It’s time to get ready to add biking to your weekly routine.

The “Get Ready to Bike” series is for the occasional biker who has a bike tucked in the back of the garage or basement, and would really like to use it more, but finds it a hassle to get it ready for each trip. By the end of this 5-part series, you should be ready to grab the bike lock and helmet instead of the car keys at least once a week.

1. Safety equipment. You need working:

brakes
wheels
tires
gear-shifts
lock
helmet
lights
reflectors

Make sure your brakes can stop you quickly, the wheels don’t wobble, the tires are full of air and hold air well (and the rubber sidewalls aren’t cracked), and the shifting works smoothly.  If anything concerns you at all, take the bike to a bike shop for a tune-up. And while you’re taking your bike in, browse for a jazzy new helmet, a solid lock, a new LED headlight and taillight and a collection of reflective stickers for your bike and helmet. The tune-up may cost $100 – $200. Does that sound like a lot? Compared to what you spend on the average car maintenance? Remember, you’ll be replacing car trips with bike trips.

If you’ll be biking near sunset or after dark, you absolutely must have a headlight and taillight. (It’s the law!) It’s a good idea to have them on during the day, too. If you haven’t shopped for bike lights for a while, you’ll be amazed by the new generation of LED lights: they’re extremely bright, and they’ll run for months on a few AA batteries.

Optional, helpful items for errands:

basket
rear rack
bag for rear rack
reflective ankle-straps
backpack
plastic flowers for the handlebars
drink holder

If you plan on doing just a little shopping, any backpack works. If you plan on buying something heavy, like milk, or awkwardly shaped, like a baguette, a bag or basket on the rear rack works even better.

Don’t worry about special clothing. It’s not like going for a run. 1 mile at an easy pace, unless it’s quite hot, probably won’t even make you break a sweat. Wear everyday clothing. The only requirement is bright. Black, brown, and gray are good for road camouflage. Bright and cheerful: white, yellow, pink, chartreuse, lavender, bright red. Be visible.

Tomorrow, step 2: pick a route!