My City Bikes is a nonprofit organization that's trying to make you healthier with nothing less than a smartphone app. This free app, available for iOS and Android, isn't the most sophisticated software in the world, but honestly, I found it super useful. And unlike most of the apps on my phone, it's not lining the pockets of some aspiring robber baron -- it's actually all about improving health and air quality.
The organization emphasizes what we already know: we have pretty crappy air quality and heart disease is the leading cause of death in San Francisco. Maybe there is something to this campaign.
For both experienced and novice cyclists the My City Bikes app offers some neat features. First and foremost, it gives ride-guides for different styles of biking, and simple tips on how to not die -- high visibility clothing, lights, helmets, etc. Enigmatically, the road and commuter section talks mostly about protected bike lanes, which is perfect for commuters, but not exactly what a roadie is in search of. Nonetheless, it is a useful resource, if you're planning your commute around the safest streets in town.
More useful for the recreational rider or aspirational cyclist are the "Mountain & Trail" and "Recreation & Touring" guides. Each offers some classic Bay Area rides, with quick high-concept summaries. These are mostly popular routes in local regional parks, and famous road loops. Nothing too epic or hardcore about them, but if you're looking for a nice weekend ride and you don't know where to start, this is as good a place as any. Taking the Hawk Hill Loop or the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito are also two other great ways to remind yourself that the Bay Area is an amazing place to ride a bike.
The My City Bikes doesn't stop there, however. It also offers tips on how to adjust your seat, change a flat, and clean your chain. These simple maintenance tasks can save you a lot of trouble. There's no need to run into the bike shop to do this stuff, and no excuse to miss out on a ride or a commute to work by bike because of a flat tire. All of this info is provided by Huckleberry Bicycles, some local experts that partnered with the My City Bikes initiative.
This My City Bikes things seems like it could be just the resource somebody relatively new to cycling might appreciate: it offers ride recommendations both in and out of the city, and provides simple safety advice while giving basic maintenance tips. That's pretty much all you need to get on your bike and ride. Incidentally, this weekend should offer some great riding weather. So get out there -- it's good for your health.
Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.