Getting Back on a Bike   |    Biking to Work or School   |    Dating by Bike   |    Buying a Bike   |   Avoiding Bicycle Theft   |   Women's Safety   |   Vacationing With Bicycles   |   Transportation Infrastructure for Bikes   |   Bicycling at Night    |   Bicycling to Run Errands and Shop    |   Those Damned Cyclists    |   Using Bicycle Helmets    |   Buying Bikes for Xmas
Getting Back on a Bike  
If you haven't been on a bike in a while, how do you prepare?
Do three things: Make sure your bike's OK, find a good place to ride, and dress adequately.

How can you tell whether your bike's OK?
The basic things are brakes, wheels, chain, and handlebars. First, make sure each set of brakes (front and rear) can stop the wheel when you push the bike on smooth, dry pavement. Second, give each wheel a spin to check that it moves freely. Then lift the back wheel and pedal with your hand; you shouldn't hear squeaking or grinding. Next, press each tire against a curb or wall; it should have enough air so you can't make it flat. Last, with the front wheel between your legs, make sure you can't twist the handlebars using moderate pressure. If your bike fails any of these, get it fixed.

How should you dress for cycling?
Compared to walking, you'll start out cooler (because of wind) and end up warmer (because of exertion). So dress in layers that you can remove once you get going. And put a rubber band or strap around your right ankle to keep your pants away from the bike's chain.

Where's a good place to ride when you're starting out?
Walk or automobile your bike to a side street, road in a public park, or parking lot that's got little or no traffic. Ride around until you feel comfortable with the bike and how it handles. Avoid public paths at first—too much traffic. And if you're worried about possible strain, take it very slowly—or first see a doctor.

How does your latest book help someone who's getting back to cycling?
Three ways: First, Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips shows in detail how to make sure your current bike fits you properly. Next, it describes how to dress for different kinds of weather. And, if the idea of riding on roads intimidates you, my book's got tips for getting comfortable with it.

How can people get Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips?
Get print and e-book versions at .
Newsworthy Items
In the last 15 years, the number of U.S. bicycle owners has grown forty percent, to well over 100 million people.
The number of U.S. adults who bicycle regularly grows by over a million each year.
Bicycling is the sixth most popular U.S. recreational sport, after walking, camping, swimming, bowling, and fishing.

Sources: U.S. Federal Highway Administration, National Sporting Goods Association
Biking to Work or School Back to top
How many people bike to work?
In the U.S. an estimated 5 million people each year. And over 200,000 new people try it every year.

Doesn’t cycling to work make you sweaty?
It can. But you can handle it in three ways: Take more time and ride more slowly, dress cool, and clean up at your destination.

What if you can’t shower at work?
Most people who bike to work don’t shower at their destination, and they don’t offend anyone. If you’re prepared, it’s pretty easy to towel or sponge off in a washroom. And fresh clothes make lots of difference.

How can you bring fresh clothes to work without wrinkling?
You can avoid most wrinkles by rolling your clothes before packing. Or, on days you don’t bike, bring a change of clothes to leave at work.

Why don’t more people bike to work?
Because it seems a huge hassle: How do I pack? What route do I take? Where do I park? How will I look and smell? To make it lots easier, first try biking to work on several weekend days, when you’ve no pressure about time or how you look.

How does your latest book help folks learn about biking to work?
I believe you won’t find a better guide than Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips. It illustrates, step by step, how to pack your clothes and dress for cycling, even how to bike in a skirt or dress. My book also addresses most hygiene problems—including what to do about helmet hair.

How can people get Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips?
Get print and e-book versions at .
Newsworthy Items
The average distance traveled by Americans who bike to work is 12 miles.
When surveyed, over 85 percent of North Americans who bike to work or school said they didn’t shower at their destinations.
The typical yearly cost for a regular U.S.commuter to own and operate a bicycle vs. a car: $20 to $300 vs. $3,300 to $6,500.

