I wouldn’t say I’m a bicycle person, exactly, but I’ve gotten a little attached to my 1992 mountain bike. It’s my trusty steed, and it gets me where I want to go. I never felt this way about my car. My bike does have its downsides, though. It’s heavy, and I’ve thought it might be nice to have a bike that I could sling onto the bus’s rack without real effort– so I went shopping in my garage to find a second bike. I knew there was one in there. It was a cast-off that I was gifted with a couple of years ago, very old, a fixer-upper.
It’s a shiny green road bike with a small frame, thin tires — a ten speed style that I associate with the ’80s. The brakes didn’t work, and it needed a new tire, but there was promise, so I decided to spruce it up and give it a whirl.
My first ride on the new (but old) bike was a blast. It was nice to have the knowledge that I could get on the bus, but who knew that a lightweight frame could do so much for my commute time? My 25 minute commute was cut to 15 minutes without effort. Very nice.
The switch got me thinking about speed and the things that I’ve noticed slow me down in my commute. So here are a few tips to speed your ride:
1) Plump the tires. When I first started riding, I didn’t think much about the bike. I just hopped on and went. I was so slow and assumed that I was just out of shape. Then a colleague noticed my tires and pumped them for me. I was suddenly so much faster.
2) Try a lightweight frame, if you can. I didn’t realize the difference a road bike would make on my speed.
3) Limit what you carry as much as possible. While bikes can carry lots of stuff (especially with the right pannier set-up), extra weight can slow you down. Carry what you need and no more.
4) Get off the sidewalk. Really. With the right habits, you’ll not only be faster in getting through traffic. You’ll be safer.