Sunday, January 9, 2011

Getting Started

I've always liked cycling.  When I first lived in Austin, my then boyfriend and I would ride our bikes from Riverside to the snow cone place on Barton Springs.  That damn snow cone was so much better when it was consumed after huffing and puffing in 100 degree heat.  Thinking back on that, we were pretty crazy.  But, we would go all over south austin in the heat and we would have a good, if sweaty time.  That is, until our bikes were stolen over Christmas break.  In my initial research, I found that it is unanimously recommended to have a U-lock.  Too late. After that I moved to San Marcos, where it is difficult to get around on two wheels, especially where I lived. That university is difficult for anyone without two working legs to get around, even though they do try with a bike cave.  So I didn't bother to even think about getting a new one until I moved back.

So I got a bike.  It's definitely not a cool bike, but it works for me.  Buying a bike is kind of like buying a car in that what is right for you depends on what you want to use it for.  It took me awhile to piece that together from several slightly helpful sites. (Everyone wants you to get THEIR kind of bike)

And then I figured it would be a good idea if I learned the special rules for riding a bike around Austin.  OMIGOD.  I had no idea there was such a debate going on in the cycling community as to the best way to deal with traffic.  Through my research, I think I fall in the camp that rejects Effective Cycling.  I learned some good tips though, especially on the types of collisions to expect and how to avoid them.  That is always my primary concern; getting hit by a car is probably always on my mind when I'm out.

Here is a good website I found that explained the dangers and what to do: http://BicycleSafe.com/
The diagrams are especially helpful, as well as his no nonsense advice about how "following the law" isn't always gonna keep your ass in one piece.  Because of this, I feel a lot more aware when I'm out on my bike, and thankfully I haven't had any close calls yet.

I saw the recommendations to get the LED lights, and that made sense to me so I went ahead and got them.  I haven't gotten any reflective arm bands and such.  That is a little too much for me, but if they made a jaunty reflective beret, I'd probably get that.  Those damn lights were a hell of a lot harder for me to put on than it should've been. The front light mounting hardware was too big for my handlebar, so it was pretty useless facing downward.  I tried Kleenex (don't ask me why) to try and make up for the difference in widths.  Finally settled on rubber bands, which have worked out so far.  I'm sure it would make any bike mechanic laugh.  Also, I lost a nut on my back light one night so I finally MacGuyvered it and again used rubber bands to attach it to my bike.  So far so good.

I have had to deal with the annoying drivers who honk at you for no reason.  This makes me want to get a bell but at the same time I am determined to get used to the honks and show no signs of having heard them.  So far they have made me jump in my saddle, but I don't want to give them that satisfaction.  I also dream of giving them the finger but I don't want to scar any children that might be in the vicinity so I won't.

I then went and got the requisite accessories. I bought a U-lock and a cable lock, even though I see most bikes with just a U-lock around here.  I saw at Whole Foods the other day that they had experienced several bike thefts, so perhaps its not such a bad idea to have both. I mean, that place is always jumping so if your bike is stolen there.....that is probably just my paranoia though.
    I picked up a Austin woman magazine yesterday at Planned Parenthood, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it had an article on how to get started with cycling. Unfortunately, it was for someone who wanted to bike for fitness, and wanted you to get a lot of expensive clothes and gear to get started.  I ride in my regular clothes, like most people I see out there. I should've known it would push the nice stuff considering it seems like a magazine that is geared towards those who have a lot of disposable income. That is a problem I've encountered when trying to figure out the necessities, everyone has their own long laundry list, but I only have so much money to throw at this bike thing.
So far I carry my u-lock and my cable lock, and a front white LED light and a back red LED light for night riding.  I invested in a top notch bike lock, but the rest is from Target. That's it. I'm thinking about adding in some tire stuff in case of a flat, I think I have some lying around here somewhere from my first foray into bike riding.  I also stole ( well is it really stealing if its next to the dumpster?) a crate from behind a liquor store to place on the back rack of my bike.  That is sooo much better than hauling stuff around in a backpack.  I'm sure I'll really appreciate it in the summer.

So, after all that, I was finally ready to cycle.  It actually was more time and effort than I thought, but it has been well worth it.

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