Everything You Need to Know to Get Into Biking as an Adult

Category Biking

This post is for those of us who rode bikes as a kid, life got in the way and now as an adult are looking at getting back into it. Several years ago I bought my first “real” bike and this post pretty much sums up the research I did and the experience I had. It has now been several years and I own a couple bikes for various reasons, so hopefully this helps you in what choices you have and the options out there.

Types of Bikes

There are lots of choices in bike styles, I am listing in order of appropriateness for a first bike. Read through the list, though, this will change depending on what your reasons are for buying a bike.

This video does an excellent job of summing up everything I am about to go over.


hybrid bike
Example of a hybrid bike

This is by far my favorite choice for a first bike. A hybrid is a cross between a mountain and a road bike. It will not be as fast as a road bike nor as rugged as a mountain bike but will easily allow you to get a feel for either one. I actually have 3 different tread types for my hybrid that allow me to go between mountain, road and the true hybrid depending on what I will be doing for that week.

I have taken my hybrid mountain biking in the trails near Asheville and then used the same bike for a pub crawl the same day. I would be hesitant to use it for the advanced trails, but I had no problem in dipping my feet into the intermediate ones.


road bike
Example of a road bike

A road bike is designed to be lightweight and fast. You will sacrifice a good bit of comfort and versatility for speed, though. These are meant to only be used on the pavement and you will likely not even have the option to put on thicker tires so it can handle a little off-roading. Tires will be narrower and handlebars will be much lower forcing you into a more aerodynamic position.

These bikes are ideal for commuting and exercise provided you have decent bike lanes or trails near you. These bikes can be damaged by large bumps or just rough terrain.

There is a nice rail-to-trail near me with an uninterrupted 15-mile length providing an easy 30-mile round trip where I do not have to deal with cars (though sometimes snakes). 30 miles will burn off 1500 – 2500 calories in 1.5 to 3 hours and is an amazing way to begin a weekend.


mountain bike
Example of a mountain bike

Mountain bikes are designed to take the bumps and bruises of hurtling yourself down a mountain without killing the rider. In the last couple of decades, most mountain bikes will have a full suspension that increases stability and traction as well as lessening the jarring on the rider. Tread on these will usually be very knobbly for traction.

If you plan on using your mountain bike for pavement riding for an extended period of time, it is worth buying a new set of tread for this use. My girlfriend switches her mountain bike over to road tires in between trail riding so she gets some additional speed out of it. A lot of higher end mountain bikes will be almost as light as low-end road bike, so it does not make a bad choice for an overall use bike if you are willing to switch your tires around.


Example of a cruiser

A cruiser is the last on my list since it tends to be the least versatile, mainly because off-roading or mountain biking is out of the question and you will tend to tail all your friends if you ride in a group. One advantage of a cruiser over the other types is that this is the best bike for actually riding your bike on the sand at the beach. If you plan on simply cruising, this is the bike for you.

Cruisers tend to be one speed with a big comfy seat and wide tires. Common accessories are a basket and a cup holder.


There are some other types of bikes out there, but I either do not have experience with them or I would not suggest them for a first bike. Listing them off so you will have some familiarity with what they are and what is out there.


Example of a utility bike

These bikes are made for being useful for transporting loads and general commuting. These bikes will often have a rack, basket or even a trailer for carrying loads and will be focused on durability and comfort.


juvenile bike
Example of a juvenile bike

A juvenile is basically a kids bike. This site is based around buying your first permanent bike (as a kid, you need to buy a new bike every couple of years). If you are looking for a juvenile bike, I found this site to be extremely useful.


recumbent bike
Example of a recumbent bike

This type allows people to bike in a reclining / chair position. Perfect for people with back problems. Some versions have hand pedaling and allows someone bound to a wheelchair to also get out and bike.


Tandem Bike
Example of a tandem bike

Allow 2+ riders on the same bike. You mostly see this type of bike in montages during a rom-com.


assist bike
Example of an assist bike

This bike is equipped with an electric motor to “assist” the rider. Some versions will only kick in during hills or as the rider starts tiring out. Good if you need some assistance but still want to bike.

Buying a Bike

For a quality first bike that will last you forever, expect to spend between $200-$750.


