Many people like to ride a bicycle, but are put off by the traffic on the roads. If you can afford to buy a good bike and get some lessons (and there is not much traffic nearby and flat land!), cycling is a great way to get around, gets you out in the fresh air (good for depression) and cargo bikes can be used to take your shopping home from the local farm shop or market.
Riding Out: A Journey of Love, Loss & New Beginnings is the story of one man who battled grief and anxiety through a 3500 bike ride around Britain. From Shetland to the Scillies, and from Dover to Durness – Simon learns that life’s sharpest corners are best navigated, at the gentle pace of a bicycle.
Here are some good resources and books to get you started. If you buy a bike, it’s a good idea to get a local indie shop to check it for brakes (especially if you are assembling it yourself). And a few lessons (your bike shop will know who to recommend) will never be wasted.
Essential Bicycling Basics!
- Swapfiets is a new service where you just contact them by app to get your bike repaired within 48 hours. Or swap it for another. Simple and for a fixed fee. In several cities including London in the UK.
- Priority Low Maintenance Bicycles (US) were created by a bicycling-entrepreneur. These bikes are top quality (for adults and children) and are sold with everything included (no need to buy any extras) and they have no greasy chains either). Includes stable tires, and a (at time of writing, vegan leather saddles). Outside the US, you can buy them but you’ll need your bike shop to set them up, to ensure they are safe, rather than put them together yourself. You can buy electric folding bikes from Vegan Earth.
- A helmet is important, replace immediately, if cracked. Two good ones are Thousand Helmet or Closca Folding Helmet.
- Green Oil makes biodegradable bike maintenance products. You can return empty bottles to indie bikes shops, to get money back.
- Velo Grey Organic Cycling Shirt has a cool minimalist design, and also makes long-sleeve cycling tops. It’s best to wear layered clothing when cycling, to avoid you getting too hot or cold.
- Buy bike insurance (and breakdown cover from ETA. It uses profits to campaign for sustainable transport.
Where to Donate Unwanted Bikes
Would you like to know where to donate unwanted bicycles? If you have an unused bike languishing in the garage or shed, there are people who would like the bike or the parts. Unlike most trash sent to developing countries, donating unwanted bicycles is a good idea, as it provides free non-polluting transport, so people can get to school and work etc. You can donate your bicycle to:
- The Bike Project (helps refugees)
- Re-Cycle (helps African communities)
- Bike for Good (gives to other cyclists)
- Bristol Bike Project is a non-profit that lets refugees and locals ‘earn a bike’ by doing up donated bikes and parts.
Most bike tubes contain plastic, so you can’t recycle them (around 44,000 tons of tyres and inner tubes are landfilled in the UK each year). Staffordshire company Velorim is helping to close the loop, by launching a national recycling scheme, so that indie bike shops earn money for taking back and recycling tyres (50p) or inner tubes (20p). The material will then be collected, and made into new products.
Beautiful Books on Bicycling
- Back On Your Bike is a fun and simple book, designed for anyone who wants to learn how to be a cyclist again. Many people cycle as children, then forget as they become adults. This book is written for people who have not ridden a bike since childhood. Written by a cycling expert, this small readable guide with fresh illustrations covers: The book covers how to ride safely, bikes and accessories, confident commuting, basic repairs and fixes and the benefits of cycling (heart, clean air, safer streets).
- In Praise of the Bicycle is a nice little French book (translated into English) in praise of the bike. Marc Augé casts his anthropologist’s eye on a subject close to his heart: cycling. Join him on a two-wheeled ride around our cities, as we remember the thrill of riding a bike for the first time, and the joys of cycling.
- Safe Cycling in the City looks at the benefits of commuting and how to cycle safely on a traditional or electric bike. It covers clothing and accessories, helmets, masks, locks and safety equipment. And how to cycle in different weathers.
- The Cycling Cartoonist is a fun illustrated guide to life on two wheels. The author runs Budget Cycling, a really good resource.
- Hello, Bicycle is an beautifully illustrated guide. Learn how to new or used bike, how to ride and store your bike, and how to maintain your bike (and know what your mechanic should handle).
- The Bike Repair Book is ideal for anyone dusting off their bike, and shows how you fix a lot of things yourself with the right set of spanners and a little know-how. From punctured tyres, brake and gear problems to broken chains, this book has clear graphics and instructions, to save money and time, by repairing your bicycle yourself.
- Bicycling with Butterflies follows Sara Dykman on a 10,000 mile journey across three countries to follow the migration of monarch butterflies. On a bike cobbled together from used parts, she recounts her incredible nine month journey as she navigates unmapped roads in foreign countries, checks roadside milkweed for monarch eggs and shares her passion with eager schoolchildren, skeptical bar patrons and unimpressed border officials. We also meet ardent monarch stewards who supported her efforts from citizen scientists to farmers and high-rise city dwellers. Confirming the urgency of saving the threatened monarch migration and other threatened species that affect the survival of us all.
Creating Cycling-Friendly Cities
A third of Danes and Dutch cycle everywhere (both flat lands). The Netherlands used to be traffic gridlock, but today has more bicycles than people. Building the Cycling City is a book by a couple of Americans, who have spent time living in The Netherlands, one of the most cycling friendly countries on earth. They have now returned to the US, so this is a book to help other cities and countries to make their places cycling-friendly too. Danes are taught to learn to ride a bike, before age 6 or earlier. Most get around on the back of their parents’ bikes, rather than in the back of a car (90% of people in Denmark cycle).
Cargo bikes are very popular, with a quarter of all families owning one. Planners think more about cyclists than motorists, with over 12,000 km of cycle routes (Copenhagen has over 400km of cycle paths, all separate from car lanes and pavements). So it’s easier to cycle or walk, than drive.
Electric Bikes & Scooters
Electric bikes are not to be used on footpaths, public roads or cycle paths. Depending on choice, they can reach speeds of 15 to 18 miles per hours. Swytch Bike is a conversion kit to make any bike electric. Easy to fit and disc-brake compatible, it works on any bike. To give up to 25kph speed for up to 50km.
Around a quarter of people buy an e-bike with this in mind, to ride in low-traffic areas. And commuters don’t exert so much effort, you don’t have to shower and change, when you get to work. Sales of electric bikes are now so high, than in The Netherlands, more people buy electric bikes than standard ones.
Sales jumped by over 90% in the last few years, of bikes that simply have a motor attached. They are not the same as motorbikes, but you can go pretty fast, which is why it’s important to know your bike and road safety. Many electric bikes allow you to add a bit of extra power, if you are riding up a hill.