Well, technically, it's around for another three weeks or so. It's sad to see it go, but, if we are lucky, over the next few weeks we will experience some of the best cycling weather in Chicago. If you thought August was too hot to be enjoyable, roll your bike out now.
If you haven't used your bike for transportation before, rest assured that it will get you from point A to point B in the city quickly and easily, with less hassle that public transportation, and at a considerably lower cost than a car. If you are thinking of using your bike as your main transportation vehicle, give it a long, hard look. Is the bike you have suitable for the type of commuting you envision?
First, consider the distance you'll be traveling.
- If it's only a couple of miles, just about any bike will do. Really. Any basic bike is good enough to get you started. You can always upgrade if you get more into it. Don't let lack of fancy equipment be an obstacle.
- For longer commutes, you may want a lighter, faster bike. A good quality hybrid bike that will easily handle almost any Chicago commute might be around $500 (although we have several models on sale right now at Cosmic Bikes). That's really not a lot, even if you are only a fair-weather rider (more on that in an upcoming post!).
Second, make sure the bike you choose is in good repair. If it's a new bike, take advantage of the free services that came with it (this is what we include at Cosmic Bikes). Check the condition of the tires and the brake pads, and see if anything on the bike feels loose. If you're not sure what to look for, bring it in to us (or your local bike store) and we'll go over it with you, and recommend needed repairs.
Contrary to what you may have been told, you don't need any special equipment. While seasoned riders can get quite picky and vocal about their favorite gear, chances are you already own almost everything you need to begin commuting by bike today. With a decent pair of shoes, some non-binding pants, light sweatshirt, windbreaker and a backpack, you can ride over to the coffee shop, bookstore, or post office, and pick up a few groceries on the way back most of the way through autumn.
While you really don't need to rush out and spend a bundle on expensive bicycle gear, a few well-chosen, reasonably priced items will make your commute more efficient and comfortable.
- If you need to leave your bike unattended, invest in a good lock, and learn to use it properly.
- Lights are required if you ride after dark.
- Good quality street tires will reduce rolling resistance, provide better handling in inclement weather, and protect against punctures. If you are considering new tires, Cosmic Bikes offers a complete Flat Prevention Package that will protect you against flats for 90 days.
- A rear carrying rack and bags will take the load of your back and ensure a more stable ride.
- Fenders will protect your face, clothing and bike from excessive splatter.
- Your butt will thank you for a comfortable seat.
The safety of your commute will depend largely on you. When you cycle on city streets, your bicycle is a vehicle governed by the same laws as a car. That means moving in the direction of traffic, and obeying traffic signals. Common sense and courtesy also go a long way in making your bike commute a safe and pleasant one. We strongly encourage you to wear a well-fitting helmet, forgo the use of headphones, and to use lights as required by your local laws. (For more on Chicago's requirements regarding bicycles, click here.)