Cycling The Byways


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. –Arthur Conan Doyle

Ever since the bicycle was first invented in 1908, people have been fascinated by the idea of using wheels to get to their destination. There’s something refreshing about and able to ride along a back road or the main street with nothing but the power of your own two feet to get you there.

The types of cycles available to you are only limited by the trail you decide to ride on. Whether you are looking for a general, all-purpose bike, a tricycle, a street rider, hardtail mountain bike, or even an electric bike to explore the path less traveled by, cycling can open up a whole new way to exercise and explore, so you can get fit while you find your way.

There’s something magical about riding on a bike that makes you feel like you’re almost flying. Cycling is different than driving a car because you have time to take in the world around you, and you know that you’re the one pushing yourself along instead of an engine. From you’re climbing a mountain path on your electric mountain bike until you reach the summit to enjoy the ride down, or coasting along the boardwalk in New Jersey on your electric beach cruiser, cycling allows you to get in touch with your body and take on the open road.

So whether you’re looking for a casual hobby to help you coast shore, or want to feel the wind rush through your hair during a race, cycling can help you not only explore the roads around you, but also trust your own strength to get you where you need to go every time.

From Penny Farthings to Modern Bikes

The first bicycles looked nothing like what we know today. The penny farthing bike was extraordinarily hard to ride, with a front wheel that was almost comically large compared to the back one. But as the two-wheeled bike rose in popularity with the help of the Wright brothers, bikes not only allowed people to travel inexpensively, they also allowed freedom for women, as the popularity of bikes made women wearing trousers more socially acceptable. Today’s bikes come in so many different styles and designs that are tailor-made for every situation sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Generally, bikes can be broken down into three categories: all-purpose or hybrid bikes, off-road bikes, and street bikes. There also cruisers, but these fall into the category of street bikes, so they are two very different modes of cycling.

An all-purpose bike usually has a gearshift, and threaded, but not overly high-duty, tires. All-purpose bikes are good for general cycling, where you find yourself going between dirt roads and pavement, or if you’re looking for a basic bike to get you started. You want to make sure that you have the right size bike for yourself, of course, but these bikes are good for beginners and for anyone who has been biking for a while but doesn’t want to endanger their specialty bike on new terrain.

Mountain bikes, on the other hand, are made for heavy duty biking and off-roading. Their gear shifts are usually more intense and come with specific settings to help you get up the mountain without as much trouble as you would have on an all-purpose bike or a cruiser. As well, mountain bike tires tend to be thicker and have more grip for better handling on rough terrain. Of course, mountain biking is never easy, but mountain bikes have minute steering capabilities so that when you’re pedaling down a mountain at full speed, you need to be able to adapt to subtle changes in the geography in a snap. They also usually have heavy duty shocks than those on other bikes, since nothing is more uncomfortable than getting jostled up and down on the bike seat for multiple hours.

Street bikes, on the other hand, are made for moving fast and with finesse. They have specific road bike tires that are thinner than any other type of bike, and are for both racing along and keeping up with traffic as you explore a city or paved track. These Bikes aren’t exclusively for veteran bikers though, with many affordable entry level road bikes on the market. Buying a new or used one of these is often one of the most economical ways to get riding.  Electric scooters do the same, but at slower speeds and without pedaling.

Cruisers, on the other hand, don’t usually have gear shifts and have wider, softer tires like the ones on fat tire electric bikes. While they’re not meant for speeding along or careening down mountains, they are more comfortable than basic bikes and used to come with comfortable seats so you don’t have to hunch over or deal with hard seat while looking at the scenery. There are many other types of bikes, from specialty bikes to classic designs and even different frame builds, so it’s always a good idea to do your research on what type of bike you’re looking for before you make the investment. A well-cared-for bike will last for years to come, so make sure to find the right one for you.

Pick the Right Gear

The bikes available to you vary depending on what activity are doing, but there is one thing that you should always have on you: a helmet. Just like any other high-intensity activity or form of travel, you want to make sure that your head is safe so you don’t find yourself with a concussion or worse the next time you go cycling. A good bike helmet will fit snugly and not choke you under your chin. It is too loose on your head, it won’t offer any protection, so you want to make sure that your helmet fits like a glove. It’s best to decide the type of protection you need, as some options like mountain bike helmets are meant for more high impact situation than the usual racing or cruising helmets. You can also invest and gloves to help you not get calluses as you cycle around, as well as biking shirts and shorts to help reduce your air resistance and keep you from chafing while speeding along. If you are a fan of night riding you will probably need a bike light to guide you along your way. From the usual bells and horns that are popular with children to water bottle holders or even bike trailers, there are plenty of options to trick out your bike and make sure your next cycling adventure goes off without a hitch. You also make sure you have a good pair of shoes, with good arch support. Otherwise, your feet may start to hurt from pressing the petals, and you may find yourself needing inserts. Another thing you may want to invest in is a good bike lock to prevent your bicycle from being stolen. Having a car bike rack can make transporting your bike significantly easier, especially while traveling. The gear you need really depends on the type of cycling you prefer, so you wanna make sure you have different things on you depending on where you’re going.

Regardless of where you find yourself, it’s always a good idea to have a map and a compass on you, as well as any snacks or water you may need. And if you find yourself in a race or another situation, it always helps to be prepared without weighing yourself down. After all, nothing slows down a cycling trip like overpacking. It is also a good idea to do a quick safety test before you ride. Make sure that the brakes are working, the tires are properly inflated, and every part of the bike is securely fastened. If any adjustments need to be made, you can easily put your bicycle on a bike repair stand to tackle the problem.

If you are ready to take your cycling to the next level, you should look into upgrading your bike. You can either upgrade the whole bike to a new one, or replace individual pieces. Bikes from the factory tend to have more cost efficient pieces, not necessarily the highest quality ones. Parts that can be upgraded include the frame, brakes, wheels, grips, and even the pedals. Believe it or not, you can even turn a regular bike into an electric one with an electric bike conversion kit. Even replacing one small part of the bike can add huge performance boosts. For example, upgrading from stock pedals to performance mountain bike pedals can decrease total bike weight and help you keep your grip on the bike.

Take to the Trails

It’s never hard to find places to go cycling but making sure you’re safe while cycling can be difficult. It’s a good idea to know the hand signals to use while on the road. While people are supposed to share the road bikers in most places, there may not be a dedicated bike lane, so you want to keep an eye on your personal safety before snuggling up close to the main road. If you’re looking for something to do or places to explore while biking, the options are nearly endless. There are always races, events, and even trails that you can take to explore new places. The only thing that limits you when you’re cycling is the road in front of you, and of course the limits of your own body. Make sure to rest when you need to, but push yourself to go that extra mile and see the sunrise like you never have before.

So get a beginner mountain bike, strap on your helmet, and take off on your next adventure. Just make sure to keep your pedal to the metal and you’ll never be disappointed with what you find out on the road.