1 Everything You Want to Know About Biking: Part One | The Billfold

Everything You Want to Know About Biking: Part One

Alex Baca and Rebecca Rindler both bike (sometimes together) and also think about money. Biking for transportation is a key intersection of those topics. In this series, we’ll talk about the quantifiable and less-quantifiable parts of bike commuting.

Bec: Alex, we are friends who bike for recreation (long rides in spandex) and transportation (shorter rides in yoga pants). You live in D.C. I used to live in D.C. and now live in New York City. Let’s talk about how we got started.

Alex: One quibble: I bike in jorts, because I bike in pretty much anything, because I ride a bike for transportation. But, totally! What did it cost for you to get started?

Bec: When I started biking for transportation, I already had my most crucial pieces of gear: a bike, two locks, and a helmet. I ride a vintage Schwinn Le Tour, which I bought used at Bike Club in Virginia. It was in perfect condition and priced at $250; I negotiated it down to $200, plus $50 for a u-lock and chain. The helmet I’d had forever—I think I bought it after college for $50. I got a light at some point, or maybe it was a gift ($25?). Altogether, it cost me $250-$325 to start biking. How about you?

Alex: I had a bike in college. It was a horribly heavy single-speed Schwinn. I didn’t ride it much because College Park is a really hard place to bike around! (Funnily, I now commute to and from College Park by bike. We can talk about that later, though.) It got stolen the night I moved to D.C. I planned to come back to pick it up the next day, but my roommates had thrown it off the porch and it got snatched. I was bike-free in D.C. for just under a year. Eventually, I got tired of waiting for the bus and went balls-out at BicycleSpace. I bought a new (so, 2011) 24-speed Jamis Coda Femme for $550. Despite occasionally riding a bike for transportation in the past, I didn’t have many of the necessary accessories, so I bought a u-lock ($60), a floor pump ($40), a light set ($50), a helmet ($80—that’s a lot of money for a foam bucket, even if it’s protecting your head, but it’s a Bern and it’s cute and comfortable, and because it’s cute and comfortable I actually wear it), and a rack ($25). It cost me around $800 to start biking.

Bec: Right, I would say my initial Level One Biking investment was in necessities that got me started on the basics in my first year in D.C. (later, I would spend more and bike more). I chose my used bike for a few reasons. One, I love vintage bikes. Two, I live in terror of my bike(s) being stolen. If my $200 bike got stolen, I would be more sad than financially pinched. Three, I think that, like new cars, bikes lose a lot of their value the day they move from “new” to “nearly new.”

Also, I was a novice biker then, and was just starting to bike for transportation. I didn’t know how much I would end up using my bike, and was reluctant to invest in something that might just sit in the closet (Craigslist is full of people who overestimate how much they will use a bike and then have to sell it for a lot less). The Schwinn (and its price point) were awesome for an entry-level rider. Now that I’m a more fluent transportation biker, I could see upgrading to something lighter that costs a little more.

Alex: I spent more to start biking than I needed to, but I’m glad I did. By buying a bike new, I struck up a relationship with BicycleSpace; their mechanics and sales staff have done awesome things for me since then. As with many shops, BicycleSpace checks out your bike after 30 miles or three months to make sure things are running smoothly and will fix your bike for free within the first year of purchase. This was especially handy when my derailleur broke in half!

I also wanted the best possible setup I could get. I bought a bike so that I would ride a bike. I didn’t want anything loose, uncomfortable, or difficult to keep me from biking. I may have had to make compromises with a Craigslist purchase, which may have, in turn, disincentivized me from riding. (I see this a lot at work now! People won’t ride bikes that they don’t enjoy riding, even if they don’t enjoy riding for the tiniest, most easily fixable reason. This is totally legitimate!)

Bec: We’ve covered the costs of biking. What about the benefits and money saved?

