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Tips To Survive Cycling To Work In The City

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Photo by Vahe Hovhannisyan

Bicycle riding has historically been and still remains one of the best ways to get around. Despite constant improvements and innovations in cars — and the relative stagnancy of bicycle improvements — the humble two wheeler still remains more popular worldwide than the automobile. The bicycle shared the adoration of John F Kennedy, who said “nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike” and suffragette Susan B. Anthony, who claimed the bicycle had “done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” Writers like Ernest Hemingway and H.G. Wells were also riders. Despite these acolytes, on any city street cyclists consistently face the ire of frustrated drivers and wary pedestrians. City streets, especially in America, are largely not designed with riders in mind.  Still, the bike remains a great option for commuting to work (if your office is not too far), for its money saving and health benefits — plus, it can be a lot of fun. Here are a few tips to bear in mind to survive a city commute.

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Photo: Giuseppe Santamaria/Men In This Town

Pick your wheels wisely: Different bikes are designed for different things, and thankfully the names convey pretty well what they’re best used for: the fat tread of beach cruisers make them optimal for sandy beach roads, and sturdy mountain bikes are good for rough natural terrain. Both, however, are rather lugubrious options for cities. These slow heavy bikes make them harder to accommodate the many challenges cities throw at riders like curbs and stairways. Fixies are lightweight, good looking, and affordable, but a fixed gear and (typically) brakeless bicycle doesn’t always make for a great city commute considering the need on city streets to, well, stop. Road bikes are maybe the second best option. They’re lightweight and fast, but expensive and perhaps better suited for a utopian vision of what a road is — one without potholes or runoff grates to mess up the thin tire treads. Commuter and hybrid bikes combine the best elements of road and mountain bikes, with slightly thicker treads but lighter weight frames. Know your commute and pick your ride accordingly — if you’re likely to face hills look for something with multiple gears.

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Photo: Giuseppe Santamaria/Men In This Town

Keep you and your wheels safe: Statistics indicate that bicycle theft is an increasing problem — while it’s certainly not as bad as getting a car stolen, losing something that you sunk several hundreds of dollars into is never fun. The most important thing to do is to get a U-Lock that you can secure the frame, a tire, and a solid unmovable post that the bike can’t be lifted over. Bike thieves often steal parts like tires or even handlebars — that’s why there is no way to fully protect your bike from any kind of theft. Finding a way to have it secured inside your office or garage is the best way to go. If you’re mounting it on the front rack of a bus, consider locking one of the tires to the bike frame so someone can’t pull the bike off the rack at a stop and ride away (yes, I’ve seen it happen). Wearing more visible colors and outfitting your bike with lights will keep you safe at night.

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Instagram: @jonnietruelove

Own the road: Unless you’re fortunate enough that your commute is only along designated bike paths or trails, chances are you’ll have to share the road with drivers who are often unforgiving and not happy to accommodate cyclists. With or without bike paths, certain streets are better for cycling, so try different routes to find what works best for you. Part of successfully cycling is claiming the amount of space you need. If you give in and move closer to the curb you’ll have a hard time gaining back lost ground, and the side of the road is often more dangerous due to loose gravel, swinging car doors, and driveways. Also, use hand signals so drivers know which way you’re intending to go.

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Levi’s Commuter

What to Wear: The loosening dress codes of offices are perfect for the aspiring commuter, but it’s possible to bike in just about anything. Lighter weight fabrics offer breathability in warm weather. Various brands offer stylish clothes with subtle reinforcements in hard wearing areas, weatherproofing, and mild stretchiness designed especially for cyclists. Bring a backpack that you can throw your office essentials in, as well as necessary bike gear like your locks and water bottles. Consider keeping a few things like a towel or spare clothes at the office.  You can keep your back from sweating too much by getting a basket or pannier bags (designed to be put over the back or front tire). To keep your pants grease-free, roll up your jeans or chinos on the right leg. If your pants aren’t prone to rolling, get a strap to keep loose fabric together. Legendary British bicycle brand Brooks makes a stylish leather option for those averse to velcro and neon. Find the bike, route, and gear that works best for you, and you’ll certainly have a better time than the drivers abjectly staring at the constantly braking tail lights in front of them.   

 

 

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