Posts tagged ‘local economy’

September 5, 2011

How to Bike Commute: Getting the Gear Together

OK, now it starts to sound complicated. You don’t just need a bike–you need all this other stuff.

Maybe not all at once, mind you, but over time once you get hooked (and you will) you will start picking up the items on this list.

If you’re starting from scratch you may be lucky enough to get a bike that’s already set up for commuting, if one is available from your local bike shop or you find a great deal on Craigslist (which you must promptly take to your local bike shop for a check-up, just as you would take a used car to a mechanic).

If you’re buying a bike to use for your commute, does it come with the following items? If the answer is no, price them and add them to the base price of the bike. You need to create a fair price comparison between a commuter-specific bike that comes with many of these items standard and a bike with after-market equipment you have to buy separately.

Fenders: Even if you think you’ll never ride in the rain, some neighbor overwatering his lawn can give you a bad case of back spackle, and you’ll love the fresh air riding the morning after a cleansing rain. You just don’t want the cleansing of your shoes and pant legs.


Headlight: Get one that shows you where you’re going, not just a signal to drivers about your whereabouts.

A true commuter bike may come with a built-in generator to power the headlight with your pedaling so you never have to worry about dead batteries. That gets a definite gold star.

Taillight: Not just a reflector—you want to be really, really visible at all times. While relatively few car/bike collisions involve the rider being hit from behind, you don’t want to be a ninja biker.

Other lights: I can’t say this often enough: Light yourself up like a Christmas tree for greater visibility. I have a clip-on light that attaches to the spokes, or you can get the awesome ones made by Monkey ‘Lectric. Side visibility is important when you’re going through intersections.

Rack: Look for one that allows you to mount a variety of panniers or bags.

Caution: Some rack/bag systems are proprietary (designed only to work with each other), which means you may not be able to use a different type of pannier down the road when you’ve learned more about your preferences. That’s not necessarily a problem with a manufacturer who has a wide range of bag types, but it’s something to consider.

Conversely, you may end up deciding the perfect bag for you is the one that requires its own special rack so you’ll end up listing the one you started out with on Craigslist. What can I say? Biking creates excuses for shopping.

In addition to thinking about how the bag or Boxx attaches to the rack, remember to think about how the rack will attach to your bike.

I’ve managed to put a rack on my road bike but the clearance for heel strike isn’t ideal. (Translation: Sometimes when I pedal my heel hits the bag I’m carrying. This is affected by rack placement, size/placement of bag, and shoe selection.)

Road bikes often don’t have the lugs on the rear triangle that some racks require so you may need to attach some hardware.

You can go with a rack that mounts on the seat post but it won’t rate as high for the amount of weight it can handle.

Next time you make a typical “just a few things” grocery store run, weigh the bag of groceries when you get home. Now weigh your average workday load: lunch, purse essentials (maybe not as many as you think you need), laptop, etc. You need a rack that will support this combined load.

Maybe not today (if you don’t commute at all yet you’re thinking, “What?! Go to the grocery store on my bike?!”) but you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to get around and how handy parking is when you’re not competing with cars for a spot.

Toolkit: Eventually you really should learn some basics of maintenance and you’ll end up getting a toolkit.

Personally, I love the way riding my bike has led to greater feelings of mechanical competence. I can fix things on my bike that I can’t fix on a car, which means I’m less helpless as a biker than as a driver.

Shopping aside: As I said in the post on buying a commuter bike you should go to your local bike shop, get to know them, and take them your business. In case you don’t have access to one that carries commuter gear, I’ve set up an Amazon associates store with bike accessories. It isn’t everything I’d like to show you but it’s a start. As for my commitment to buying locally, Amazon is headquartered in my home state so the taxes they pay help support things in my city.

Related Reading

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Posts in our 30 Days of Biking Blogging Inspiration & How-to Series for Sept. 2011 30 Days of Biking

  1. 30 Days of Bike Commuting: You Can Do It!
  2. Why We Ride/Resolve to Ride–A Blogspedition
  3. Preparing to Commute by Bike: Get the Worry out of the Way
  4. Buying a Bike for Commuting: Some Questions and a Blogspedition
  5. How to Bike Commute: Getting the Gear Together
  6. Bike Commuting 101: Carrying Stuff
  7. On a Roll with Wilma Flanagan
  8. 30 Days of Biking: Week One Report
  9. Ride with your Community: SpokeFest Rocks!
  10. There and Back Again: How to Pick your Bike Commute Route
  11. Intro to Bike Commuting: Route Selection Part 2
  12. More Bike Commuting Route Selection Tips: Part 3
  13. Thinking Like a Driver vs. Thinking Like a Bicyclist
  14. Biking as Downtime and other Musings on Overproductivity
  15. 30 Days of Biking: Week Two Report
  16. On a Roll with Katherine Widing
  17. I Shouldn’t Assume
  18. Falling Down on Your Bike. It Happens. To Grown-Ups.
  19. Pretty Handy, Gloves. The Blogspedition Assumes You’ll Get ‘Em.
  20. What to Wear for Your Bike Commute? Clothes.
  21. How to Get a Dropped Bike Chain Back On, Grease-Free
  22. 30 Days of Biking: Week Three!
  23. It’s All in the Attitude
  24. Things I Now Do on My Bike Without Having to Think About It
  25. Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Risk and Trust
  26. More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Friendliness and Openness
  27. Even More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Tolerance, Humor, and Persistence
  28. Bicycling Rites of Passage, Spokane Style
  29. Dear Reader, I Chicked Him
  30. 30 Days of Biking: Final Report!