Sources: U.S. Federal Highway Administration, Wordspace Press, Self-Propelled City
Dating by Bike Back to top
How much importance should a bike rider attach to dating someone who also bikes?
Think of it this way: Do they, or will they, bicycle at all? I mean, not all the time; but sometimes you will no-way wanna go to the restaurant/bar/party/friends’ house in a motor vehicle (whether owned by your date, Hertz, or the transit agency). Do the two of you have potential for such a trip? Ever? If not, well . . . maybe you want to consider dating someone more bike friendly.

What are advantages to dating by bike, as opposed to other modes?
Driving your date in a car gives you control. That appeals to some in a romantic encounter, but not me. Having them on a bike can put them on equal footing about route choices, how fast you go—heck, even about leaving without you. On the downside, if you date by bike you have to leave your ego at home with the driver’s license.

How do you get anywhere if your date gets spooked by traffic?
Try a tandem (two-seater) bicycle. If you don’t know if how much you’ll use it, it makes for a pretty big investment—so check with your local bike advocacy group about borrowing one (see the "More Info" menu at Otherwise, do what the Chinese and many Europeans do: Let your date sit side-saddle on your rear carrying rack. Your date can hold onto your waist or the back of your seat. And it helps if your rack has a pannier-type of bike bag to keep your date’s legs from getting into the wheel.

What sort of conflicts can arise when dating by bike, and how should you handle them?
Those of us who bike a lot can get kinda righteous and really turn off dates. For example: If you both bike, let your lesser-experienced date lead, to set the pace. Or, if you haven’t yet gotten to that point, agree to meet your date at your destination; then put your bike in their car and let them drive you home. Putting them in the driver’s seat can score you lots of points. For example, once I met someone in a bar who’d driven there in a convertible, and . . . well, you get the idea.

What’s the most memorable bike date you’ve had?
We met for dinner at a Thai restaurant, after which I suggested a bar whose location I sort of knew, but we never found. But while we searched the dark, winterized city streets, I learned a bunch about my date. Like, how she communicates during a conflict (in this case, about how to organize a search). Or the limits of her patience. And her ability to rebound after getting stressed. I don’t think I would’ve learned any of that stuff in a car or on a bus, at least not so soon.

How does your latest book help those who want to date by bike?
If you find yourself in the bike-in-the-car situation, Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips can show you exactly how to do it. It also gives a complete guide to getting comfortable with traffic, if you have a date receptive to a few tips.

How can people get Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips?
Get print and e-book versions at .
Buying a Bike Back to top
What should you look for in a bike?
Depends on how much you'll ride. If only a few times a year, you'll get by with a generic discount-store bike. Otherwise, ask friends what brands they like and prepare to spend a little more.

How much should you spend?
For a good used bike, at least $150. For a good new bike, figure $250 minimum. If you're going to park and leave it at all, add 20 percent for locks. And if you start using your bike for work or errands, spend another $30 for a equipment, such as a rack, that'll let you carry stuff.

Where should you buy a bike?
Again, ask satisfied friends where they got theirs. If you can't get recommendations, visit two or three bike shops near you. Pick one that'll let you bring your bike back within one or two months after purchase, to adjust it and fix any problems.

What about discount stores?
If you'll use a bike more than a little, don't buy discount. Some discounters don't assemble bikes correctly, and few repair what they sell.

How does your latest book help folks looking to buy a bike?
I designed the entire first chapter of Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips to show you how to find a bike and accessories that are right for you, at good prices. My book tells you how to figure out the kind of bike that suits you, and shows you the different equipment you might need.

How can people get Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips?
Get print and e-book versions at .
Newsworthy Items
About one-fifth of Americans who own bikes bought them new.
Eighty percent of U.S. bicycle owners ride during the months of May through August.
Most Americans buy bicycles during the months of May and August. A slight surge in buying occurs in December among infrequent cyclists.

Source: Bicycling magazine
Avoiding Bicycle Theft Back to top
How big is the bike-theft problem?
The FBI says that over 1,300 bikes are stolen every day in the U.S.—almost half a million bikes a year. And in some big cities, such as parts of Chicago, up to seven bikes are reported stolen on an average summer day.

Why do bikes get stolen?
Usually because people aren't smart about how they park and lock. Most people don't think of themselves as crime victims—so they don't take the simple steps that'd help them avoid theft.

