7 tips for safely biking through Birmingham this summer for all skill levels

family trample
Cycling is a fun activity to get the whole family out of the house this summer. Photo via Redemptive Cycles

There is no shortage of fun ways to stay active in Birmingham. One physical activity taking the city by storm is biking. Whether you’re a beginner interested in picking up a new hobby or an experienced rider looking to get back out post-quarantine, we’re giving you some tips on how to safely bike in those Birmingham streets.

1. Pick your bike wisely

Ultimately, picking your bike depends on what type of riding you plan to do. It is not a one size fits all situation. Faris Malki, owner of Cahaba Cycles, recommends going into a bike shop to get assistance determining which bike is best for your ride if you’re not completely sure about what to get.

We want to match the best bicycle with the customers’ intentions. Sometimes the customer doesn’t really know where the cycling adventure will take them. In this scenario many times we will recommend a mountain bike that can be ridden on any surface and typically offers a comfortable riding position and is the most versatile bicycle you can buy.

Faris Malki, Owner, Cahaba Cycles
redemptive cycle trample
Picking out your bike is only the first step when beginning your cycling journey! Photo via Redemptive Cycles

2. Grab the proper equipment

Not only do you need to have the right bike, but you also need to ensure you have the proper equipment as well. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to ride for a couple of hours or if it’s an all-day event, you have to have the essentials. According to Faris, two of the most important pieces of equipment for biking are a helmet to protect from any possible head injuries and shorts with padding to provide comfort for those long rides.

Faris also emphasized the importance of having water, especially during these warmer months.

It is vitally important to have plenty of hydration for riding a bike – especially this time of year. 26 oz of water per hour is the minimum. We recommend carrying 2 bottles always – in case you end up riding longer or a friend is unprepared and needs hydration!

Faris Malki, Owner, Cahaba Cycles

3. Beat the heat

redemption trample
One of the best ways to beat the heat is by doing an evening ride as the sun is going down. Imagine those views in person! Photo via Redemptive Cycles

Staying hydrated is only a piece of the equation when it comes to beating the heat. There are a couple of other precautions to keep in mind before you begin your two-wheeled adventure through Birmingham. Olivia Hart, executive director of Redemptive Cycles, gave us some insight on the safest times to enjoy a ride through the city.

Try to ride in the morning or evening when it’s cooler. Whenever you’re out, make sure you have water. Water bottle cages are cheap and easily attach to most bikes. Don’t forget the sunscreen if you’ll be out while the sun is high! If you’re riding to work or an appointment consider taking a fresh shirt or give yourself a few minutes to freshen up when you arrive. 

Olivia Hart, Executive Director, Redemptive Cycles

4. Plan your route accordingly

So now that you have your bike, your safety plan and your equipment, it’s time to hit those trails. This could seem intimidating for those of us who are just starting out, especially because there are so many trails out there. While Oak Mountain State Park and Red Mountain boast some of the best biking trails in the Southeast, they may not necessarily be the best fit for everyone.

Fortunately, Cahaba Cycles has put together a guide of the different trails within and around Birmingham for you to decide which trail makes you feel the most comfortable. They’ve even included maps and travel directions for each trail.

bike ride
A major key is choosing the best bike trail that best fits your skill level. Photo via Cahaba Cycles

5. Keep up with bike maintenance.

Don’t let those two wheels fool you! You have to make sure your bike is being taken care of, just as you would your car. If you aren’t familiar with bike maintenance, Olivia recommends checking your ABCs. They are:

  • A is for Air: You have to check your tires to make sure they are firm, and not visibly worn or have dry rot. It also may be handy to have a pump with a gauge.
  • B is for Brakes: Please check your brakes. Olivia suggests the best way to check your breaks is by squeezing them and pushing the bike forward and backward. If the breaks are working correctly, the bike should not roll. Olivia also recommends looking at your brake pads to make sure they align well with the wheel rim and still have grooves. If there are no grooves, it’s time to get them replaced.
  • C is for Chains: Look at your chain and cogs to check that they are clean and free from rust. If you haven’t ridden in a while, apply lubricant.
redemptive trample
To get the best use out of your bike long-term, it’s important to keep up with the maintenance for it. Photo via Redemptive Cycles

If you’re wanting to go more in detail with proper bike maintenance, Redemptive Cycles offers basic bike mechanics classes on the last Wednesday of every month at 6:00PM. There is no sign-up required, but there is a $10 suggested donation at the door.

6. Join a cycling group

redemptive cycles
Make lifelong friends when you join some local cycling clubs in Birmingham. Photo via Redemptive Cycles

One of the benefits of biking, whether you’re a beginner or experienced, is that you don’t have to go at it alone. Birmingham has a wide selection of cycling groups in the city to make you feel comfortable with your biking journey. Olivia believes the social aspect of biking adds to the experience.

It’s fun riding with others, we are social animals after all! Join one of the local social rides and you’ll make new friends and get motivated to keep going. Riding with others can help boost confidence riding in traffic and learning the rules of the road, or learning new skills on the trail. 

Olivia Hart, Executive Director, Redemptive Cycles

7. Attend a cycling event

Once you’ve gotten the hang of riding your bike, it’s time to step out of that comfort zone and check out some local cycling events in the city. Here are two events that are coming back in these next couple of months.

The Return of the Trample Celebration

  • What: Redemptive Cycles is hosting a party to celebrate the return of their weekly trample after the COVID-19 hiatus. There will be food trucks, drinks and music after the ride.
  • When: Thursday, June 3rd at 6PM
  • Cost: FREE
  • Make sure to check out Redemptive Cycle’s website to learn more about their fun weekly tramples through the city, which are open to all skill levels.
Families Biking
Both of these upcoming cycling events are family-friendly and open to all skill levels. Photo via Cahaba Cycles

2021 Tour De Cahaba

  • What: Cahaba Cycles is hosting their 12th annual Tour De Cahaba, which is a huge bike ride with distances that appeal to every age and skill level, including a 3-5 mile family ride. Afterward, there will be a huge BBQ cookout with local brews.
  • When: Sunday, July 18th. 7AM for the 34, 45 and 65-mile riders and 9AM for the slow roll and 10 milers
  • Cost: Slow Roll $15 Adult, $10 Kids 6-18, and Free Under 5 | $30 65mi, 45mi, 34mi, 10mi | $10 Non-Rider Food/Drink Wristband
  • Check out Cahaba Cycles’ website for more information about this highly anticipated event.

Follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, and sign up for our FREE newsletter. What’s your favorite part of cycling in Birmingham? Let us know on our socials! 

Carmen Waldrop
Carmen Waldrop
Articles: 27