Since moving to Utah last month, I’ve dramatically reduced my car trips. I have finally become the vehicular cyclist I always wanted to be. It has been great…totally awesome. Even the climb back home, under load, has turned into a blessing. It has allowed me to embrace my inner climber…the one I didn’t know was there.
Being a vehicular cyclist is way different than being a recreational cyclist. Instead of taking one longish (20-30 miles) ride per day, I now find that it’s common to take two or more shorter rides. One of these is still typically recreational. The others are much shorter and more practical. It’s these shorter rides I want to talk about today. There are some practical things to consider if you go the VC route. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Like a lot of us, I think, I like riding nice bikes. Unfortunately, in a town like Ogden bike thieves are a pretty savvy lot. I’ve left my Surly Instigator locked up in front of Walmart and Winco and I haven’t had a problem…at least not yet. I’m going to take the decals off (Surly lets you do this) so that it looks like a lower end bike. I double lock it, with a U-lock and a braided chain. The U-Lock attaches the frame to the rack. The braided chain locks the the wheels to the frame.
I usually carry a backpack, so I’m going to get a quick release for the seat and take it with me when I go in. I wonder if they make quick release pedals. I’d love to see the look on a thief’s face when he goes to ride away and discovers that there are no pedals, or one. One would be better than none.
I’m also shopping for a used single speed (aka an Amsterdam bike) as another theft deterrent. Jan thinks I’m nuts with the hills, but that’s part of what makes it so attractive. Nobody would want it!
I wear a helmet with a rear view mirror whenever I ride on the roads. I also have a USB taillight with a strobe. I’ve started clipping it to my helmet instead of my bike because I forgot to unclip it once and it was gone when I came out of the store. This stuff goes in the backpack and comes with me into the store.
I prefer platform pedals without cages to clipless on my VC bike. I can wear sneakers and it’s just easier to hop on and off in traffic and at my destination. I like the oversized tires on the Instigator for when it snows. Fenders are nice in the rain. I prefer upright to drop handlebars as it makes me appear larger in traffic.
Load and Balance
Right now, I carry most things either in my backpack or on a rear rack. I seldom carry more than 20-25 lbs. at a time and this has worked fine. Even the 15 lb. bag of charcoal pictured above was no big deal. As I ride more, though, I’ll definitely add a front basket so that I can better balance the load over both wheels. The bike will just handle better, especially going up the big hill home.
The logistical matters I just discussed were a bigger deal starting out than I would have guessed they’d be. Like everything else, they take a little getting used to, but I feel like I’ve mostly made that transition now. If there’s anything you can share that would help me, I’d love to hear from you.
Some people get a funny look on their faces when I tell them that I’d rather be on the bike than in a car now, but it’s the honest truth. One more thing, and this is kind of a big deal. People in Ogden have been absolutely great. They let me bring my bike into their stores and offices. They’re generally very supportive and that gives me hope. The more of us who do this, the more of us who will.
Be safe. Have fun. Saddle up and ride.