While it is heartening to see the bike industry embracing bikes as transportation, sometimes I can't help thinking, that, with the exception of a few really forward-looking companies, bike commuting is being turned into one more trend. The video screens that once featured mud-spattered, tooth-baring mountain bikers have been replaced by images of young men in peg-legged jeans weaving through traffic with huge messenger bags on their backs, and sunny women with willow baskets full of groceries on their handlebars.Read More
Starting location: Sauganash (Bryn Mawr & Kostner). Destination: Village Crossing shopping center, Skokie. Trip length: 8 miles. Route: improvised, see below.
Carried with me: 1 box of books to be returned to Amazon, 1 boxed modem to be returned to AT&T, 1 1/2 grocery bags filled with books and DVD's to sell to Half Price Books. Carried on return trip: two large sacks of groceries.
Equipment: rear rack, a pair of rack mounted grocery panniers enhanced with stiff-sided reusable grocery bags (for extra height), u-lock.Read More
With two trusty grocery panniers, you can carry two large, fully stuffed grocery bags, and even lay something extra across the rack. That's often enough for a small household, and it may be all that you need. But what if you are shopping for a family? Or if you have a bunch of people coming over to your house, and you need to carry heavy stuff, like beer? Or what if you are, or want to be, car-free, and you need to use you bike for more than just the occasional trip to the store?
You need a trailer.Read More
For many people it's a challenge just getting the bike out of the garage. You can’t travel independently without air in your tires. And, as bicycle people, we often forget that bicycle tires can be a total mystery, and quite an intimidating one, to non-bicycle people. Which is a lot of people, because, despite what you might observe on Milwaukee Ave. on a weekday morning, “bicycle people” comprise only a very tiny percentage of the US population. Tiny, as in less than 1%, by some counts. And the only known source of new bicycle people, ie. the only way to grow bike culture, ridership, acceptance, and -- yes -- the bicycle business, is non-bicycle people.
Since "non-bicycle people" sounds a bit awkward, I'll shorten it a bit, and just call them "people". So, people, many people in fact, are quite unfamiliar with, and therefore somewhat intimidated by even some basic aspects of the bicycle and bicycle riding. And, if we are going to make you comfortable using your bike as part of your life, and enjoying those dreams of independent travel, we have to help you get comfortable with those basics.
Our theme for the month of April here at Chicago Bike Blog is "Bike Commuting Basics". The weather has finally gotten an little milder, so we'd like to encourage everyone to get out there, get moving, get rid of some stress, and make your corner of the world a little more livable. Ride a bike.
Many people think bike commuting is for the dedicated few. Maybe you don't want to commit to that type of lifestyle. Maybe riding a bike doesn't fit in your daily schedule. Or maybe you're not sure if you'll like it. At least not all the time.
That's OK. Biking doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You can use your bike when convenient and enjoyable, and still use the car when you really need it. You may find that when you take that approach, biking will become your preferred transportation alternative.Read More
Bicycle theft is rampant in many urban neighborhoods, and Chicago certainly has its share of the problem. Whether you are riding an expensive bike or a garage-sale model, having your bike stolen is expensive, inconvenient and downright maddening. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to make your bicycle a less likely target.Read More
Several years ago, we had occasion to participate in a number of workshops offered by Brett Flemming, possibly the most endearing spokesman for the profession of bicycle mechanics. He has earned his stripes in the many years he served as one, and has the bike grease under his fingernails to prove it. Consequently, there is never a hint of condescension in his tone when he talks to others who hope to benefit from his experience. Indeed, he is passionate about raising the profile of bicycle mechanics everywhere, and often talks of belonging to a "noble profession".Read More
Rapid Transit Cycleshop employees ride their bikes all over the city, and they definitely have some strong opinions. In Staff Quick Pic(k)s we'll highlight our staff members and some of their favorite products. Here's our North Ave. store salesperson Gillian on a bike she enjoys:
The Surly Cross-Check is one of those few bikes that can do pretty much whatever you throw at it.
It's incredibly versatile, with a nice snappy geometry and a ton of options for customization. Throw on some fenders and racks, and it makes a killer cargo-ready commuter that can handle Chicago's rough streets year-round. Take them back off, and you're ready to race.
I love the buttery smooth feeling of Surly's chromoly steel, which absorbs plenty of shock off the road without too much flex.
The best part is that Surly makes their bikes in tiny sizes-- down to a 42cm! For "fun-sized" folks like myself, it's hard finding a bike that's small enough but still performs well. You can't buy happiness, but you can buy a Cross-Check, and that's pretty darn close.
Any day now.
One morning, we will wake up, look out the window, and all the snow will be gone. Crocuses will be erupting from the sodden turf and the robin will await the worm with cockeyed anticipation.
Riding a bike might seem like fun again.
To some, of course, riding a bike is never unreasonable or unseasonable. Cutting a singletrack trail through freshly fallen snow has its unquestionable charms, and arriving at a destination with one's own power, and icicles forming under one's nose, can be quite ennobling.
But day in and day out winter commuting takes it's toll. It's impossible to be footloose and fancy free in heavy boots, windpants, snow-caked gore-tex, balaclava and goggles. And, as happened with me, my bicycle, usually a symbol of freedom and fun, becomes an obligation, the thing whose accusing gaze I avoid as I slink past it on my way out the door.