For deciding on what bike to get, it is helpful to know why you are buying a bike. Exercise, commuting or just for fun? Luckily you do not have to just pick one category, but if there is a main reason, you can easily pick a bike geared towards this goal.


Biking is a great workout, comparable to running / jogging in calories burned per hour without all the impact. When I first started out my journey to a healthier lifestyle, biking is where I started. After losing a bit of weight, I started up on running (eventually working up to marathons) but even today, biking is my fun exercise while running just being something I need to do.

Which Type For Exercise?

The short answer is really any bike that will get you outside. For the long answer, it depends on what you like doing and the options available in your city. My favorite choice is going with a hybrid since it gives you the most options on using your bike.

Calories Burned Per Hour

As a rule of thumb, it will take right around 3500 calories burned to drop a pound. Everyone is different and weight dropped will not purely be fat, so take this as just a general ballpark figure in what you need to do to hit whatever weight loss goal you have in mind.

Take the average of the two numbers if your weight falls between one of the ranges. Since I have actually hit my weight loss goals over the last two years (down 60lbs!) I actually just use this chart to figure out if I can indeed get the milkshake from the local ice creamery.

Intensity 100 150 200 250 350
Easy (< 10 mph) 181 272 363 454 635
Light (10-12 mph) 272 408 544 680 953
Steady (12-14 mph) 363 544 726 907 1270
Moderate (14-16 mph) 454 680 907 1134 1588
Vigorous (16 – 20 mph) 544 816 1089 1361 1905
Racing (> 20 mph) 726 1089 1451 1814 2540

Numbers used for this table come from the cycling calories burned calculator on bicycling.com.

Interesting enough, based on these calculations, if you want to maintain the same calorie burn for your workout, for every 50 lbs you lose you only need to go 2mph faster per hour. If you have limited amounts of time for your workout, faster is better.

Transportation / Commuting

Some cities aren’t very conducive to it, but more and more cities are becoming bike friendly. Using your bike as your sole transportation is only possible in some areas but more and more a simple ride up to the store, movies or even to work is now possible.

smoke stack
A car being made … probably

Want to do your part for the environment? One estimate is that manufacturing a bike produces about a ton of carbon for every $1000 for bike cost. A $265 bike will need to be ridden for about 400 miles before it offsets the amount of carbon that driving the same distance would have taken up. After that, biking will be about 10 times better versus driving, but it is hard to calculate. This slate article has some more details if you wanted to go more in depth.

Which Type For Commuting?

If you plan on strictly using your bike for commuting your best choice is going to be a road bike. If you want the option to do a little off-roading then go with a hybrid.


Any time you get to travel outside on a bike and feel the wind on your body while using your own power to move around, you are going to have fun. That said, there are a lot of options for variety in your bike ride aside from simply going from point A to point B.

  • Bike Vacations
  • Bike Crawls
  • Group Rides
  • Trail Rides
  • Sightseeing
Which Type For Fun?

Depends on what you like to do for fun. If you want to just go fast and have a lot of open bike lanes or paved trails, go with a road bike. If you live near the beach or a similar area where you can bike around slowly and take in the sites, pick a cruiser. Got some mountains and love hurtling down hills, snag yourself a mountain bike.

What To Look For When Getting a Bike

  • Will I need to ride in rain / snow?
  • How comfortable is the bike for short or long rides?
  • Will I need to deal with hills/bridges or will most of my riding be flat?
  • Am I planning on carrying stuff and if so, how big?
  • How fast do I need to go?


bike shifter
An example of your standard 3 by 7 gears for a total of 21 speeds.
fixed gear
An example of a fixed gear bike. You only get one speed, but it’s a good one!

Some bikes come with a wide variety of gearing and some such as a cruiser or a fixed-gear bicycle will only have one. Multiple gears allow you to go up and down hills easily as well as change the resistance on your bike as you get tired over a long ride.

If you live in a relatively flat area, a fixed-gear (single speed) is fine and will greatly reduce the cost and maintenance of your bike.

Frame Material

Listing out frame material in order of cost. Steel and Aluminium is where I would go for my first bike. Save the carbon and titanium for your second bike.


