Treat Your Bike Like Other People Treat Their Car

Mother's day gift: the renovation of this awesome Raleigh.

Mother’s day gift: the renovation of this awesome Raleigh.

There is often a level of snobbery when it comes to identifying with your bike, and what kind of accessories you don’t need. Kickstands, lights, bells, whistles, mirrors, helmets, and multiple gears often get kicked to the curb.

To truly become a better world biker, you must treat your bike as an everyday transportation beast, not just something you use as a weekend warrior. It can still look stylish, but since you will plan on using it every day year round, you want it to be very functional.

1. RACK

wpid-wp-1399392215108.jpegHaving a rear rack on your bike instantly makes it so you can carry more things on your bike. If you don’t want to purchase panniers, purchase these small twist ties and put a milk carton on the rack. You can now carry anything from a load of groceries, textbooks for a class, your pet poodle, loads of french bread, and your backpack or messenger bag, so you don’t have to carry it on your back year-round. You can also strap some panniers on the rack, which we’ll get to as another item.

2. MIRROR
wpid-img_20140506_102837279_hdr.jpg
I don’t quite know how I survived so long WITHOUT a mirror, but once I put one on my bike, I was totally hooked. No more paranoia of not knowing when a car or truck is about to pass you. No more looking backwards every 5 seconds on a group ride to see how far your friends are behind you, worrying that you are going to go face first into a pothole. With a mirror you can make a left turn across traffic with ease, knowing when and where there is a gap in traffic. Mirrors are absolutely amazing! Seriously, try it!

3. BELL

This bell is so fancy it has its own compass!

Riding on a bike path with other pedestrians can be awkward. You want to pass slow, but you also don’t want to scare the pants off of the person you’re passing by yelling “ON YOUR LEFT!” at the last second. Bells pierce through the air and let anyone hear you. There are a wide variety of bells from low GOOOONGS to high DINGS! Pick your favorite. The best part of the bell, however, is the emotional satisfaction. I use my bell when riding with other people to show that I am having fun, to say hi to kids who are waving, to hear the echo when going under a tunnel… the possibilities are endless, and it is SO MUCH FUN to have a bell to ding.

 

 

4. LIGHTS
Having bright lights is the difference between being able to bike in a city downtown at night, and being scared to go out at night anywhere. Especially if you live anywhere where there are cold, dark winters, lights are a must. The brighter, the better. These make the difference between drivers being unable to see you, and drivers being unable to unsee you because your headlight is brighter than theirs. I like my Cygolite Metro 360 USB Bicycle Headlight
with Matching Cygolite Hotshot Taillight because they are bright enough to use flashing during a foggy day, are not insanely expensive like some lights, and are easily usb rechargeable.

5. TRAILER

Trailer at the local grocery store.

Trailer at the local grocery store.

A trailer is a great benefit to the bicycle, as mentioned by Mr. Money Mustache. It makes it so you can pick up many loads, and for super CHEAP, turns any bike into a cargo bike. I got my trailer frame for free from a friend, tore the frame apart, repainted it, and bought a hitch, all for around $20. You can probably find one used on Craigslist for under $50. Don’t like that it’s all ratty and ugly? No worries. Tear it apart, repaint it, and add a cargo box. Now you can easily bike to the grocery stores with all of your groceries, or drop of huge donations to Goodwill via bike.

6. PANNIERS

Ortlieb Panniers. Waterproof, bombproof, and super easy to use. Coffee mug for scale.

Ortlieb Panniers. Waterproof, bombproof, and super easy to use. Coffee mug for scale.

I personally dislike messenger bags and backpacks, because even in the dead of winter, they make your back sweaty and they hurt my neck. I prefer panniers. REI sells Ortlieb panniers which I highly, highly recommend. They are waterproof, bomb-proof, cool looking, have a 5 year warranty, have reflective parts for high-visibility, and will last at least 5 years. Plus, they are HUGE, so with your rack you can instantly carry huge loads of things to and from wherever.

 

 

 

 

7. BIKE COMPUTER
Bike computers let you know how fast you are going, and how long you are gone. They are speedometers and odometers. Not a complete necessity, but since we are treating our bikes like our car, they are a nice and fun addition. You can now quantify everything you do on the bike, and brag to your friends about how many miles you bike each week.

8. KICKSTAND

Kickstands are not to be shunned!

Kickstands are not to be shunned!

