Most books on bicycling begin with instrucitons on how to select a bicycle and accessories. This one is going to be different. We're going to start by talking about a more significant acquisition: attitude.
The most important factor in how you ride your bike is how your feel about it. If you find bicycling enjoyable and reasonably safe, then you'll want to cover greater distances and go more places. but to do so, you usually have to ride in the company of cars -- and sharing the road with cars calls for an attitude of security and confidence.
Once you have that attitude, you can safely and enjoyably take on a commute to work in city traffic or a long day's tour on almost any kind of road. Almost anyone can become a confident, streetwise cyclinst. This book will show you how.
A few words about equipment -- you do need the right equipment to put the ideas in this booklet to use.
Your bicycle should match your riding style. Choices range from an ultra-lightweight, fast road-racing machine to a rugged all-terrain bike. Consider your level of skill and where you want to ride. A good bike shop can help you make the right decision.
For comfort, your bike must fit your body proportions like a good suit of clothes. Finding the right frame height by standing over the bike is just a start. Other measurements are equally important. For example, most women need to take extra care to buy bikes with a short top tube, since women's average upper-body length is shorter in proportion to leg length than men's/
Cranks, handlebar stem, handlebars and saddle can be changed to fit you better. A good bike shop will help you select the parts that are right for you when you buy a bike.
New or old-faithful, your bicycle must be in good working order. The gears must shift reliably, and the brakes must work smoothly. If you aren't sure that your bike is in top shape, take it to a qualified mechanic.
A helmet is a bargain in injury prevention. Wearing a bicycle helmet whenver you ride can reduce your risk of a serious head injury by 85%. A good helmet will protect against most of these. It reduces the risk of a fatal bicycling crash to about the same level as a car driver's, for the same amount of time spent at either activity (National Safety Council and H. Katteler; Minutes of the Velo-City Conference, Bremen, Germany, 1981).
A rear-veiw mirror can be helpful when maneuvering in traffic. A small, helmet-mounted mirror gives a wide field of view and good isolation from road shock. Aim it along the side of your head, looking directly back. You should see your left ear in the right side of the mirror. You'll need a couple of weeks to learn to use the mirror. If it still doesn't work well for you after that lendth of time, consider a handlebar-end mirror instead.
Every bicyclist takes a fall sooner or later, and puts out a hand to break the fall. Unless you wear gloves, the pavement will sandpaper your palm. Fingerless cycling gloves improve your comfort on long rides by cushioning your hands against road shock from the heandlebars.
A small tool kit, tire patch kit and frame pump -- and the knowledge to use them -- will get you back on the road when your bike has a flat tire or other common minor breakdowns. Most on-road repairs are simple and easy to learn.
A frame-mounted water bottle lets you drink as you ride -- important on any trip of more than an hour. A small handlebar bag or rack-mount bag will hold your tools, extra clothing, maps and other items you take with you on your rides. A bag on the bike is a far better choice than a backpack, which will leave your back hot and sweaty in warm weather.