Alex: I will say that I know quite a few people who have replaced their gym memberships with biking. That’s awesome, but as I’ve gotten more into biking as recreation, I’ve gotten more into fitness in general. I pay to go to a CrossFit gym ($159 per month) and a yoga studio ($59 per month); fitness is my hobby now and it helps offset my high-stress job (which has to do with, yeah, bikes). I have a really short commute to work—I’ve switched jobs since buying a bike for transportation, but my commute has stayed around two miles—and I don’t want to take the joy out of riding by making it my exercise, too. (I usually ride around 30-50 miles on weekends, anyway.)

I don’t know how to measure, exactly, the time I’ve saved by biking, but I think that’s the biggest value I’ve gotten from riding for transportation. It’s just so, so much easier and more efficient to get around, especially in D.C., where Metro was built to bring commuters into the city, not connect neighborhoods; buses don’t have dedicated right-of-ways; and WMATA’s fractured funding has resulted in terrible maintenance work and very long late-night headways.

There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t have a dollar value, like time, convenience, and knowing how to get around your city. I rarely have to consult Google Maps anymore, not because I go to the same places but because I’ve biked all over D.C. (and a lot of its suburbs, too!). It’s awesome to have that kind of confidence.

Bec: Exactly. When I lived in D.C., biking made the city feel smaller and more accessible, and allowed me to explore new places. It definitely saved time, too. Living in New York, I bike for transportation around Brooklyn, and I’ve started bike commuting once a week. Commuting by bike for me is not faster than the subway, but I like being above ground and active. It feels good to have my cardio done by the time I start my workday, and I have more energy, too. For getting around Brooklyn, you really can’t beat biking. It allows me to get places that aren’t close to the subway. The other night I biked to a bar in Greenpoint; I wouldn’t have gone out if I had to take the subway because, ugh, the G train. Also, riding my bike makes me really happy, much more so than being in an underground tube, shoved up so close against a stranger that I can smell the red onions she had for lunch. It may not save me money because I’d have a Metrocard anyway, but biking adds to my quality of life.

Alex: We might have scared people off by talking not-tiny sums of money regarding getting started, even if we’ve provided (what I think!) are a lot of great reasons riding a bike is an A+ way to get around. But it’s not that bad! If you had to summarize, what’s the absolute bare minimum you have to put out to get started with biking for transportation?

Bec: For me, it was about $300. Two important points: I’ve had the same bike, helmet, and U-lock for 4 years. So that comes out to $75 per year (not including maintenance, which we’ll talk about in another post). Second, in my experience, bikers are generous with gifts and barters. I have received lots of things for free from family and friends (things like a bike that would have otherwise hit the trash heap, lights, helmet, and free bike repair, and I just gave you some pedals I didn’t need). If you’re thinking about biking for transportation, talk to your friends and family who bike. Maybe there’s a lock and a helmet around that someone will lend or give you to get started.

Alex: Basically: Obtain a bike and lock from whatever source you’re budget-comfortable with, whether that’s Craigslist, a local bike shop, or even Target. After that—probably immediately after that—invest in a helmet and lights. I did this all at once because my priority was making biking my primary mode of transportation. Others might follow your method, Bec, of buying things as you realized you needed them.

And while this is a discussion about the financial aspects of biking, we need to say it: be safe. There’s plenty of resources available on local and national channels about bike safety. The League of American Bicyclists’ website is a good place to get started.

Happy shopping, happy riding!

In our next installment we’ll talk about additional stuff we bought to make biking more awesome, and we’ll do our best to address questions and thoughts you leave in the comments.



Alex Baca works in bike advocacy in Washington, D.C.

Rebecca (Bec) Rindler writes, lives and bikes in New York City.

They are founding members of Capital Spokeswomen, an awesome group of women who bike in D.C.


