Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bike Accessories

Once I bought my bike, the next step was to purchase the accessories : )

The first, and most important, accessory I purchased was an entry level Giro bike helmet. Cycling the streets of Miami, I wanted to make sure to be as safe as possible. Even though there are helmets that go for hundreds of dollars, I am not yet astute or committed enough to tell the difference, so why break the bank? (pricier helmets are not safer, just lighter and cooler)

Next I went out and purchased lights for those late night commutes. I went with a Topeak headlight and  Planet Bike taillight. Thus far, both of these lights have worked great. Not only do they make me visible in the dark (which I am a big fan of), but they are super easy to remove and transfer to another bike.

Once I felt safe riding day and night, I looked into increasing the practicality of my bike as a primary commuter vehicle. (Who needs a car?) With my eyes set on a rear rack, I went weeks looking for the perfect rack and bag. I was unimpressed by everything I saw, until I came across this YouTube video on the Topeak MTX Trunk Bag. It was love at first sight. Not only does this bag have tons of storage space, but its sleek design and slide-and-lock system makes removing it from my bike and throwing it over me shoulder a breeze. But all these perks didn't come cheap.

The rack and bag totalled more than a hundred bucks. If the price wasn't enough, a two month back order meant a long time until the whole in my bank account was filled with a drastic change to my riding habits. However after months of waiting, I can truly say this is the best purchase I have ever made. I highly recommend this to any commuter that is sick of riding with a backpack in the Miami heat (which is not only a sweat issue, but ass issue on those longer rides)

All in all, I would say the biggest lesson I learned in all of this is to calculate accessories as part of your initial purchase. If you are not prepared for all of these extra costs it can really break your bank. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Why my first bike was a single-speed

The most stressful decision I have faced entering the world of cycling was purchasing my first bike. There are so many different types of bikes for every imaginable purpose, deciding which was best for me took weeks. Did I want the rugid strength of a mountain bike, the versatility of a hybrid, or the refined speed of a road bike? After reading dozens of descriptions/reviews and honestly reflecting on the type of cyclist I wanted to be, I purchased a single-speed.

Single-speed v. fixie
Now before I begin my soapbox on the merits of single-speed road bikes for first time cyclists, it is important to explain how they differ from a fixed-gear (fixie). Although both single-speeds and fixies lack the gearing system of the common road and mountain bike, fixies are the simplest and oldest type of bicycle. As long as the bike is moving, so are a fixie's pedals, leaving riders unable to 'coast.' Here is part one and two of a great video made by two novice cyclists - like me : ) - converting a geared bike into a fixie. Not only do they visually explain 'coasting,' they also highlight how easy it is to convert an old road bike into a fixed gear drive train (if you so desire).

Why I went with a single-speed
In the end, I found fixies to be more restrictive than liberating. The idea of shooting down a Miami bridge with my pedals moving faster than my feet seemed like a simple recipe for a broken leg or accident. A single-speed bike, however, would allow me to 'coast' down bridges, keep a simple design, and give me an opportunity to learn the basics of bike maintenance anxiety free. Plus lets be honest, $200 was a much less risky investment than the $700 for the average entry level geared road bike. Once it was clear what I wanted, I went to my local bike shop and decided on the bike above (it was love at first sight).

Selling a single-speed
After about three months on my single-speed, I have loged in 100 to 200 commuter miles. In this time, I built up my legs to handle an average flat speet of about fifteen miles per hour. Also, through YouTube searches and tinkering I have learned how to clean and lube a chain, adjust handlebars and breaks, and the importance of storing a bike inside (away from the elements - rust is no joke).

As I near my fourth month, I have begun seriously considering making the jump to a geared touring bike. I am getting more and more excited about the idea of cycling across the country, and although a single-speed is phenomenal for short distance rides (less than fifty miles), the inability to switch gears translates to more energy on the side of the cyclist. This was great in the beginning to get me into cycling shape, but as I look to long distance cycling trips (200+ miles), a geared touring bike seems ideal.

But the best part is single-speed bikes are super easy to maintain, and therefore super easy to sell back at, or near, equal value! Even though I am beginning the transition to the world of geared cycling, I would never trade in the lessons I learned on my single-speed. I highly recommend single-speed bikes to anyone that desires to test the waters before making the jump into the world of cycling.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Buying your first bike

The first step to entering into the word of cycling is buying a bike. Whether you plan to be a weekend beach cruiser or a rain or shine commuter, a bike is essential. 

WARNING: do not get so caught up in researching a bike that you forget to buy one. Remember, you are a beginner. If you eventually decide to compete in le tour de France you will not do so on your first bicycle. You are looking entry level: something to test the waters, something you can tinker with without fearing the wrath of the cycling gods. 

For years, I waited for the perfect scenario to start cycling. Finally I decided it was time to just set a deadline, do my research, and buy a bike - and I have never been happier. And the best part is, if you buy your bike and are unhappy, you can return it : )

If you are still in the research process, here is a great article for determining the right bike for you. (It is really more about you than the bike)

If you learn better through people's stories, here is a great video on taking the necessary steps to purchasing your bike through the story of a San Franciscan cyclist.

Hope this is helpful : )

*If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment below.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Beginning

For as long as I can remember, I have always been intrigued by kayakers, runners, long distance swimmers, and cyclists. There was something about people crossing entire continents, or oceans, with nothing more than a resolve to do so that fascinated and challenged me. This summer, I finally did something about it: I went out and bought my first bike : )

I am only a few months into this adventure and I am loving it. Miami is a beautiful city, and on a bike I have seen vistas that I used to drive past without noticing in my gas guzzling Chevy S10. Not only that, but in a matter of months I am almost back to the shape I was in high school! With every trip I feel stronger and more empowered to take on a new adventure. Who knows, maybe one day I will take on a continent.

Thus far I am averaging about four miles a day - nothing crazy. But hopefully, if weather allows, I will soon begin commuting to work (about seven miles each way). Truth be told, I don't know how deep I will ride into this rabbit whole. Thus far I have loved the time spent on my bike and with my friends riding through the streets of Miami. So I thought, Why not share this experience with others? Hence this blog: a journal of my journey into the world of cycling.