Steel is your basic entry level frame material. Strong but heavy. These bikes can take a beating and one of the few frames that can be bent back into shape after an accident. Rust prone so the steel will usually have chrome in it for rust resistance.


Slightly more expensive than steel but a much better strength to weight ratio. Rust is not a worry so make sure you go with this if you live near the beach. I once had a steel cruiser that completely fell apart within a year of being kept outside at my beach apartment.


Very expensive but the best strength to weight you will get for a metal frame. Also sounds much cooler when you are explaining to your friends why you spent several grand on shaving off a couple pounds of weight from your bike. If you hate money, go with this for your first bike.

Carbon Fiber

Light, strong and expensive. If you want a super fast road bike, this is what you go with. Expect to be paying around 3k as well. The interesting thing on using carbon fiber vs metal is that it can be built in a way to allow flexing of the frame in one direction only.


Tires are what make the bike. A road bike will have very skinny, high-pressure tires. These are less weight and resistance so you can go faster. The trade off is less traction and grip.The opposite end of this will be mountain bike tires. These will be thick and knobbly. High resistance for traction and grip. In between these two will be hybrid tires which will be smooth in the middle and knobbly on the sides, a trade-off between the two.

road bike tire
Road bike tire
mountain bike tire
Mountain bike tire
hybrid bike tire
Hybrid bike tire


A suspension will smooth out the rough surfaces and provide more comfort and stability at the cost of weighing and expense. A suspension is most common in mountain bikes but is also seen in hybrids as well as some cruisers.

If a bike has front suspension only (common in hybrids) it is a hardtail. If it has both front and rear suspension (common in mountain bikes) it has a full suspension. If it has neither front or rear suspension (common in road bikes) it is rigid.

front suspension
Front suspension
full suspension
Full suspension


Handlebars perform the basic function of allowing you to hold onto and steer your bike. For this simple function, there are a lot of varieties in shape and overall it falls under personal preference. The curved shape found on a road bike allows multiple different hand positions.

Most Common Handlebars

Flat bars are what you will typically find on a mountain bike, hybrid, and some fixed-gear bikes. As you would expect this handlebar is an almost flat tube, commonly with a slight bend inward. These bars have a lot of space on them to easily attach accessories such as lights, computers and bells.

Drop bars are typically what you will find on a road bike and will have a whole subcategory of shapes associated with them. These bars are flat where they connect to the bike with a dropped, curved end. The bars have multiple angles for a variety of hand positions as well as allowing you to get into much more aerodynamic positions.

Cruiser handlebars are long and slope inward towards the rider. This allows you to sit upright and steer.

flat bars
Flat bars
drop bars
Drop bars
crusier handlebars
Cruiser handlebars

Another word for your bike seat. There are going to be basically two different versions of this, a racing saddle (small, thin and will hurt your butt until you get used to it) and a comfort saddle. I would suggest unless you are buying a cruiser to go with the racing saddle. It will take a little getting used to, but they end up being better in the long run.

A wide, soft saddle appears to be the most comfortable, but a saddle is designed to hold your weight and keep you positioned on the bike. Just like an overly soft mattress is not the best for your back, neither is an ultra soft saddle.

racing saddle
Racing saddle
comfort saddle
Comfort saddle

The grip is the covering for the shape of the handlebar you chose. These come in soft or firm plastic, gel, foam, and leather. In general, whatever your bike comes with will be just fine.

Try Out Different Bikes

Who doesn’t have a friend with a bike? Find a friend with a hybrid, road, mountain or cruiser and see if they will let you borrow it for a couple of days. If they have extra, bikes see if you can do some group rides. Try out the bike in different conditions, play around with the gearing, handling and finally judge the overall enjoyment.


The most accurate way to get fit for a bike is to go in store to a bike shop that has access to an adjustable bike fit machine. This is basically a fake bike that allows them to move all the sizes back and forth to find what sizes you need for a perfect fit. Most stores will not charge for this and count this simply as an expense in getting your business. If you end up buying your bike somewhere else try and return the favor by buying some accessories at this store.