52 Comments / Post A Comment

bgprincipessa (#699)

Soo I got a bike from a friend over the winter (free, because they don’t know where it came from). It needed some work so I put it in my alley and forgot about it. It has now been out there for a while and I haven’t checked it. I know it’s been rained and snowed on, is that really bad? How much should I be willing to give to a bike shop to fix it up for me?

also I’m really scared of biking in my city.

acid burn (#113)

@bgprincipessa Where are you located? In Portland (which might not be the most average example) a tune-up goes for around $50, and they would tell you at the time if you need to replace anything. I’ve definitely left my bike outside for a winter and it’s been fine; you might need a new chain if it’s completely rusted over ($15-20), and if your seat got moldy or anything you’ll probably need a new one ($20-like a bazillion $$ depending on what your butt likes sitting on). A good bike shop will be able to look over your bike real fast and tell you for free if anything looks glaringly terrible.

ellabella (#1,480)

@bgprincipessa I saw a tune-up in Manhattan going for $66, for comparison’s sake. Check Yelp to make sure you’re going to someplace that has good customer service and they’ll help you.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@acid burn @ellabella I’m in Baltimore. Good suggestion on the Yelp thing – I know there is a place right near by so I am hoping that will be good. Walking it there will be a pain though. I guess since it’s mid-June I should actually do this soon… 1 Thing Thursday maybe.

acid burn (#113)

@bgprincipessa You may already know about it, but this looks like it might be a good resource for you! http://www.bmorebikes.com/

Sounds good except I’m terrified of the cars. I got hit/crashed all the time when I used to bike around everywhere in college, but now I am older and have a more reasonable fear of death.

joyballz (#2,000)

@stuffisthings THIS!! Tried biking one mile in Chicago, same street, no turns, dedicated bike lane and I still had a panic attack 4 blocks in and had to shamefully walk the bike the rest of the way.

laluchita (#2,195)

@joyballz Chicago is really a GREAT city to bike in! The panic is a totally reasonable response, but it will fade with time. Start out biking someplace that doesn’t stress you out at all. The north branch trail, running along side the river from montrose to skokie is great. Off rode, not a lot of crazy bikes like the lake shore path. I also like the forest district up north. Do that until you feel normal riding and bike, and then start with some low key streets and go from there.

r&rkd (#1,657)

You know, I’d be scared too, BUT the city is putting in all kinds of bike lanes. I’ve got a good route figured out.

emeegee (#2,584)

@joyballz There are plenty of nice cyclists who would be happy to ride around with you for awhile to help you get over the first wave of nervousness! To meet them: Join http://www.thechainlink.org, and if you’re a lady, there’s an awesome group who does monthly Ladies Who Bike brunches. Organized by Dottie at Let’s Go Ride a Bike (http://letsgorideabike.com/blog/), all you have to do to get invited is email her to ask to be on the list.
A little practice will help you feel more confident- it took me about a summer’s worth of bike commuting from Edgewater to Evanston to feel like I knew what I was doing.

joyballz (#2,000)

@emeegee @r&rkd @laluchita you all are so encouraging!! I think my one thing next week will be to borrow a bike and hit up a trail for a bit. Baby steps.

Fig. 1 (#632)

@joyballz I had a couple of bad experiences biking and instinctively went all “Nope NOPE NOPE” for a bit, so I don’t blame you a bit. I found that moving towards your fear really helps you deal with it effectively. Or, as my dad would say after we got unceremoniously dumped from the pony: “Get back on that horse.”

alexbaca (#865)

@stuffisthings You live in D.C., right? This is a GREAT OPPORTUNITY to plug the classes my employer, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, runs. Confident City Cycling has your name on it: http://waba.org/education/adult.php

@Alex AWESOME thank you. Now does it come with free anti-anxiety pills for my wife?

alexbaca (#865)

@stuffisthings I can give her some of my questionably useful over-the-counter anxiety globules (http://www.amazon.com/Similasan-Anxiety-Relief-Globules-Soothes/dp/B001U89IVS).

