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Yes, for some of us bike season is all year.  But for many, this is the time of year you bring out the bike, lube it up, and get back out into the fresh air.  And many who don't have a bike wistfully wonder if it's time to buy a bike.

In honor of Bike Mmonth, this diary is for people who are considering buying a bike.

Here are some hints especially for beginners:

Skip the big-box retailers and go to a bike shop.  This has many advantages: you're shopping with a local business, the staff is knowledgeable, there's a wide variety to choose from, and your bike is more likely to be assembled by somebody who knows what she's doing.

What bike is for you?  There are a lot of choices.  There are mountain bikes with shock absorbers and fat nubby tires.  There are road bikes with curly handlebars and skinny tires.  There are single-speed/fixed gear bikes. There are comfort bikes with easy step-in and cushy seats.  There are kids bikes, recumbent bikes, beach bikes, tri-bikes, cyclocross bikes and a score of other choices.  Don't be intimidated!  

Forget what the bike looks like, think about how you will use it.  If your biking mainly on paved surfaces, you probably don't need shock absorbers. Unless you're biking on trails (in which case, get a mountain bike), chances are you don't need shocks. Ditto fat tires. Unless you're biking on trails, you don't need mountain bike tires.

 You probably don't want to start with a road bike. For short beginner outings (under 50 miles) a hybrid or a comfort bike is a great value, and is likely to be easier to get started on.

Buy the low end. Most bikes have low-medium-and high-end models, with increasingly sophisticated and expensive components. As a beginner, you won't notice the difference.

BUY AND WEAR A HELMET. You only have one brain, protect it. Being hit by a car or otherwise having an accident is no fun, but wearing a helmet increases the probability that you won't have a traumatic brain injury. Other accessories are optional, helmets are standard equipment.

Buy a decent u-lock.

Invest in front (white) and rear (red) lights. Reflectors are all very well and good but they really don't increase your visibility all that much. Get lights, use them after dusk and before dawn and any time visibility might be compromised (such as cloudy, foggy, rainy, or snowy conditions).

Don't worry about bike shorts or other clothing. For rides under 25 miles you will just want comfortable clothes. I find denim uncomfortable, but find what works for you.

Have fun!

In past years, I've written other bike diaries on getting started as a biker.  Here's a few:

 * How to get started if you haven't ridden since you got your driver's license
* BWOW (Biking While OverWeight)
* Rail Trails
* Group Rides

Please let me know if the comments if it would be helpful to have more diaries about bikes.

Originally posted to Velocipede Vanguard on Wed May 21, 2014 at 06:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  More helpful hints; (25+ / 0-)

    If you decide to buy a mountain bike for the added comfort and ease of suspension to help smooth out those bumps (and maybe eventually ride off-road), buy a second set of 'slick' road-style tires to mount. Riding those knobby tires on pavement is MUCH tougher and uncomfortable, due to the increased rolling resistance. Trust me, you won't believe the difference it makes! I do this on my MTBs, and ride them to train;

    haroMTB

    And don't forget to get 'blowout kits' and some kind of pump, because you ARE going to have flats! There are also CO2- powered mini-inflators that take up much less space than a full sized pump to carry for emergencies. You'll need a seat-pack to carry the kit, along with your wallet, car keys, cell phone, camera etc. - and never forget to carry a form of ID and medical info if you don't want to bring your wallet. If you find your seat pack isn't big enough to carry everything, you can pack it in a good sized fanny pack - but what I do is take a tennis ball can, put my gear inside, then carry it in a water-bottle cage on the frame (you can see it on the photo).

    And DON'T FORGET to carry water, either in bottles or wearing a 'hydration pack' (such as Camelbak). You're going to need it.

    "Jika Anda membutuhkan produk untuk meningkatkan kualitas hubungan seksual Anda atau membutuhkan produk obat pembesar penis!" - Bintangpasutri

    by Fordmandalay on Wed May 21, 2014 at 07:01:43 AM PDT

    •  Agreed (7+ / 0-)

      I use my mountain bike mostly on streets and paths. I like being able to hop curbs etc.

      Hard, smooth tires are exactly what I like. I just change them when I want to "mountain bike". Ideally, I would simply have a 2nd set of wheels, but I'm too cheap.

    •  Carry water and... (8+ / 0-)

      if you're planning on riding any significant distance (over about 30 miles or so) or if you do your riding in warm to hot and/or humid weather, also carry some form of electrolyte replacement drink. When you exert yourself you sweat. I know, most people probably realize this. What some people might not be aware of is that when you sweat you lose more than water. That's why sweat tastes salty.

      The symptoms of hyponatremia (loss of electrolytes) are similar to those of dehydration. But simply drinking more water won't help and can even make things worse. Make sure you maintain your electrolyte balance. If none of the drinks work for you (they all give me indigestion eventually), carry salty snacks and bananas. There are also gel blocks that are manufactured to provide electrolytes.

      •  I love bananas and always carry one. (9+ / 0-)

        A number of years ago it was the trigger for one of the funniest things that ever happened to me on a bike.  I was stopped at a major red light.  A car pulled up behind me, and I heard a woman’s voice: ‘Is that a banana in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?’  I turned around to see a woman about my age (50s) wearing a big grin.  We chatted for a few minutes before the light changed; she said that she’d always wanted to use that line but hadn’t expected ever to have the chance.

        Snacks are a good idea anyway, as anyone who has ever bonked knows all too well.

    •  You can also get Kevlar tires or "Slime" tubes (8+ / 0-)

      These will help prevent flats. I have had Kevlar tires front & rear for 12 years, riding over 1,000 miles a year and have NEVER had a flat even while riding in construction zones where there are often roofing nails, etc. in the street.
      The "Slime" tubes have a concoction  in them that goes to the site of a puncture ans seals from the inside, hardening on contact with the air.

      Also - a good idea in addition to the flashers is a "Day-Glo" light jacket. Remember, Visibility is Longevity if riding on the street.

      Of course it hurts! You're being screwed by an Elephant!

      by CAPitBull on Wed May 21, 2014 at 10:23:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  can't rec "visible clothing" high enough! (9+ / 0-)

        all-black may be the fashion choice for any number of sub-cultures these days, but it'll getcha' killed real fast after dark on a bike!

        We still (after all these years) never fail to be amazed at HOW MANY PEOPLE dress like cat burglars on their bikes! No, guys, if the cars can't see ya', THAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU INVISIBLE, it makes you MORE likely to get hit! Including people who are obviously commuting to and from work, so you know they're out in the dark, at one end of the day or the other, for most of the year!!!

