There is No Right or Wrong Way to be a Cyclist

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Marc Mitcham Tweet us @BikeArlington @BikeArlington July 1, 2015 0 Comments

Marc is an Arlington-based cycling enthusiast and bike commuter. He sometimes has thoughts on how to make cycling easier for people.

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This entry is cross posted from our friends at Mobility Lab.

If you’re interested in starting to ride a bike, be it for leisure, fitness, convenience, or whatever, you almost certainly have sought out advice on how to get started. You might have heard people say that “road bikes are the best” or “a cruiser bike is all you need,” or “you’ll only be comfortable if you wear bike shorts!” These people mean well, but their recommendations tend to mirror their own experiences and preferences.

But it’s important for prospective cyclists to remember that it is only their own experiences and preferences that matter. There’s no right or wrong way to be a cyclist and there is no “type” of cyclist that’s better or worse than others. There’s no group to which you have to belong or identify. If some aspect of cycling strikes your fancy and you want to pursue it, great! Cycling can be just as much a social activity and hobby as it can be a form of exercise or transportation.

For better or worse, many experienced cyclists and cycling advocates forget this and assume that what works for them should work for you, and give advice accordingly. This can be very confusing for the uninitiated and it risks alienating those seeking basic guidance. You may just be looking for the best way to bike from Point A to Point B, and end up getting an earful of information on clothing and frame materials. To avoid this, here are some helpful answers to common questions that will help you get on a bike and go:

Q: What kind of bike should I ride?

A: The best bike to ride is the one you’re comfortable riding. Have an old mountain bike collecting dust in the basement? That’ll work! Got a wad of cash and want the top of the line race bike? Go for it! If you just want to save on gas and maybe get some exercise in the process, but aren’t sure you want to invest in a bike? Try Capital Bikeshare. Local bike shops are also a great resource and can help you match your specific needs to the best type of bike.

Q: What should I wear?

A: The best clothes to wear are those that are comfortable. Just tooling around the city? You’re in luck, the clothes you’re wearing will probably be fine! Riding a bit further and afraid you’ll get sweaty? Those workout clothes in your drawer will probably work. Don’t worry about buying anything new unless you really want to, or if you discover you have a particular need.

Q: Do I need to wear a helmet?

A: If it makes you feel safer, do it! If not, then don’t worry about it. Wearing a helmet is a personal choice and no one should judge others about what they choose.

Q: What if I don’t feel like riding?

A: Don’t! Take the bus or Metro if that’s easier. Riding a bike is sometimes the best way to get somewhere, sometimes it’s not. Try it, and see if works for you…you might be surprised!

Q: Do I need to get into this advocacy stuff or be a model cyclist?

A: Nope. Many drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians will judge you no matter how lawful you ride, so just focus on being safe and not making others unsafe through your actions.  If you want to get into advocacy or learn all about the laws that apply to cyclists, check out the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

Photo Credit:

Sam Kittner/

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