23RVS (#3,493)

This is fantastic. But how do you end up staying professional looking when you show up for work? That is the one thing holding me back — hair and sweat. Thoughts?

@23RVS I have this same problem. I’ve heard different suggestions – bike in different clothes and pack your work clothes, shower at work/nearby (if possible), wash your face when you arrive and do your make up at work, etc etc. It helps if your dress code is less business formal and more business casual/casual. I haven’t figured out a way to make it work.

When I do bike, I pack along some face wipes and deodorant and after a few minutes and a glass of water, I’m fine.

ellabella (#1,480)

@23RVS YES this. Especially for women–I feel like all the advice is for men.

I just started biking to work a bit, but don’t want to invest a bunch of money in commuter bike gear or whatever. I’ve been wearing khaki-type pants and blouses and lightweight sneakers, then keeping a pair of flats in a small backpack along with my other belongings. (I can bike in flats, but would rather not for 45 minutes each way.) I have deodorant at work. I do my makeup before, and since I ‘m not going terribly fast (Manhattan traffic prevents that for bikers too, at least timid ones like me), only my back gets sweaty. And my hair never looks good regardless of whether or not I bike.

I would love to hear some other ladies’ solutions to this.

planforamiracle (#4,034)

@23RVS What worked for me was learning how to ride slow. It took me years to stop racing people and rushing around. I ride a 3-speed cruiser, which definitely contributes to the leisurely attitude I have toward bike commuting.. and yet, for all trips under 10km—so basically all trips, period—I still get around much faster than I would if taking transit. It takes me 20 minutes or so to ride the 5.8km to work.

I don’t like to ride in wet weather, and Toronto is fairly flat downtown, so hills don’t make me work up much of a sweat. I guess the fact that I work in a pretty casual/creative environment with other folks who commute by bike, is a huge enabling factor. But I ride in fancy dresses and high heels if I want, if I have a dressy event to go to. I do get helmet hair sometimes, but I mostly keep it away by putting my hair in a low bun and shaking it out when I arrive. I think it depends a lot on your workplace, so I count myself lucky in that regard.

I hope this helps you feel more comfortable riding your bike to work! It makes me feel so free and I wish everyone could have that feeling. Sorry for the long comment; I could go on for days about my biking routines and minutiae if I thought it would help people use their bikes more :3

Oh and bonus: riding slowly makes me feel a LOT safer.

erinep (#4,236)

@23RVS I bike to work most days March-November in Madison, WI and it’s super humid here in the summer. I wear gym clothes and change in the bathroom, I keep deodorant and BB cream in my desk. And dry shampoo can really help a LOT with helmet head. Some days you just need to go an extra ten minutes early to allow yourself some time to cool down. Also, utilize your water bottle holder, and if you don’t have one, they’re usually only $5-$6 and usually easy to install.

To combat sweaty back, a few weeks ago I got a pannier bag (though in a cuter design) from Po Campo http://shop.pocampo.com/collections/bike-bags/products/loop. Actually I got it on their ebay site because there’s a tiny little ink stain and it was only $45 to buy it now. Anyways, it holds my lunch, a change of clothes, my wallet and a few other things. I want to get the tote too!

@erinep whoaaa those pocampo bags are CUTE.

planforamiracle (#4,034)

@erinep Pannier bags yes! I bought this one from Linus a while back and I adore it.

Megano (#739)

@23RVS I bike all year round in Vancouver CA and the only way I’ve found to not be sweaty and gross when I get to work (I like to ride fast AND all the hills…) is to pack a full change of clothes in a side panier, leave shoes at work, and do my hair and makeup at the office. It’s a pain, no question, but it’s made me very gentle on my work clothes.

ellabella (#1,480)

@Megano And they don’t get wrinkly? Or is there some master packing technique I have yet to master? I could probably manage this because I usually pack yoga clothes anyway, and could just wear those, change into work clothes, and then change back into yoga clothes at the end of the day… but for some reason that just seems so overwhelming? I’m sure if I got in the habit it wouldn’t be bad though.

erinep (#4,236)

@ellabella personally, I lay my top folded in half on my skirt or pants folded at the knee and roll them up. I never have any wrinkle problems.

erinep (#4,236)

@polka dots vs stripes right?! I have gotten a ton of compliments from other ladies on the bike trail on it, where we have to slow down and ride together so I can tell them where to find it!