        And the combination of dark clothes, few-none-or-small lights and NO HELMET??? We do actually see these. Usually shake our heads and mutter about "evolution in action".

        "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

        by chimene on Wed May 21, 2014 at 01:36:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's the comment I was looking for! (7+ / 0-)

          Visibility is everything on a bike.

          I think it's a gut instinct that people don't like to be surprised and that's why drivers and some pedestrians get upset with some bike riders.

          A couple years ago I was driving down the highway and was completely surprised by an oncoming cyclist I didn't see until the last second who almost made a left turn in front of me, and it freaked me out.

          The next day I went out and bought a bright green jersey and jacket and I wear them all the time on my road bike. I'm certain that others appreciate it.

          Who cares what I look like; orange is for hunting and bright green is for road biking, and that's just how it is.

          The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

          by elkhunter on Wed May 21, 2014 at 03:59:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Don't forget Craigslist! (10+ / 0-)

    You can get some really great deals on real bike-shop quality bikes on Craigslist. Lots of well-meaning people go out and buy nice bikes and then promptly put them in the garage and forget about them, then sell them on Craigslist a few years later.

    And if I could reiterate a point made in the diary; you don't need ANY suspension unless you plan to actually ride on mountain bike trails. A cheap suspension fork just eats up energy that you could instead be using to propel yourself faster and farther.

    Also, get a nice saddle that fits your body properly and you will enjoy biking so much more. This will require some trial and error, so it's best done at a decent bike shop. Saddles that look like they would be the most comfortable can actually become agonizing on trips longer than a few miles.

    •  good point (5+ / 0-)

      I got my current bike on craigslist. The seller had gotten a bike that was too large for him, but it fits me fine.

    •  I've bought TWO very expensive bikes on CL.... (7+ / 0-)

      ....I bought a Kelly Cross (hand-built NorCal bike) with very expensive parts for $800, it cost about $4000 new, when it was stolen by unscrupulous roommates I bought another expensive bike, a Santa Cruz Stigmata Cross, for $750....

      In each case the bikes were sold by Bayarrhea Yuppies who wanted to buy EVEN MORE EXPENSIVE bikes, but their wives wouldn't let them buy another bike until they got the old one sold off! (insert screechy admonition from other room here: "Didja get rid of that old dusty thing yet?")

      One of them had been permanently parked on a wind trainer!  

      "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

      by leftykook on Wed May 21, 2014 at 08:50:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My Quick6 Cannondale is a CL find. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KenBee

        Cost $200 with a very good lock. Retails $479 plus tax or shipping.

        New in box. Had been bought as a gift, shipped, never properly reassembled.

        My 34-year old road bike is still the grocery bike, but the Q6 is a lovely ride. If it had disk brakes I'd say it's perfect for sport rides.

        One thing: every pound you save (spending more money on the bike), you'll gain the weight back with what you take on for a big xss U-lock to keep it from being stolen.

        "Stealing kids' lunch money makes them strong and independent." -- after Paul "False Prophet" Ryan

        by waterstreet2013 on Thu May 22, 2014 at 06:42:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Soft saddles aren't aways the most comfortable. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      waterstreet2013, sneakers563

      I use a fairly hard saddle, a Selle Italia Flight, on mountain and road bikes, which to most looks to be too hard, but works very well for me. I do use good quality padded bike shorts though.
      Second the post about dark clothes, which seems to be a fashion statement not only in USA, but also see riders when I'm in UK.

      Severely Socialist 47283

      by ichibon on Wed May 21, 2014 at 09:40:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  One of the small backpacks with reflectors (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ichibon

        and flashing LED lights attached makes quite the visual impact.

        For cold weather a standard baseball helmet is stronger than a bike helmet anyway. Tape the top holes, attach a flashing LED and you're good to go.

        "Stealing kids' lunch money makes them strong and independent." -- after Paul "False Prophet" Ryan

        by waterstreet2013 on Thu May 22, 2014 at 06:47:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I took an 18 year break from bikes (15+ / 0-)

    after a major accident. Now I'm commuting. I'm using a hybrid, and it's a good bet for the purpose. You can hit the grass when you need to, bumps and curbs are much less trouble than on a road bike.

     On the other hand, hills are slower, and it's much harder to keep a good speed. Or maybe the real problem I'm having is that my bike has a 64 year old motor, and the horsepower isn't as high as it used to be.

    Still, I highly recommend biking. I feel better, it's great to know I haven't started my car for 3 or 4 days in a row, and it's simply an incredibly efficient way to move one human body.

    As for bike helmets, when I had that accident, the helmet broke, just like they are supposed to. I suspect it saved me a serious contusion, possible concussion. Absolute requirement for riding, particularly on the streets.

  •  I bought a "comfort bike" to use rather than (7+ / 0-)

    my old road bike, and I'm much enthusiastic about riding now that my shoulders, hands and butt won't ache at the end.  I'm not in that much of a hurry to get anywhere, either.

    Schedule permitting, PROOF WILL BE PROVIDED ON HOW I AM BEING "CONSTANTLY CALLED OUT" AND "UNIVERSALLY RECOGNIZED" FOR BEING BAD. Moreover, the dossier on my activities during the Bush administration will have an appendix concluding that I am Wrong.

    by Inland on Wed May 21, 2014 at 08:08:25 AM PDT

    •  Frankly, if you're exercising, a little more (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Inland

      wind resistance is not a bad thing. My bike started out as a city bike with low handlebars that are stretched out way in front of me. Now it has a 4" rise handlebar and the shortest stem I could find. I like it much better this way, even if it's not exactly fashionable looking.

  •  One addion I forgot about: (9+ / 0-)

    Take LOTS of test rides.  Don't be afraid to shop around for a few weeks taking test rides of different bikes.   It will take a while to figure out what feels best.  Take your time and you'll be happy with your choice.

    We do not forgive. We do not forget. The whole world is watching.

    by Tracker on Wed May 21, 2014 at 08:11:29 AM PDT

  •  Think about how hilly your routes are. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tracker, oofer, mungley, kfunk937, BYw

    I have a herniated cervical disk and so got a recumbent to avoid discomfort (I have an old recumbent trike from ICE).

    On a recumbent you can't use your weight on the pedals to help you up and your hill climbing is all muscle.  Above a 10% grade and I find that at the beginning of the season I need to rest frequently.  But, on a trike all I need to do is lock the brake and sit back to rest.