If a store does not have an adjustable bike fit machine they can still try you out on different bikes in the store to get a correct sizing for you, it will just take a little longer. Once you find a bike that fits you in the store, look at the size on the frame to get a general idea of other sized bikes that will also work for you. Mountain bikes and hybrids are likely measured in inches while road bikes will be measured in centimeters.

Be very picky on getting a bike that fits you. Riding around for a long term on an improperly fit bike is a sure fire recipe for back and knee pain as well as just a bike that is not fun to ride.

Make sure that your knees only have a slight bend in them at the bottom of your pedal stroke. Think 99% fully extended / slight bend in your knees. This should alleviate most knee pains experienced on a long ride.

Your arms should be slightly bent when gripping your handlebars. This will allow some shock absorption and help with muscle ache / stresses. Your weight should be balanced between the seat and handlebars. If you find your hands going numb on a long ride, this could be because you are putting too much off your body weight onto your handlebars. This can usually be fixed by raising them up or your seat down.

Sizing Chart

This is an EXTREMELY rough guideline. Like trying on clothes, every bike is going to be a little bit different and each manufacturer is going to do their sizes a little bit different. For an excellent breakdown for your frame size in a wide variety of bike types with a lot more detail, check out the sizing chart @ Evan Cycles.

Height Frame Size
< 5’0″ XXS
5’0″ – 5’3″ XS
5’3″ – 5’6″ S
5’6″ – 5’9″ M
5’9″ – 6’0″ L
6’0″ – 6’3″ XL
> 6’3″ XXL

Where NOT to Buy a Bike

It’s tempting, but do not bother buying a bike from Walmart, Target or Toys R Us. They use the cheapest materials with the worst parts put together by people with minimum training and no testing. These bikes will not hold up to daily use or last more than a year or two.

A couple of months ago one of my friends went to go biking a 29-mile trail with me and some friends. He had bought him and his girlfriend brand new, top of the line, Schwinn (these used to be really good bikes a couple of years ago but their brand was bought up and now they are used to trick people into thinking they are getting something of value) at Toys R Us for Christmas. They had ridden around the neighborhood, but this was the first real ride they had taken the bike on. By half way through the ride his back tire had buckled so bad it was scraping his frame on each rotation and extended a 2-hour ride to 4+. This is of course just my experience but from what I have seen, these bikes are going to fail you when you need them. Spend the extra $100-$200 and get something that will not let you down.

Where to Buy a Bike

Got a good idea what you want in a bike now? Time to bite the bullet and get into the saddle.

If you are willing to do some basic maintenance, nothing beats the price point of getting something used. Tons of people want to get “healthy”, buy a bike and then give you a chance to get something for pennies on the dollar that has only been ridden a couple of times. A used bike is not a new bike though and may have minor problems you will have to deal with out of the gate or even major ones.

If you want a bike that you know will have nothing wrong with it, go with new. Most shops specializing in bikes will even give you your first year of maintenance / tune-ups for free. Other shops will at least have a trade in policy if something goes wrong with your bike.


In general, I would suggest you not buy a used bike for your first bike. There are a lot of ways to get ripped off and it tends to make the initial purchase a much more complicated affair.

Expect to spend at least $100-$200 for a good used bike but since a quality new bike is $500-$700 this is still worthwhile. Try to avoid going below $200 since you risk getting a low-quality department store bike or a bike with something wrong with it.

If a bike appears to be a steal for the price it is going for that is probably because it is indeed stolen. Stolen bikes are a huge issue and if you can help it, please do not support a bike, thief.

Do a Google search of the make and model of the bike you see used. Try to avoid anything more than 10 years old unless it is a high-quality bike. A simple search should give you a general idea as to what you are getting into and if you are getting a good price on the bike. Shoot for a discount of at least 50% on what it would have cost you to buy that bike new.

When checking out the bike in person there are a couple of things you can check for to make sure the bike is in good condition. Do not worry too much about cosmetic items. Paint or tape can easily be fixed and will actually help you get a lower price for the bike. The items you will need to look out for are things that affect the actual use of the bike. Check the frame for cracks or dents, this is indicative that the bike has been crashed. Spin the wheels and make sure that the tires do not hit the side of the frame. Ensure that there is no side to side motion in the pedals or wheels.