Which bikes do thieves steal most?
A thief can easily sell any bike that looks good—whether or not you paid a lot for it. So you "uglify"—wrap black tape or inner tubes around the frame. Or paint the frame with dark colors. And whenever you eat a banana, take the label off the peel and stick it on your bike. It's surprisingly simple to make a bike look really gross.

Some say you should never park a bike outside. True?
Not if you park in a good place. Thieves don't like audiences, so don't park in isolated areas. And lock to something solid, like bike-parking racks built into the ground. Don't lock to a wooden fence or small tree, or the links in a chain-link fence.

How is it that a thief can steal a locked bike?
Typical bike locks have been around for so long, thieves treat them like pet dogs—they take 'em out every day. So always use two separate locking devices: A good, strong, U-style lock holds the frame and front wheel. A separate, thick cable with a thick padlock secures the wheels and frame. Seeing this, a thief will attack another bike—one locked with a single lock.

How does your latest book help people avoid theft?
I created a whole chapter of Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips to help people beat thieves. It gives you the steps to make your bike unattractive, and shows you the many different kinds of locking hardware. It also reveals how thieves typically steal bikes, so you can protect yourself.

How can people get Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips?
Get print and e-book versions at .
Newsworthy Items
A large number of stolen bikes (in some places, about half) are locked before thieves take them.
Nearly 500,000 bikes, worth a total of $126 million, are reported stolen each year in the U.S.
The ten cities reporting the most bike losses by Kryptonite lock owners: New York, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, Washington DC, Boston, Austin TX, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Honolulu.

Sources: Bicycling magazine, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Kryptonite Corporation
Women's Safety Back to top
How can women protect themselves while bicycling?
Three ways: How you look, how you ride, and how you defend yourself. Appearance-wise, the right clothing can make it hard to identify your sex from behind. You can also avoid riding in unfamiliar areas without a companion. And you can practice defending yourself.

How should a women handle an attack?
Two things to remember: If the attacker wants only your bike, give it up. And when assaulted, scream "No!" or other negatives, and keep making noise. This scares off lots of attackers.

What about pepper spray?
Lots of women carry pepper spray, but most haven't used it—and many people who do use it get it on themselves. So to practice, go into a wide, open space and try spraying it downwind.

Are there ways to ride that make you safer?
First, always watch pedestrians. If someone looks threatening, cross the street or turn around. Or act like a cop by talking into your jacket or into a CB radio mike that you clip to your lapel.

What if you bike through bad neighborhoods?
Avoid patterns that bad guys can detect. Take a different, parallel street each day, or go at different times. And if you feel unsafe somewhere don't stop for any reason, even traffic controls, and move fast.

How can appearance help?
Goons driving up from behind you might not hassle you if they can't tell you're a woman. So wear loose clothes, like windbreakers, that hide your figure. Put up your hair or tuck it into your collar. And don't wear flashy bike clothes that make you a theft target.

What do you suggest to the woman who, after being harassed or attacked, just can't get back on a bike?
First, if you can't help feeling scared, take a self-defense class. Second, keeping your bike in good working order can make you more confident—because you'll know that if you have to bolt from a tough situation, your bike will fly instead of die.

How does your latest book help women bike more safely?
To research Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips, I talked with lots of women. They helped me fill an entire chapter with tips for handling trouble. And my book actually shows, not just tells, the ways to, for example, watch out for bad guys, or make yourself look like less of a target.

How can people get Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips?
Get print and e-book versions at .
Newsworthy Items
In a nationwide survey of American bicycle owners, about a third said they'd cycle more if they felt they had a safe place to ride.
Women comprise about 44 percent of adult bike riders in the U.S.
American women spend about $300 million a year on mountain bikes.

Sources: Bicycling magazine, National Sporting Goods Association
Vacationing With Bicycles Back to top
How hard is it to take a cycling vacation?
You can make it as easy as you want. For example, some tour companies feed you, house you, carry your bags, and let you ride at your own pace. Or you can do it all yourself, and rough it.

