(Don’t) Curb Your Enthusiasm

Okay, so I’m just going to come right out and say it. Biking isn’t always comfortable or nice, and at times I’d even say it’s the pits. If you’ve ever had to ride down a busy street in the middle of rush-hour traffic or been yelled at by an impatient driver, you’ve probably considered taking up a gentler pastime, like cage-fighting. Every fall, I bring my bike inside and lovingly maintain it, but when the snow melts I drag it back out with a gut full of dread. And so, just because I want to make sure my bike (and yours, too) reemerges into the out-of-doors again next spring, here is a list of resolutions that may help overcome obstacles, gain confidence, and stay attuned to the pleasures of traveling on two wheels.


1. Maintain your chain at least once every 100 miles, or when people start to whisper about the black chain-stains on your shins, or when the act of shifting gears signals your approach to dwellers in the next town over. Check out your local bike shop for a maintenance workshop, and pay close attention to the part where they advise doing this in a well-ventilated basement or outdoors rather than on the oriental carpet you inherited. (Note to my family members: just kidding!)
2. Take it out into a grassy meadow or snowy field and learn how to make hand signals. Here’s a shameful fact about me: even though I’ve owned my road bike for four years, I’m still scared to lift my hands off the handlebars because, frankly, the whole center-of-gravity-situation just doesn’t make sense. Even so, I am aware that knowing how to communicate with drivers will help me feel like less of an idiot at intersections and make me feel a lot safer on the road.
3. Treat yourself to some off-season retail therapy. I’ll never understand why bikers are forced to advertise random product brands when they ride, but bike clothing isn’t all bad. Specifically, shorts/pants with butt cushioning.
4. And buy lots of glaring colors. I always used to wear white on my early-morning rides until someone observed that, far from being visible as I’d intended, I was blending in with fog, clouds, buildings, cars, and flowering hedges. The rule, apparently, is that any natural color acts as a really great camouflage for bikers interested in getting run over.
5. Brush up on your road safety rules: bike on the right side of the road, use hand signals (see #2), stop at stop signs and lights. It may save your life—and it will DEFINITELY reduce your risk of getting yelled at.
6. Locate new routes. I bought a touring bike so I could commute to work and save on gas, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other places to see. You may be surprised by how lost you can get on what was supposed to be an hour-long amble from home.
7. Want to reduce your risk of a flat tire by, like, 97 percent? Learn how to check and maintain tire pressure. I splurged on a floor pump in May and my wimpy arm muscles can’t thank me enough that I never had to break out my emergency hand pump last summer.
8. Looking for inspiration? Watch the Tour de France. Steroids or no, those bikers do some grueling things—in one of the most beautiful places in the world. It makes the 300-foot elevation change on my regular commute seem as arduous as the surface of a bowling lane.
9. Who doesn’t want to be this lady?
Buy a basket or a rack with saddlebags. It’s like backpacking with about half the effort.
10. Get a trainer. You know, one of those stands you can prop your bike up in and keep pedaling indoors year-round. Some say it’s the lowest form of torture and about as boring as monitoring hair growth, but no one can deny that it will keep you in great biking shape through the winter months.

Good luck staying motivated and I hope to see you on the road shoulders next spring!

Mari Zagarins

When Mari isn't running, biking, hiking, or jumping-jacking in and around her home in Montpelier, she is practicing her facial expressions in the mirror and contemplating whether she should learn to swim.