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Biking tips for beginners in NYC

Cycling is becoming more popular in NYC.

Cycling is becoming more popular in NYC. Photo Credit: iStock

Biking is on NYC's brain.

More people are riding than ever before, with bicyclists reaching a new peak in the city in 2014, according to recent numbers from the Department of Transportation. And there are more places to bike, too; since 2007, the city has added more than 300 miles of bike lanes.

"It's incredible to see what's happened in the last 10 years in New York," says Dani Simons, director of marketing for NYC Bike Share, which operates Citi Bike.

Cycling not only offers a cheaper, sometimes quicker way to get around the city, there are the added health benefits to riding recreationally or daily to work.

"It's an efficient and rewarding way to build exercise into your routine and to get the benefit of an endorphin rush at the beginning and end of your day," says Susi Wunsch, publisher of the website Velojoy.

If you're looking to hit the road, or want a refresher on best practices, here are tips from the pros.




Wear a helmet

"It's not the law [for adults], but I would recommend it," Simons says. "Any bike shop is selling helmets that have been safety tested and approved, so it's really a matter of personal taste and comfort." The fit should be snug but not too tight; you should be able to put two to three fingers between your eyebrows and the top of the helmet; and the straps should fit one to two fingers between your chin and the strap, Simons says. The Department of Transportation regularly hosts helmet fittings throughout the city, too.


Think twice about earbuds

"Music can help fuel the rhythm of the ride, but it's illegal in NYC to wear more than one earphone," says Wunsch. "The better, safer option is to clip a Bluetooth-enabled mini-speaker to your bag or basket."


Use a light

"It's really important for folks to stay visible," Simons says. "Parts of the greenways and bridges are not super lit. You're keeping yourself visible not just from cars, but your fellow riders." Lights or reflective items can be mounted to the front and back of your bike, as well as the wheels.


Adjust your seat

Whether you're using a bike sharing program like Citi Bike or your own, the bike should fit properly. "Have the seat around hip level -- that means your legs should be fully extended at the bottom of your pedal stroke with a little bend in your knee," Simons says. "You don't want to overextend your knee or have it bunched up."




Follow the four rules

"Yield to pedestrians, stay off the sidewalk, ride with traffic and obey the traffic rules," sums up Simons of NYC's traffic law as it pertains to bicyclists. "Follow those four and you'll be in good shape."


Watch for car doors

Be on the lookout for cars, even when they're parked. "I always advise riding at least three feet from a parked car door -- that's the general length of car door when it opens so you can maneuver out of the way if someone's not looking," Simons says.


Dismount as needed

"I always remind people that if they ever feel uncomfortable on the street -- maybe there's construction ahead that constricts or interferes with the predictable flow of traffic -- it's OK to just get off your bike," Wunsch says. "Pull over where it's safe, dismount and walk your bike on the sidewalk until you feel OK about getting back into traffic."


Ride with a buddy

"The exchange of knowledge about riding in New York is a really important thing," Simons says. "You can feel more comfortable going with someone who's had experience before." It can also help you stick to your new regimen. "Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of buddying up for exercise and fitness," Wunsch says. "It's social, helps motivate you and provides an incentive to show up regularly."


Use lanes

"If you're beginning, choose quiet streets, parks and greenways to practice your skills and build confidence in a car-free environment," Wunsch says. You can also plan your route based on the city's bike lane network by going to the Department of Transportation's website for its 2015 Bike Map, she adds.


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