    Another issue is that recumbent trikes are LOW to the ground, so staying visible to cars is important.

  •  this: (15+ / 0-)
    Skip the big-box retailers and go to a bike shop.
    is so important.

    especially because of the assembly factor.
    I've seen many bikes crumble because of poor/inaccurate assembly...
    all of them purchased from big-box stores.

    bicycles are NOT shipped assembled to retailers.
    they need on-site assembly.
    good bicycle mechanics are some of the most passionate and dedicated cyclists
    I know...these are the folks you want assembling your new bike.

    and you will only find them at your local bike shop.

    thanks for the diary!
    tip/rec :)

    every adult is responsible for every child

    by ridemybike on Wed May 21, 2014 at 08:19:40 AM PDT

    •  Oui certainment! Hi rmb.♥ (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mungley, ridemybike

      Science is hell bent on consensus. Dr. Michael Crichton said “Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing to do with consensus... which is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right,”

      by Regina in a Sears Kit House on Wed May 21, 2014 at 10:25:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  yep. i know someone who bought a cross bike (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ridemybike, Tracker

      from a well known sporting goods store (that starts with R).

      whoever assembled the bike installed incompatible drive train components which resulted in a locked up chain, a crash, a broken shoulder blade and a broken leg.

      The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

      by elkhunter on Wed May 21, 2014 at 04:07:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And big box bikes are harder to maintain (0+ / 0-)

      I grew up fixing & maintaining my own bikes. The last bike I bought was in the 1980s.  Still ride those vintage ones with pleasure.  

      But  I recently bought a big box bike for my teen daughter. It was actually assembled very well...I was impressed.  And the components looked nice.  But they weren't.

      After riding it for a while, it was time to adjust the brakes.   What a mess...that's when I realize how cheaply made the components were--they couldn't stay within tolerance.   When she started having problems with the shifting, I gave up.  Grrrrr....   Regretted that waste of money when I replaced it with a better bike.

  •  A couple more diary links (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BMScott, Tracker, mungley, kfunk937, BYw

    A recent diary I liked:
    Middle-aged fat lady on a bicycle
    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    An old diary I wrote:
    Longer-distance bike commuting notes
    http://www.dailykos.com/...

  •  Bike Kitchen/Community Shops/Bike Church... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sfbob, kfunk937, sawgrass727

    ...many cities have volunteer non-profit bike shops that gather used bikes and extra parts, and they have people who will help you fix your bike, and also will sell you inexpensive bikes.

    One of the cool things about cool bikes is that a 10-year old quality bike is still a cool bike, and all of its parts can be overhauled, unlike a junk heap from Mall-Wart/et al...

    A 1995 Stumpjumper for $200-250 is a MUCH nicer bike than a brand-new Huffy or Schwinn from a big-box, and it has quality parts, about the only thing it might need to have changed is the stem, which is probably too long and too low (such bikes were oriented toward climbling/sprinting performance in those daze)

    "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

    by leftykook on Wed May 21, 2014 at 09:00:33 AM PDT

  •  Avoid Low End (13+ / 0-)

    Do not buy the cheapest bike- one of the reasons to avoid big box store. You do not have to spend a mint, but get a quality mid-range bike. It can be low mid-range. Spend a little more than you think you can afford.

    My friend opened a bike shop last year that sells only bikes under $1000. The sell quality bikes, but they know to avoid the cheapest. They want you on a quality bike you will enjoy.

    I sold bikes for 5 years for a buddy who owns one of the biggest stand alone bike shops in the country. Again, we sold quality bikes that would not break the bank, but were of a quality you would enjoy.

    The biggest reason to buy from a bike shop? Almost all of them offer free adjustments for the life of your bike. If they do not, go to one that does.

    Unless you are pursuing mountain biking or road racing, I always suggest a sport hybrid. It is good for commuting, general riding and short road rides. You can do flat trails, gravel paths, greenways and rails-to-trails type rides.

    If you are going into mountain biking, talk to the people you are going to bike with. Same with road biking. You  will want to end up with a similar quality bike to those you ride with.

    If you are starting into triathlons, get a road bike and later add clip-on aerobars. It is more versatile and more suited to group rides. If you are getting into tris in a serious way, then get a tri bike.

    A word on commuting. If you are commuting in the city and will be locking your bike outside? Then get the cheapest possible bike you can find and make it ugly! Get a high quality lock and learn to use it correctly.

    But a helmet. Wear it.

    If you are biking more than 15 miles, get bike shorts with padding. If you are self-conscious, get baggy MTB shorts with padding. Jerseys are great!

    Most important piece of advice: Buy a bike that fits! One that does not fit makes biking not-fun. And guys, a bike that fits is not always the same size as your buddy's. Sometimes smaller is better! I used to have guys insist on a bike as big as their buddy's, even if they were 4 inches shorter. Stand over height is not the most important measurement. Length is. Listen to a professional at a bike shop.

    Signature Impaired.

    by gttim on Wed May 21, 2014 at 09:08:26 AM PDT

    •  Also cyclecross bikes... (5+ / 0-)
      Unless you are pursuing mountain biking or road racing, I always suggest a sport hybrid. It is good for commuting, general riding and short road rides. You can do flat trails, gravel paths, greenways and rails-to-trails type rides.
      Cyclecross bikes are good option too. I opted for a modestly priced cyclecross bike for my 30-mile round-trip commute. Its a little more rugged than a road bike and has the fittings to wear fenders and a rear rack for gear. My commute includes miles of crumbling asphalt and (depending on the route) a stretch of crushed gravel. I put roughly 2000 commuting miles on it this past year and I am very happy with it.

      I don't ride when there's snow and ice on the road. That scares me.

      But above all else get a bike that you will find comfortable for the riding you do. Or you won't use it.

      Peace, Love, and Canoes!!!

      by OldJackPine on Wed May 21, 2014 at 09:57:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That last is extraordinarily important. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tracker, kfunk937, elkhunter, gttim

      If it doesn’t fit, you’ll end up not riding it.  My Quantum Z was a pretty good fit, and in 13 years I happily put over 50,000 miles on it — and I was still surprised by the difference in comfort when I replaced it with a custom fitted bike nine years ago, an Axiom 7.  (That was expensive, but it’s the one real extravagance that I’ve ever allowed myself, and at my age I’m not likely to need another bike.)