Do not worry too much about cosmetic items. Paint or tape can easily be fixed and will actually help you get a lower price for the bike.


CraigsList is going to be your go-to source for finding a used bike since it allows you to do a majority of your research from your house as well as the sheer quantity of listings will allow you to be picky in getting exactly what you want.

Look for people that are selling because they bought a new bike or are moving out of the area. This will give you a better chance of getting a bike that was maintained / looked after. Avoid bikes that are being sold because they were never ridden. These will likely not have been maintained. If it has been less than a year since they bought it, it is probably fine, though. Try and arrange it so that you can check out multiple bikes in the same area on the same day. Make sure to buy/borrow a bike rack or a truck if you plan on purchasing that day.

The seller should be willing to let you test drive the bike provided you are willing to leave with them your ID or something similar. Like buying a used car, do not simply take the sellers word that everything is fine. A couple laps around the block will give you a good feel right away if there is anything majorly wrong with the bike.

This is CraigsList so feel free to negotiate on the price. Anything you find wrong with the bike or that differs from how they described it should be an easy $10-$20 you can take off the final price. Bring cash with you to pay for the bike (bring a friend if you are bringing a lot of cash … actually bring a friend no matter what, preferably one that knows something about bikes). When you have settled on the price, create an invoice for the bike purchase. Include the serial number, make/model, description and both of your names. If the seller starts acting shady about the invoice, the bike is probably stolen and you should leave. The invoice will be very helpful as well if sometime in the future you have your new baby stolen from you.

If you are looking for a specific brand (Trek is a good search term), you can do a search within CraigsList and save this search for later. I like to add this to my RSS reader if I have some time before I want to make my purchase.

Yard Sale / Thrift Store

I would not suggest yard sales or go to a thrift store. It makes it much harder to do research beforehand and your selection will usually be limited to 1 or 2 bikes. That said, if you happen to be at either one of these things and see a bike that fits you in the style you want for an awesome deal, there is no harm in picking it up if you can get it for super cheap.


Want that new bike smell? Nothing beats a brand new bike for you to immediately scuff and scratch up. Expect to pay a minimum of $200 for your first bike with a median of $400 and a high end of $1000. Do not feel pressured by the sales person into spending a lot of money on this, save that for when you have decided this is something you have the energy for and have figured out exactly what will be the right bike for you.

My first hybrid was right around $400 and I still use that bike weekly.

Local Bike Shop

A local bike shop is hands down my suggestion on where to get your first bike. Make sure to check out the yelp reviews for the bike shop. Once you have found one that looks reliable go ahead and have a sales person walk you through their choices for the type of bike you want. Pick a max amount you want to spend and have a firm stop there. It is very tempting to spend the extra $100 and upgrade to a better bike, but after doing this a couple of times you suddenly will find yourself spending twice what you had originally intended.


You will be able to browse more models and probably get a better deal with doing you shopping online. The downside is that unless you get free shipping it will end up the same price as local, more than likely require assembly and any issues with the bike are going to be very hard to deal with. I would stay away from shopping online for a bike but if you feel like not taking my advice, here are the better online shops.


Who doesn’t love Amazon? Free shipping with Prime, large selection, and great customer selection.


The Walmart of shopping online. Their savings are made up, the bike sales for the price they are selling it for, not the made up retail price they present. Large selection though and not bad quality. Just do not be fooled that they are selling high-end bikes for cheap.


What is a bike without some bling?! A lock, light, pump and multitool are the only things that could be considered essential. Everything else is optional and can be bought later.

Bike Rack

Lots of options on a bike rack depending on what kind of vehicle you have. I have the Allen Sports Deluxe 2-Bike Trunk Mount Rack and this has worked pretty well for me over the last couple of years. You are going to want to get something that does not obscure your license plate and is easy to take off and on.


It is very handy to have a small bag attached under your seat to hold your keys, phone, multitool, spare tube or other small items when you bike. Topeak Aero Wedge Pack with Buckle is the one I use and I have been pretty happy with it.


