Last week, glimpses of spring made me eager for the days when I can hop on my bike and go for a long ride without worrying about getting hypothermia or skidding out on salty, slushy roads. Every warm day contains the promise of nine months spent shunning my car. This year — I tell the gods of health and all things environmental — will be the one in which I truly bike everywhere. (Speaking of health, studies show that biking burns 500 calories more per hour than walking.)
First things first: my bike needs a tune-up after sitting untouched in my building's basement all winter long. The 2009 Sunrise Guide has several bike-shop coupons, including one for $10 off a tune-up from Gorham Bike and Ski, which is also where I bought my first bike. Other steps toward re-invention as an urban cyclist include purchasing a new bike helmet for longer rides; reading The New York Times article about bikers, "THE WILD BUNCH;" familiarizing myself with Christian McNeil's Google Map of greater-Portland bike routes; and outfitting my bicycle with a basket (I found some reasonably priced wicker ones at BICYCLEWAREHOUSE.COM). If I really want to get bananas about it, I could check out Robert Hurst's THE ART OF URBAN CYCLING: LESSONS FROM THE STREET (Falcon, 2004) from the Portland Public Library.
BTW, those who don't already have bikes should check out the BICYCLE COALITION OF MAINE'S BIKE SWAP, scheduled to take place at USM's Sullivan Gym in Portland on April 26. This event brings together buyers and sellers, mountain bikes and hybrids, athletes and hipsters. Everyone's in it for one reason: the used bikes and gear sell there for cheap. For more info visit BikeMaine.org.
Veteran and newbie bike-commuters alike can join the PORTLAND BIKE COMMUTER MEET UP group (www.meetup.com/Portland-Bike-Commuting), which claims more than 250 members and an active message board focused on bikes-as-transport. The message board is a great way for shy beginners to learn more about bike-commuting. This spring, the group hopes to hold monthly meetings and workshops, including women-only workshops taught by local activist and avid biker Katie Diamond.
Best Kept Secret alert: Meet Up members are eligible to rent (for $15 per day) one of two Dahon three-speed FOLDING BIKES, which have 16-inch wheels and fold into a carrying bag that's approximately the size of a suitcase — perfect for toting on the train and then riding once you reach your destination.
Second-Best Kept Secret: If you register with GOMAINE (the statewide program that encourages alternative commuting), you're automatically eligible for an Emergency Ride Home — free! Check out GoMaine.org to learn more.
Once all the pieces are in place, the hardest part (for me) is motivation and follow-through. Even my best intentions are often foiled by back-to-back-scheduled plans (meaning I'll be late if I don't drive), or weather. But as with any exercise plan, or other habit-forming endeavor (experts say you need 30 days of repetition for a habit to become ingrained), if I put in sufficient effort at the outset, biking will become routine. My goal, starting next week, is to bike to work at least every other day. I simply have to build it into my schedule.
Deirdre Fulton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.