  •  Another reason to go to specialty bike shops. (4+ / 0-)

    Get measured and fitted properly for a bike that fits you.  Very important.  It is also very important.  You won't want to ride a bike if it is not comfortable, period.  If you have to spend up to $100-$150 for a proper fitting, do it.  You won't notice it if you get it done up front, but are likely to notice if you don't.

  •  And learn the rules of the road! (6+ / 0-)

    in the past few weeks I've encountered cyclists who were riding all over the road, facing traffic (AKA the wrong side of the road).
    I'm all for cycling, but please learn the rules. A bike has to flow the rules of cars and motorcycles.

    And wear a helmet!

    Isn’t it ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray. ~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring ~

    by MA Liberal on Wed May 21, 2014 at 10:23:04 AM PDT

    •  Yes, I plan to write a Road Rules Diary (5+ / 0-)

      Probably next week, pointing out some of the basics new riders need to know.  Please let me know if you have suggestions!

      We do not forgive. We do not forget. The whole world is watching.

      by Tracker on Wed May 21, 2014 at 10:31:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good idea! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        notrouble

        Obviously, I'd say safety first. At least one of the two cyclists I encountered recently wasn't wearing one.

        Second, there are far too many people who don't know that a bike is considered a vehicle - even if you don't have to have a license to ride one.

        The most basic rule is that if walking, you FACE traffic. If cycling, you ride WITH the traffic.

        The two cyclists I "met" were both riding on the wrong side of the road. They also seemed to be under the impression that cyclists have the right of way (they don't).

        As I said previously, bikes have to follow the same rules as cars and motorcycles. That means stopping at stop signs, yielding to pedestrians in a crosswalk, etc. It also means you can't just weave in and out of traffic and cross in front of cars in lanes etc.

        I know most folks are responsible and care about riding within the rules. You can't help those who refuse to obey the laws (lots of cars don't). But you can help those who are simply ignorant of what rules they need to follow.

        Thanks!

        Isn’t it ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray. ~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring ~

        by MA Liberal on Thu May 22, 2014 at 08:15:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Don't Forget Trikes (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tracker, mungley, chimene, The grouch, ozsea1

    The best thing I ever did for my biking self was buy a tadpole trike! Honestly, I would never go back to a triangle frame two wheeler.
    Although the entry cost is higher, a well made trike is stable, geared how you would like, fun, and amazingly more easy on your body. You sit reclined in a seat like you are in a chair, which you are. Your arms are not stressed with your weight. Your head is upright and your view is both normal and comfortable.
    My particular experience is with a TerraTrike Zoomer Elite, though there are many and more current models. I biked for years on a very nice Fuji Triangle frame until the vagaries of my medical condition caused my doctor to insist no more riding a bike. Then I discovered a trike. He was totally down with the idea.
    There are so many recumbent bikes, both two wheel, three wheel, and I suppose four wheel. They are more efficient than triangle frames inherently. One has more leverage pushing one's back against a seat. The speed record for human powered vehicles is held by a two wheeled recumbent bike. In bike racing they are banned because of the speed advantage they offer.
    I love my trike, and I use it all summer. I normally bike 22 miles in a session three or four times a week. Admittedly, it takes a couple of weeks (or more, as I age) to 'get in shape' for the summer.
    Bike, or Trike, riding has never been more fun, and I have been in better shape because of it.
    I highly recommend that you investigate recumbents in general and for us older types recumbent trikes.
    I also recommend TerraTrikes as a company to deal with. some of their current models are made here in the USA. They are based in Michigan.  Their customer service is outstanding.
    I got mine mail order. They shipped it whole and complete. I did go to my local bike shop to get the chain adjusted, but since I am a fairly good mechanic, I do my own maintenance. It isn't much. Keep the chain lubed and clean, tires inflated, and bolts tight. Ride. Enjoy the scenery! USE A HELMET!!!

    Single payer IS the answer.

    by oofer on Wed May 21, 2014 at 10:28:35 AM PDT

  •  Lights, fore and aft, (10+ / 0-)

    ALWAYS!  I ride two miles to/from my work, 3-5 days a week. Half the distance is a low-traffic volume collector road (or a parallel trail if I choose), and the other half has one 4-way stop.  The route is urban flat, with no real visibility obstructions.  BUT, it is beyond astounding how many drivers do NOT know, much less those that know but do not respect, the rules of the road.  It's not just wrt me as a cyclist, but to other drivers as well.

    So, I figure to maximize my visibility so I have some defense when one of the ^$$#^+$ hits me and breaks my leg (or worse).  Always a bright yellow nylon shirt over whatever I wear.  Look ' em in the eye at the intersections (amazing how many folks are texting/phoning while they roll through a stop), bring yer heightened awareness, etc. Never leave off the brain bucket.

    Good tips in the diary.

    I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

    by tom 47 on Wed May 21, 2014 at 10:48:29 AM PDT

  •  Lots of good stuff here (10+ / 0-)

    This year I switched to a road bike after years of riding bikes of various types with front suspensions.  This has been a process of many years and quite a few miles, all of which has involved learning and finding what is best for me.  For what it is worth, I can say that from my experience:

    Geometry, component quality, maintenance, and weight are what matters in a bike when you get on it.  In that order.  
    The geometry, part of which is how it fits you, matters in my opinion more than anything, so when folks say that you should get a bike fit and buy from someone who knows and gives a crap, believe them.  

    Get good components.  No need for top of the line (you probably have no idea where the top of the line ends, you don't even need top of the middle) Shimano 105 is great for example, and the same as the next more expensive Line (Ultegra) except for a few grams of weight.  Good components make the difference between knowing that you can shift cleanly and brake solidly when you need to or not.  One is an annoyance (shifters, derailers, etc.)  The other can kill you. (Brakes!) Also, once you can deal with them, get something that holds your foot to the pedal. For most of us that means "clipless" pedals, which oddly, are the ones you clip into.  But you can do a lot just by attaching the old fashioned clip and toe strap to your flat pedals.  The point is that by attaching your feet you get to pull as well as push and it makes the whole thing much more efficient.  Shoes are also important, but mainly that the sole is stiff and toes enclosed.  The stiffer the better because it is better for the shoe to take the impact of the pedal rather than your foot.  

    Learn to take care of your bike.  Many bike shops give classes.  Yes, they will also provide tune ups, but since you want to do a pre ride check up, it kind of makes sense to have a choice other than don't ride.  Part of maintaining a bike is knowing how to clean it and keep it lubed. (Hint, more is not better when it comes to water our lube.).

