What stops you from hopping on your bike to go shopping for that quart of milk, or to pick up books at the library (you do read don’t you?), or attend your ukulele lesson?
Typical reasons include distance and the ability to carry stuff. Maybe your bike needs work or it is raining and you live at the top of Montroyal Boulevard; i.e., too far up the hill. Whatever the reason, remember that for anything to become second nature, it has to be easy. It certainly shouldn’t be hard. Here are five tips for making cycling for transportation easier.
1. The proximity premise
“But it is too far.” The other day I wheeled on over to Lonsdale to buy groceries, pick up a prescription and hit the Donair Dude for a veggie pita. Living within a 15-minute bike ride to a commercial centre really makes cycling for transportation easier. If you look at the North Shore, most of us do actually live within a 15-minute ride. Just some of us have more “gravity” to overcome than others. Think about where you live and how it might be fun to go shopping with your bike. No more parking hassles!
2. Carrying capacity
“How can I carry it all home?” If you are getting groceries, books and other items, you’ll need a way to carry them. High volume panniers (those suitcases you see on people’s bike racks) are ideal. But, if you don’t want to go to the expense, just use a big backpack and a bungee cord for the rear rack. You can strap the bevvies like rice milk and Perrier on the rack and carry the rest in the backpack. The bonus is that this will encourage healthy eating since veggies weigh less than processed food. There are weight limits though. I have drawn the line at carrying a 20-pound Thanksgiving turkey home without large panniers or a trailer. Although it IS possible to buy crown molding and strap it to the bike frame, as a visit to the building supply store proved, and yes, a red flag was tied on both ends.
3. Pump it up
“My tires are never inflated when I need them.” The simple solution to this is to ride more often. Quip answer aside, under-inflated tires increase drag and, if really low, can lead to pinch flats or worse, an “unintended dismount.” Tires need to be regularly checked and filled – once a week. Big tip: Don’t use one of those lightweight hand pumps for your regular fills, buy a decent floor pump. They don’t cost a lot, they are waaay more effective, your arms will thank you and you will be more likely to pump up on a regular basis.
4. How handy is your ride?
“I have to go through four doors and crawl through a fiery tunnel to get my bike out.” We hear you. Many people don’t have ideal bike storage. If you have a small garage, it might make more sense to park your car outside to leave room for your bikes. Or, you could create a covered area on the side of your garage where you can store bikes using good locks. Those of you in stratas or rental buildings, we know the horror of the bike room. If you use your bike all the time, then we think it is OK for you not to “hang” your bike every time you use it. Just park it and lock it where you can without blocking anyone else from using their bike. Join the team at your strata clearing out the bike room when the time comes.
5. Get on the e-train
“Hills, I hate hills!” Get an e-bike. So many people I know are getting e-bikes these days that there is competition for them in stores. It’s not just boomers either. Young couples with kids are trying e-bikes to see if they can do away with a car. E-bikes literally make hills a non-issue. With an e-bike you have no excuse not to make that 15-minute shopping spree. Plus, studies say that using an e-bike makes people even happier than regular biking. Cool. Get happy and overcome gravity at the same time. E-bikes are hot, sales are booming like real estate used to. Get wise and order one in advance. That way you can be guaranteed one by Christmas.
Enjoy the cooler weather. Hop on your bike to go shopping and experience the freedom that using a bike for transportation gives you.
The North Shore Pedal Pushers are Heather Drugge and Antje Wahl. The guy who makes the column readable, Dan Campbell, prefers driving. See – we can all work together.