Yes, that is me in the above picture. Sadly, it's probably the most recent picture of myself I have on a bicycle. That probably goes to show you how much expertise I have on the matter of bikes and biking in general. Regardless, I have been mulling over the idea of riding a bike as an alternative mode of transportation for a little while now. There are a few reasons this appeals to me. First of all, with the fluctuating price of gas and the economy in the midst of a tail spin, biking would leave me with a little more spending money in my pockets. Secondly, although Cincinnati is not notorious for being the most "biker friendly" city-- with its many hills and its lack of appropriately designated bicycle lanes-- I still feel it is a shame to live at the heart of a city and not own a bike! I also would be remiss if I left out the whole "going green" and getting healthy motivation for biking.
Although, I must admit, one of the main reasons I want to get into biking is the sheer "coolness" factor that comes along with it. I have always thought that people riding their bikes to the grocery store looked pretty bad ass; especially when biking up next to me whilst I'm driving my (totally the opposite of bad ass) white Hyundai Elantra. I have always found the whole "bike scene" to be very appealing-- albeit slightly intimidating. Therefore, I have decided to go on a quest to discover what a "wanna be" biker needs to know in order to make the transition with ease.
I began my research by posing a question on Bikeforums.net which is an excellent source of information about all things bike-related. I received several responses to my question in which I asked what sort of information I need to know before purchasing a bike and/or beginning to bike as an alternative mode of transportation. One member gave me some good, practical advice:
"If you can get some pointers from your local bike shop without having to buy an expensive new bike, then great. Personally I'd suggest your first bike be a used bike from your local Craigslist. You may soon find out that you don't like some things about it, but you should be able to sell it for around the same amount you bought it for and try again. After you've ridden a used bike a little, you'll have a better idea of your preferences in a bike, and you'll be able to choose a better bike for your next one."
I was also curious to know what types of things I should look for when purchasing a used bike. I don't want to be swindled into purchasing a "lemon" used bike. Here is what one article said on the subject:
"Look over a used bike for bent wheels, worn out tires, and test ride to make sure everything is running as you'd like. Before test riding, check the air pressure and the brakes. Make sure the pedals, cranks, handlebar fittings and wheels are all properly secured. It is also a good idea to look over the entire chain to make sure there are no defective links. You can do this fairly quickly by pedaling backward while watching the profile of the chain. A damaged link will usually stick out compared to the others." - (via bikewebsite.com
Next, I was worried about sizing. It seems to be the number one reason as to why people struggle to purchase a bike. I know it's one of the main reasons I have had trouble finding a bike. A member on Bikeforums.net told me this little piece of information: "If you're 5'6" to 5' 10" a 19" frame should fit pretty well. Taller? Try 21". Shorter? Try 17". Seeing as I am barely 5'5", I think this means I am going to need between a 17" to a 19" frame. Here is a link to another excellent resource for more specifics on finding a bike that will fit you properly. I believe another excellent and practical piece of advice that I received was simply to test ride the bike. If it doesn't feel right or comfortable, it is probably not the right one for you.
Consequently, May is Bike Month. There are a lot of events going on around Cincinnati in order to advocate and help get people out there riding. Below is a short video that aired on the local news featuring some avid bikers in Cincinnati:
Although I haven't found a bike quite yet, I believe I discovered a lot about the "nuts and bolts" of purchasing as bike from the feedback on the discussion board. I plan on keeping you posted and letting you know how my progression is going. I know there is still a lot to learn. Do any of you have any advice?
Here are a few helpful resources if you are interested in getting connected with the bicycling community in Cincinnati as well as some other basic and important information in regards to bicycling in general:
Bicycling life - (Practical Cycling tips
Cincinnati Cycle Club
Queen City Bike