A show of hands — how many of you have resolved to be healthier or lose weight in 2016? According to Nielsen reports, most of you are sheepishly raising a finger right now. In 2015, the survey found “staying fit and healthy” to be the top resolution at 37 percent, followed by “lose weight” at 31 percent. Unfortunately, less than 10 percent of people tend to keep their resolutions by the time the next holiday season comes around.
Sara Villalobos works for My City Bikes in Palo Alto, California, a web- and app-based fitness and wellness platform designed specifically to help beginners learn the biking basics and where to cycle in their town. My City Bikes Miami is a free app on iTunes and the Google Play store that wants to get you started on the path to a healthier and greener 2016, and she has some tips to persuade you.
“At first glance, the average person would think, Oh my gosh, where are you going to bike in Miami?” she says. “But when you start realizing how many great bike paths there are and how many bike lanes there are — even great mountain biking — it’s kind of a revelation.”
- Choose the right bike.
Before you hit the road, consider the uses of your bike. My City Bikes Miami offers a breakdown of four bike types to consider: commuter bike, road bike, cruiser bike, and mountain bike. If commuting, My City Bike recommends the road bike and commuter bike. The road bike prioritizes light construction and sleek rider positioning to enhance power and speed. It’s not the right bike for heavy off-roading, given that its tires are narrower than those of its brethren, but it will get you clocking traffic speeds that will leave Miami gridlock in the dust. The commuter bike is a bit more comfortable and versatile and also comes with storage attachments for trips to the grocery store. The mountain bike is bulky for everyday use but perfect when hitting dirty, rocky roads. Cruiser bikes, likewise, are built with comfort in mind and are generally well suited for any terrain, though certainly not for speed.
- If it fits, you sits.
Once you know which bike is best for your planned activities, the only thing left is to buy one, right? Not so. “Making sure that you have the right size bike is a really important thing,” Villalobos says. “When you get in a car and sit down, you have to adjust the seat to make sure that you’re near enough to the pedals and the steering wheel, and you have to adjust the rear view mirror… bike fitting is a way to make sure that all the little working pieces fit your body so that you’re going to be comfortable and efficient on your bicycle.” Villalobos suggest heading over to her favorite 305 spot, the Miami Bike Shop, where the friendly staff will work closely with you to choose the right bike, then teach you how to adjust the seat to your comfort and the comfort of your friends, should you choose to lend it out.
- Get the right gear.
Bike safety is a top priority. Florida law currently does not require riders over the age of 16 to use a helmet, but you only get one brain, and you know the drivers here in Miami. Better to play it safe than wish you had later. Of course, bike safety isn’t just helmets and pads. It’s proper lighting in the front and rear. It’s reflective outerwear that’s fashionable and functional. Again, your local bike shop (or the Magic City Collective) would love to walk you through it. Be sure to ask.
- Check before you wreck
Once you’ve got your bike, there are a few things you can do at home to make sure your ride is safe and enjoyable. The number one tip on that list? Villalobos says you should go out and get an inexpensive, manual floor pump and inflate those tires before each and every ride. “The most common type of flat tire is called a pinch flat, and that’s because the tire isn’t inflated properly,” she says. Not to mention, a bike with well-inflated tires travels much faster and glides with less friction than a low-pressure bike, and a good pump only takes about 30 seconds. “It’s a really small thing, but if you can get in that habit before you ride, it’ll make all the difference.”
- Learn the basics
If you do get a flat tire on the road, My City Bikes offers easy to understand instructions on how to replace your tire yourself, although Villalobos points out that the Miami Bike Shop experts will sit down and teach that skill to you as well. The app also includes a section on learning to clean a bike chain, pack with efficiency, clip on to portable racks, and more.
- Get out there and ride
Look at you! If you follow all these steps, you’re practically a bike expert. No you just have to get on the damn thing and give it a whirl. My City Bikes has comprehensive maps for all the best trails in the south Florida area, from rocky terrain to road-ready bike lanes, and it can help you plan your commute to work or play. It offers sections for group ride organization for all riders, as well as specialized groups for women, families, and kids. It’s got a bunch of other tools to play with, too, but really, it’s about getting out there and doing it.
“Imagine that day you were in your car and you saw a cyclist ride by when you’re in gridlock,” Villalobos says. “Maybe you felt a little bit of satisfaction when you finally pass them, and then they pass you again at the next light. If you’re that cyclist, not only are you getting from point A to point B in probably the same amount of time, but you’re also getting your exercise that day. Who is coming out on top there?”
* This article originally appeared in Miami New Times written by Kat Bein.