Being a new cyclist in the greater Vancouver area, I’ve learned a lot about cycling around the city these past couple of weeks. So I wanted to share with you today, some of the things I’ve learned if you’re thinking of starting to ride a bike (even as fall rolls around!) or if you’re planning to rent a bike when you come to the city for a visit.
1) Bike lanes – Unlike Toronto, where I’m from, bike lanes in Vancouver are legit. Every bike lane is clearly indicated at the top of street signs. Some of the bike lanes are also painted in green, reminding drivers that they are not allowed on that area of the road. Additionally, a lot of the bike lanes here in Vancouver are separated either with cones, plants or even a cement median, thus protecting cyclists even further when biking around town. To get a full cycling map of the downtown core, go here and for the North Shore go here.
2) The hills are alive – If you’re like me and you’ve never really biked up hills before, be prepared to be doing a lot of uphill climbs. No matter where you are in the city or on the North Shore, the hills will have you sweating up a storm. That said, what goes up must come down, so the downhill rides are always that much sweeter. In all honesty, I’ve stopped or even walked my bike a couple of times when I couldn’t pedal anymore, it definitely takes some getting used to but it’ll make you that much stronger!
3) Relationship with cars – I’ve found that compared to a LOT of other cities across North America, a cyclist’s relationship with automobile traffic in Vancouver is a lot more pleasant (most of the time!) than it is in other places. There’s an awareness here that isn’t present in most parts of the country and because so many drivers are also cyclists, I think it makes a huge difference in their attitudes towards you and your bike. That said, buses and cabs are still the scariest, so definitely always be vigilant when riding around town. I’ve learned that the best thing to do is be VERY visible and loud. Invest in bright lights for your bike, a good bell and even a reflective vest or clothing. MEC has a ton of options for you to choose from, including the vest below.
4) You need rain gear – It’s inevitable, no matter how sunny it is right now, if you’re coming to Vancouver and planning on biking or hoping to bike well into fall and winter (which is very doable, as temperatures stay quite warm all-year-round!), you’ll want to invest in rain gear, or else cycling won’t be nearly as enjoyable. Since I’ve been commuting with my bike to and from work, I know that I will soon have to invest in proper slacks and jacket to protect me from the rain. Luckily, MEC has a ton of cool and reasonably priced items like these waterproof pants priced at $69 that can definitely do the trick.
5) Get to know your bike – I’ve never owned a brand new bike before and never really cared much for learning about bikes. But when I got my new bike from MEC, I was able to learn a ton about how my bike worked, how to take it apart, how to pump up its tires, etc. Whether your bike is from MEC or not, you can easily bring it in the store and not only get a tune up and bike parts but also get some education about cycling and your bike in general from one of their store experts. MEC even has cycling clinics and events that you can register for (check them out here). That way, you can ride around the city having all of the knowledge necessary for a safe ride. Plus, in times of crisis, you can always resort to YouTube tutorials. I did just that the other day for my back tire and I got it all figured out.
Safe riding everyone!