Bike Commuting 101

The Age of Bike Commuting is upon us. Across the nation, gridlocked cities are carving out cycling lanes, installing racks, and otherwise embracing pedal power. To help you make the switch, we've exposed the most common whines for what they are: stall tactics. Read on—and the truth will set you free.

Rivendell's A. Homer Hilsen     Photo: Photograph by Ryan Heffernan

Don't Be an Idiot

Blog Maestro Bike Snob NYC wants you to keep a few things in mind.
You're not saving the world: Ever hear a V8 gurgling and think, What a space-consuming, earth-fouling fascist? Well, if you think you're doing something special by riding a bike, you're just as toxic. Smug is worse than smog.
Ride Like a Grown-Up: In a big city, bikes are faster than cars and motos. While straddling such a formidable machine, act like it. Riding effortlessly through traffic makes a point; riding against it, a.k.a. "salmoning," makes you look like a moron. And forget the sidewalk. If you want to be taken seriously, ride in the street.
Know Your Bike: It's OK not to be a mechanic. But you need to know how to fix a flat and should be ready to do so at all times. Riding without equipment and knowledge is like not wearing underpants—not in the good, sexy way but in the disgusting, chafing way. Have a patch kit, tube, and pump, and know how to use them.
Don't "Reclaim the Streets": Think the car is your adversary? That's defeatist. Bikes were here first: Charles "Mile-a-Minute" Murphy was setting records when cars put out only slightly more horsepower than Angela Lansbury on a charity ride. The road is (still) yours.

Excuse #1: It's too dangerous
The Truth: That really depends on you. If you seek out less traveled routes, and ride wisely and defensively, odds are very good that your commute will be unremarkable—in the nice, pain-free way. Cycling-safety research is not yet at motor-vehicle levels, but studies have produced heartening results. The Transportation Research Board reports an average accident rate of one per every 16,750 miles for bike commuters, and one study by the UK Department of Transport found that roughly 19.9 million miles were pedaled per cycling fatality there. So ride intelligently among cars, wear a helmet—Lazer's Genesis RD ($175; lazerhelmets.com) features the best, and most comfortable, fit system we've used—and, at night, light yourself up for maximum visibility. In back, mount a flashing red taillight, like Princeton Tec's Swerve ($30; princetontec.com). Up front, you want a headlight with a flash mode. We prefer a powerful rechargeable unit, like Light & Motion's 200-lumen Stella 200 ($270; bikelights.com), but if that seems like overkill for your ride, check out Princeton Tec's 50-lumen EOS Bike ($45).

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