This article is part of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Trail Moments initiative—to elevate new and tried-and-true trail voices around the country, and how trails impact the lives of Americans. Learn more at trailmoments.org and #TrailMoments on social media. Share your story, or view a collection of trail moments stories.
As a little girl growing up in rural Indiana, I never biked due to car-centric streets and a lack of bike infrastructure. That all changed once my husband and I moved to Washington, D.C.
Quickly into the pandemic, I researched what every person was looking for—a safe way to enjoy being outdoors. Fortunately in February 2020, my husband bought a used electric cargo bike off Facebook marketplace that can hold a passenger. Almost every day after working from home, we would hop on the bike and explore parts of D.C. I’ve never seen before. I’ve never enjoyed nature as much as I have on a bike.
A year into our new routine, I decided to purchase my own e-bike and conquer my own fears of biking in the city. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. On my first day of owning the bike, I rode 30 miles by myself. Now, I can fearlessly go to the grocery store, meet up with friends, exercise and have a generally more pleasant way of getting around the city. We enjoyed our new biking lifestyles so much that we even got rid of our shared car. I won’t lie and say that biking in the winter is pleasant, but with some protective and warm clothing, winter biking is feasible! Over time, I developed some tips that I think every novice city biker should learn, and I’m excited to share them with you.
Get Comfortable Biking Around Your Neighborhood
City biking can be nerve-wracking. When I first started, I was afraid of getting hit by a car door or getting too close to cars. To conquer that fear, I started biking on bike lanes in my neighborhood as it was an area that I felt spatially familiar with. Additionally, I saw bikers zip their way throughout my neighborhood all the time, so I hoped that cars that regularly drove by would be more aware of their biking neighbors. Eventually, I built enough confidence to move to biking downtown.
Look Up Your Route Beforehand
I’m blessed to live in a city that prioritizes biking infrastructure; D.C. has over 100 miles of bike lanes. If I’m going to a new spot, I use the Google Maps feature to see the route. There are times when the feature doesn’t utilize bike routes, so I double-check available bike routes through the TrailLink app. This is helpful for when I visit a new restaurant in the suburbs.
Related: Biking to Work: How to Get Started
Make the Ride Pleasant With Additional Gear
Look into storage options for the bike. Our e-bike brand, Rad Power Bikes, has collapsible, insulated storage and is large enough to hold a lot of stuff. I’ve carried take-out, a week’s worth of groceries—and even picnic supplies for an impromptu picnic while biking along a trail!
Also, you can make your ride more enjoyable with a speaker setup. There’s nothing like a summer bike ride with the wind in your hair while you’re blasting your favorite song.
Other items that have improved my ride are bike mirrors, a more plush seat and additional bike lights. On a practical front, I use the Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit U-Locks, as there is a policy where the company replaces your stolen bike if the lock itself was broken by theft.
Dress Appropriately for the Weather
Biking year-round requires rain gear. I use a rain jacket to keep me dry during sudden rain showers. Additionally, I purchased some waterproof pants I can wear during heavier thunderstorms. In the winter, you should dress in multiple layers, and I even add the waterproof pants for an extra layer of protection against the wind and cold.
Join a Local Biking Group
It’s never been easier to find a group of people with similar interests. I’m thankful to be a part of some local biking Facebook groups such as Women & Bicycles: Washington D.C. Region. These groups are a space for people to share biking routes that are enjoyable, ask questions in a judgment-free zone and coordinate rides with one another.
My husband even found a potential multiday biking trip from these groups; he really wants to bike from Washington, D.C., to Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, along the C&O Canal Trail! One day, we’ll work up to this journey; it’s hard for me to imagine traveling that far entirely on a bike, but all sorts of possibilities have opened up since purchasing our bikes!
Have you recently discovered trails, or are you a long-time trail enthusiast? Either way, we hope you’ll share your “Trail Moments”—and the stories of how trails have impacted your life during COVID-19. Take the survey below, or share using #TrailMoments on social media.