Should you take your own bike on long trip?
If you already use your bike to carry stuff and for long rides, taking it might be worth the hassle. Otherwise you can often rent a bike at your destination.

How do you know whether you’re in shape for a bike trip?
Know the distance you’ll ride each day, and the severity of the hills. Then go out one weekend and ride something similar. See how you feel. But if you’ve health problems, first see a doctor.

Is it a problem to take your bike on a train or plane?
Trains and planes can present huge problems if you’re not prepared. Two keys: First, know the carrier’s rules for transporting bikes. Second, give yourself lots of extra time at both ends.

How can you find a good bike touring package?
Most of the work has been done for you, by the Adventure Cycling Association. The Association publishes a rich cache of guided tours, self-guided tours, and maps—for both on-road and off-road cycling. Contact the Association at 800/755-2453.

How does your latest book help people who are planning bike trips?
If you’re taking your bike on a bus, train, or plane, Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips walks you through it. And, if you want to carry stuff on your bike, my book shows you how. It also contains a resource guide that helps you find information about cycling in different areas.

How can people get Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips?
Get print and e-book versions at .
Newsworthy Items
About two million Americans take bicycling vacations annually. And the number of bike vacationers grows five percent each year.
The most popular U.S. destinations for bicycling tours are New England, the upper Midwest, the Rocky Mountains, and California wine country.
Over 150 American and Canadian operators offer bicycle tours of destinations throughout the world.

Sources: Adventure Cycling Association, League of American Bicyclists
Transportation Infrastructure for Bikes Back to top
Don’t most people use bicycles for sport rather than transportation?
Yes—but not by as wide a margin as you’d guess. A recent U.S. government study showed that of all daily bicycle trips, over 30 percent (on average) serve utility or transportation purposes.

Why is the government studying bicycles?
Because of air and road congestion. Americans don’t use trains, bikes, and their own feet as much as the rest of the world’s population. The U.S. wants to encourage people to get around in those ways, rather than in motor vehicles.

So what’s the government done to encourage cycling as transportation?
Something big: In 1991, for the first time, Congress carved out part of its road spending authorization to fund non-motorized transportation, such a bicycling. The result to date: Local governments have spent about a billion dollars on bicycling projects—including things like bike lanes, wider bridges, and education programs. Congress increased such funding in 1998, and continued it in 2005.

How does the change in transportation spending affect the motoring public?
First, motorists will sit in fewer traffic jams as more people use other transportation modes. Second, as more folks use bikes for utility, governments are putting in even more accommodations—for example, bike racks on public buses, or space for bikes on commuter trains. These things make it easier for you to leave your car at home one day and bike to work.

Isn’t cities’ money better spent on paving roads and fixing bridges?
Cities must certainly fix things, but consider: Most U.S. kids dont walk or bike to school, yet most of their parents did. But if you ask those parents, most would say they’d like to live in a community where their kids could bike safely to school. Better quality of life: Thats a goal of those who want consistent spending on non-motorized transport.

How does your latest book address bikes as transportation?
First, Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips shows how to use your bike for utility; for example, it illustrates how to carry stuff. My book also picks up the link between cycling and transit, by showing how to take a bike on planes and buses.

How can people get Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips?
Get print and e-book versions at .
Newsworthy Items
Americans make less than one percent of their daily trips by bike. On the other hand, bicycling accounts for 13 to 40 percent of the trips taken by German city dwellers.
In the U.S., the number of three-vehicle households increased from 1.8 million in 1960 to 18 million in 2000—a tenfold increase. Meanwhile, the average number of people per household went down.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans of 4 to 34 years of age.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Perspectives (German Marshall Fund), U.S. Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Census
Those Damned Cyclists Back to top
Why do bicyclists ride so wildly?
The same reason people drive wildly: They’re in a hurry. The difference for most cyclists, though, is that no one forces them to obey traffic rules. So they don’t think wild riding puts anyone in danger.

Shouldn’t cyclists ride on sidewalks?
In most places, it’s illegal. The law says adults should bike on the street, as far to the right as practical. But if you ride too far to the right, you increase your chances of getting cut off by a turning motorists who doesn’t notice you.

But isn’t it more dangerous to ride on streets?
Statistics show that in the U.S., more cyclists get into crashes by riding on sidewalks and paths than on streets. That’s because on the street, most know the rules and follow them.

Why don’t cyclists get traffic tickets?
When breaking a traffic law, a cyclist is as guilty as a motorist—but cops in most places don’t know or don’t care. In places with more folks on bikes, such as business areas or cities in warm climates, cyclists do get tickets.

What should I do if a cyclist cuts me off?
Two things. First, if you’ve the grounds (and enough information) to call police and press charges, do so. Second is more general: As a motorist, try to give cyclists room on the road; respect begets respect, and it takes two to escalate a traffic conflict to an act of road rage.

How does your latest book address erratic bike riders?
I created a very detailed chapter in Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips that shows bike riders exactly how to handle every traffic situation. My book also teaches cyclists that they should follow the same rules as motorists do. So when folks read my book, I hope they end up knowing the right ways to share the road with motorists and pedestrians.

How can people get Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips?
Get print and e-book versions at .
Newsworthy Items
In the U.S., 80 percent of all regular bike riders do some portion of their cycling on streets.
Only half of all U.S. cyclists ride in the proper manner, obeying rules of the road.
On an average day, Americans make about a million bike-to-work trips.

Sources: U.S. Federal Highway Administration, Transportation Research Record, 2000 U.S. Census
Bicycling to Run Errands and Shop Back to top
Why would someone want to ride their bike to run errands?
To save time and money. If you normally work out to stay in shape, cycling to errands lets you combine exercise with personal business. And by cycling instead of driving, you save gas and wear on your car.

Substituting bike trips for car trips keeps the air cleaner too, right?
More than you might expect. Your car pollutes the most during short trips, before the engine’s warmed up to peak efficiency. And many of your errands and shopping expeditions are short trips.

Why don’t more people use their bike to shop or run errands?
I think folks feel uneasy about bike theft and where to ride—but the biggest problem is carrying stuff. But if your have a rear carrying rack, bike bags, and bungee cords, you can carry an amazing load on a bike. For example, I can carry my complete volleyball set on my bike.

Why is where to ride a problem?
In newer communities built around car travel, traffic moves fast. So if you can’t find side streets or paths to your destination, cycling seems scary. But cyclists do ride safely on major roads in these areas, and if you want to you can find a class that’ll teach you how.

How does your latest book address cycling for errands?
In Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips I show lots of ways to carry things on your bike. I also tell you how to get comfortable with traffic, including the best ways to pick a route to your destination.

How can people get Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips?
Get print and e-book versions at .
Newsworthy Items
Shopping and personal business make up the majority of daily trips that Americans make—about 45 percent of all trips.
The average personal trip is nine miles, meaning that many trips are under five miles in length—a distance most people can bike easily.
To maintain health, the average adult should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderately intensive physical activity daily.

Sources: U.S. Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Centers for Disease Control
Bicycling at Night Back to top
Isn’t it dangerous to bicycle at night?
Statistically, it seems so. But you can avoid most of the danger if you illuminate yourself and your bicycle properly.

What special equipment do you need for night cycling?
At a minimum, you should have a white headlight in front and a red reflector in back. But to be safe, you should have a bright blinking light in back, and reflective material (such as a safety vest) on your torso.

If you bicycle in a city with bright streetlights, why do you need a headlight?
Most cyclists who get into crashes at night get hit from the front or sides. That’s because motorists look for other vehicles’ headlights. So under streetlights, you need a headlight to be seen, not to see.

When should you absolutely not ride a bike a night?
Don’t bike at night if your visual acuity’s worse than 20/40 with corrective lenses. Also, don’t do it if you can read a far-away sign or address okay in daylight, but not at night. If you’re not sure, visit an eye doctor.

How does your latest book help people to bicycle at night?
Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips shows you exactly where and how to use lighting and reflective material. It even tells you what to look for in a good headlight.

How can people get Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips?
Get print and e-book versions at .
Newsworthy Items
Only three percent of bike rides happen at night. But over half of all cyclists killed get hit while riding at night without lights.
In most of North America, night-cycling laws require a front light visible from 500 feet. In contrast, most car headlights are visible from almost a mile away.
Fifty percent of all adults experience some night-vision impairment by the age of 40.

Sources: Bicycling magazine, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws & Ordinances, Blindness Prevention Institute
Using Bicycle Helmets Back to top
Why should you wear a bike helmet?
Many believe that if you fall and hit your head while bicycling, a helmet can help protect you from brain injury.

Does the law require cyclists to wear helmets?
In some place, yes. In the U.S., about a third of the states have laws that apply mostly to children. But many towns have their own laws.

How does a helmet work?
In a crash, your brain gets injured when it smashes against the inside of your skull. Helmets work by collapsing in an impact, bringing your skull to a more gradual stop.

How should you choose a helmet?
Look for two things: certification and correct fit. First, if the inside of the helmet has a label from the Consumer Products Safety Commission (in the U.S.), the helmet will protect you. Second, you should be able to adjust the helmet’s straps and cushion pads so the helmet doesn’t move.

How does your latest book help folks with helmets?
Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips shows you how certification labels look, and how to get a good fit. My book also tells you what to do about a common complaint: helmet hair. Many people I talked to found creative ways to manage their hair, so I’ve included their tips.

How can people get Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips?
Get print and e-book versions at .
Newsworthy Items
Less than 25 percent of U.S. cyclists wear helmets all or most of the time they bicycle.
A study of 8 million bicycling crashes found "no evidence that hard shell helmets have reduced the head injury and fatality rates" of bike riders.
The first crash-helmet standard was created in 1958, in response to an auto race death. The first bicycle helmet standard appeared 26 years later.

Sources: Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, Journal of Product Liability, Bell Sports
Buying Bikes & Accessories for Christmas Back to top
Should I surprise someone with a bicycle under the Christmas tree?
Bikes make fine Christmas gifts—but you should never buy a bicycle for someone without them present to try it on. Like clothes, bikes fit people very specifically. And different bike styles don’t suit everyone. A bike rider can find this out only if they ride the bike—and they should do this before, not after the purchase. So if you buy someone the wrong bike, they might end up having to spend a lot more time at the bike store than if you’d simply brought them along in the first place.

So how do I surprise someone with a bike for Christmas?
For adults: Get them a gift certificate from a bike store. Figure $200 minimum, and $400 should set them up fine. As for kids, they probably won’t appreciate a gift-wrapped certificate. So get them the bike some other time, then for Christmas get them a really nifty helmet. Click here for some guidance.

Where should I go to buy a gift bike or gift certificate?
If your gift recipient doesn’t have a favorite bike shop, ask for a recommendation from other friends who bike, or contact your local advocacy group. If you can’t get recommendations, visit two or three bike shops near you. Pick one that lets buyers bring their bikes back within one or two months after purchase, to adjust it and fix any problems.

What about a gift certificate from a discount store?
If your gift recipient will use a bike more than a little, don’t buy discount. Some discounters don’t assemble bikes correctly, and few repair what they sell.

What if I do buy someone a bike and I take them with me?
Bicycle retailers get a little busy before Christmas. So if you want the best attention you could wait until January when things tend to get really slow. But if you must buy that bike in December, you’ll likely get the most attention from a retailer if you visit during the business day rather than weekends and evenings.

What accessories make good Christmas gifts for someone who bicycles?
For novice or infrequent bikers, get them a handlebar bell or a cushy bike seat. For more frequent bikers, get them a $25 LED (light emitting diode) headlight (from bike shops) or adjustable bungee cords (from auto parts or hardware stores). For racers or hard-core riders, ask them the name of their favorite bike shop, then just go there and get them a darned gift certificate. And my book, Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips, makes an ideal gift for any biker, because it contains hundreds of practical, completely illustrated cycling secrets.
Links to winter bicycling info
Mr Bike’s list of sources for winter cycling accessories
Biking tips and calendars of events for the Bike Winter movement
A PDF file of Mr Bike’s illustrated tips for biking in cold and snow