@erinep Thanks to you and @planforamiracle for the cutest pannier suggestions. I’ve only ever seen friends with really ugly black ones, so thanks for the hope that there are cute and functional ones out there!

erinep (#4,236)

@polka dots vs stripes I Spent a lot of time googling for cute bike bags. A great website is http://www.eleanorsnyc.com/

Megano (#739)

@ellabella well, they do get a little wrinkly, but I wear a LOT of knit and also fold my things the way erinep describes. Oh, and I ALWAYS put them in a plastic bag, and my lunch in a separate plastic bag because sometimes my lunch leaks. And on one terrible day I dropped my whole clothes bag in the toilet (because I work in a heritage building full’o dudes there’s no place other than the toilet cubicle to change) but it turned out okay because PLASTIC BAG.
Not gonna lie, it does seem like a lot of effort… but I feel pretty fit, don’t spend money on the gym, and can get to work in 15, instead of a 25 minute bus ride. Right now it’s worth it, but it might not be forever.

@planforamiracle I saw someone with that bag around town recently and have been trying to figure out where she got it !! I have been looking for a convertible pannier that is Not Ugly for ages, and this just might be the one!

(That said, I am open to other suggestions! I like bags that look like British schoolboys would have used them to flee the Blitz.)

Apocalypstick (#3,987)

Re biking to bars, I was under the impression that it was no more legal to bike drunk than to drive drunk. Does it vary by area?

Megano (#739)

@Apocalypstick technically you are not supposed to operate a motor vehicle while inebriated, but the police will only pull you over if you are all over the road since mostly you will only hurt yourself if you cycle drunk.

AitchBee (#3,001)

Part II will address how not to be sweaty and/or fearful, right?

bgprincipessa (#699)

@AitchBee it better.

alexbaca (#865)

@bgprincipessa @bgprincipessa It’s funny because we wanted to use this series to talk about the costs of riding bikes for transportation, and so much of this thread has brought up (really good!) points about the not-so-money aspects of it. But that’s OK! We’ll try to get to some of the safety/sweat concerns.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

I feel like bike shops tend to be very hipster and therefore judge-y (though this is just from my experience.) If I’m taking a bike in to be worked on, what things should I know so I don’t sound clueless?
Riding my bike when I was little was so easy and fun and as an adult it’s such a big production!

BananaPeel (#1,555)

@BananaPeel Also, I have my mom’s old Schwinn from the early 70s and I had it worked on (new tires, oiled up, all that) but I find it still takes a lot of effort to pedal. And the tires are the skinny kind (road tires?) which I am not used to. The seat slides around no matter how much I tighten it. The point is, I don’t like riding this bike so I don’t do it. The whole riding-a-bike experience can be better, right??

planforamiracle (#4,034)

@BananaPeel I’ve encountered the judginess in some shops too; surely there are shops without attitude where you live, if it’s a big enough city to have bike shops with attitude. Do you have any friends that bike who could recommend a friendly shop?

As for the Schwinn.. I don’t know much about the particular bike but the only Schwinns I’ve ever seen are clunky beach cruisers that look really heavy. The sliding seat sounds weird and dangerous. Try test-driving new or old bikes, or try riding a friend’s bike, to see what you like (or even if you like it at all.. nothing wrong with not liking bike riding.) But yes, the whole riding-a-bike experience can be better!