Your Turn

  • What’s next on your list for commuter gear to add to your bike?
  • Is there a product you love that you tell everyone to get?
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July 22, 2011

Bike-Friendly Restaurants

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend in downtown Spokane. When she asked where we should go for lunch, I suggested two places–both specifically because they have a bike rack in front or within the same block.

Now, I have various coping mechanisms when I go to a business that doesn’t offer a bike rack. But when I have the choice to support a business with my dollars I’ll support one that recognizes a bike rack is a real drawing card for customers, whether they installed it themselves or were just smart enough to pick a good location or ask the building owner to put one in.

Bike racks at the Elk Restaurant, Browne's Addition, Spokane, WA

How many cars could you park in this spot? One. How many customers would you want if you owned that restaurant?

It’s a cost-effective drawing card, too. Did you know you can park anywhere from 8-16 bikes in the space of one car? If you owned a store or restaurant how many customers would you rather have–16 or one? That’s why the Elk in Browne’s Addition asked the city to remove a parking spot and install racks, then threw a big party to celebrate. As I pointed out in the post on Bikespedition #1 to Carnegie Square, biking customers can be our own mini-stimulus for the local economy–so easy to stop and shop lots of places!

Now don’t get me wrong. I do actually drive places! And I’m always happy to find a parking spot when I do. But if 8-16 of you happened to ride your bikes on the one day that I drive, think how much easier it is for me to score that spot. And if I’m one of the 8-16 biking and you’re the driver, you’re welcome. We’re all in it together, after all.

Since a spot for treats is an essential part of any good Bikespedition, I’d love to get your recommendations for restaurants, coffee shops, and delis that have a bike rack, whether they’re in Spokane or somewhere in the area that could make a nice destination for a ride. If you’re the restaurant owner feel free to tell us why you’re bike-friendly.

Your Turn

What are some of your favorite places to eat that have a bike rack available?

July 15, 2011

Thoughts on Shopping

A “buy local/buy good stuff/buy from real people” unmanifesto

This site represents the basis for a community of women who bike with style and who support each other. I’m filling the toolkit over time with a few things I hope will help.

1) It’s a blog that I hope brings you value and builds the community of women riding bikes in the Spokane region (and elsewhere).

Read, enjoy, comment, and share your stories. I love riding my bike and writing; the blog is a natural extension of my life.

2) It represents a specific set of values and philosophy because at the end of the day how you spend your dollars will always represent a decision about your priorities. My approach (which got more than a little help from my thrifty Depression-era parents):

  • It’s entirely possible to take care of many of your style and comfort needs with a trip to a local thrift shop and a little ingenuity. Living well does not require excessive consumerism.
  • Know where and how things are made before you spend your hard-earned money on them. This doesn’t reward impulse shopping–it rewards homework and mindful decision-making.
  • Be willing to pay more for something well-made that will last longer. Your cost per wearing is far lower than if you buy cheap crap that wears out quickly, and that extra cost most likely also represents a living wage for the person who made your purchase and better quality materials that will hold up to repeated wearings.
  • If you buy something you don’t think looks absolutely great on you, down the road you’ll pass over it every time you go to the closet. Save your money for the cute stuff and the classics. Since you’ll wear them more, you want good quality, and if you buy fewer things you can afford better ones; see bullet point above.

3) If you’re in the Spokane region you will see me put on an occasional shopping event or take wares to a neighborhood street fair to offer up products that the local bike shops don’t carry. (I’m not trying to compete with the shop owners–I consider them friends. I’m trying to grow their potential market!)

Some of the items I’ve found may be available in your local bike or recreational clothing store; I haven’t spotted them in Spokane.

I think you should buy local whenever possible, but if you can’t find it locally and I’ve linked to it here, I hope you’ll buy through me. Some of the links may someday represent an affiliate relationship through Amazon or with a specific manufacturer and your purchase helps support our mutual quest. Down the road you’ll see an e-commerce function on the site too; I have this great inventory and if you can’t wait for the next event I want to be able to fulfill your personal quest right away.

I only feature items I think are useful and/or beautiful that will help you bike in style and comfort. For more on my philosophy and the values I bring to product and partner selection, see Shopping for a Better World.

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