Bicycling is arguably the healthiest, least expensive and most eco-friendly means of getting around. Whether you bike to work or are planning a weekend ride, here are practical tips to help you be prepared and thus enjoy the ride.
The following is an excerpt from The Self-Sufficient-ish Bible by Andy and Dave Hamilton (Hodder & Stoughton, 2009). An “eco-living guide for the 21st century,” this extensive book includes a variety of fun ideas and practical advice on everything from gardening to home energy to travel that will help you “live in a more frugal way, while still enjoying life to the full.” The Hamilton brothers, known as “the green twins” are the founders of the Self-Sufficient-ish website and bring an engaging, practical and realistic approach to incremental self-sufficiency. The excerpt below is about bicycles —arguably the least expensive and healthiest means of travel — and covers bike trip planning and the basics of repairing punctured tires.
Cycling is by far the most environmentally friendly way to travel; it’s also a great way to stay fit, get fresh air and feel at one with the surrounding countryside. We’ve cycled over much of England, Scotland and Wales, and most of the time it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience, provided you’re properly equipped and sufficiently fit for the holiday you’ve planned.
We try to take a cycling holiday through Britain at least once a year. Climate change means it’s considerably warmer that it used to be, we have spectacular scenery, delightful pubs and a vast number of places of historical interest to visit, scattered throughout the country. Most people don’t have go far to find areas of outstanding beauty. In the north of England, there’s the Lake District, the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales. Scotland is so full of naturally stunning places we could write an entire chapter about them (one of our favorites is Loch Ness). In the South there’s New Forest, the Forest of Dean, Cornwall and Devon. The Midlands has Derbyshire and Ironbridge, and vast areas of rural Wales are breathtaking, especially Snowdonia.
We learned a lot about cycling over the years, often by making our own mistakes. Here are some tips to help you avoid common pitfalls.
If you cycle you’ll one day get a puncture — it’s inevitable. You can get them fixed at most cycle shops but this can sometimes cost far more than you would expect. Besides, they’re not open all the time and are not on every street corner. It’s much cheaper and more convenient to know how to do the job yourself.
There’s a great invention known as the tire sealant, which helps prevent the most frequent smaller punctures of about 3 centimeters (about 1¼ inch). Many trial cyclists and courier riders rely on this product, as they don’t always have time to fix a puncture properly. It’s pumped inside the inner tube and coats it when the wheel revolves. For more serious punctures, see the instructions below. If you get the puncture while out biking, move the bike to a safe, level spot off the road or cycle path before trying to fix it.
Removal of the wheel is made easier these days with the invention of quick-release wheels. There should be a lever that you pull up and then turn to loosen your wheel. On some bikes, especially older ones, there’s a nut keeping the wheel in place, so you’ll need to use a spanner to take this off. The back wheel on any bike is the trickiest to take off and you’ll need to move the derailleur (smaller cogs for the gears) back and move the brake pads to release the wheel.
Sadly we’ve both had bikes stolen over the years; bike theft has doubled since the early 1990s, so unless you secure your bike, it could suffer the same fate. There are a few steps you can take to lower the likelihood of bike theft.
It’s vital that you report a stolen cycle right away. Some home insurance policies also cover theft of cycles outside the home. However, you’ll need to check with your policy. Most claims will not be insured if you don’t secure your cycle.
Household insurance will not cover you if you are in an accident, and with roads getting busier it would be churlish for the frequent cyclist not to consider a stand-alone policy just to cover liability. Although the risk of being sued as a cyclist is pretty low, it might be a wise precaution. Cycle insurance means that you’re protected against any claims and your insurance company may even provide someone to help you out with court proceedings.
To avoid the likelihood of being sued, cyclists should observe traffic laws at all times and try to use paths whenever possible. Cyclists can be deemed at fault if they ride too fast, undercut traffic or have drop handle bars and are in the crouch position, because they’re considered not to be looking at the road.
Reprinted with permission from The Self-Sufficient-ish Bible by Andy and Dave Hamilton (Hodder & Stoughton, 2009).
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