    Obviously weight matters, but not nearly as much as you might think - especially if you are getting bike advice from the internet. ;-)  If you are getting a good bike with good components from a good store that is making sure it fits, its weight will be fine.  Buy a bike from Walmart and I'm pretty sure you will regret it the first hill you hit.  

    Lastly, be alert and wear a helmet.  Wear it properly.  Please.  A year and a half ago I was in a crash where another rider cut in front of me.  I had expected him to both be aware of me and to do what I would have considered normal as we approached each other.  In hindsight, he was at fault because of what he did, and I was at fault because I relied on my expectations of what he would do.  I awoke in the ER surrounded by people working on me.  Nothing was broken (somewhat amazingly) apart from my helmet, which was now in three pieces and my bike, which would have cost more to repair that to replace.  The scars are permanent, and the effects of the concussion lasted for months.  If I had not been wearing a helmet I would not be here.  Wear one.  Wear it properly.  Make sure you are not relying on the other guy to do what you need him to do. I didn't and it cost me and my insurance company a bunch and it could have cost me my life.  The good news is that I'm 51 and in the best shape of my life doing a 20 mile each way commute at least a couple of times a week.  The goal for this year is my first century ride, with the intermediate goal of doing the length of the W&OD, hopefully by July 4.

    Good stuff and great diary!  

    Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum -- when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes. - PJ Crowley

    by nsfbr on Wed May 21, 2014 at 11:12:06 AM PDT

  •  As a person who has worked in a bike shop, (13+ / 0-)

    I cannot reiterate strongly enough: DO NOT buy the "economical" big-box store bicycle.  It's junk, plain and simple, and you'll be sorry in the long run.

    Be sure your bike shop services what it sells, and get to know your shop owner.  Loyalty works both ways.

    Finally, be sure your bike and/or helmet has a mirror.  And please, please, please, do not ride with headphones.  You need to hear what's going on around you to be safe.

    •  Yes to helmets, no to headphones or earbuds (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kovie, kfunk937, OldJackPine, Tracker, BYw, Kevvboy

      I can't recommend that enough.

      Also, cycling is like golf: There are about 40 skabillion accessories that the industry will happily sell to you, some of which you will be shocked to learn, are of absolutely no use.

      That being said, invest in some riding gloves. They'll cushion your hands and make the ride far more enjoyable. If you sweat like a pig (or worse, like a gratuitous), get one of those sweat caps to wear under your helmet. Many years ago I bought one off a sale table, dubious of its efficacy. Now, I don't ride without one when the temperature's above 60°F. They keep the sweat out of your eyes, and you only need to be painfully blinded once by your own perspiration to realize what a good investment of $20 a sweat cap is.

      •  Good idea (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tracker

        They'll keep sweat out of your eyes and glasses and keep your helmets pads in good shape. I'm guessing that they also keep you cool once they get nice and wet with sweat.

        "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

        by kovie on Wed May 21, 2014 at 03:04:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  You can wear earbuds on bike paths, BUT (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elkhunter, Says Who

        Only wear in ONE ear, and keep the volume low. It's important to be aware of what's going on around you. And you shouldn't wear even that one if you're riding on the street.

        "Jika Anda membutuhkan produk untuk meningkatkan kualitas hubungan seksual Anda atau membutuhkan produk obat pembesar penis!" - Bintangpasutri

        by Fordmandalay on Wed May 21, 2014 at 03:11:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  i wear headphones much of the time (0+ / 0-)

          but only on the rec path. i did a lot of homework before buying them and specifically bought a pair that were recommended for sports as they do not drown out traffic noise. i love listening to music while riding, but you must have a mirror and pay extra attention to everything that's going on around you.

          The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

          by elkhunter on Wed May 21, 2014 at 04:30:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  The big box stores (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elkhunter, Tracker

      have bicycle resembling objects.  

      The objects are made of cheap parts, and are assembled poorly or even incorrectly.  More often than not, they discourage cycling because who wants to ride something that doesn't work.

      Stay away from them, even when buying a child's first bicycle.

      ...someday - the armies of bitterness will all be going the same way. And they'll all walk together, and there'll be a dead terror from it. --Steinbeck

      by Seldom Seen on Wed May 21, 2014 at 03:20:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary. Thank you. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tracker, sydneyluv, BYw

    California requires lights after dark these days.

    Everyone should wear a helmet. People under 18 must wear one in CA.

    Be advised that these laws can go unenforced for years, and one can still be cited for them. Even by the cop who watched you go by 100 times already this year. - Same with other traffic laws.

    I still ride my mountain bike with knobby tires on the street. I rarely leave the street these days.

    Since I'm not in a hurry, the way I see it, harder is better.

    "And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over." - John Masefield

    by mungley on Wed May 21, 2014 at 12:39:26 PM PDT

    •  I don't get people who ride in the dark (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mungley, The grouch, Tracker

      without lights. They're usually not wearing helmets, either, have dark clothes, and often ride on the wrong side of the road. Something I see such types also wearing earphones and even talking on the phone.

      I call them Suicide By Bike. Which isn't funny, just sad and crazy.

      "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

      by kovie on Wed May 21, 2014 at 02:59:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  ...Great diary. Yes, go to you local bike shop... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kovie, elkhunter, Tracker, BeninSC, BYw

    ...Here's my road bike. Trek Madone 5.2...

    trek_mdn5.2

    Ignorance is bliss only for the ignorant. The rest of us must suffer the consequences. -7.38; -3.44

    by paradise50 on Wed May 21, 2014 at 01:36:21 PM PDT

  •  good points all; thx for this & I'm looking (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tracker, sawgrass727, icemilkcoffee

    forward to more!

    Fat-Old-Lady biker here ... need to get going again, I don't lose weight but I do manage my incipient genetic high blood pressure -- when I ride regularly!

    I have motivation problems, though -- have always, ALWAYS hated (HATED) almost any type of exercise-for-its-own-sake! and it's darned hard to talk yourself into going grocery shopping 7 days a week!

    "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

    by chimene on Wed May 21, 2014 at 01:50:46 PM PDT

    •  My suggestion is to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      notrouble

      forget being a F-O-L biker and become again the kid you used to be..  Remember how that kid used to scamper outside to run around and play?  Somehow we lose that desire as we get older.  If you find a ride you like, you can do it 5 days a week NOT FOR EXERCISE but because you will come to love it.  Just start doing it, then do it again - the motivation will come, I promise.