Kickstands are often looked down upon by many recreational cyclists. They view them as unnecessary, and ugly. I think they are the greatest thing ever for a bike, because I don’t like leaning my bike against a tree, a wall, or on the ground. I also typically ride with my panniers, which makes a kickstand even more important for loading
and unloading cargo.

 

 

 

9. COMFORT

You want your bike to be as comfortable as possible. This way you don’t feel obligated to change clothes and wear spandex like a MAMIL (Middle-Aged-Man-In-Lycra) every time you leave your house. Get a good seat, comfortable pedals, and handlebars that don’t strain your neck too much.

10. FENDERS

Since your bike is your new car, you will be biking even if it is raining or snowing. This means you will want some slick looking fenders that will deflect any rain, salt, snow, or ice, from getting all over your feet, pants, and backside. They don’t have to be nice. I got my first pair on clearance for $8, but you can always get super fancy wooden ones for more.


 

That’s all for today! I can think of a few things I missed like having a CUPHOLDER, HELMET, and BIGGER TIRES. But with even just a few of these additions to your bike you can become rich, healthy, and have fun in the process.

Have questions, comments, ideas, complaints? I’d love to hear how you treat your bike like most people treat their car.

Keep on readin’ on.


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5 thoughts on “Treat Your Bike Like Other People Treat Their Car

  1. judge3690

    As a car-free cyclist in Moscow, Idaho, I second this list.

    A couple thoughts on tires, which you don’t mention: I run the stock 700x38c size that came with my hybrid, and while they’re almost too big for road cycling, they’re perfect for the plethora of gravel roads we have in the rural areas outside of town. I would recommend $35-40 cyclocross tires, which have layers of puncture-proof Kevlar, combined with a tread pattern that is smooth in the center and knobby toward the outside. By reducing the pressure near minimum, you can get full traction—at a speed penalty—for good grip during winter.

    Regarding lights, if you cycle more than just occasionally, or ride for hours after dark, battery/USB lights might not be the best option. I’ll soon be upgrading to German-spec dynamo lights with a Shimano Dynohub for dependable light at all times, following a few “learning experiences” with battery and USB lights. The headlight also has a USB port to charge a phone or device, thereby ensuring I won’t be lost with a dead phone at night again. It’s expensive to set up (with my top-of-the-line Busch and Müller Luxos-U headlight I’ll be spending around $375 total), but I did the math and found I’ll make up for that in about a year with the money I’m not spending on batteries.

    I really like the combination of Topeak’s rack—which has a quick-release system for the top bag—coupled with folding pannier baskets on each side of the rack. These baskets will easily hold a two-dozen carton of eggs flat (or the size of a paper grocery bag) and can be folded out when needed and retracted when not. I use mine several times a week, and they were affordable at $25 each.

    Reply
    1. Better World Biker Post author

      Jonathan, I love the idea of 38cc tires, but have yet to have a bike that will really accommodate them. With fenders and rear fork, I’ve tried 38s, but have not had good success. I do like the ones we have on our tandem, of course. Most of my road bikes I get, and then figure out what the biggest, baddest tires I can fit on them. I almost always take comfort and safety over speed.
      Shimano Dynohub is definitely a possibility in the future. Right now I’ve been happy with my rechargeable USB lights. I’ve never had to charge them more than once a week, unless I’m touring where I am using them for hours on end at night. Especially for touring, I’d love to get a dynamo hub, or just for night winter/snow cycling as well. I like the idea of charging a phone, too, that’d be nice! Makes using GPS attached to the handlebars more of an option for intercity rides.
      I like the folding pannier baskets, but love the waterproofness of my Ortlieb Panniers more. Any panniers or pannier baskets are better than none!
      How was this last winter of riding for you?

      Reply
      1. judge3690

        Thanks, BWB. Here in Moscow, we’ve hardly had winter, it seems, with far-above-average temperatures and little to no snow. I bought studded tires at the start of winter, but then took them off a couple months ago because the roads have been clear.

        Shortly after I made my first comment, I had to get new tires, and by a quirk ended up going with 32mm front and 35mm rear. It’s a lot more nimble and responsive, and I can still go on gravel easily. Now, three weeks ago I got a Raleigh Sojourn as my new commuter bike, on which I put the lights and wheels from the old bike. This one came with fenders and won’t fit anything larger than 35s.

        Reply

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