While it’d be nice if we had parking like this in the US, a trusty U-Lock is sometimes all you need.
Locking your bike up is a bit like outrunning a bear, you only need to run faster than your friends. If your bike is secured with two locks next to a bike with just one flimsy cable lock, well, your bike probably won’t get stolen.
That said – no bike is ever safe. No seat, no bike lights, no front-wheel.
You don’t need lycra, you don’t need wool. You don’t need to wear jerseys or fancy shoes. I used to do 125 miles a week wearing just what you see here: cut-off jean shorts and a tshirt. About the only “fancy gear” I wore was a pair of Chrome Kursk shoes (about $75).
Yes, those fancy bike shorts feel good. A $125 helmet feels better than a $35 one. Let your adventures, the miles you ride, be the reward. A pair of cut-off jean shorts can take you on just as many adventures as those pricy Rapha duds.
Maintaining a straight line while riding in the street is important. The green path (above) is predictable, while the path in red is dicey.
How far out will your swing to get back in the road?
Are you pulling over?
Simply riding in a straight line is safe, but can take some getting used to. As a beginner cyclist you may feel that “getting out of the way” of cars makes sense, but it’s okay to be in the way! You are part of traffic, and you have a right to the road. Riding in a controlled and predictable manner is best for everyone!
The bike shop, the heart of the bicycling community, is not a friendly place. Yep, I said it.
Many of my friends know me as “the bike nerd,” or at least a “bike guy.” The subject that comes up most often when they’re trying to purchase a bike for the first time is how snobby, arrogant, and quite un-helpful their local bike shop can be. It’s like the snobby clerk at the record store, except what you’re buying is 10x more expensive.
For me, the best way to have a good experience is to know what you want. I’m not saying you have to commandeer the conversation, but being able to tell the sales clerk the simplest of things – what you’re looking for – helps everybody.
Are you looking to commute to work?
Short trips on bike paths in the park?
Weekend trips in the mountains?
If you know what kind of biking you want to do, the bike shop can better help you figure out what sort of bike is best for you.
You can buy a bicycle from Craigslist for $100, or spend $600 at your local bike shop. But even when after you’ve spent that money, your spending has just started! Bike accessories are big business, and for good reason, since they protect your body and your investment!
Bike Helmet: $35+
Generally the more expensive the helmet, the more comfortable. A $35 bike helmet provides just as much protection as one costing twice as much, but the pricy bike helmets have more air holes in them, meaning your head will stay cooler during the summer.
Bike Lock: $50
You don’t want your new bicycle to get stolen, so you need a bike lock! My favorite is the Kryptonite Evolution Mini-5 Bicycle U-Lock, which costs around $50 online, sometimes $65 in a bike shop. This bike lock is small, light, and works like a charm.
Bike Lights: $50
Useful if you’ll ever be riding past sunset. For bike lights it makes sense to buy two: a front flasher is so people and other bikers to see you, and a rear flasher helps cars see you at night. Bike lights can save your life!
Bike Gloves: $25
I’m a big fan of gloves! It’s not a matter of if you might crash, just a matter of when. And the first thing that will hit the ground? Your hands! So cover them up with a decent pair of bike gloves gloves.
As you can see, all these bike accessories can add $100 or more to the cost of simply owning a bike, but they’re all pretty important!
When searching for a used bicycle in Philadelphia, I visited several bike shops. Probably seven. The search for a good used bicycle, though, isn’t about a particular shop. It’s about visiting a good number of shops until you find something you like.
Why buy a used bicycle from a shop, and not just from Craigslist?
1) Many shops clean and tune-up the used bikes they sell.
2) You’re dealing with an actual business, and not some shady stranger from the internet.
3) If something needs fixing, returning to the shop where you bought it goes smoothly!
I found this bike above, an IRO in my exact size, for just $250 in South Philadelphia. I could sell a few parts from this bike on eBay and make my money back (which I don’t think I’ll be doing, but I could).
If you’re just getting into biking, or you’ve been biking for 25+ years (like me!), there is NOTHING wrong with buying a used bicycle! With proper care and love almost any bike can last a few decades.
A question from the inbox, which I’m reposting here for you!
Hi. I have a question. When you travelled by inter-city bus with your Brompton folding bike, how was it transported? As carry-on with you in the passenger cabin? Or in the hold of the bus? If it was in the hold of the bus, was it in a hard case or in a soft bag? Were you concerned about possible damage to the bike in the hold of the bus?
From city to city, my Brompton folding bike was in the cargo hold under the bus in nothing but the cover. My trick for it NOT being just tossed onto the bus was to hand it to the person loading it, make eye contact, and say, “this is a bike.” And thank them! Then sit near the front, so you can be one of the first people off and get your bike quick from the new person unloading. At some stops they only unload luggage from certain bays, so you can point meet the baggage handler, point out your “bag” and tell them “that’s a bike!” This way they don’t just toss it onto the ground.
I grew up in PA, and I’ve been mountain biking in Glen Park in Stroudsburg since 1993 or so. I lived in NYC for six years, but since August of 2010 I’ve been traveling the US by bus, bike, and train. Hopefully my local knowledge and mass-transit smarts help you escape NYC for mountain bike adventures in PA.