      Still enjoying my stimulus package.

      by Kevvboy on Thu May 22, 2014 at 10:06:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes! (0+ / 0-)

        Every year my miles have climbed. I'm already at 2800 miles this year! A few years ago I didn't go 2800 miles all year. Had a real nice 67 mile loop around Seattle on Wednesday and a pint of Wheat IPA from Fremont Brewing about mid-way through the ride.

        I ride a single speed road bike with bullhorn bars, geared 46:18.

        To be first in the soil, which erupts in the coil, of trees veins and grasses all brought to a boil. -- The Maxx

        by notrouble on Thu May 22, 2014 at 10:57:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Some of us are bike commuters (7+ / 0-)

    I sold my car last November. I'm slowly trying to burn away my winter fat.
      At this rate it'll be gone sometime next winter.

    "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

    by gjohnsit on Wed May 21, 2014 at 02:22:49 PM PDT

  •  Some additional tips (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tracker, sawgrass727, BYw, ozsea1, NearlyNormal

    If you're just getting into biking or a weekend recreational cyclist unlikely to ride more than a few hundred miles a year (and there's nothing wrong with that), ignore Bicycling Magazine's recommended bikes for the most part, at least the higher-end ones. They're geared (heh) towards racers, more serious cyclists who ride thousands of miles a year, and rich yuppie types with large disposable incomes who like to show off, and run from $2000-$10,000 and more. These are extremely lightweight bikes (13-15 lbs) fitted with top-end components, and would be wasted on you, and subject you to ridicule from more serious cyclists. They are, though, beautiful bikes.

    For such riders, a $500-$2000 bike would more than meet your needs and make for some very nice riding.

    Don't skimp on lights, a helmet, a frame or portable pump, some spare tubes, a patch kit, and tire irons (I like the 1-piece telescoping plastic one from Crank Brothers for around $5). A floor pump would be nice, but isn't essential until your tires are high pressure (over 70psi), in which case you'll need one.

    A basic bike computer is nice, but not essential, especially if you have a smart phone on which you can install a GPS-based workout tracker and don't need to know your current speed. Newer phones can work with wireless Bluetooth sensors for greater accuracy and to get current speed.

    Please, no bells. They're for kids' bikes, are annoying, and don't tell people which side you're coming from (which should always be to their left, btw). Just yell out "on your left" if you're about to pass someone (and if you are, it means that you're a pretty good rider).

    Keep your bike in decent shape, whether you do it yourself, have a friend do it, or take it to the shop once or twice a year. E.g. wipe off your chain every few rides and after every ride in the rain or dirty conditions, lube it every 200-300 miles, check your brakes for alignment and pad wear and replace the pads if they're worn down, check the tires for tears and punctures and replace if you find any major ones, etc. If anything more serious is wrong, take it to a shop.

    Just ride. As Lance said, it's not about the bike.

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Wed May 21, 2014 at 02:52:43 PM PDT

    •  Disagree on the subject of bells. (0+ / 0-)

      A nice Zen like bell is v. helpful on a bike path crowded with walkers.  I save "on your left" for the situations when it appears the person could veer into your path.

      Still enjoying my stimulus package.

      by Kevvboy on Thu May 22, 2014 at 10:08:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  On a bike path crowded with walkers (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KenBee

        one either goes very slowly and carefully, or gets on a parallel road. I find that pedestrians are kind of stupid when it comes to sharing a trail and any sorts of sounds tend to startle them and as often cause them to jump into as out of your path. Plus, kids, kids on bikes, dogs, etc. Bells just add to the chaos.

        In reality, "shared use" tends to mean that pedestrians hog the whole width, and no matter how many cyclists come through screaming to move to the right, 5 seconds after the last cyclist passes through, they'll be back to hogging the path. Because something about paths makes pedestrians stupid.

        "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

        by kovie on Thu May 22, 2014 at 01:02:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Somewhat OT question (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The grouch

    I'm noticing that most advertised and reviewed bikes come with components from either Shimano or SRAM. Has Campy (Campagnolo) become a niche maker at this point or possibly even close to going out of business? My bike is mostly Campy and I love it, but it's 10 years old and I built it up myself.

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Wed May 21, 2014 at 03:06:40 PM PDT

  •  Couple more things about bike shops: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tracker, Major Kong

    Most dept. store bikes come in one-size-fits-all, and you may or may not qualify as "all".  Bikes sold in shops usually come in several sizes, so if you're small or tall you have a much better chance of getting a good fit.

    Even good bikes often come with crappy seats.  If you're riding more than half an hour, you'll appreciate a good seat.  Shops will often let you test-ride a seat for a while to see how you like it.

    Flat-proof tires are expensive, and while not perfect they work really, really well.  I've been running Schwalbe Marathons very happily, and hear good things about Specialized Armadillos.  I'm sure there are others.

    Now in the words of the late Freddy Mercury:  Get on your bikes and ride!

    I don't know what's been trickling down, but it hasn't been pleasant---N. Pelosi

    by Russycle on Wed May 21, 2014 at 04:35:00 PM PDT

  •  Don't forget city bikes... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tracker

    We love our city bikes, though we don't live in the city and they have spent most of their time on "trails" of dirt and gravel.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Wed May 21, 2014 at 05:06:20 PM PDT

  •  U-Lock? (0+ / 0-)

    What is that?
    I live in Wyoming.

  •  If the government bought 20 million bikes (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ozsea1, OldJackPine, Kevvboy

    That cost $300 apiece (very good bikes available at that price), from American manufacturers, and gave one to every adult American who applied for one; the cost of $6 billion would be a great stimulous of American manufacturing and employment; provide a means of mobility to those who need it for work and school; lessen automobile use and the gasoline needed to operate those autos; improve the health of millions of Americans; and still cost about the same as 1 year of federal subsidies paid out to the oil industry.

    "Jika Anda membutuhkan produk untuk meningkatkan kualitas hubungan seksual Anda atau membutuhkan produk obat pembesar penis!" - Bintangpasutri

    by Fordmandalay on Wed May 21, 2014 at 06:39:11 PM PDT

    •  Plus more local employment (0+ / 0-)

      Lots of bike shops to provide bike maintenance needs.

      And the cost of maintaining a bike us SO much less than a car.  For what I pay annually to maintain my 10+ year old, 200k miles van, I can buy a VERY nice new bike every year.  But it'd be hard to carry 4 kids in the carpool on my bike, heh.

  •  And lights are not just for night time (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tracker, oofer

    It's a good idea to use bright LED lights in the daytime, front and rear, and set them to blink mode.  Every little bit that helps visibility is a good thing.  (Just remember to turn them off!)

