Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips
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GETTING STARTED: THE BIKE
In much of the world -- in such countries as Japan, Denmark, France or Holland -- the bicycle is valued as a utilitarian vehicle. And bikes sold in those countries come equipped with fenders, bells, lights, kickstands, racks, and, very important, chainguards.
In the US the bicycle is generally considered a toy, a recreational device, or as exercise equipment. Something you load on top of your car, like skis or a surfboard, and travel to some remote area to "play." That's why bike shops are filled with mountain bikes. They thrive on selling the "sport" of cycling. Travel they leave to other vehicle retailers, i.e. auto dealerships. This is a big mistake.
Don't buy a mountain bike just because the sales person has lots of them to sell. Mountain bikes are fine for many things, even commuting. However, most people never get near a trail with their mountain bike. Those fat knobby tires may really dig into the dirt on a stretch of fire road. But they add lots of rolling resistance on pavement. (They might suggest that the knobby tires are more "flat resistant." Don't believe it. I can tell you from experience that large glass fragments, nails and pushpins can puncture mountain bike tires too. As you'll see later, flats are really no big deal.)
If you think most of your riding will be done on asphalt streets, then consider a hybrid, touring, or a road bike. They're generally made with larger, easier rolling wheels, with street "slicks" or other tire made for riding on pavement, and offer a longer wheelbase for a more comfortable ride. The bike pictured here, inspired by European commuting bikes, is set up well for everyday travel.
If you're considering buying a new bike to begin commuting, here are my suggestions for factors to consider; here are my bicycles, complete with reasons and rationalizations. Minnesota cyclist John Faughnan has a great article on the advantages of using touring bikes for everyday commuting. Many cyclists also happily enjoy commuting on recumbent and fixed-gear bikes; I don't usually recommend either for new cyclists. But for many people, the comfort and ease of a recumbent or the simplicity of a fixed-gear would be appropriate. For multimodal bike commuting (combining transit and bicycling), a folding bike might be a good option.
In short, my point is: get the bike that suits you. There's no need to have the latest, the most exciting, the most colorful, the most expensive bike.
Suggestions for Buying a Bike
Buying the right bike for commuting - Bike Commute Tips Blog
Get comfortable on a new bike - Bike Commute Tips Blog
Buying a Bike: New or used? - Bike Commute Tips Blog
Is the bicycle industry waking up? - Bike Commute Tips Blog
Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips: Low-Tech & No-Tech Ways to Find, Ride, & Keep a Bicycle
"Since the bicycle makes little demand on material or energy resources, contributes little to pollution, makes a positive contribution to health and causes little death or injury, it can be regarded as the most benevolent of machines."--Stuart S. Wilson, Oxford University
Comments? Suggestions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org || Updated 10.21.11
Image: Breezer Villager commuting bike, made by Breezer Bikes