So here's what I'm looking forward as I await the crocuses and the robin: shedding the winter weight of excessive clothing layers; replacing the winter tires on my bike with skinnier ones, colorful grocery panniers; leaning the bike against the wall of my front porch, so always ready for spur of the moment biking; being able to carry more groceries than I can when walking; riding in whatever I've got on; filling my trailer with gardening supplies; riding home with freshly picked veggies wrapped in newspaper; not minding getting caught in the rain on my bike...
What are you impatiently awaiting this spring?
There are few things more dispiriting than wheeling your bike out on a crisp morning and discovering you can't ride, because the tires are flat. You simply can't travel independently without air in your tires.
Because we work in a bike shop, quite often we forget that many people are completely mystified by bicycle tires.
Whether you ride your bike regularly, or leave it hanging out in your basement or garage, the tires will naturally lose air over time. It's like the balloon you brought back from a party: after a few days, it doesn't look so good. Bike tires don't lose air quite as rapidly as a balloon, and they can also be readily refilled. The trick is to know how and with what.Read More
Think about how you intend to use your bike. Are you a recreational rider, and plan to use your bike occasionally in nice weather, or will you depend on it for your daily commute or errands? Do you have to carry children or cargo? Is your commute very long, or do you wish to combine biking with transit? Do you prefer a lightweight, speedy bike, or is comfort a more important consideration? Do you need a bike that has to serve two or more distinctly different purposes, such as commuting and training for an athletic event? Where do you plan to store your bike?
With the exception of very specialized types of riding, most bikes can be successfully adapted to most urban riding styles. However, these questions, and many others, will help you and the salesperson you are working with, zero in on the features that are most important to you, and help you select the most suitable bike for your particular needs.Read More
If the aim is to grow biking, it's a mistake to portray cycling as something that can only be practiced by those with strong constitutions. For the past two decades, Rapid Transit has been engaged in the battle for the hearts and minds of cyclists young and old, would-be and practicing, new and experienced, timid and die-hard, fair-weather and all-weather. And we have come to the conclusion that you can't win that battle with shock and awe. Chances are you will not entice a new cyclist by painting visions of snot icicles, foggy goggles, blue fingertips and admonitions about the importance of layers. You will not smooth the way for him or her by describing the joys of your 40-mile daily commute. Certainly we have friends and customers who do find this appealing and fun. But if the point is to create more cyclists, than this is not a winning strategy.Read More
Were it not for the invention of the hybrid bike, urban cycling in the US would not be what it is today. What started out as cross between a mountain bike and a road bike resulted in a new bike category, offering a more comfortable sitting position, and more sensible tire width than either of the parents. And, what started out as a compromise between two styles of riding, actually created a riding style all of its own. Thanks to their versatility, utility and ease of use, hybrid bikes made urban biking accessible and convenient for all. For the majority of urban cyclists, a hybrid is still a great choice, because it adapts well to a variety of uses.Read More
Most adult bikes today are equipped with quick release (QR) wheel retention devices on both wheels. QR's are very reliable in keeping the wheels securely attached to the bike, provided you know how to use them correctly. And, despite the fact the QR's have been in wide use for several decades, many people are still unfamiliar with how they work. Please, do not ride your bike without knowing how to use the quick release.
The QR is not simply a wing-nut to be twisted as tight as possible. If you are using it that way, your wheel could come off your bike while you are ridingRead More
I think many of us, if not most, embrace the concept of shopping locally. This isn't limited to local farmers' markets. All your local merchants invest untold time, energy, perseverance and love to bring you the services and merchandise that we think you are looking for. We have taken care to staff our stores with people who care about your project and are eager to share their expertise and craftsmanship.
If all you want is to "showroom" for the best price, we have no choice but to swallow hard, and accept it as the harsh reality of today's market.Read More
How the *bleep* do I fill this up? If you have to ask, chances are your bike is not equipped with the type of valve pictured above.
This is a typical Schrader valve, found not only on the majority of bicycles, but also familiar to anyone who's ever filled up a car tire. If the tire is low, simply apply the head of any pump or gas station compressor firmly to the tip of the valve, and blow.
But don't take it for granted that your bike comes equipped with the common Schrader valve.Read More
Many cyclists are puzzled and frustrated by the number of gears on most standard bicycles available today. Here in Chicago, any number of gears above seven is completely redundant and unnecessary for most riders. It is a rare Chicago cyclist who has ever used all of his or her gears, and usually it was outside the state lines.
Yet, not everyone wants a cruiser or a single-speed bike. Some folks just want a basic hybrid to ride around town. Most bikes come factory-equipped with more gears than you can count on your fingers and toes, and few salespeople take the time to explain how to use them correctly. Consequently, many riders don't know how to shift gears for maximum benefit.Read More
Before you begin changing a flat on your bike, you will need to remove the wheel from the frame. Click here for instructions on removing a wheel on a typical hybrid bike.
Chances are your tire has gone flat all the way. If not, unscrew the valve cap, and release any remaining air by pressing down on the valve core. If you have Schrader valves, press the valve core with a pointed object, as shown above.Read More
Have you ever been plagued by recurring flats? You keep fixing the tube, or taking it back to your bike shop, you ride for awhile, and, boom! It goes flat again.
Let me just say that yes, there are mystery flats. There probably is a cause for them, but it cannot be reasonably identified by either you or the mechanic(s). However, in most cases, people continue to get recurring flats, because the the thing that caused the original flat has not been correctly identified.Read More
The majority of bicycle wheels you are likely to encounter are comprised of four parts:
- The tire.
- The inner tube.
- The wheel itself, which includes the hub, spokes and rim. For the purposes of flat repair, we will be talking primarily about the rim.
- The rim strip.