September 13, 2013
So as Fall approaches we often think, "That was a nice summer for riding my bike, now I will put it in the shed for 9 months and carry on." But don't do that. Fall offers us some spectacular riding, and one of my favorite things is using my bike to commute to work. Commuting to school is also a great option. But why do this when I have a perfectly good car (or bus access)? Well for me it is two fold:
1. Traffic. I hate it, especially at this time of year. On my bike I get to bypass much of it.
2. Exercise. I could go to the gym, or I could be done my exercise by the time I get home and have time to do other things. Yay!
Oh, and 3. (I know I said 2 but that is okay) It is fun to ride a bike.
This all being said, there are a few things that can make life so much nicer on Fall rides.
The weather is going to be cooler, especially in the morning and evening. So dressing warmly helps, but too warm and you sweat, which is why many people hate to ride. This can be fixed by making sure you dress in thin layers. I like to wear a thin wool top with maybe a base layer underneath and a wind breaker on top. I also have a very thin cap that I can wear under my helmet. Gloves with fingers take away the chill as well. As is usually the case, what you wear will ultimately depend on how cold or warm a person you are.
Next, get lights for your bike. This time of year it is darker in the morning and evening and often foggy or overcast. So a good light set will make a huge difference. One front light and one rear red light. If you ride only in the city, you can get away with less expensive lights as you really only need to be seen, the street lights are quite bright. So you need something that blinks and is bright enough. When you ride outside the city, spending a little extra on a proper bright light is a really good idea. I personally ride with a Serfas TSL light, which start at 150 lumens and go up. That is plenty bright for riding even in the darkest situation.
Now some may say that the Serfas lights are pricey, but amoung the world of bright lights, they are a great deal. And really at the cost of a couple of tanks of gas (for a small car) how can you go wrong!
Next up? Make sure your brakes are not worn. New pads are cheap, get some and make sure they work well.
Finally, I prefer to use a good set of puncture resistant tires. Again, it is cooler outside, and often wet. Stopping to change a flat tire is annoying. Spending a little more on a quality tire means, you won't have dirty greasy hands when you get to work / school. Recently I bought and installed a set of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires on my commuting bike. They were a bit of a pain to install, but have been nothing but great since and while not the cheapest option, they should last a few years of solid riding no problem.
The final advice I can give is to make sure your bike is clean. You don't have to spend hours a day doing this, or even hours a week. But a clean bike is a nice bike to ride. It means you don't get dirty and it means your bike work the right way.
The simplest way to keep it clean:
1. When you get home take a rag and quickly wipe the rims of your wheels. The take away all the dirt a grime that makes your brakes not only wear out faster, but also makes them less powerful when trying to stop. At the same time a quick look at your tires for any glass or rocks etc.. will mean less chance of a getting a flat later on.
2. Weekly apply a little oil to the chain (and use a good bike lube like Tri-Flo) then grab a rag and wipe the chain down. The oil helps to clean a lot of the old black grease off the chain and relubes at the same time. Sure you can get out solvents and brushes as well and do a more thorough chain clean, but at the very least, a good wiping with an old rag will do wonders to keep your pants legs clean.
That's it. Now if you have a spare moment on a weekend, get a bucket of soapy water and give that bike a real clean, cause as I said a clean bike is a happy bike.
Have a fun ride and think of all that gas money you will be saving.