    •  Yep (0+ / 0-)

      OF course I ride a very low tadpole trike so visibility=survivability. I have a flag flying above my head, a blinking, bright LED headlight, and two very powerful blinking taillights, one on the rear of my helmet, one on my pannier rack. People see me a long way off.

      I have noticed, though, that recumbent trikes just look odd to people so they tend to give wide birth, both motorized vehicles and other bikers. This is not something I can bank on from a safety standpoint, however. Bright, even garish clothing, powerful, bright blinking lights, and a good dose of common sense is necessary to be survivable.

      WEAR A HELMET!!

      Single payer IS the answer.

      by oofer on Thu May 22, 2014 at 03:47:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fantastic diary. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sydneyluv, Tracker, NearlyNormal, oofer

    Would rec it x 1,000 if I could!
    More!  Absolutely!

  •  Great diary and series! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ozsea1, Tracker, icemilkcoffee

    I'm another old (71) overweight woman who got back into riding after 50 years. This series is very interesting and the comments helpful.

    I started riding to participate with my family in a fund raising bike ride for diabetes in support of my newly diagnosed 12 yo granddaughter. I rode 25 miles my first year.  It has become a family annual event, which motivates me to keep up my riding.

    My bike has shocks. After some of the comments, I'm wondering how they slow me down and unnecessarily use up my energy.  I'll have to check that out. I have a hybrid and do not mountain bike.

    Thanks for the diary!

    The 'shift' is hitting the fan.

    by sydneyluv on Wed May 21, 2014 at 08:36:24 PM PDT

    •  YAY Sydney! (0+ / 0-)

      Check to see if your shocks can be set to a fixed position (e.g., not to compress).  That will help you test out whether it's slowing you down.  

      As long as your bike is comfortable and works for you, keep it!

      We do not forgive. We do not forget. The whole world is watching.

      by Tracker on Thu May 22, 2014 at 05:33:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  U-locks can be broken open in 2 min w pocket knife (0+ / 0-)

    and a rock. So I tend to avoid them.

    "If Wall Street paid a tax on every “game” they run, we would get enough revenue to run the government on." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Thu May 22, 2014 at 12:37:12 AM PDT

  •  Road safety. Learn the rules and obey them. n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tracker, notrouble
  •  Thanks for enthusiasm and the spirit of biking.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tracker

    I humbly disagree that bike shorts are unnecessary for rides under 25 miles.  It was my random discovery through Mr Google of "baggy bike shorts" that first allowed me to go that far without pain and saddle sores etc.

    Also, I agree with comment about U-lock.  I never lock my good bike anywhere.  I have a crap bike that i ride when i need to lock it up.

    Come on out and ride!

    (Lucky because in s Fla. we have a 12-mo. riding season!)

    Happy trails

    Still enjoying my stimulus package.

    by Kevvboy on Thu May 22, 2014 at 10:01:52 AM PDT

  •  I have 25,000 miles between my legs, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tracker

    mostly in Chicago and Michigan.

    I have spent zero on everything bike-related, I get them free or for a favor, repair them, chop-shop them to keep something running, and I am nothing about the fashion, the accessories, the nutrition, way too boring, sorry.

    I jump on, pedal 20 miles and love it. It never takes energy away, it seems to produce it. I am never tired of it, or by it, though I know I sleep easier having exerted myself.

    It is a wondrous invention… fitness / exercise / health / transportation / girl-watching / therapy / inspiration / sociability / ecology / fun.  Probably more.

    I'm in a forest preserve right now (Bunker Hill) reading dKos and posting back that I love this diary. My bike leans at my picnic table, ready to go when I am. Yes!

    No one can stress enough to be safe, be aware, and do not take chances. And its all down hill from there……………...

  •  Consider a Vintage Steel Bike...! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    2liberal

    Although I own many bikes(a cyclocross for racing, a time trial bike for tt's, a Ritchey Breakaway titanium for traveling, a triple gear set on my old carbon bike  for riding in the mountains), my favorite bike is my 1974 lugged steel Panasonic from college days.

    It  still rides like a dream:   I put on a rack and use it to get to work and for all my errands. It's a much nicer ride than anything new from a big box store.  

    As if I don't have enough bikes already,  I just took a local bike build/repair class and built a vintage Bianchi frame up from scratch to take to the L'Eroica bike event in Tuscany this October.  

    New carbon and aluminum bikes are nice, but nothing rides like vintage steel.   Check out some of these beauties:      http://www.bella-bici.com  (full disclosure:  I write the "Destination" blog for the website)...

    And nothing beats riding just for fun!

    PS  For puncture-proof tires, I like Continental Gatorskins.  

    If Liberals Hated America, We'd Vote Republican

    by QuarterHorseDem on Thu May 22, 2014 at 12:54:51 PM PDT

    •  gators forever! (0+ / 0-)

      Riding in the thorny southwest I also use the Gatorskins and add in the thorn-resistant tubes. They work very well. The light duty tubes were always a problem no matter what the tires but this combination works very well.

      •  I've got many thousands of miles on my Gatorskins (0+ / 0-)

        My current set of Gatorskins have traveled to Italy and Spain(although the roads are so much cleaner there:  there is almost no road debris which we have in abundance in N. CA), and have rolled through both the flats and mountains of CA and Oregon with only one puncture in many thousands of miles.

        Some people don't like the feel, but I've raced in several triathlons on them in a very heavily goathead infested area(where I really DID not want a  puncture) and they performed well.  

         

        If Liberals Hated America, We'd Vote Republican

        by QuarterHorseDem on Thu May 22, 2014 at 09:22:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  qwatz (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, Tracker

    I am a full year biker. Living in the PHX-burbs I like to do short rides of 6-10 miles on the paved bike paths next to some of the canal system (read:  NO HILLS!). There are wide sidewalks and a lot of bike lanes locally also.

    I got rid of my car and spent about a year getting around on bike and public transportation. I have to say it flat out sucked so I would not recommend trying this to anyone.

    At over 300 LBS the diarist would probably recommend a comfort bike for me. However I find that I prefer a heavily modified road bike due to the efficiency difference. I have a Trek 1000 (discontinued) with 700x23mm tires, thorn-resistant tubes, a raised handlebar with a straight bar replacing the rams-horn curves. So i can ride sitting upright, but still get that high-pressure tire low-bike-weight efficiency.

    I used to break so many spokes due to my excessive weight that I finally broke down and had a bike shop make me a rear wheel.  Double wall,  36 holes, DT Spokes.  It cost somewhere in the mid- 100s and has been well worth it.

