Turn your bike into a personal transportation machine

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Forget electric motors, fancy hydraulics, and anything that some guy you know might have to say about what makes a good bike. These four quick upgrades will turn any bike in good repair into a super-efficient, user-friendly personal transportation machine.

1. Tires

Not only do quality tires enhance the performance and efficiency of your bike, they are your first line of defense against flats that could leave you stranded, and are absolutely essential for maximizing the use of your bike in the city.

It is a common misconception that fatter tires offer better protection against flats. Rather, it is the materials and the construction used to make the tire that determine how much flat resistance you will get. The best tires use either a Kevlar or similar belt, or a combination of a thick (3-5mm), resilient layer sandwiched inside the rubber, and special sidewall construction to prevent cracking and premature aging of the rubber.

Below are some of our favorite options available for a wide variety of wheel sizes:

  1. Schwalbe Marathon: this is our most popular,puncture-defying tire that will eliminate the majority of flats for the majority of riders. A 3mm highly elastic, puncture resistant layer combined with long-wearing rubber casing makes for an extremely durable tire that is impervious to glass, tacks and other problematic road debris, and comfortable to ride on whether you’re commuting or touring. (For a heavier, but even more bombproof tire, talk to us about Schwalbe Marathon Plus!)

  2. Continental Contact Plus: a more affordable but still extremely puncture resistant tire that offers excellent durability, good grippiness and low rolling resistance.

  3. Bonus: FLAT PREVENTION PACKAGE. Few things are more inconvenient than flats, especially when your bike is your transportation. We offer a service that will give you maximum protection against flats, and minimum inconvenience should you happen to get one. With the purchase of a set of any of the above tires, new tubes and installation, we will cover your bike against flats for one full year. Click here for complete details.

2. Fenders

We recommend a full-coverage front & rear fender set to keep your bike and your person protected from excessive splash and dirt accumulation in inclement weather. Fenders can be fitted on most bikes. If your bike is especially hard to fit, come in for a chat with one of our mechanics, who’ve made fenders fit where others said it couldn’t be done!

We keep an assortment of fenders in stock, but with proliferating tire sizes you should be prepared to have to special order a set (which usually doesn’t take more than a day or two).
There are lots of brands and options on the market, but here are two we like for the assortment of sizes, ease of installation and durability:

  1. SKS Longboard fenders are constructed of lightweight, tough chromoplactic material, offer an unsurpassed degree of coverage from the skinniest tire road bike to a beefy MTB, and come in a choice of silver or smoke color with tasteful pinstripe down the middle.

  2. Planet Bike Cascadia ALX fenders are lightweight aluminum, and are a great choice for applications where the Longboards are too much, and for 650b tire sizes.

3. Lights

With shortening daylight hours, you will feel much more secure venturing out on your bike knowing you have reliable lights. We recommend redundancy!

  1. For your main light set, choose a USB rechargeable set that is powerful enough to light up the road in areas where street illumination may be lacking. For the majority of urban applications, we like the NiteRider Swift 500/Sabre 80 combo with the headlight that offers up to 500 lumens when needed, but can be run on one of the lower settings to prolong battery life when appropriate. (If you regularly commute on unlit suburban trails, you may wish to go to an even higher lumen light.)
    We suggest you come up with a charging schedule, and keep your charging cords where you can easily find them. Because each set comes with two cords, you could keep one at home and one at work.

  2. As a backup, consider getting a more basic (perhaps battery-operated) front & rear blinker set to keep in your bike bag for emergencies. It won’t be enough to light up a dark road, but it will do the job of making you visible and street legal in Chicago, should anything happen to your main light set.

4. Cargo capacity

Sure, you can carry things in your backpack, but you won’t believe how much a rear rack and well-designed bike bags will extend the usefulness of your bike for traveling to work, running errands or shopping. Getting the weight off your back and onto the bike will lower your center of gravity, and help you carry much more than you ever thought possible with more comfort and stability.

  1. Start with a rear rack, such as the Planet Bike Eco Rack. This will give you a base to which you can fasten your cargo using bungee cords or purpose-made bike bags (panniers). There are many choices for bike-mounted racks, however they all function basically the same way, and are designed to easily integrate with the majority of bicycle panniers on the market.

  2. Add bags! Most bike panniers mount to the rack either saddle-bag style, with a pair of connected bags draped over the top of the rack, or with hooks that attach to the top rail of the rack. The advantage of the latter system is that you can carry one or two bags, depending on your cargo needs on each occasion. For extremely well-made, durable and completely waterproof bike bags, try Ortlieb panniers which are sold in pairs and available in two sizes: Backroller Classic is the larger set with combined volume of 2441 cu in (40 L), and smaller Sport Roller Classic with the combined volume of 1526 cu in (25 L).

The above are of course just a small (but tried and true!) sampling of hundreds of available options. If you need help setting up your bike, we hope you stop in at Cosmic Bikes and chat with us in person. We’ve been setting up urban bikes long before Milwaukee Ave became know as the bicycle superhighway, and have many tricks up our sleeve to adapt your bike to suit your personal transportation needs.