Tag Archives: bike month

Bike Storage

We are house hunting right now and it’s kind of a problem. We have a lot of stuff, which includes 5 bikes. Which includes a tandem. Our ideal house would have an unfinished or tiled walk out basement. It would also have 3 bedrooms upstairs so that we didn’t have to dedicate the basement to housing our stuff. The problem is, we also need a parking pad, and we’re not finding that in our price range. So we started looking at other solutions.

We have a gravity stand (like this), which houses our two least-frequently used bikes, and in the past we have used hooks inside a closet. The problem is, I don’t want any of these on display in the main floor of our new house. I think having bikes in the living room is awkward, period.

I’m not a big fan of anything that looks like this:

From Knife and Saw

Because I ride a heavy bike with a step through frame, the cute bike shelves are not an option.

I do really like this design, if I have to keep my bike in the living room.

Bookbike

The problem is, again, five bikes. One of which is a tandem. So building a bike shed seems much more practical, except that every house we look at with a parking pad has a large AC unit right next to the front door, isn’t long enough for a shed and our car, and isn’t wide enough for a shed and our car.

From Shed Scene

There are a few places we have seen which have a deck over the parking pad, or we could build a deck over the parking pad. At that point, building a shed under the stairs is certainly possible, and hopefully the deck would be high enough. The other problem with our neighborhood is that security is definitely a concern, so we can’t just keep the bikes on a rear deck, they need to be very securely locked.

Anyone have any suggestions?

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Night Rider

Night riding is the scariest part of cycle commuting. So how do you make sure you’re visible? Reflective gear, bright lights.

You can get yourself a nice reflective ankle strap – these come in a couple varieties, the slap bracelet type or the velcro type.

I bought a white reflective vest this year, which was easy to layer over my black jacket – unfortunately, all of my winter coats are black. I really wanted a nice reflective coat, but those don’t exist, though some of the ones on this site are pretty nice, and currently on sale. I also bought some reflective tape to add to my fleece jacket but didn’t get around to doing it before it warmed up and the seasons changed.

The most important things to get are a good headlight and tail light. I have this set, but I actually don’t recommend it. The tail light is super-hard to turn on and change from flashing to steady to off, so I would get the blaze headlight and then a tail light that has a button.

These are the new version of those glow in the dark spoke things you would put on your bike when you were a kid. They are very bright and when your wheels go around, they look really cool.

I don’t have many good tips for riding in the dark, because I just find it scary and try to make sure everyone sees me and get home as quickly as possible. I would also say do not run red lights late at night, but sometimes if I’m at an intersection where I feel unsafe waiting in the dark, I will actually make the call and run the light – but make sure the intersection is clear of cars before running the right. Also, make sure that you travel on roads you are familiar with, if at all possible, so that you know where potholes, construction grates, and other hazards are.

Did I miss any reflective items? Do you have any night riding tips?

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Rain

There was a freak hail storm and a flash flood warning all before I left work yesterday, so I figured it was a good time to write about rain gear.

First of all, the most important thing is to cover your seat if they are calling for rain. They sell a thing, but really, just grab a plastic bag. I keep a few in my desk drawer and if the skies darken, I dash down and tie one on. I have a gel seat, so if it gets wet, it’s bad news.

4.jpg
(Source)

Secondly, get rain gear. Then, keep it with you, just in case. I really like the Marmot Precip, which you can fit in a small stuff sack. The PreCip has pit zips and is very lightweight, I also love it for running. Several other companies make similar jackets, so just look for something with pit zips, zipper pockets, and that compresses really small. You also want to make sure you get a jacket in a bright color – now is not the time to go for basic black or a nice neutral – you want to be seen, especially in the rain.

I do not own rain pants, but my husband does. I usually opt to walk if it’s raining when I leave my house, so I only get stuck in freak rainstorms going home and arrive drenched at my house, rather than my office. I do own a pair of Mistral Pants which are great for drizzling weather, and I found on sale, but they’re not super-office-appropriate, so I don’t wear them that often.

You also need fenders. Fenders will keep the rain from splashing onto your pants. They are super-important even if you aren’t riding in the rain.

Thirdly, set up rain alerts on your cell phone so that you know when it is going to rain.

Fourthly, be prepared for your body temperature to drop. On a day when I might not normally need gloves, if it rains, my hands will freeze. Keep a spare pair of gloves in your raincoat pocket.

Fifthly, ride smart. Go slowly, make sure people can see you, and signal everything, and for longer than usual. Take an entire lane even if you normally wouldn’t, especially in a downtown situation where traffic is moving slower than usual anyway.

Anyone else have any tips or gear suggestions for riding in the rain?

