So you’ve added a cargo bike to your bike stable—now what?! Getting that first ride on your new wheels under your belt can really boost your confidence for future endeavors, especially if you are new to the world of cycling. Ashley here from the Support Team and I still remember my first ride after bringing our teal EdgeRunner 24D home oh so many years ago.
1. CHOOSE A FUN DESTINATION
If riding with kiddos on board, having an exciting place to look forward to arriving can make their first trip on the back of the bike a real joyride. And happy kids tend to lead to happy parents so it’s a win-win for everyone on board.
Think: favorite playground or nature park, bookstore, ice cream parlor, library, outdoor water play fountain, comic book shop, dinner at your favorite restaurant, you name. If riding sans kiddos, plan to go to one of those places you dreamed of biking to when you were looking into getting a cargo bike: the grocery store and getting your groceries for the week, the hardware store to buy plants for your spring planting, your local farmers market or farm share, the trailhead to your favorite park.
Making your first ride fun in some way is a great way to set a happy foundation of joy for your cargo biking journey moving forward.
2. DISCOVER YOUR LOCAL BACKROADS
If you are heading somewhere that you typically drive or take public transit to, keep in mind that there is likely a less busy backstreet that will be more enjoyable by bike.
What I like to do when trying to find a new route somewhere is to pull up Google Maps or the digital map on my phone. I look at where I’m heading and see what road options I have. Neighborhoods are my default and I try to ride through them as much as possible, even if it is not the shortest distance to my destination.
Tapping into the Strava heat map is a great way to see where most cyclists ride in your city:
Stick to bright yellow or orange routes since less “hot” routes shown in red might take you through private lands which I saw are a commuting no-go.
RideWithGPS is an amazing website and companion app, with tons of awesome routes all over the world. You can find easily downloadable routes using their Find function:
If you are on a laptop or desktop, Google Street view is an awesome tool to see what your route roads will be like before you ride them. (Google Street view how-to)
3. TAKE YOUR TIME & ENJOY THE RIDE
Find some time you can truly dedicate to enjoying your first ride, like a free afternoon or a morning with no obligations. Especially if this is your first time riding your new bike or if it’s the first time testing out a route, be sure you have some time to enjoy it and explore.
Rushing on your first ride to meet a tight deadline when you’ve never done that ride before can add unneeded stress.
4 KEEP AN EYE ON THE WEATHER
Nothing can ruin a ride quicker than being caught in cruddy weather without the right gear. Before setting out, take a quick peek at the weather forecast. If there is a slight drizzle, bring along the raincoat. If it’s going to be really warm, dress accordingly and fill the water bottles up with ice water.
5. CHARGE YOUR LIGHTS UP
Even if you don’t plan to ride in the dark, always have lights on board, either charged lights (we’re big Light and Motion fans) or an integrated lighting system like the SuperNova light set. This way in case you want to stay out a little later you won’t be stressing about your visibility on the way home.
Not only will it ensure that you’re safe and visible, it can also help ensure you are riding legally, since most cities require lights for nighttime bike riding.
6. KEEP A RIDE DIARY
I’ve been a bike commuter for a few years now and I still do this on my rides.
When trying out a new bike route, I’ll be sure to take mental notes of the road conditions and overall how I felt about the ride. Were there intolerable hills? Was there a Little Free Library so we can bring books on future rides and swap some out? Was there a traffic light that couldn’t detect my bike weight and kept me waiting forever? Taking mental notes while riding can help you improve your routes over time since you can cater the ride to be more enjoyable all around.
Getting into the world of cargo biking was literally one of the best decisions I ever made for myself and my family. It has helped me fall in love with my city and all its beauty, not to mention my body and what it’s capable of accomplishing. Starting off on the right foot with a super fun first ride will surely help you set an great foundation for commuting success.
Got that first ride behind you and looking to refine those cargo biking skills? Here are some things that helped me home in on my commuting:
- LEARN HOW TO “TAKE THE LANE” — Taking a Cycling Savvy course and watching their free videos really helped me to become a better cyclist in general. http://cyclingsavvy.org/.
- TRACK YOUR ROUTES & IMPROVE THEM — I personally use Strava to map my routes, especially new routes that I’m testing out. After a ride, I can easily go back to my map and see where I can improve my ride or take alternate routes. For example, if there was an epic hill that I’d rather not tackle again (and that I can clearly see with the Strava elevation profile), I’ll look on that route for ways to work around it.
- KEEP YOUR REPAIR KIT STOCKED — Get some back up inner tubes, a portable bike pump, and go to a flat tire clinic or practice changing a tube on your bike with YouTube videos. In the many years I’ve been biking, I’ve only ever gotten two flats on my EdgeRunner. But knowing how to quickly swap out the tube was incredibly helpful and meant I was able to get myself up and riding again in no time.
Have any other helpful tips for cargo-biking noobs or just cargo cycling in general? We’d love to hear them in the comments!