If we are lucky, over the next few weeks we will experience the best cycling weather in Chicago. Did you think August was too hot to be enjoyable? Get your bike out now.
Whatever bicycle you have, it will usually get you from point A to point B faster and easier than other vehicles, often including the car. You don't need any special equipment -- with a decent pair of shoes, some easy-fitting pants, sweatshirt and a backpack, you can ride over to the coffee shop, bookstore, or post office, and pick up a few groceries on the way back.
If you are, or are thinking of becoming, a bicycle commuter, take a long, hard look at your bike. Is the type of bike suitable for the type of commuting you envision? First, consider the distance you'll be traveling. If it's only a couple of miles, just about any bike will do. Really. For longer commutes, you may want a lighter, faster bike (though we have seen people take clunky one-speed cruisers to and from 95th street).
Whatever type of bike you choose, make sure it's in good repair. Check the condition of the tires and the brake pads, and see if anything on the bike feels loose. If you're not sure what to look for, bring it in to Rapid Transit, and we'll go over it with you, and recommend needed repairs.
The safety of your commute will depend largely on you. When you cycle on city streets, your bicycle is a vehicle governed by the same laws as a car. That means moving in the direction of traffic, and obeying traffic signals. Common sense and courtesy also go a long way in making your bike commute a safe and pleasant one. We strongly encourage you to wear a well-fitting helmet, forgo the use of headphones, and to use lights and reflectors as needed to stay visible.
You really don't need to rush out and spend a bundle on expensive bicycle gear, but a few well-chosen items will make your commute more efficient and comfortable.
- If you need to leave your bike unattended, invest in a good lock, and learn to use it properly.
- Good quality street tires will reduce rolling resistance, provide better handling in inclement weather, and protect against punctures.
- A rear carrying rack and bags (or a cheaper alternative) will take the load of your back and ensure a more stable ride.
- Fenders will protect your face, clothing and bike from excessive splatter.
- Your butt will thank you for a comfortable seat.