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How to Bike Commute When You Don’t Have a Shower

My office doesn’t have a shower. I often have to go to court early in the morning. And around here, summer temps are regularly in the nineties before I even leave for work. A few ideas for avoiding showering and avoiding needing to shower:
1.) Shower before you ride and leave your hair wet. Keep whatever supplies you need to do your hair in your office. This will help reduce your core temperature so you don’t sweat so much. It might also help you avoid helmet hair. I don’t really have any tips for men. Cut your hair short, I guess?
2.) Change clothes when you get to work. Ride in performance wear. If it is extremely hot out, run your shirt under cold water before putting it on. This will keep your core temperature down.
3.) Consider joining a gym near your office that you can shower at. Do not rule out local community colleges or universities, some of these have very reasonable prices for community members. Also, consider befriending somebody with office showers or an office gym. It might seem silly to pay $20-30 a month for shower privileges, but you are getting your exercise by riding to work and a gym membership makes that possible.
4.) Go to an over-air conditioned coffee shop or convenience store on your way to work and pick up something with a lot of ice in it so that you can cool down before you get to work.
5.) Ride in a lightweight dress and add a blazer when you get to work. Synthetic knit wrap dresses are great for this because they don’t show sweat and they are flow-y so they are pretty cool.
6.) Get some shower wipes and some dry shampoo. Shower wipes are surprisingly effective.
7.) Apply deodorant before going to bed at night to allow it to sink in more fully.
8.) Use a pannier bag or a front bag/basket to avoid wearing a backpack – back sweat is the worst and grossest part of bike commuting, and you can dramatically reduce your need to shower by avoiding having something heavy on your back.
9.) Ride with a wet towel around your neck to keep your core temp down. (I think I read an article about this a few years ago.)

Anyone else have any tips for commuting to work without showering? I don’t really know about wintertime. Or being a man, so if you have tips, please add them in the comments!

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Buying a Bike

So you want to buy a bike – but what do you do?

The first thing I recommend is going to your local bike shop.  Try to go to one that has a good inventory that isn’t pre-built.  Talk to the shop folks about what you are looking for.  If you haven’t ridden a bicycle in 5 years, definitely start by test driving everything.  I was amazed that a bike didn’t have to feel like my childhood mountain bike.  I was surprised that I liked a step-through frame.  I loved 700cc tires.  I liked flared handlebars.

There are a few mistakes that a lot of first time bike-buyers fall for:

  • Prioritizing style.  If I have one more person tell me that they want to get an “awesome vintage looking bike”, I will scream.  I have an awesome vintage looking bike, actually, and I love it, but that was not my priority.  Prioritize comfort, and then if you want a particular color or style, go from there.  Do not sacrifice comfort or functionality to get an aesthetic you want, you will regret it, because you don’t really see yourself on you bike that much and nobody really compliments you on your stylin’ bike.  Maybe other cyclists.
  • Buying a beach cruiser.   If you live at the beach, this is acceptable.  If you do not plan on biking more than 5 blocks, this is acceptable.  If you live near a park and just want to ride your bike on the trails, this is acceptable.  If you plan to ride your bicycle on a road or up or down any kind of hill, keep looking.  Cruisers are fun, but they are not practical.  They do not let you get up to high enough speed in traffic and they do not allow you to take advantage of hills to build momentum.
  • Buying a fixed gear bike.  If you really test ride all of your options and then buy a fixed gear bike, that is totally your decision.  But going to a shop where all they carry is fixed gear bikes and then buying one on your first trip out is a bad choice.  I’ve never ridden a fixed gear bike, I might very well not know what I’m missing.  But try out a beach cruiser, a bike with gears, and a fixed gear bike before you decide.  (Test riding a fixed gear bike is on my list, since I am so sanctimonious about it.)
  • Not knowing how gears work.  Hi, this was me.  My parents taught me how to ride a cruiser, and then bought me a bike with gears and hand brakes.  I had no idea how to use them.  It wasn’t until I met my husband that he taught me how to shift up and down.
  • Buying a heavy bike.  My hybrid commuter bike is extremely heavy and unwieldy.  We used to keep it on the balcony and it was impossible for me to carry.  My road bike is lightweight and I can lift it with one hand.  When you buy a bike, make sure you can pick it up and keep the front wheel stable at the same time.
  • Buying the wrong sized bike.  Even if you are going to buy a bike off Amazon, go to a local bike shop and have them size you for a bike.

What about buying used bikes?  Used bikes are great.  There are probably things that you need to look out for, like making sure the tires are in good condition and the gears are all in good shape, but a bike shop can tune up your bike for less than $100, and the tires aren’t even that expensive to replace, as long as the components are good and not rusted, a used bike can be a great deal.  Make sure you know the street value of the bike – nobody likes feeling like they’ve been had.  The trickiest part about used bikes is sizing, and the fact that many places don’t have that much availability for women.  Some bike tour companies sell their used inventories – Bike and Roll does this as do a number of other bike companies.  If a bike has been a rental, it’s probably been relatively well maintained and is likely pretty durable.  I’ve gotten some dud rental bikes though (could be user error), so be careful, but it’s well worth the long line on sale day to make sure you get a nice bike.

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Bike Month

May is bike month, so I will be covering a lot of bike related topics and linking you to some awesome biking related products.

I’ve started bike commuting a lot more lately, and that is partly in thanks to a couple things I’ve done to have a smoother ride, and partly to the nicer weather and ability to ride without wearing a heavy winter coat.  I want to share those things with you and possibly crowdsource some ideas for attire for next winter, so we can all stock up while things are on sale.

So the real question is, what would you all be interested in?  If you bike commute now, would you like to write a guest post about your own wardrobing, safety precautions, and other issues?  If you want to bike commute but aren’t sure where to start, please comment with questions!  If you don’t own a bike, but are interested in purchasing one, what are your concerns?  Comment below and I’ll try to write a post that addresses your concerns.

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