Saturday, May 1, 2010

Frontier Cyclist vol. 1

(May is Bike Month in New York and today is the first installment of a new feature: Frontier Cyclist. If you’re an experienced rider, stay tuned for future posts about urban cycling. Today, we’ll cover the basics of how to get started. While this post focuses on New York, most of what follows applies to urban riding anywhere. –FP)

It’s spring and all over the city people are out on their bicycles. You want to join them, but you haven’t been on a bike since grade school. Relax. Riding a bike is as easy as, well, riding a bike, and New York is becoming one of the country’s more bike-friendly cities. More than 200,000 people now ride daily in the city, up 28 percent from last year. Riding is cheaper than cabs or subways and often faster (We’re talking to you, G train). It’s good for your health and the planet. Most of all, it’s a fun and easy way to travel and see the city with fresh eyes.

1. Get A Bike

If you ride in the city, we recommend a single-speed bike* over a ten-speed or multi-speed bike. Because New York is mostly flat, gears are unnecessary. So are heavy mountain bikes with thick tires. Single-speeds come in two basic flavors: freewheel and fixed-gear. Try both and see which one feels right. On a freewheel bike, you can coast and pedal backwards. On a fixed gear –or fixie—you must pedal at all times and can’t pedal backwards. To stop or slow down, you either fight the resistance with your legs or apply the brakes. Some fixie purists ride bikes with no brakes. This is not recommended for novices or those without health insurance.

You can buy a cheap bike on craigslist or drop thousands on a custom-built machine. Most people choose something in between. New York is packed with bike shops, each with its particular style, philosophy, and brands. A few we recommend are Frank’s Bikes on the LES, Landmark Bicycles in the East Village, Brooklyn Bike and Board in Prospect Heights and B's Bikes in North Williamsburg/Greenpoint. Recycle a Bicycle shops in the East Village and Dumbo are worth browsing, although the selection varies depending on donations. For a list of shops, see the NYC Bike Map 2010. Like everything else in the city, bikes are fashion accessories, but most important is that a bike feels comfortable when you ride. As you shop, take plenty of test rides.

[*For a sample, see Urban Velo's Single Speed Commuter Bikes for 2010]

2. Get a Helmet

No, seriously. Get a helmet. It may mess up your hair, but it could save your life.

3. Get a Lock

We recommend the Kryptonite Evolution Mini, which you can mount on your bike or tuck in the back of your belt. Lock your bike to racks, street signs, or parking meters. Most places in New York are safe by day and at night, but we don’t recommend locking your bike outside overnight.

4. Get a Buddy

The best way to learn to ride a bike in the city is to find a friend who rides. If this is not an option, convince a friend to buy a bike when you do. If this is not an option, well…then just start riding and chat up other riders on the street. Owning a bike is like having a dog; it gives you an instant entrée.

5. Get a Map

The NYC Bike Map 2010 is available online and free in bike shops. Google Maps recently introduced a bike component and if you have GPS on your phone, that works, too. Of course, all maps have limitations. The surest way to learn routes is to get out and ride.

6. Get Lit

Sooner or later you’ll want to ride at night. Most parts of New York are bright enough so you can see after dark, but unfortunately cars can’t see you. We recommend lights that you can take on and off your bike, so they will not be targets for thieves. We recommend Knogs colored frogs for the front and the Planet Bike Superflash as a rear light you can mount or clip to your belt.

7. Get Riding

Start with some cars-free rides if you’re nervous about riding in traffic. Central Park and Prospect Park both have bike loops, and there’s a waterfront bike path along the Hudson River that runs from Battery Park to the top of the island, part of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway that runs (mostly) around the perimeter of the island. When you’re ready for cars, start on streets with bike lanes, then work your way up to other streets, bridges, etc. Ride on! -Keith Meatto

No comments:

Post a Comment