Autumn Gear Guide
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Cycling is here to stay so embrace the pedal-powered future and check out our top tips to help anyone get started on bike commuting.
As municipalities around the globe are wising up to the benefits of bike commuting, miles of automobile lanes are being converted to bicycle lanes at astonishing speeds. All of these new cycling routes through cities and towns have had a remarkable impact on the cycling community: bringing more people into the fold and proving to the public that cycling is here to stay.
Over the past 15 years, we’ve witnessed bicycling in North America transform from a fringe activity undertaken by only the renegade few, to an increasingly commonplace mode of transportation gaining acceptance in ever-wider circles.
To help you embrace this pedal-powered future, we’ve put together our top tips to help anyone get started on bike commuting. Let’s go!
A common excuse that keeps many people off bikes is that they don’t have the right gear, or the initial investment is too high. If you haven’t ridden a bike in twenty years, chances are you don’t have a tuned-up commuter bike, a set of lights, and some office-ready panniers just sitting in the garage.
So start small. Borrow a bike from a friend and take it for a test ride on the weekend. If you live in a city with a public bike share system, get a membership and ride to work once or twice a week.
There’s no need to drop $1,000+ on a brand new bike and a full kit before you even hop in the saddle, the important thing is to just start riding. Get out there and enjoy the wind on your face and the feeling of freedom that bikes afford. Then once you’re hooked, we can talk about gear.
Cycling in cities–especially at rush hour–is often faster than driving. Chief among their myriad benefits is that bicycles are immune to getting stuck in traffic, so if you live in a congested city, you can look forward to shaving a few minutes off your commute time by switching to biking.
That said, it’s important to plan in advance if you haven’t biked to work before to make sure you’ll get there on time. Check your local bike shop or advocacy organization for a bike route map of your town, or in larger cities, Google Maps is increasingly adept at picking out the safest cycling routes.
Plan your route to spend as much time as possible in protected bike lanes, off-street bike paths, or traffic-calmed side streets. We suggest testing out your route on a day off to see how your speed and riding comfort compares to Google’s suggested timeframe.
While it is the responsibility of motorists to look out for pedestrians and bicyclists, you’ll make their job more difficult if you’re riding erratically or unpredictably. To make their life easier (and thereby making your own safer), send clear signals to other road users about your movements and intentions.
Use hand signals to indicate when you’re turning or stopping, and make eye contact with drivers whenever possible.
Just as you want motorists to look out for you, pedestrians want people on bikes to look out for them. Our streets operate on a vulnerable road users principal: the idea that anybody who is operating a more dangerous vehicle has the responsibility to look out for those who are more vulnerable than them.
Far too many times, you see people on bicycles blow through red lights because the intersection is clear of cars, cutting off–or nearly hitting–pedestrians in the crosswalk as they do so. Not only is this dangerous, but works against the cycling movement’s goals by perpetuating the stereotype that cyclists are entitled or aggressive.
Once you’ve taken a few daytime rides around town and you’re ready to make cycling a regular part of your routine, it’s time to start thinking about gear. The first thing you’ll want to invest in is a good set of lights. Drivers can’t look out for you if they can’t see you. While this is less of an issue in the long days of summer, for winter bike commuting or commuting in dark, rainy climates, lights are an absolute must.
We recommend USB-rechargeable lights to reduce your use of disposable batteries and cut down on the hassle of constantly needing replacements.
Remember how exciting it was to get your first bike as a child? We’d argue that getting your first new bike as an adult is even more exciting. It still offers the childlike joy and freedom of cycling for fun, but also the numerous health and economic benefits that us adults are (reluctantly) forced to consider.
Choosing the right bike for you depends on a number of factors. Do you live in a hilly area? Then you’ll want something with gears. Don’t like riding with a backpack on? Then you’ll need a front or rear rack to have your bike do the heavy lifting. Live in a completely flat area and you don’t want to spend much? A single-speed cruiser will be sufficient. Do you have to bring your bike up a flight of stairs each night? You’ll probably want something lightweight.
Buying a new bike is a big decision, so there’s no need to rush into it. Do your research, talk to friends, pay attention to what other people are riding in your area. You can also rent bikes from your local bike shop and talk to them about different bike styles to get a feel for what kind of ride you might be looking for. Once you’re confident about what you want, it’s time to take the plunge! If you’re wondering where to start Schwinn has a great selection of bikes for all rider types.
If you plan on making bike commuting a regular part of your life, it’s important to understand some basic bike mechanics. We’re not suggesting you need to know how to break a chain and repair a derailleur within two weeks of starting to ride. Honestly, the majority of casual bike commuters will never get that far into it.
But knowing how to pump your tires and change a flat will save you a lot of money and hassle in the long-run, and cut down on the amount of time you spend stuck at the side of the road phoning for a friend to come pick you and your bike up.
Bike co-ops are the best way to learn bike repair if you’re a more hands-on learner, as is developing a good relationship with the folks at your local bike shop. If you’re happy learning on your own time, there’s an abundance of information on YouTube to show you everything you need to know.
Just like purchasing the bicycle itself, you shouldn’t rush into buying a bunch of additional gear just because you can. Ride for a while to get a sense of what you’re missing to make your ride more comfortable, then shop accordingly.
At a bare minimum, you will need a good set of lights and a strong lock. You can buy the essentials from Schwinn or at any bike shop in your city. Depending on your riding style, street environment, or local laws, you may also choose a helmet. Beyond that, everything is up to you.
If you find you’d like to carry quite a bit of cargo on the bike, consider panniers. Just looking to toss your purse somewhere and pedal away? A front basket will do the trick.
It’s your bike commute, design it according to your needs.
The sports-fashion industry has finally caught up to the actual fashion industry, and there are more options than ever before for breathable, moisture-wicking, or waterproof garments that blend in among regular street clothes.
But even then, don’t worry about completely overhauling your wardrobe with merino wool and Gore-Tex for a two-mile ride to work. For many people’s commutes–especially within cities–your regular everyday clothes will be totally sufficient to bike in.
Cycling is healthy, economical, sustainable, convenient, the list goes on. But more importantly, it’s fun.
Pick up a handlebar speaker and pop on your favourite tunes, or just listen to the sights and sounds of your neighbourhood as you cruise through the streets on your way to and fro. Cycling is all about connecting yourself to your community and your environment, and turning your commute into one of the best parts of your day.
So get out there and enjoy it, we promise you’ll never look back.