as they start to wear. Replacing a chain, for instance, isn’t that expensive, and if you do it once per year, it can prolong the life of your other more expensive bike parts.
Nothing is worse than having a roadside malfunction and not knowing how to fix it. These problems are multiplied when your bike is your primary source of transportation and you’re on the way to work or carrying a trailer full of groceries. To ensure you don’t get stuck and have to call someone with a car and tools for help, learn how to do the basics before you set out on your everyday commutes. Learning to change a tire and getting the right tools is a good place to start.
The bike isn’t the only thing you’ll need to stay safe and comfortable. While it might take some money initially, if you buy quality gear it should last for years. And when you compare these costs with gas prices, car insurance, and the overall price of an automobile, you’ll still be saving a good deal of cash. Here are a few items you’ll need to consider:
- A helmet: Protecting your head at all times should be your priority. Although it isn’t a law everywhere, we wouldn’t recommend leaving home without one.
- Sunglasses: These protect your eyes from harmful UV rays and debris on the roadway.
- Reflective gear: Bike lights are a must, but also consider reflective jackets, vests and other gear to help you be seen when daylight is limited.
- Panniers: Instead of carrying a backpack, panniers easily attach to bike racks so you can transport work necessities or even a small amount of groceries.
- Rain gear: While rain and bad weather is a major deterrent for some, you can ride in nearly all weather conditions if you dress right. Invest in waterproof pants and jackets and other warm, cycling-specific clothing that helps you get through the colder months of the year while staying comfortable.
- A good bike lock: If you’ll be leaving your bike outside for any length of time, a bike lock is necessary.