“Cyclers see considerably more of this beautiful world than any other class of citizens. A good bicycle, well applied, will cure most ills this flesh is heir to.”
– Dr. K. K. Doty
Are you ready to shake it up a bit? Do you need a mood-boosting change as you head into summer? Are you looking at rising gas prices and thinking it is time to try a different mode of transportation? A bike may just be the answer. Picture yourself starting your day on two wheels, breathing in the fresh air and taking in the sights of the grand Timpanogos and passing green farmland. Imagine the feel of a cool breeze on your cheeks as it rejuvenates your spirits. Riding a bicycle around town can provide financial, physical, mental, and environmental gains.
Wasatch High teacher, James Hansen, has been riding his bike to work daily, rain or shine, for the last three years. He sold his car after his first year living in the valley. James shares that selling his car has saved him thousands of dollars a year.
With the average price of gas over $4 per gallon, one estimate shows that a typical household will be spending an additional $2,000 this year on fuel.1 This does not include the money that could be saved on vehicle registration, maintenance, and insurance. Instead of watching all your pennies drained from your bank account into your gas tank, you could start commuting and running your errands by bike. James shared, “I don’t just bicycle to work, but to the grocery store, picking up the kids from school, and all over the valley during XC season as I ride along with the runners.” This change in transportation doesn’t only benefit your wallet; it can improve your health too.
Think about the amount of time you spend in your car completely sedentary. Now, consider spending at least a quarter of that time on a bike by planning to bike a couple days a week. Contemplate the impact this could have on your physical health. It could be life-changing, perhaps even life-saving. Researchers see positive ties between cycling and prevention of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.2 The tie between cycling and good health has certainly been apparent for James. “At my last check-up, my doctor said I had the metabolism of a 16 year old,” James shares. This is pretty amazing considering James, at 33, is over twice that age.
Mental health benefits also abound. Studies show that cycling can protect you against brain tissue loss and encourage new brain cell development. One survey by Cycleplan found that 75% of its participants noticed improvement in their mental health after they started cycling.3 Some even expressed a decrease in depression and anxiety. Cycling provides the ideal opportunity to practice mindfulness and to be completely present in the moment. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle expressed this idea perfectly: “When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.” James has appreciated the reduced stress that has come with being able to cruise along with no need to sit in traffic. He also enjoys the ease of stopping to talk to someone.
Environmentally, riding a bike versus traveling by car is a no-brainer. You don’t have to worry about contributing to traffic congestion and pollution. You can do your part to keep our valley’s skies smog-free and our mountain air clean. According to HealUtah.org
driving our vehicles is the biggest contributor to our air quality problems.That is a big motivator for James, who says, “[…] there is a lot of potential to reduce emissions and pollution by cycling more.” He would love to see our valley take on more of a European feel, meaning that the city is planned and designed in such a way to promote and serve pedestrians and cyclists over vehicles.
You may be concerned that your commute is too far to consider traveling by bike. This is where the curtain lifts and a lone spotlight shines to reveal an e-bike in all of its perpetual glory. An e-bike is an electric bike and it is likely you have seen them out and about. The e-bike has a motor on it that allows the rider to have assistance as they pedal. The cyclist can choose the level of assistance they prefer, allowing for longer mileage while exerting less energy. Electric bikes allow the rider to go up to 20 mph.
If your interest is piqued, there are a few places in town to do your research on the best bike for you. Slim and Knobby’s Bike Shop, Gravity Coalition, and Wasatch E Bike, are all great places to start. If you just want to rent a bike to ride for the day or the week, check out Wasatch E Bike or Rover All Over. Maybe you have a bike in the garage and it just needs a quick tune-up. Slim & Knobby’s, Midway Adventure Company or Gravity Coalition can take care of you. With a road or paved trail to get you where you need to go, why not give it a try and see how going from four wheels to two can benefit you.
Know before you go
Invest in lights and reflective gear so that you can easily be seen day or night. Make eye contact or wave to drivers to make sure they see you when crossing a side street, parking lot, or driveway.
Become acquainted with bicycle laws and safety. Check out the Utah Bicycle Commuter Guide. Also read the article “How to Not Get Hit By Cars” on bicyclesafe.com to help you consider situations you will be facing on a bike and how to safely navigate them. For example, avoid riding on sidewalks, ride with traffic, don’t stop in a vehicle’s blind spot, and don’t pass a car on the right.
Get the right helmet fit to make sure your head is always protected.
The Dutch, who are known for riding in all kinds of weather, like to say, “You aren’t made of sugar.” You can handle the weather year-round if you’re dressed for it. A pair of warm gloves, a Gore-Tex™ shell, and thin beanie under your helmet can keep you comfortable on winter days. Dress in layers and avoid loose-fitting clothing. When commuting to work, consider bringing a change of clothes.
Get the needed components for your bike. Maybe you want to haul kids or groceries. There’s a way to do it. Don’t forget a lock to keep your bicycle safe.
Be courteous. Ride defensively and be polite. Take it slowly at first and be predictable to others on the road.