Megano (#739)

@BananaPeel Man, the judginess made me SO ANGRY when I was buying my bike. Sure, I might not know the right terms for things, but I cycle every day. Do not put me on a beach cruiser, or blow smoke about how spacers in the drop bar handle brakes will make things more comfortable. I did what planforamiracle suggested, and got a recommendation for a shop from a bike lovin’ friend. Then HE got a gift cert for the referral. WIN/WIN.

hopeyglass (#3,298)

@Megano Yeah, ask people because for srs, as a former bike shop employee and prior to that former scared/anti-biking in a city, you should NOT be putting up with dat nonsense. There is no reason why a friendly, safe and approachable mechanic won’t do the same amount of work on your 80′s hybrid or beach cruiser or whatever as they will some schmancy Pista pissed on by some Bianchi spawn. Although I liked the cred of working in a shop, I am very not into my friends being snobbed at because they ain’t cool enough. Seriously.

Oh, and, if there are local bike coops where you are, they are pretty much the best (Chicago shoutout to Working Bikes, Blackstone, and West Town!)

alexbaca (#865)

@BananaPeel Old Schwinns are cute, but they weigh a million pounds. I can’t say precisely what’s wrong with your seat without looking at it, but it sounds unsafe. Yes, riding a bike can be a whole lot better! I second checking out co-ops for simpler repairs, but it can really make your life better if you have a bike shop. Ask your bike-y friends for recommendations, or go to shops that are more commuter-focused (selling Linus, Coda, Jamis, Giant over Specialized, Trek, etc.). Google is your friend in learning about shops and learning about bikes.

Shop judginess is stupid and in a perfect world, a tri/racer shop would be kind and accommodating to commuters (and vice-versa!), but it doesn’t always seem to work that way. That said, as biking emerges as a legitimate form of transportation in American cities, shops sprout up around that. A few shops in D.C. have opened specifically to cater to commuter/recreation/”lifestyle”/not-spandex-dork riders.

ellabella (#1,480)

Oh! I feel like this is the place to enumerate how much we’ve spent on our own bikes.

Bike, used and refurbished: $70
Helmet: $30
Mid-level U-lock: $30

One faulty set of brakes, one bike accident, one night in the hospital, one round-trip cross-country flight by Mom to care for me, one dropped class, and three months of physical therapy later($$$$$$$$ covered by parent’s insurance, plus $$ covered by Mom and Dad)

Dad bought me a new bike ($600), announcing that it well worth not worrying about me almost killing myself quite as much as he would with a used bike. And a new helmet ($50), because you need to get rid of your helmet after any crash. Some bike lights ($30).

Flat tires, 4 or 5, $16 each. More bike lights after they burned out or got lost, another $20. A backpack because biking with a purse is difficult, $35. Chain oil, $8. $50 to pack and ship my bike cross-country, $50 to unpack and ship it. $40 for the device for attaching my bike to the car.

Biking is great, it really is, and the advantages of biking with the wind blowing through whatever hair sticks out past your helmet instead of squeezing into a smelly subway/train are impossible to quantify. But unless you are legitimately replacing your car with a bike, it is not necessarily a money-saver.

Fig. 1 (#632)

@ellabella (Apologies since you prob know this already, but others on here may not) Re. the flats: switching to a flat-resistant tire, such as Schwalbe Marathons or Conti touring tires, helps a lot. You can also get tire liners as well. We had 10 flats per summer before dropping $ on the Schwalbes. Also observing proper inflation helps avoid pinch flats. You’ve gotta check your tires at least once a week, more if you have skinny high-pressure tires. Bike tires ≠ car tires.

alexbaca (#865)

@Fig. 1 @ellabella ENDORSE SCHWALBE MARATHONS (rode through Eastern Europe on a Brompton with Schwalbes, no flats) AND/OR CONTI GATORSKINS (I have them on my road bike for my off-roading moments).

notpollyanna (#2,841)

I rode to work for the first time on Tuesday. Like some others, I’m in Chicago and I can, luckily, ride on the Lake Front Trail most of the way. It is a 10 mile ride and the ride itself is great, it’s the rest of it that makes riding to work seem onerous: having to carry my bike up and down stairs, clumsily locking and unlocking, marinating in my own sweat while I wait until I cool down before I wash up and change. Some of that will maybe seem better/easier as I get used to it? I should maybe lift weights?

