How to ride a bicycle

I like docs, so I wrote some for 🚲

Here are some things you might not know about bicycles
  • To turn right, you turn the handlebars left
  • Use your front brake only, except on ice or mud
  • 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 basics here, 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

Dealing with weather

  • Layers (be able to handle at least ±10ºC)
  • Ski goggles, gloves, balaclava, hat

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, mixed with 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
⁃ Electricity (for anything battery operated on your bike)

2. The Physics 🍎

  • Steering (Countersteering)
    no hands = default
  • Traction (you have tons of it)
    Choosing tread, psi. 80 is better than 120 for rough roads
    use front exclusively
  • 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, how to look both ways 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
⁃ Elevation
⁃ Mapmyride & tracking
⁃ Aim for fewest turns on an unfamiliar route, optimize for ease of navigation first, and distance second
⁃ Bike the walking directions for 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: 50+ hrs 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
⁃ Coins & adapter for gas station air

5. Biking at Night 🌙

- look for headlights behind you (reflecting against things ahead of you)
- use reflective tape and lights
- Use moving shadows to gauge depth at night, move your lightsource around to move the shadows
- Check behind yourself often, seriously
- Don’t guard your lane as aggressively unless you’re visible
- The best hours are 12am–6am, when the roads are empty
- Public transport may not be running, pack a spare tube
- Have lots of backup batteries