Getting Started: Biking Around Town

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orange hercules bike in front of blue door
Photo by Joshua Rainey Photography, based in Oregon.

Back in college I didn’t have a car so my primary transportation was a bicycle. It was an old Hercules bike that was probably double my age, at least. It was way too tall for me, but it was the first time I had bought a bike by myself (off the online student forum) eventually it grew on me… Even though it was still a death trap waiting to happen.

couple overlooking river with bikes
Photo by Joshua Rainey Photography, based in Oregon.

After a while Danny took over this bike and I got another Hercules bike with a cross over frame that was also not the best investment, but it was cheap and at the time I couldn’t beat the price.

A few years later, after my bike needed some extensive repairs I sold it to a couple of old ladies for $15 so they could decorate their front yard garden. So I was in the market for a new bike and I think I finally figured out what aspects I liked/disliked about a bike and decided to go to a bike shop (instead of a garage sale) and test ride a few different models within my price range. It was the best decision I made, I highly recommend buying a bike with that method.

Eventually Danny and I moved to Chicago and with parking prices sky-high we more fully committed to using public transportation and our trusty bikes. I even started to bike to CostCo to save money on gas.

So if you are ready to make the jump and commit to biking around town, run errands, or just starting out… Here is a list I put together of things that I wish I would have started out with or known about other than the basic knowledge of how to pedal, keep my balance and stop.

novara barrow bike


kiersten on a costco run
Kiersten on a CostCo run

A Bike – This is the bike I got that I was really proud of. It’s a commuter bike with fenders, a front basket and a bike rack to attach more baskets to. The handle bars are wide and this bike is meant for a laid back – upright ride. It is a beast of a bike at about 40 lbs, which is pretty standard for a cruiser/commuter bike. This model was perfect for what I was looking for and was a perfect fit for my lifestyle.

bike with spoke lights

Lights (Spoke Light/Head and Rear Lights) – It’s vert important to be able to see what is ahead of you and to BE SEEN.

I personally really like the spoke light because I leave a trail of rainbow light. Many municipalities require reflectors and lights (at night), be sure to check in your area for any local bike laws. Something to consider would be reflective clothing as well.

UPDATE: Those lights are not rechargeable and the batteries aren’t cheap. I love the lights because they are easy to manage, but they aren’t very cost effective. I recently upgraded to this rear light, front light and am looking into these spoke reflectors so I can avoid spending more money on batteries. Yes, it is more of an upfront cost, but one that comes with a USB charger so it will even out and then save me money in the long run. I also started looking into these lights because of this article on safety.

Method of Hydration (Coffee Cup Holder) – Water bottles, a water bottle holder or a coffee cup holder any option that fits your preference works, just remember to hydrate.

nutcase helmet depicting a timberline

Helmet – Helmets are always a good idea, a lot of things could happen on the road and it is a good idea to have some sort of protection. The helmets by Nutcase have a lot of fun designs and are really comfortable to wear.

womens padded bike liner


Padded Bike Liner – Depending on your bike seat, you may or may not want to add a padded bike liner (aka bike underwear, yes all official bike pants, shorts and liners are meant to be worn commando) to wear under your clothes. With an improper bike saddle (bike seat) your sensitive lady parts can go numb and that DOES… NOT… FEEL… GOOD.

There are a number of different kinds of bike seats but one piece of advice is to have your seat be wide enough to fit your sit bones. Women typically have wider sit bones than men so this is one reason why getting a bike specifically for women makes a difference, although you can buy a bike seat separately that specifically fits you. I haven’t resorted to needing/buying a new seat, but my Aunt Juni did and she highly recommends it. Either way, for me, I normally start wishing I had worn my bike pants after about 20 minutes, so these are a good way to incorporate my bike gear into my daily look without looking like I am about to join the Tour de France.

ulock bike lock

Bike Lock – Now that you have your bike to your liking you don’t want it to get stolen. I got this lock because it came with a perk of 3-year insurance. However, I am paranoid when it comes to insurance and so I take a pic of my bike locked up before I leave it alone, just in case. If I were to upgrade my lock I would get a Skunk Lock. Oh and there is a right and a wrong way to lock a bike. And here are tips to avoid bike theft.

Am I missing anything? What do you bike with that you can’t live without?

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