How to Bike in the City
More and more people are challenging the car-dominated culture of our cities. And why not? Urban cycling is fun, healthy and lets you see your town in a new and interesting way. A bike can get you to the grocery store, concerts, to school or work—you name it.
To join the pedal parade, you just need to know a few basics about being a savvy and safe urban rider, choosing the right gear and accessories and how to maintain your bike.
Choosing a Bike
Any bike will suffice: road, mountain, hybrid or a specialized bike such as a cargo or e-bike. Add fenders if you ride in rainy conditions.
No room or funds for a bike? A bike-share program may already be in your city, or coming soon. You can rent a bike as needed for short trips and then leave your ride at a secure docking station.
For more on bikes, see the REI Expert Advice article, Bicycles: How to Choose.
Bike theft is an unfortunate fact of life. To minimize the risk of having your bike disappear:
Choose and use an appropriate lock. A light cable combination lock suffices for short-duration parking outside a store. For higher risk areas or multi-hour parking, use a heavy duty, keyed U-lock.
Special bike clothing is not required for most urban cycling. A long bike commute may warrant padded cycling shorts, but otherwise you can go with your fashion of choice provided it does not compromise your safety.
Avoid long scarves and billowy skirts or long jackets, which can tangle in the rear wheel or brakes. On bikes without a chainguard, long pants can get caught up in the chain or get oil marks.
- Pants: If they are not tights, either roll up or tuck the pant leg into a sock on the chain side, or secure with a rip-and-stick strap to prevent the leg from flapping onto the chain.
- Shoes: No need for cycling shoes. Regular shoes are more versatile. A grippy sole will help keep your feet on the pedals. If you wear smooth-soled shoes, a strapless pedal toe clip will prevent your feet sliding forward.
- Jacket: The discomforts of rain and wind can be lessened with a suitable wind or waterproof jacket. For serious wet weather protection, add rain pants and shoe covers.
As urban cycling becomes more popular, you'll find clothing that blends cycling function with city fashion. Stretchy wind resistant fabric, discrete reflective accents, and hidden roll-up pant tabs help you ride, work and play without looking like a spandex fashion model.
Basic cleaning/maintenance involves two simple things:
- Air: All tires gradually lose air. Tires need to be pumped up to their recommended pressure once or twice a month, regardless of use. Invest in a floor pump with a built-in gauge to make this quick and easy.
- Oil: The drivetrain will work quietly, smoothly and with less effort when kept lubed. Apply chain lube once or twice a month, depending on use. Let it soak it, then wipe off the excess with a cloth.
Tip: Take your bike to REI or other reputable bike-repair shop for regular maintenance. An annual service will prolong its life and minimize potential breakdowns
How to Handle Flat Tires
Punctures happen, but not nearly as often as you might fear. Your options are: