Friday, June 15, 2012

Bicycles On the Cheap

One of the many reasons to get a bicycle is to save money on gas and upkeep of a car. However, the small expenses of outfitting your bicycle for the commute may result in sticker shock, so I've gathered some ways to make your bicycle functional on the cheap. 

1. Panniers

These can cost a pretty penny, ranging from $30 to $100 and up. If you have a back rack with a spring loaded trap, then you can easily substitute reusable grocery bags. Place the handles through the trap, and they will fall on either side of your bicycle like panniers, and of course are super durable. I've transported milk and a six pack using this method. If rain is a concern, wrap your stuff up in plastic bags or plastic bags. Some of these bags come in lovely designs, but I had the standard issue green HEB (local grocery chain) ones. They cost a $1.

2. Basket

These you can find relatively cheap, but the rear ones can be costlier. Solution? A plastic crate. You find these behind every convenience and big box store. I had a bright red Coca Cola crate and tied it on using zip ties. Obviously they are very durable since they are meant for stacking, and can hold quite a bit of weight. I also used these for transporting groceries, and would lace the bag handles through the crate holes for security. With some creative thinking, you could make a cover for your crate like some of the fancier back racks. 

Neither of these solutions are for cross country commuting (I would imagine), but these work great as everyday commute solutions.

3. Cycle Gear

Do away with the hassle of bringing a change of clothes and ride in the clothes you already own. This is a no-brainer for many, but I mention it because there are some obstacles you will face. First, oily grease is not a good look on anyone. A chainguard and fenders will keep your clothes looking nice and free from the moving parts of your bicycle. I have neither on my bicycle, and get around those problems by wearing skirts and dresses most days. It's easier to get grease off my leg than my slacks. If you are a guy, I see them using a clip on their jeans. I also see many wearing capri pants, but from a woman's perspective I don't like them. Sunglasses are a good idea, especially here in Austin, where you are guaranteed to not have any shade whatsoever at least part of your trip. In the winter, wear gloves, even if you would not normally. Since your hands are in a static position most of the time, they get frozen quickly. I also like to carry a handkerchief around to quickly get sweat off my brow and upper lip.

4. Go to a bike swap meet. Those are good places to find quality parts for a good price, some give away stuff for free. I found my back rack at Frankenbike here in Austin for $40. It's better to see things in person, especially when you are dealing with bike parts. My rack seemed a perfect fit, but we still had to enlarge the holes with a drill so I could attach it. Imagine trying to get the right fit over the Internet. Plus, they are fun, and here in Austin they had free beer.

Some things to splurge on: a good lock and Krog lights. The first one is self-explanatory, but Krog lights are these wonderful little LED lights that require no mount and can easily go from one bicycle to another. They are pricier than lights from Wal-Mart, but are worth it. The light they emit is powerful, and they are light and smushy enough to stuff in your purse.

Any other money saving ideas?

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