    I also have a Trek FX 7.3 w/ 25mm tires as a backup.  There is a very noticeable difference in the amount of effort needed.

    I don't wear a helmet. People who wear helmets statistically get hit more often.  This might make me into an anti-vaxxer type crank so please use your best judgement and be safe!

    For Night riding I have front and back lights. I always make sure to wear light color clothing when night riding. I stay on the bike paths, bike lanes, and sometimes sidewalks.  Most of the roads are pretty well lit and if they are not I stay on the sidewalks.

    Thanks to the diarist for this excellent diary and good luck to anyone starting biking!

    •  helmet controversy (0+ / 0-)

      "I don't wear a helmet. People who wear helmets statistically get hit more often."  

      The data on this issue remains pretty thin, as far as I can tell.  
      I've read some anti-helmet pieces closely recently, and they don't seem that impressive.

      "This might make me into an anti-vaxxer type crank so please use your best judgement and be safe!"

      It's a problem, all right.  You seem more aware of it than most.
      I'm a pro-helmet guy, but I concede that us pro-helmet types often exaggerate the case in favor a bit.

      What I tend to tell people is that if the hassle of dealing with a helmet discourages you from riding, you should forget it-- what's really dangerous is not getting any exercise.  

      Ride with a helmet, ride without a helmet, just ride.

      (And why doesn't anyone do safety studies of other equipment, like, say, handle bar tassles?)

      •  helmets & suchlike (0+ / 0-)

        "Ride with a helmet, ride without a helmet, just ride."

        Exactly. Thank you for posting that.

        I don't wear a helmet. (I do, however, wear earphones. Boo hiss.) As British Cycling policy advisor Chris Boardman put it recently, helmets are "not even in the top 10 of things you need to do to keep cycling safe or more widely, save the most lives." I'm not posting this to discourage anybody from wearing one: you've got to do what feels right for you. I just get a little tired of the massive overemphasis on headgear. If we wanted to save more lives, we'd get motorists to wear helmets. Seriously.

        As long as I'm being an outlier, let me also say that if you're complaining about that cyclist you saw wearing black one night, as I've read in a post or two upthread, take note of what you've just written. You saw him. Ipso facto, he wasn't invisible after all. I bring this up because I'm not a fan of hi-viz insofar as it relieves motorists from the responsibility to be even minimally observant. (Lights, on the other hand, I can get behind.) To anybody referencing evolution in action, I hereby present this certificate suitable for framing.

        Traffic negotiating skills, confidence, and decent reflexes are all you need.

        Happy riding everyone. Tassles for all.

        •  on the science, such as it is (0+ / 0-)

          We're in rough agreement, despite slight differences in recommendations, and probably our biggest area of agreement is that people talk about helmets way too much (rather than, say reflectors, lights, and most importantly riding styles)...

          But I've just been looking around at the anti-helmet arguments and evidence again and it's really and truly pretty weak. Probably their best point is that increases in helmet-usage don't seem to translate into reduced cyclist fatalisties, but really no one knows what's going on with that.  That University of Bath study is incredibly weak-- just one guy, no double-blind, no way to know if he's communicating with car traffic via body-english of some sort (and he calls himself a psychologist...) [1].  The risk compensation theory sounds plausible too, but early attempts at looking for it (study in Spain, for example) doesn't seem to have turned anything up.

          And yeah, I can believe helmets would help car drivers, but my take on that is "don't drive a car": problem solved.

          [1] I think the right way to do these studies would be to stake out a bike route with hidden cameras and start recording car/vehicle interactions.  This only tells you about bike routes, places where drivers may expect to see bikes, but that's becoming a common case.

          •  helmets (0+ / 0-)

            Where I'm coming from is, I think that those of us who don't wear a helmet just want to be left alone. That includes not being continually prodded to wear something in whose efficacy we're not convinced. It's not as if many of us haven't thought about it; in fact I used to wear one. Here's my story.

            Nice chatting with you. I'm considering writing a diary on the subject, and would welcome your contributions if I do.

            •  yeah, fanatics can be annoying (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              2liberal

              Yeah, fanatics can be annoying-- I left my helmet behind by accident once, and had two people hassle me about riding helmetless on that one day.

              It's like when I'm approached by Christian missionary-types on the street-- "dude, I've heard of Christianity, that's not the problem".

      •  qwatz (0+ / 0-)
        -- what's really dangerous is not getting any exercise.  Ride with a helmet, ride without a helmet, just ride.
        this is my approach. I am pretty safe anyway since i am mostly on a sidewalk (a wide one) or a bike path not next to cars.  the exercise helps a lot with my energy and makes me feel generally more alert.
        •  sidewalk riding (0+ / 0-)

          You know your situation better than me, but-- "I am pretty safe anyway since i am mostly on a sidewalk"-- sidewalk riding in general has a really bad reputation.  It may feel safer (for the cyclist... how the pedestrians feel is another matter), but your at risk every time you cross an intersection: from a car driver's point of view you're suddenly shooting out of no where.   If you ride out in the street, they're more likely to know you're there and not nail you with a right hook.

  •  Top 8 urban-suburban cycling tips: (0+ / 0-)

    (1) Theory: http://commuteorlando.com/...

    (2) More theory: http://cyclingsavvy.org/...

    (3) Practice (GREAT video): http://www.youtube.com/...

    (4) Google Maps offers a “bicycling” option that will display bike trails, multi-use paths, and bike-friendly roads, and will map bike routes and estimate bike travel times: https://www.google.com/...

    (5) I have had GREAT experience with Specialized Armadillo tires: http://www.specialized.com/... When I switched to Armadillos, it almost eliminated the chronic flats I was suffering on my commuting route. I have heard good things about Continental Gatorskins, too.

    (6) Get a Mirrycle mirror. All the other brands I’ve tried (several) vibrate so much you can’t see anything in them. The Mirrycle stays steady and clear: http://www.mirrycle.com/...

    (7) If you frequently overtake dogs and small children, then while you’re on the Mirrycle website, order an Incredibell. They’re loud. Bells get the attention of dogs and small children much more effectively than saying “on your left!”: http://www.mirrycle.com/...

    (8) If you’re in the Atlanta area, join the Bike Commuters of Atlanta Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/... If you live somewhere else, look for a similar group in your area.

    I have no connection with, and receive nothing from, any company mentioned in this post.

    Happy riding!

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Fri May 23, 2014 at 12:21:17 PM PDT

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