Fig. 1 (#632)

@notpollyanna I am a big fan of lifting weights.

alexbaca (#865)

@notpollyanna The more you do it, the easier it gets. I find I now need a good hour or so behind the wheel of a car to feel comfortable driving. Think of carrying your bike downstairs as an entreat to lifting weights. (Lifting is great! But that’s an entirely separate topic.)

chewtastic (#4,245)

Finally created a user account just for this thread! Here, have a novelette.

Initial cost (Austin, 2010):
Bern helmet, ~$40. I got a snowboard/skateboard helmet at the bike shop because of sheer vanity/not wanting to look like a nerd with the foam vent one. Worth it; my head gets hot and sweaty with any helmet anyway.
Kryptonite U-lock: ~$35-40. I blew off the “ballpoint pen lockpick” worries because I don’t trust cable locks and the main concern is to lock up your bike so you won’t get stranded because it’s stolen/suffer emotional anguish because it’s your baby. Always remember to include the frame and front wheel topologically within the lock when you lock it to something (that is not a tree or street sign or anything that can easily be cut). You don’t want bartenders to mockingly post a photo of your poorly locked bike on social media as well. Oof.
Bike: Price varies on what you like (speed v. comfort). I have a million-pound vintage three-speed with steel fenders and the light-as-a-shart low-end motobecane flip-flop single-speed, but ended up with both through trade or the vagaries of breakups. Try not to overpay on Craigslist if you are buying in a fixie town, as your vintage bianchi, etc. market will be rather inflated until they move back to wanting Haros or whatnot. If you are on a tight budget and semi-mechanically apt with a willingness to learn how to work on your bike, I would suggest finding a Frankenbike swap meet and just build something around a frame you like. Drag a bike nerd with you if you’re afraid of getting the short end of the stick, you’ll learn quickly.
Lights: Probably around $30, depending on what you want to spend. I like the on-the-fly adjustability of the Blackburn set, what with potholes and all; the knorg lights don’t really light up enough of the road or create enough night visibility to make me feel “safe” that cars see me. Headlamps are kind of fun if you’re that kind of person: as a female, I feel the best defense is a good offense, and temporarily blinding someone while being able to see their face could potentially give me a bit more time to get away from an attacker.

Extras: SUNSCREEN for your face and arms; a bag that won’t shift and throw off your balance when you ride if you don’t use a basket or panniers,and that can also hold your daily runabout necessities plus a small amount of groceries/beer; a bell or horn or air horn, depending on how belligerent you feel about cars sideswiping you/runners in the bike lane going with the flow of traffic/other cyclists; bike tubes, $4+ each; tire levers, $2+ each (you need two. Don’t just get one, you’ll get mad later when you change the tube); two wrenches for the axle nuts (the _usual_ size is 15 mm but you can fake it with an adjustable wrench and pliers); patches/patch kit: $3?; mini-pump, ~$25; baby powder (could be bs: I apply it to both myself and the replacement tube to prevent pinching/a new busted tube); speedometer/computer, $25+ (you do want to know how fast of a BAMF you are, right?); tiny zip-ties for when you have snipped or broken the old ones attaching your various accoutrements; bike gloves, varies.

@23RVS @ellabella As a ladybiker, I recommend just straight-up keeping a couple of work-appropriate outfits at the office to change into if you’re not comfortable wearing skirts and riding. My office is workout-friendly and has showers, so I have a whole bathing stash there, but for when that’s not possible or I’m rushed, just being able to pop into the restroom and do a quick wet-washrag for above the waist and then change into a fresh shirt does wonders for helping cool down and look presentable. The only bad part is lugging a week’s worth of stinky ride shirts home if you’re not changing back into them for the post-work commute. If I made twice as much as I do (or saved twice as much, whichever), I would totally buy the ladies’ daily riding pant from outlier.cc, and maybe some of the other fancy clothes too. Alas, etc.

