Bicycling is one of the best ways to get about. It's cheap, saves you money, good for your health and when stuck in a jam, carry it on your shoulder while laughing at all the people stuck in a jam. They say laughter is an awesome medicine. So is cycling. But whether you're a pro or a beginner, here are a few pointers that will make your activity safer and more enjoyable. I wanted to say 'funner' but they won't let me.
First of all, get a bicycle
Get what you need to survive. While a racing bicycle looks cool and sleek, those sleek tires are not very good at absorbing bumps. And the constant crouching down is hard on the back. But if smooth roads and short trips are what you have, go racing bike.
For regular riding, try mountain bikes with fatter rubber tires. Try to get a bike with gears. It's usually about a 1000-1500 taka more. It's worth the price. On a long trip, you pedal less but travel faster.
Setting up your bike
One of the most important adjustments you can make to your bike is the seat height. Doing it right improves your pedalling skills. If the seat is placed too low, you will be crouched with your knees and other joints bent too much, which will wear you out. Fast. Seat too high, you will struggle to reach out when the pedal is in the lowest position. Adjust seat height so when the pedal is at the lowest position, your leg on that pedal is almost straight. Yes, you will need to tilt a little to balance with one foot but this height will allow you to pedal more without tiring. When you pedal, push forward with the legs, not down.
Nothing's more important than safety. A bicycle is one of the most vulnerable modes of transport. But vigilance can keep you on the safe side.
Helmet: It's hot and humid in Bangladesh but it's better to have a head than be without. Most people would agree that having a head is important. Imagine how silly you'd look with just a neck. Look for vented plastic helmets. They're everywhere.
Get a headlight: If you're riding at night, you should absolutely use a front headlight. LED headlights last ten times as long on a set of batteries. Some people have improvised and strapped on a flashlight. It works. A typical flashlight is under 200 taka.
Reflectors: You need a good one on the back. But there's no such thing as enough reflectors. On the wheel spokes, on your helmet, on your t-shirt, you might look silly, but it is better to be seen silly than becoming a silly biker under a bus.
Be noisy: Have a horn, get a bell, anything that makes noise because bikes are quiet. Or shout if you have to. Or sing. Chammak challo, perhaps? Point is, people need to notice.
Using the roads: Stick to your left. Slow down for turns. Stop if you can't see around the bend. Remember, a bicyclist is less visible than a housefly delivering airmail. And don't grab onto other moving vehicles to coast. If they stop, you probably won't.
Post biking tip
Drink water, drink water, drink water.
Maintaining your bike
Keep all moving parts lubricated. Thumb rule: Don't use an oil that is too thin (like hair oil) or too thick (like car engine oil). Too thin and the oil will dissipate quickly. Too thick and it will gather dirt and gum up everything. Try the oil used for sewing machines. Or the white grease used for cars. It dries up but keeps lubricating without attracting dirt.
Now some useless info
Many pro bicyclists shave their legs. Why? It's a personal preference. Some say it makes them more aerodynamic. Less leg hair, less drag. They aren't wrong except the advantage is ridiculously small. You'd probably save about 0.000000045 seconds off your average lap time.
Others say it helps skin heal faster when and if (more likely when) a fall occurs. Cleaning the wound is simpler with no leg hair in it. Still others simply do it because it makes them look better or simply or just look the part of a cyclist. So if you have a face like a walrus, you can still shave your legs and be amazing. Or not.
Of paper boats and planes
Almost every single one of us, at a once innocent time and age, loved making paper things. It wasn't origami to us back then, it wasn't an ignored Japanese form of art- we loved it. We'd fold and fold and fold all those sheets of paper for as long as it took our eyes to fill with pride and for our beaming selves to hold up our amazing creations and show them off to the world. We never got tired of them, the boats always sailed and the planes always flew.
Think of the season past, when the wind actually made the scary noises they show on television, blew sand into your eyes and messed your hair up but still standing on the roof felt like a heavenly act; when it drizzled everyday but didn't leave everything hot and humid; when you didn't care about the mud; when you had fights with your parents to be able to run around outside and get wet; when the paper boats sailed and the paper planes can flew.
But now the world is a void and empty place, not just because it's winter, but just because these days it seems it doesn't matter anymore when the school playgrounds get flooded, for there's no one there to complain. It's empty of the paper beauties that were supposed to move around and fill us with joy. Or is it just our lives? There are no muddy shoes running, no wet socks smacking. No smelly wet hair slapping glowing little faces. No flying planes, no sailing ships.
These days, jet engines thrust planes forward inside large television screens. They fly and they fight. They crash when controllers are thrown at them or birds get in them. They're not two dimensional, they're not little. They're not made of paper, they don't exist. They are big and mighty as they soar the skies and avoid crashing down after every few seconds of smooth flight. You can't hold them, you can't throw them.
Ships are large buoyant marine vessels that call for popcorn and dim lights. Pirates steal your cargo and fight you. People battle for their lives on the Poseidon, fall in love on the Titanic and create separate worlds for themselves inside the hull of Goliath. They bring in action, adventure, drama and suspense. They're not boring like the old days. You don't scream out in joy when your creation successfully floats. You don't create.
Even when it's windy and rainy it's empty empty.
Photo: Sabhanaz Rashid Diya