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On Biking

A refresher for getting back on the bike

These days more and more people are out riding a bike. And not just the Lycra-clad, weight weenie set. A few years ago, my 77-year-old mother got in on the act. And her first word after her first ride in 30-something years?

“Perfect,” she exclaimed, a grin plastered across her face.

Continue reading below

So maybe you want a big grin on your face, too, but you never learned how to ride a bike. Or perhaps your bike-handling skills are a bit rusty.

No problem: sign up for classes through the Bicycle Riding School (www.bicycleridingschool.org) in Somerville or the nonprofit Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (www.massbike.org/education).

If you do not own a bike or have a phobia about commitment, no worries: Hubway (www.thehubway.com) makes it easy, convenient, and inexpensive to rent a ride. But for about $400, you can purchase a perfectly decent bike. No, it will not be a two-wheeled Porsche, but it will more than do the job.

If your bike has been sitting in the garage since the last time Bobby Orr patrolled the blue line, you may have some work to do. The League of American Bicyclists recommends that you perform an ABC Quick Check (www.bikeleague.org/content/basic-bike-check-just-remember-abc-quick-check):

 Make sure you have enough air in your tires, and that your wheels spin smoothly.

 Make sure that your brakes are working.

 Inspect your crank, chain, and cogs (the drivetrain that channels your pedaling into forward motion); add a few drops of lube (just not WD-40) onto your chain, and you are ready to roll.

But first, make sure to put on a helmet. If I hadn’t been wearing one a few years ago, I probably would not be writing this story. And if you do crash and hit your head, thank your helmet, and then toss it. They are meant to work only once.

I ride, day or night, with a front and a rear light. That way I’m more likely to be seen by motorists. And if a motorist sees me, he is more likely to not hit me, and I’m more likely to keep the rubber side down.

If you’re riding around town or along a bike path, I recommend a bell — that way you can warn pedestrians (or cyclists) that you’re passing (but be sure to call out “On your left”). The only downside to a bicycle bell is that children might mistake you for a two-wheeled ice cream truck.

If you plan to park your bike, you definitely need a lock. They’re not foolproof, but they will increase the odds that your bike will stay put.

Do you need to wear Lycra? In a word, no. Sure, those jersey pockets come in handy: They can hold keys, an extra tube, a cellphone, and a large burrito and chocolate milk shake, though a basket, panniers, or a backpack all work fine.

I used to think that padded shorts were ridiculous. But halfway through my first long ride, I realized that those pads are there for a reason. Still, a T-shirt and shorts are fine for 90 percent of the biking that most of us do.

Streamers? Absolutely. Sure, they’ll make you a little less aerodynamic. But they’ll also make you deliriously happy.

Which is how I feel whenever I hop on the saddle and head out for a ride on my bike.

Tour state on two wheels

Looking for a classic Western Mass. tour? Check out the Mass. BikePike Tour (www.massbikepike.org), which runs Aug. 1-4.

Have you always wanted to ride across the Bay State? Check out the Berkshires to Boston Bicycle Tour (www.berkshirestoboston.com), Sept. 18-22, another event organized by MassBike.

Jonathan Simmons is the author of “Here For The Ride: A Tale of Obsession on Two Wheels.” He can be reached at jonathansimmons@mac.com. Follow him on Twitter @On_Biking.
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