How To Survive As An Inner City Bicyclist
Tips on how to benefit from a vigorous downtown bicycling adventure. Be a "guerrilla biker!"
GUERRILLA (guer·ril·la) Members of a small independent group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against larger regular forces. Activities performed in an impromptu way, often without authorization.
As I aggressively ride my mountain bike around the big inner city of Phoenix, I have a lot of fun even while getting a good workout! Let's begin first with the bike. No ten speeds with skinny tires. You'll quickly ruin your tires and hit a tiny rock and flip over. You need mountain bikes with big knobby mountain terrain tires. They come standard with that type of bicycle. Why get a mountain bike or motoX bike for the city? There are extremely chewed up streets and sidewalks out there in the inner city even worse than a mountain trail with potholes because these are made from asphalt and concrete.
I prefer a "girl's bike." That's right! You know that bar that runs up just below your crotch? Yeah. One word: WHY? Why is there one there for guys and not for women's bikes? The bar hurts just the same for both. Slip off the seat and you could be singing soprano the rest of your life. I lift my bike up to point in the proper direction when I'm stopped. Hey, I know I'm a man. I look like one, too. What difference would it make? Well, apparently a lot when that bar presents itself real fast to your most vulnerable spot.
Personal extras are your decision
Custom renovations I may do to my bike is taking off the kick stand. It might drag, hang down, I might kick it, causing me to crash and if I want it standing upright, then I just lean it against something. I like reflectors on my spokes. Seat as high as it will go for leg pumping inertia.
Remember at night (or even at dusk) you MUST have an actual light on the front and red light or reflector on back. Most states carry these same requirements. Sometimes cops just need something to do or someone to bust. You might be targeted and receive an actual citation or written warning or ticket.
Backpacks (small size) are great for anything rather than holding it or letting a bag dangerously swing on your handlebars. I use airless, solid tires because... hey, no flats. Duh. Don't carry any extra junk (like a tire repair kit) or a stupid water bottle because you want less weight as possible.
Like you're actually going to repair a tire right there (as if you're in the Tour de France) so you can get right back into the race? Walk it home. You're done for the day. Repair it on your own time. I might attach a small aluminum wrench somewhere that fits the wheel nuts in case I have to tighten them. If you want refreshment, you're downtown. There's watering holes and mini-marts all over. Drink when you're at the end of your journey or when a break is absolutely necessary. Like being totally exhausted.
Wearing a helmet? Well, for me NO. You can wear one and then YOU can look like a "special needs" adult. I also don't like "helmet hair." But this is only my preference, my opinion and not a recommendation. But enough about me and my awesome hair. You probably should wear a helmet. It might even be a local law. I'm traveling not nearly as fast in the city as compared to the wide open spaces of mountain trails and that's another factor in my personal decision.
Keep your eyes 90% on the terrain ahead of you from about five to one hundred feet and 10% on what you're about to drive over at that exact moment. Most people are able to see all kinds of potential obstacles approaching for about a hundred yards but the road immediately below you will make you flip. Anticipate and adjust accordingly before it's upon you within seconds.
Face it, you're going to crash at sometime
Better learn or know how to tuck and roll if you fall because it could happen to anyone no matter what kind of precautions you may take. My nearly instinctive way to soften a fall comes from college basketball drills where we would just run, purposefully fall and roll landing on our feet.
Keep it in low gear for anticipating inclines. You know what? Just forget changing gears altogether. Too distracting and you need to be alert in the city. Almost comparable to texting while driving a car. I recommend to stay in one gear that's easy enough to peddle from a dead stop.
Don't "sneak up on people" from behind. I usually say loudly, "Comin' up on you street side!" Because if you say right or left, people suddenly forget their right or left every time. Always blame them first, loudly and immediately if you happen to collide with a pedestrian. Witnesses will subconsciously get that stuck in their heads. There! I just might have saved you from a potentialy expensive lawsuit. You're welcome. With that being said, keep your breaks in proper working order.
Slightly wheelie when encountering bumps. Your 'taint will thank you. (If you don't know what the meaning is of certain slang words in this article, far be it from me to interpret them for you. Try asking one of your "hep" friends who might be able to further expound upon the meaning of them to you... like "wheelie" or your ''taint.")
NEVER STOP if possible. Go fast! Go in a small circle if you have to stay in place but just never let that momentum be lost! Run red lights, cross streets in the middle, take shortcuts through parking lots, anything to keep moving and save time. But then, don't be a public nuisance, either.
Lock it up even if you're only 20 feet away from your bike. You ARE, after all, in a city and not in The Vatican City, either. Bike locks are rated for difficulty of thief accessibility from one to four right on the package. Four is usually a thick bar of metal that is in the shape of a capital D. A level three lock will do the trick just fine.
Wear sunglasses. You're on a bike and not always the coolest looking guy around as compared to the fellow or lady driving a brand new BMW. Your sunglasses are vitally important to obviously cut glare, deflect pebbles that pop up, cut through smoke and if they look cool they will give you some "cred" too. Hey, may I remind you you're on a bike. I also wear clear safety glasses if I'm biking at night.
Let's get more personalized
I ride a QUEST Sierra WOMEN'S mountain bike. I don't need that "male bar" there and besides, I know I'm a man. I don't need a bike to determine that. My mountain bike costs only $49 to $59 brand new at WalMart. I got it used for a few bucks less. Or you can get an expensive, heavy GIANT brand for upwards of $250, I don't care. But they all seem to work the same to me. Just make sure it's light enough that you're able to lift it and walk up stairs. That's very important!
If you want to turn "bicycle nerd" on us and do intense researching to find out just what's right for you, well then be my guest. This QUEST Sierra model bicycle of mine is about seven years old, has a semi-padded seat, good knobs on the tires and that's basically all you need.
Essential equipment reveiw
I can't emphasize a solid tire inner tube for the front at least, because of the abuse it takes as compared to the back tire. The front tire meets objects first and you'll do small "wheelies" landing on it a lot. Solid tires do not cost that much more than a regular inner tube which is usually under $15. The solid rubber ones are around $22.
Get a small lightweight backpack. You can't be balanced when you're holding a plastic shopping bag. I wouldn't recommend biking at night. You just can't see the terrain as well as in the day. So, that's two key points to city biking the right way that are vitally important: Balance and vision.
Most local city bicycling laws require a white light on the front of your bike after dusk and a red light in back. Go WITH traffic in the street (and preferably in the bike lane) and AGAINST traffic on the sidewalks. At least that's what I found out from my local Phoenix city policeman. You'll find yourself on the sidewalk more often than the street if it's very busy traffic. Tougher to run up the curb and hit you on the sidewalk. It's a personal safety issue you'll find out.
Nothing compares to rushing faster than you can run! So, get on your "ticket to adventure" and peddle away the blues while feeling the warm wind of dirty car exhaust in your hair. EXHILARATING!
Bio and feedback
The author Dan W. Miller a.k.a. "The Vanilla Godzilla" is not a professional associated with anything pertaining to bicycling in any way but is a facebook two time award winning internet comedian and a Popular Award winner on HubPages.com. Currently he is coasting on the down hill side of fifty years young while peddling his articles to whomever will read them.