Sadly, a lock is a must. My favorite is the Kryptonite Kryptoflex 815 Combo Cable Bicycle Lock since I can wrap it around my bike frame and I do not need to bring a key with me. The more expensive your bike is, though, the more expensive your bike locks will need to be. There is an old biking joke that every bike weighs 50lbs since the lighter and the more expensive your bike is the heavier and bigger your locks need to be.

I would suggest reading through my article on ways to help prevent your bike from being stolen which includes a good section on what to look for in a lock as well as proper locking technique.


bike lightFor most states, it will actually be illegal to ride your bike at night without lights. I actually keep my lights on during the day as well since making me slightly more visible to a car is worth it.

For right around $10 for a headlight and taillight, the BV Bicycle 5-LED Headlight, and Taillight is going to be about your cheapest choice.

Tire Pump

You are going to want to have two bicycle pumps for your use. The first is a small hand pump that attaches to your bike. This thing has been a life saver for friends and me I ride with more times than I can count. You always want to have the option to add more air to your tires no matter where you are. The second type linked below is a floor pump. You could get away with just buying that hand pump, but it will be extremely tiring, especially on high-pressure tires. The floor pump can get you from flat to full in minutes.

Bike Tools

The Topeak Alien || 26 function tool is by far my favorite must have accessory. It contains every single tool you will need if you have repairs needed while you are out riding and its compact size means it will easily fit in the bag under my seat or in my backpack.

Bike Computer

Really not sure why they call these computers but this will be a device that tracks your tire rotations to show you your distance and speed. These are pretty easy to install yourself and you can get a decent one for under $30, which is a lot of bang for your buck.

I picked up my biking computer in 2011 and other than replacing the battery last year I have not had to touch this thing since. Installation was a breeze even with this being my first bike modification.

  • Current, average and max speed
  • Trip distance
  • Time
  • 2 Wheel sizes

Search bike computers in Amazon if you want suggestions. Something in the $30-$50 range will work just fine.


bike helmet photoI personally do not wear a helmet (unless I am mountain biking) and have a weird, convoluted reasoning for justifying why I do not. If you want to protect your noggin, you should probably wear one, though. Do NOT buy a helmet used, these things are good for one serious crash only and you have no way of knowing this if you get it used. Get your helmet from a store instead of online since a bad fit will make it useless.


A bell or even a horn are a fun accessory to add some personality to your bike. They are also very useful to let pedestrians know you are behind them without having to constantly shout out “ON YOUR LEFT”.

Biking Shorts

Biking shorts will never win any awards in the style department but for saving your fanny from soreness they are worth it. If you are concerned about the look, simply wear a loose pair of shorts over top of them. I personally have only used biking shorts for a short time before losing them somehow (seriously have no idea how I could lose these things and at $60 I am not looking forward to buying a new pair without more looking), but in that time I did have them I found them useful. Make sure to get a proper bike seat first since this will usually be the root of your bum soreness.

Bike shorts will be very tight and have padding in the butt / crotch area where you are making contact with your bike seat. Great for a long ride in extending the amount of time you can stay seated.


If you plan on commuting or going on trails, I would suggest the purchase of a biking backpack. The CamelBak M.U.L.E. 100oz is what I am currently using. Gives you a 100oz hydration packs, adjustable pockets in the back that can expand to fit your helmet, built in rain cover and tons of pockets to store everything you might need on a long ride. I have used this when I commuted to work to store my change of clothes and cleaning supplies for when I got to the office.

Water Bottle

Always nice to stay hydrated. You will need a cage to attach to your bike and a water bottle to fit it. You can usually get a logoed one for free from your local bike store. If you want something a bit higher grade look at spending $15-$25.


Gloves are only really useful for long bike rides to help add some extra padding when gripping your handlebars. If you have an issue with numbness in your hands on rides, gloves should help with this a little bit. If you are prone to fall, they will also protect your hands from getting scraped up.

The Pearl Izumi Men’s Select Glove is a decent overall glove for biking and the ones I use.

Bike Laws

Bicycles are counted the same as a car for adherence to traffic laws, Keep this in mind while you are biking around, especially if you see a cop. You are actually required to stop at stop signs and not just slow down and look both ways. Whether you follow all the traffic roads while you are alone on a back road is up to you.

