So you want to try that cycling thing you heard so much about. It saves gas money, improves traffic congestion and air quality, and on top of that, it's healthy. What do you need to do?
Do you or someone you know have an unused bike lying around in the garage? If it fits you, and it is or can be made ridable, it'll be a good entry-level bike, and later on you might want to convert it into a winter bike. Bike sizing has turned into a science, and if you're going to spend serious money on a bicycle you should make sure you get your bike dealer to help you pick the right size. But for now, all you have to do is check if the stand over height is about right: if you stand astride over the bicycle, there should be between 5 and 8 cm between the top tube and your crotch. If you're dealing with a step-through (women's) bicycle, stand over height doesn't apply. For all kinds of bicycle you should make sure that the seat can be adjusted to the proper height. To figure this out, sit straight on the seat, heel on the pedal, and put the pedal in the down position so that the crank arm is parallel to the seat tube. Your leg should be completely straight. If you can't reach the pedal with your heel even if the seat is all the way down, the bike is too big for you. If you have to pull the seat post out too far, it is too small. Of course, it's also important that you can comfortably reach the handlebar!
If you want a brand new ride, head over to one of Calgary's local bike shops and let them help you. A few local bike shops also list their inventory on Bicycle Peddler. But do some research first, and consider where, how, how often, and how far you expect to ride. If your route will take you up and down hills, you want more gears. If you want to go fast, you might want thinner tires. If you're a more leisurely rider, you might prefer a more upright seating position. If you're going to ride in wet conditions, you want fenders. Etc.
If you don't already have access to a bike, and you can't or don't want to buy a new bike, you have options:
- The Good Life is a community bike shop that fixes up used bikes and sells them for cheap. You can also use the shop (for a small donation) to work on your own bike.
- Search Bicycle Peddler, Craigslist or Kijiji for used bicycles. A word of warning, though: You usually you can't tell if the bike you see online is your size, or what condition it's in. You also run the risk of buying a bike that's been stolen. To avoid that, ask the seller for the serial number and search the CIPC database first.
- Sometimes people advertise used bikes on Bike Calgary forums.
- Check when the next Calgary Bike Swap is taking place.
- The City of Calgary sometimes sells unclaimed lost/stolen bicycles in their Manchester Surplus Store.
Before you take your bike on the pathway or the street, you should make sure it's safe to ride. First of all, it should (still) fit you (see above). But it should also be in decent shape mechanically. You don't want the brakes to give out or the chain to fall off, and it should satisfy the legal requirements. Your best bet is to take it to a local bike shop and have it tuned up. That costs on the order of $50, and you'll be safe in the knowledge that a trained professional has made sure your bike is in good working order. By law, your bike needs a red rear reflector, a working brake, and a bell. If you are going to ride between sunset and sunrise, you also need a set of lights (front and rear). You might want to consider getting a helmet and cycling gloves. Also, get a good lock to make sure you keep your bike!
Take the time to familiarize yourself with Alberta cycling laws and safety tips, for instance on our Laws and Safety page. Now you're ready! Use the resources listed on the Pathways and Maps page to plan your route. Maybe you want to start with Calgary's multi-use pathways before you graduate to riding in traffic. Ask in the Bike Riding in Calgary forums about good routes that match your level of confidence. Many Bike Calgary members are comfortable riding on busy streets, but they also know the neighborhoods and shortcuts and can tell you which routes have lower traffic, where to watch out, and how to make the best use of the pathway system. Post in the Bike Buddy forum, and perhaps someone has a similar route and can show you the ropes.
If you'd like to get more comfortable riding on Calgary's streets, take our Urban Cycling Skills course.