@BananaPeel Judginess is bullshit. I find that the smaller the bike shop or the cheaper the bikes, the friendlier they’ll be. The small indy shops that carry Linus bikes will often have nicer people. Don’t go to a triathlon shop, a lot of mechanics work on bikes that cost more than used cars and have … different expectations of bike-related knowledge. The sliding seat is no bueno. Does it twist from side to side when you get on it, or is the post slipping down into the frame tube? Things might need replacing if you have already tightened things correctly and it keeps happening.

@notpollyanna It gets so much easier after a week or two, you will almost laugh at your previous self. You’ll look and feel like a pro at it. I recommend skipping the cooldown and just move to washing up. The office will feel pretty cold after that. Also, lifting weights is always recommended for ever and ever, biking or not.

I love the Billfold so much and all your comments, you guys! I’m slowly forcing all my friends into talking about money too! Ahhh this website is the greatest (except that there needs to be a Do That One Thing post every day, because I am terrible and only externally motivated).

alexbaca (#865)

@chewtastic This comment is great and says so many of the things I was going to tell people. I am also really happy that this is the post that compelled you to comment. Thank you! Happy riding!

LHOOQ (#1,634)

There are 2 things stopping me from cycling:

1. I don’t want to die or be knocked off.
2. Arriving to work sweaty and gross.

A few commenters have shared how they deal with the sweat issue, but I would love to hear more about safety. Everyone I know who commutes via bike in my city has had some kind of accident, or been knocked off, at least once. As a driver, I am terrified of hitting a cyclist and I feel like I am endangering their lives when I overtake them, but also if I don’t overtake them. Someone upthread suggesting going slowly, as the cyclist, to be safer, but as a driver I find it a little scary getting behind a slow cyclist, because if I can’t overtake them, I can’t go slow enough behind them.

Liz the Lemur (#3,125)


Bike: Trek Lexa 7.2 – $500, gift from parents. Outfitted with Rack ($25), Water bottle holder ($10), U-lock ($20). Regrets about not getting a kickstand.

I’ve gotten several lights over the year, probably amounting to $45 spent. (need to remember to take them with me so they don’t get stolen.)

I don’t have a car, so I really do spend less money on transit. And MLPS is pretty flat. I hate the bus, so I avoid it wherever possible. This winter I might get studded tires, which will be $60/each. I budget about $15/mo for bike maintenance, which often rolls over. Recently got new brakes for $20.

I’d buy all-weather clothing anyway, but I definitely invest since I’m biking all the time. Recently got a good rain jacket for $128. Also tore a hole in my nice pair of leggings, but I’ll probably stitch those rather than replace them. I’ve gotten ski goggles and ski gloves as hand-me-downs, but I’m always on the lookout for good winter gear. If I had gotten the goggles and gloves for myself, that probably would have been another $40-$50.

For all those working their way up to traffic – see if you can find a local group ride or a cyclist buddy. I started cycling on the streets with my dad on a tandem, which always felt super safe (he was the one steering.) Then I upgraded to bike lanes with a friend. It’s totally worth it – plus when you zoom past the cars in rush hour, you get to feel totally self-righteous. :)

monamelia (#4,254)

Biggest “didn’t know I needed it” with my new bicycle: A bell. Seriously. People will be meandering down the bike path, taking up the whole lane, and they can’t see you behind them. I bought an “Incredibell.” Beautiful brass sound, nice and loud. Highly recommend it.

Also, great article! I am hoping to start biking to my job occasionally, but I need to work my way up. It’s about 7 miles from my house, so a bit of a trek for a novice like me, and I need to work on my “stamina,” so to speak.

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