State Bicycle Laws

No state has a statewide law requiring helmets for adults though a lot will require helmets if you are under 18. There are some specific counties that require helmets for all ages so please check this site for your specific county.

The chart below will show which states have a statewide law requiring helmets if under 18, if the state has a safe passing law specify how much room a car must have before being allowed to pass a bicyclist (if it is N/A there is not a specific law so it is the same as other vehicles which are defined as a safe distance), if riding on the sidewalk is specifically disallowed, as well as if a bicycle is treated as a vehicle (this includes states where a bicyclist is not a vehicle but has all the same duties and responsibilities of a vehicle). Keep in mind that this chart is a guideline and that you should check your local laws for final verification.

State Helmet If < 18 Sidewalk Riding Safe Passing Treatment as a Vehicle
Alabama Yes Disallowed N/A Yes
Alaska No Allowed N/A Yes
Arizona No Allowed 3′ Yes
California Yes Allowed 3′ Yes
Colorado No Allowed 3′ Yes
Connecticut Yes Allowed 3′ Yes
Delaware Yes Allowed 3′ Yes
District of Columbia Yes Allowed 3′ Yes
Florida Yes Allowed 3′ Yes
Georgia Yes Disallowed 3′ Yes
Hawaii Yes Allowed N/A Yes
Idaho No Allowed N/A Yes
Illinois No Allowed 3′ Yes
Indiana No Allowed N/A Yes
Iowa No Allowed N/A Yes
Kansas No Allowed 3′ Yes
Kentucky No Allowed N/A Yes
Louisiana Yes Allowed 3′ Yes
Maine Yes Allowed 3′ Yes
Maryland Yes Disallowed 3′ Yes
Massachusetts Yes Allowed Safe Distance Yes
Michigan No Allowed N/A Yes
Minnesota No Allowed 3′ Yes
Mississippi No Allowed 3′ Yes
Missouri No Allowed Safe Distance Yes
Montana No Allowed N/A Yes
Nebraska No Allowed 3′ Yes
Nevada No Allowed 3′ Yes
New Hampshire Yes Disallowed 3′ Yes
New Jersey Yes Allowed N/A Yes
New Mexico Yes Allowed N/A Yes
New York Yes Allowed (except in NYC) Safe Distance Yes
North Carolina Yes Allowed N/A Yes
North Dakota No Disallowed N/A Yes
Ohio No Allowed N/A Yes
Oklahoma No Allowed 3′ Yes
Oregon Yes Allowed Safe Distance Yes
Pennsylvania Yes Allowed 4′ Yes
Rhode Island Yes Allowed Safe Distance Yes
South Carolina No Allowed N/A Yes
South Dakota No Allowed N/A Yes
Tennessee Yes Allowed 3′ Yes
Texas No Allowed N/A Yes
Utah No Allowed 3′ Yes
Vermont No Allowed Safe Distance Yes
Virginia No Allowed 3′ Yes
Washington State No Allowed Safe Distance Yes
West Virginia Yes Allowed 3′ Yes
Wisconsin No Disallowed 3′ Yes
Wyoming No Allowed N/A Yes
State Helmet If < 18 Sidewalk Riding Safe Passing Treatment as a Vehicle

Bike Safety

Riding alongside cars and pedestrians can be scary when you first start out. If you do not follow some basic safety guidelines there is a very real chance you are going to hurt yourself.

  • Ride with traffic and stay off sidewalks if you can avoid it. Try your best to go in a straight line and avoid weaving back and forth. The more predictable you are the less likely you confuse any cars coming behind you. Some new bicyclist think that you are supposed to ride against traffic, but this only applies if you are walking.
  • Stop at red lights and at the very least slowdown and look both ways at a stop sign (you are legally required to stop). If there are cars at the stop signs, go ahead and stop and follow the correct rules for a stop sign as if you were a car.
  • Be predictable in your riding and make sure to signal your turns. A simple outstretched hand to the left or right is all you really need for turning left and right.
  • Be the most alert near driveways, cars turning and parked cars (drivers opening their doors into you). These will be the most common types of car on bike violence.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings. Do not talk on your cell phone. If you are going to wear, head phones make sure you use them in a single ear only.
  • Have headlights / reflectors for night biking. This is also required by law in most states so is something you need to do anyways. Reflective clothing and tape are a must as well if you plan on going out a lot at night. It is not a bad idea to keep your lights on during the day as well, everything that makes you a little more visible makes you a little safer.

