How to ride a bicycle

I like docs, so I wrote some for 🚲s

  • To turn right, you turn the handlebars left
  • Use your front brake only, except on ice, mud, or gravel
  • Arms are only on the handlebars to rest, steering is with the hips & knees
  • You can likely bike 100km with no training, speed is harder than distance

Bicycles can be ridden in snow and sleet, near or far, whether it’s -25ºC or +45ºC, you just have to be properly prepared.

I aim to document some of the things I’ve learned along the way, mixed with interesting facts and video links explaining some of the theory:

  1. Bicycle usage
  2. The physics of traction, lean angle, and steering
  3. Traffic theory & navigation
  4. Long distance riding
  5. Night riding
  6. Gear & setup

1. Bicycle Usage 🚴🏽‍💡


⁃ Leave room for the unpredictable
Countersteering
⁃ Lean angle
⁃ Weight shifting
⁃ Hips
⁃ No hands = default
⁃ Traction (you have tons of it)
⁃ Tread
⁃ Hops & Bunny hops
⁃ Using reflections
⁃ Defensive driving
⁃ Light & using moving shadows to gauge depth at night
⁃ Front brake is king
⁃ Signaling intent with your eyes
⁃ Inductive traffic loops
⁃ Intersection approach, how to look both ways

⁃ Look up & far ahead
- muscle group rotating
- no hands practice
- mapmyride
- dealing with bugs
- backbeat pros
- steering with hips not hands
- hands-free operation
- hip position
- bunny hops & hops

A lot of these things are difficult to teach with words on a page, they just take practice to build instinctive response.

Dealing with weather

  • Layers (be able to handle at least ±10ºC)
  • Ski goggles, gloves, balaclava, hat for cold weather
  • consider tougher fabrics when riding hard, road rash sucks

Conservation of resources

Many major sports and physical activities rely on the art of conserving resources. Whether playing basketball or mountaineering, it’s all about being able to balance energy and resource use efficiently. Biking is somewhere between basketball and mountaineering, it’s intense exercise that kicks your ass sprinkled with endurance adventure and self-supported travel.

In particular, biking relies on the balance of these resources:

⁃ Momentum
⁃ Water
⁃ Glucose
⁃ Muscle endurance
⁃ Mental endurance
⁃ Potential energy (aka altitude)
⁃ Warmth
⁃ Beer
⁃ Light (sunlight, headlights)
⁃ Electricity (phone or anything battery operated on your bike)

2. The Physics 🍎

  • Steering (Countersteering) Counter-steering is not something you need to learn how to do, it’s the only way a bicycle steers at high speed.
  • no hands = default, get used to steering without them
  • Traction (you have tons of it)
    Choosing tread, psi. 80 is better than 120 for rough roads
    use front brake exclusively and only feather the rear brake lightly
  • Leaning & Moving
    weight shifting (front & back for bumps, left & right for steering and power)

3. Traffic & Navigation 🚗

⁃ Defensive driving, lane guarding
⁃ Signaling intent with your eyes
⁃ Inductive traffic loops
⁃ Intersection approach, habitually look both ways safely and quickly
⁃ Leave room for the unpredictable
⁃ Using reflections
- transit app bike directions, mapmyride

4. Longer Rides 🏔

How to plan for riding medium, and long distance rides:

⁃ Route, battery, refill stops
⁃ Lighting & traffic (night is better)
⁃ Layers for temperature change
⁃ Goals for the ride (cardio, muscle mass, or exploration)
⁃ Elevation
⁃ Mapmyride & tracking
⁃ If you’re trying to get somewhere fast, aim for the fewest turns on an unfamiliar route, optimize for ease of navigation first, and shortest distance second
⁃ Bike the walking directions for the most direct route
⁃ Avoid traffic lights and prefer side streets with stop signs
⁃ Prefer well lit streets with no bike lane to the inverse
⁃ Music
⁃ Contingency to get home in case of trouble (bus, train, etc)

Setup & supplies

⁃ Gears
⁃ Lights: 1x 50+hr battery, 1x 2-5 hr battery
⁃ Psi
⁃ Patch kit, pump, batteries
⁃ Look for versatility in tools, aim for multiple uses for everything, e.g. Hat is good for blocking bright lights at night, insects, rain, snow, and warmth
⁃ Weight
⁃ Bike fit
⁃ Brake tightness (cars have the brakes always dragging for immediate response)
⁃ Optimize for things that fail gracefully, e.g bike lights that switch to 10+ hour low power mode, pliers can become a wrench
⁃ Headphones + hat/helmet
⁃ Coins & adapter for gas station air

5. Biking at Night 🌙


- look for headlights behind you (reflecting against things ahead of you)
- use lots of reflective tape and lights
- Use moving shadows to gauge depth at night, move your light-source around to move the shadows (use a headlamp)
- Check behind yourself often, seriously, like every 10sec
- Don’t guard lanes aggressively unless you’re very well lit
- Assume you’re invisible at all times
- The best hours are 12am–6am, when the roads are empty
- Public transport may not be running, pack a spare tube and water
- Have lots of backup batteries
- Enough water to drink if you’re stranded, or to wash road rash if you crash, so that doctors don’t have to scrape rubble out of a congealed scab (very painful)