Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Save Gas: Bike Commuting Basics

A necessary comfort on any bike commute.  A hot container of coffee in a Portland Design Works Bar-ista cup holder.

Have you had enough yet?  As of this post gas is about $3.65 a gallon in the Tri-State area and quickly headed to $5.  "These are the times that try men's souls."  You got that right, PAINE.  What's your motivation?  Spring is in the air and Bike to School Week is coming up in April with its parent Bike to Work Month in May.  Get a few essentials and be on the road blasting past those over-priced gas stations in style.


NYC Bike Path - Downtown Chelsea
Well, first you'll need a bicycle. You don't need anything fancy or with a lot of gears at first because just to start out, you'll only be doing local errands.  That's right.  You've got to roll before you can fly and short errands by bike is by far the best way to get your tires wet. Besides most Americans still make trips under 4 miles in their cars. 

Notice the people riding here on the NYC Bike Path.  They have pretty ordinary bikes, some with fenders which help with puddle splashes but they are wearing regular clothes folks.  
If you are wearing pants, you might want to cinch up the right leg so it stays out of your chain BUT if you've got a chain guard on that thing...pfffft.  You're not doing a century (100 mile ride) so don't worry about investing in a cycling kit like Lance.  However when you're ready, Terry Bicycles makes some very chic urban cycling clothes for women riders that work well both on and off the bike. In the meantime think "stretch fabric" for the clothes you choose to ride in.


The Pouch by Linus Bikes 
If you're a minimalist, you can get away with attaching a little bag like this to your handlebars or even your seat rails.  Leather straps secure it in place and brass snaps keep your stuff from bouncing out.

These were most often seen on those beautiful Brooks leather saddles which adorn classic fixed gear bikes.  You can certainly go that route but a bag like this can hold a medical kit, a patch or bike tools in case you break down.  Yes, that does happen.

Here is The Pouch attached to the saddle rails of my little Green Zone Folding Bike of the NYC Bike Path Film fame.

In NYC slinging a handbag over your handlebars can earn you a quick ticket (ok maybe not a Hermès).  Still, it's uncomfortable and distracting to try to ride with things like your iPod, keys and whatnot in your pockets.  A little seat bag frees you from all that and can be removed from the bike. Placed on the handlebars or seat rails, it's one accessory every commuter bike should have. 

C.F. Martin & Co. Laptop Messenger Bag
Many people already own some version of a messenger bag (primarily as a fashion statement) because they are quite versatile and well...cool.  You don't have to be a messenger to use one but it helps. These things are notorious for sliding off and shifting unexpectedly.

This messenger bag by C.F. Martin & Co. however, has a few tricks going for it such as retractable shoulder straps converting into a much more stable backpack.  This bag also has plenty of room for your laptop, papers and has a water bottle sleeve.  Lots of handy compartments to organize your desk on the go plus a comfortable shoulder strap.


The D2R & Highway 1 Blend Coffee Dry Bag both by Detours
If you have a bicycle with a rear rack, you're already way ahead of the game.  That's because you can strap a trunk, panniers or even a basket to that rascal to haul way more than a pouch or messenger bag.  
The handy bottle holder on the D2R

Remember, you're goal is only doing short, local errands.  I'm talking about 8 miles round trip or less.  The post office, the library, the bank, the local convenience store.  You won't need large bags for those trips but you will need something to hold a few energy bars, an extra shirt and how about this, a container of hot coffee!

Taking a Detour... on my bike commute.  Detours D2R Trunk Bag

Speaking from experience (25 years +), a trunk bag is going to become your best biking buddy.  Having too much weight on the front handlebars as with large metal baskets can make steering more difficult and also cause a lot of drag up front.  The solution is to stow more weight in the rear (not yours).

Detours D2R Trunk Bag is the best made trunk bag I've seen in a long time.  The no-fuss clips securely attach to just about any rear rack, (I have a Blackburn) and it comes with a comfortable shoulder strap for off the bike use. If your bike doesn't have a water bottle holder or cage, the D2R has one that will easily accommodate a 20oz Polar Bottle or a 16oz Klean Kanteen.  The D2R has reflective accents all around and a light loop for a rear blinkie, both important items for night rides.  This Detours Trunk Bag also has two side zip pockets and an expandable main compartment.  Along with my TechWind panniers, it is very aerodynamic.  The D2R also has a removable rain cover.  I keep it in the side pocket with the shoulder strap so it's ready to go. 

Be Safe 
You'll need lights both front and rear to ride at night and ALWAYS wear a lid such as Lazer Helmet's NEW Hi-Viz Helium in Flashing Fluro Yellow.  Also be sure to have your name, emergency numbers and medical directives  taped inside your helmet or order Road ID's cool The FIXX dog tags.  These also come in wrist bands and hold a lot of helpful information to speak for you if you can't.
Commuting and doing short trips by bicycle is one the best things you can do for your health, your community and the environment. Now with gas prices reaching an all time high, you can finally do something for your wallet too.

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