May is Bike Month and earlier this month Imago hosted a Basic Bike Repair and Safety Workshop with our friend Doug from REI. He gave us a lot of good info so if you weren’t able to attend the workshop or just need a refresher, we’ve put together a little guide to help you put the rubber to the road.
What Kind of Bike is Right for You?
New to biking? Just looking for a new cycle to get you excited about biking again? Check out these different types of bikes to figure out which one is best for you:
- Road Bikes
- If you plan on using your bike for commuting, a road bike is for you! These bad boys are made for use on pavement. They feature drop handlebars, smooth tires, and a light frame which will allow a rider to move fast on the city streets.
- Mountain Bikes
- You can spot a mountain bike a mile away by its tires alone. These bikes feature wide tires with a lot of traction. If you’re looking for a bike that will take you up steep, uneven trails, a mountain bike will be your new best friend. They have lower gears than most other bikes and come equipped with shock absorbing suspension to safely get you around treacherous trails.
- Hybrid Bikes
- If you’re as indecisive as I am, a hybrid bike might be best for you. These bikes combine features of different types of bikes so that you can have your cake and eat it too. Tires on these guys are usually wider than a typical road bike, but not as fat as a mountain bike. They have traction on the tires to function both on gravel or pavement. The tires coupled with the higher, larger seat and more upright handlebars allows for a comfortable ride on or off road, which is good for riders who aren’t using their bikes to constantly zip around the city or be daredevils on steep mountain trails, but maybe want to dip their toes in both realms.
- Cruiser Bikes
- If you are a go-with-the-flow, easygoing rider, you might want to check out a cruiser bike. These bikes have super wide, comfortable seats and wide, upright handlebars. You have probably seen these bikes cruising down a beach boardwalk. Designed more for paved, slower rides.
If you already have a bike and think it might not be the right one to fit your needs don’t fret! Doug from REI assured us that most bikes can be outfitted to fit a rider’s needs. Something as simple as a tune up and a new set of tires can help make your bike more suitable for your biking lifestyle.
Buying a Used Bike
Obviously there are a number of places you can buy new bikes that will be shiny and might not need immediate attention, but, as Imago is an environmental organization, we definitely encourage you to try and find a used bike to suit your needs! Not only will you be making sure a perfectly good bike isn’t just thrown away, you will also be able to learn a lot about taking care of your new cycle.
Doug provided some pointers for evaluating a used bike so you can get the best bang for your buck:
- These suckers can get costly! Look for a bike with newer looking tires that can hold air. If the rubber is cracking or feels hard, this is a bad sign. The traction should feel sticky so you know it will hold you on the road.
- Wheel Bearings
- Before buying a bike, spin the wheels a few times to make sure they spin smoothly. If the wheel feels a little shaky, you might want to get it looked at.
- When you press down on the brakes, they should immediately snap back. If you feel any sticking at all, you might have to do a bit of brake maintenance.
- Lube is your friend
- Many of the problems with older, used bikes can be solved with a little love and a tiny bit of lube, but Doug warns to stick to bike specific lubes and to avoid WD-40. For repair/maintenance for specific issues, look over REI’s Bike Care & Repair Articles. A quick YouTube search will also bring up a number of helpful videos for specific concerns.
- Check out REI’s Cycling Buying Guides for more specific information based on the type of bike you want to purchase
Pre-Ride Safety Check
Okay so you have your bike! You’re ready to hop on a ride to your heart’s content! But wait!! First, do a pre-ride safety check to make sure you have a safe journey.
- Squeeze your brakes hard!
- Make sure they’re in good, working order so you can stop even at a moments notice.
- Inflate your tires!
- Doug suggests you do this 1 time per week (or, if you’re riding less frequently, every time before you bring your bike out for a spin).
- Spin your wheels!
- Make sure they’re spinning smoothly and that nothing needs tightening up or repair.
- Make sure handlebars are on tight.
- It might sound silly, but think about how dangerous it would be if they fell off.
- WEAR A HELMET!
- Come on people!! Protect your dome!
The biggest tip Doug gave was to follow the rules of the road the same way a car would. A bike is a vehicle and is required to follow the laws of the road.
- Make yourself visible
- Make sure they are on and they are flashing even during the day!
- Bright, reflective clothing
- Channel the style of a traffic cone, you want people to see you.
- Having mirrors on your bike will allow you to see what the cars behind you are doing so you can react accordingly
- Do not ride on the sidewalk
- Number one it’s illegal, number two it’s dangerous both for bikers and pedestrians. Riding on the road might seem intimidating, but it is much safer than trying to pass slow walkers on a narrow sidewalk.
- Take the lane
- A bike is a fast moving vehicle and has the right to be on the road. If you’re on a four lane road, use the right hand lane and ride in the middle. If cars are frustrated, they can safely pass you in the left lane. If it’s a two lane road, take as much space as you are comfortable with. If a car is making you feel unsafe, always pull over and let them pass, but most drivers will find a way to safely pass
- Communication is key
- Doug suggests making eye contact with car drivers whenever possible. This way you can know they definitely see you.
- Hand signals
- Let drivers behind you know exactly where you’re going
Cincinnati Specific Bike Laws
- The City of Cincinnati put together a comprehensive Pocket Guide to Cincinnati Bike Laws that covers everything you should know before getting on a bike
Putting your Bike on the Bus
Go twice as far on your bike by becoming a multi-modal commuter! All Cincy Metro Buses are equipped with a bike rack on the front so you can safely secure your bike while riding the bus. Doing this can be confusing and intimidating, but luckily for us Metro made a step by step video so you can learn how to put your bike on the bus yourself:
There’s lots you can do to make riding your bike more comfortable:
- Bike shorts
- It’s always better to go for padded bike shorts over a padded bike seat. Shorts put the padding directly on your bum and won’t inhibit your ride like a more cumbersome padded seat would.
- Biking gloves lessen the likelihood of getting blisters. Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse to wear fingerless gloves!
- Saddle angle
- Much of the discomfort from biking comes from the angle of your seat. Too far down can be bad for your knees and put more pressure on your wrists. Too far up can hurt your neck. Check out this Bicycle Saddle Angle Adjustment article to figure out which angle is best for you
Hopefully Doug’s tips have made you feel a little less intimidated to hop on your bike. If you have any other questions/concerns or just want to share a fun biking story reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Biking Resources
- Check out one of REI’s Bike Care & Repair Articles for more in-depth explanations on specific bike repair concerns
- Visit a class at REI in Rookwood or Campus Cyclery near U
- Join the Mobo Bike Coop in Northside and learn how to maintain your bike yourself and enjoy weekly access to a bike shop