Cycling Tips

Although a pleasant seaside ride is relaxing, and it may bring you back to your childhood, don’t forget some simple rules for cycling:

  • Wear a helmet;
  • Ride on the right;
  • Signal;
  • Don’t hurt anybody.

Wear a helmet because if you ride enough you will eventually fall and hit your head and the doctor will ask without thinking “were you wearing a helmet?” and you will feel like an idiot. It’s guaranteed.

Ride on the right because it’s the big city and people commute quickly along these paths. Sometimes people from other countries where they ride on the left will veer to the left in an emergency. To those people we stress: ride on the right.

Signal so others can see what’s going on on the road – if they see you signal, but don’t see anything else, they’ll probably assume there’s traffic they don’t see and be prepared. If they don’t see you signal – or more precisely – see you not signal, then they may assume the way is clear. Sometimes you don’t really need to signal, but you do so other cyclists will see it’s a signaling sort of place.

Don’t hurt anybody because it gets us all a bad reputation, but more importantly – there’s no need to rush, everybody hopes to get home in good shape, and with people and dogs all over the place, you’ve really got to be extra careful of others. If “cause no harm” is the mantra of all cyclists then perhaps we can all coexist happily. And by “cause no harm” we mean psychological damage, too.

For those who like to go fast and furious:

  • Don’t hit pedestrians;
  • Don’t frighten pedestrians;
  • Don’t even let pedestrians know you’ve been there.

When passing children and dogs we try to avoid going between them and either their parents/owners or the next place they’re going to run to.

We’ve always thought kids were fairly observant. They seem to see us coming in advance and we both make adjustments. More than once though, the parents saw us at the last minute, freaked out, and shouted at the kid who immediately froze, necessitating an urgent change of course and as we veered past we’d hear parents yelling all sorts of horrible life-stunting things at the poor kid who was doing the right thing all along until the parent got involved. We’d like to be able to go back and set things right, but we’re not stupid.

Dog owners are getting better as the years go by, but there are still those who will call their dog across your path, or throw a ball so that the dog cuts you off. They just don’t know what they’re doing, and are learning the hard way (for the dog). We think all injuries caused by bad dog owners should be visited upon them and not the usual victims – the dog and the cyclist.

We try to treat dogs and kids nicely, and slow down rather than take a chance because we’ve discovered the smiling gratitude of loving parents and dog owners makes for a nice ride.

Your Bike

Consider puncture-resistant tires or inner puncture-resistant tape. Riding in all sorts of places it’s nice not to have to worry too much about the tires getting a puncture. One of the causes of punctures along the seaside is mussel shell fragments which get stuck in your tire and work their way in. Mussel shell pieces can be surprisingly sharp and very strong.

Know where your repair shops are, or carry tools and a puncture kit. For a while we were getting flats regularly until we replaced our worn-out Mr. Tuffy tape. Worn or badly installed tire liners can cause more flats than they protect against, but we still use them because when they work they work.

The UBC campus has a student-run bike shop, and up on 4th and Broadway you’ll find bike shops in Point Grey. There’s a bike shop near Granville Island along West 2nd to the bridge, a guy who often sets up a portable stand at Science World, a shop in Yaletown at the foot of Davie, and several on Denman around Georgia in the West End, and one near the foot of Davie at Denman.

For simple bike parts and accessories, Canadian Tire on Cambie, a few blocks south of the bridge is an inexpensive choice. For more, try Mountain Equipment Coop further up Cambie then left along Broadway. You’ll need a $5 membership. Otherwise, for inexpensive used parts, we like the Our Community Bikes shop up on 3283 Main St. They have a more limited place near south False Creek at 1830 Ontario St.

Pedestrians on the Bike Path

People wandering on the bike path is our pet peeve, but you may want to leave the confrontations to the rabid cyclists. Most people are walking on the bike path by mistake and will move off once told. If you don’t move them off, more pedestrians will wander onto the bike path because they’ll just thoughtlessly walk where others are walking. If you can move off the one in the lead, perhaps the others will follow. Unfortunately you usually have to do it in reverse order.

For those of you who like to jog along the bike path, and don’t understand why cyclists still yell at you, even though you’re off to the side, making good progress, and are special – this is why – people will see you doing it and follow your lead.

We have noticed a disproportionate number of especially vulnerable people choosing the bike path – people with strollers, wheelchairs, walkers, canes and crutches choose the bike path. We assume it’s because of the flatter paved surface as opposed to brick or stone paving which is common on the pedestrian path. They will select the bike path in the worst weather and at night, presumably thinking it’s safe because no one will be out. Of course, they’re wrong.

The bike path goes through the off-leash dog park at the end of Spanish Banks, and during the off-season clueless older people who should know better would congregate with their dogs on the bike path and get pretty snippy if you told them. They felt their rights superseded those of others. These are not debates you bring into traffic.

Honestly – the number of people we’ve encountered who walk on the bike path because they feel it’s their right is depressing. The real reason you don’t walk on the bike path is because we can all get hurt. It’s the same reason you don’t walk on the highway. No, we won’t ride around you, you stupid gits.

Winter Riding:

(See Weather)

Dress in layers and be prepared for rain. Carry a rain jacket and rain pants. You can get cheap rain pants and other gear at Mountain Equipment Coop. Carry them in plastic bags. In warmer weather, impervious rain gear will leave you as wet inside as out. Our solution is to hope it doesn’t rain on warmer days.

Fenders are a must. We have been very happy with cheap plastic ones from Canadian Tire. Ours have lasted for a decade and cost about $20.

Ride in the rain. It’s not the lack of sun that gets to you, it’s being cooped up indoors. If you’re properly dressed (and have fenders), rain is nice to ride in. Wipe your chain afterward. Keep it clean and oiled.

Carry lights. During the summer we carry our lights in our bag with cardboard over the contacts to stop them from accidentally switching on. During the winter we use them – it gets dark early and quickly, and in rainstorms on busy roads you’ll be happy to have lights.