I found this site to have a lot of very useful and practical advice if you would like more bike safety tips.

Hand Signals

Basically going to be only 3 hand signals you are going to use while biking. Straight out horizontally to your left will signal a left turn. Straight out horizontally to your right will signal a right turn. You will also see people use their left arm bent at the elbow upwards for a right turn but this is only useful in a car where someone would not see if you extended your right arm out so you do not need to do this on a bike. The last signal is your left arm bent at the elbow downwards to signal you are stopping / slowing down.

turning left
This kid is probably planning on turning left.
right turn signal
Right turn signal

Bike Etiquette

  • Ride in single file when you are in a group ride with other cars on the road. This will help prevent road rage from cars getting stuck behind your group and allow them to pass. You can ride two abreast if nobody else is around you.
  • If you are riding on the road and cars start getting backed up behind you, periodically pull over and stop to let the traffic clear up.
  • Use hand signals when in traffic. This will make you more predictable.
  • Stop at stop lights and make a hand gesture at other vehicles to assert their right of way. Do not insist on your right of way and pedestrians always have the right of way.
  • Don’t chit chat on your phone. Pull over if you want to have a conversation.
  • Give pedestrians a nice shout out of “ON YOUR LEFT!” when passing (always pass on your left). A sassy bell or horn ring will help out as well. Be alert when passing, for some reason a lot of pedestrians will assume “on your left” means for them to immediately move to their left.
  • Unless specifically allowed, sidewalks are for pedestrians.
  • Walk your bike through crowds.

Bike Maintenance

There is preventive and reactive maintenance. What you do to prevent problems and what you do when you get a problem. Pretty much all your preventive maintenance is going to fall under cleaning / lubing your bike after you ride it. How often you have to do this is really going to depend on where and how often you ride. The dirtier and the more often you ride, the more you will need to do.

I tend to really just wash my bike periodically and lube after every ride, but if you have the time to really keep your bike maintained, here is a good bike maintenance article.

Before Riding

  • Check tire pressure, you should not have any give when squeezing your tires. If you get any, fill your bike to the correct PSI. If you find yourself doing this on a daily basis, you might have a leak.
  • Make sure your brakes are gripping. A loose brake line or leaking hydraulic fluid causing your brakes not to work is not something you want to discover while riding.

After Riding

If you are lazy like me, just simply spraying your chain and gears with a combination cleaner / lube after each ride will get you 90% there for basic maintenance. If your bike gets really dirty, go ahead and wash it down and then respray the moving parts with spray on lube.

Fixing a Flat

Fixing a flat tire or a tire that will not hold air is surprisingly easy and should take 15 minutes top. If you carry a spare tube and a basic bike tool with you (a must if you are doing trails), you can even do it away from the comfort of your home.

Things to keep in mind while changing your tire

  • A lot of tread has a direction to it, keep track of which direction your tread was facing when you take the tire off.
  • Rub your hand on the inside of the tread for anything sharp (slowly!). Whatever punctured your inner tube might still be stuck in your tread.
  • Adding a little bit of air to the new inner tube makes it easier to position.

Fixing a Broken Chain

A broken chain is one of the worst things that can happen to your bike while you are using it since you are now completely dead in the water and you either fix it or walk it back. If you carry a chain tool or a multitool with a chain tool on it, you should be able to fix this immediately. I have yet to have to fix a chain (knock on wood), but this article will explain step by step how to do it.

Photo Credit

Photos by *USB* , Adam Leadbetter , andy_c , mitchellangelo , russteaches , Rollofunk , Beige Alert , tandemracer , Viernest , Mark Dumont , Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious , russteaches , Glory Cycles , juliannevillecorrea , Mr.TinDC , emilydickinsonridesabmx , emilydickinsonridesabmx , thievingjoker , periwinklekog , mandiberg , Jason Spaceman , Thirteen Of Clubs , mmechtley , rideurbike , kamshots , TimothyJ , Roni Solomon, DDS , and fihu .

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