Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Austin, Texas
Bikes: 1998 Santana Arriva, 2005 Shameless Taiwanese Rip-off of a Storied French Marque, 1980 Colnago Super, 2005 Giant OCR2.
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Getting over the fear of cars/traffic was my own greatest hurdle 30 years ago, and it was the hardest part for my wife just recently. She's a newbie like yourself. The others are right: group riding is the best way to get acclimated. It'll also force you to push your pace just a little -- or at least keep you from slacking excessively -- so that you're a little more demanding of yourself when riding solo.
Some suggestions: CONCENTRATE. Try to develop your awareness to the point that you are really plugged into everything happening around you. Difficult in dense or commuter traffic, but the more you ride, the more you'll get what I mean. ANTICIPATE. Assume the cars and trucks are piloted by utterly unpredictable fools. A fair percentage of them actually are. Think FOR them and behave accordingly. Conversely, ride "friendly," to rip off an old Texas Dept. of Transportation slogan; be polite and considerate to everyone, even the resentful old geezers and rednecks. A smile and a wave can go a long way. BE VISIBLE. Can't stress this enough. Wear loud jerseys -- I prefer high-viz yellow, screaming pink, or white. Use blinking lights even after daybreak or before sunset. Finally, USE YOUR EARS. Unplug yourself from the walkman or MP3 player, and use your hearing to warn you about what you can't see. Maybe invest in one of those little helmet-mounted rearview mirrors. Their cheap, they work, and you'd be surprised how much they help. I never ride the tandem without mine. When two-up, I suddenly become responsible for someone besides myself...
Welcome to the brotherhood, and have a great time bucking them West Texas headwinds.