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Women & Bicycles Tip: Try This One Great Grocery Trick

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This entry is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series. Women & Bicycles is WABA’s outreach and encouragement initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes. These posts certainly aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming and staffing. Click here to learn more and get involved.

 

Do you have panniers, those bags that clip on the side of a bike rack? After years of using a messenger bag, I am now a faithful pannier user and call them my Mary Poppins bags.

Here’s a trick for other pannier users: When grocery shopping, clip your panniers on the front, inside, or outside of your shopping cart during checkout. It’s a simple way to load up and make sure the heavy stuff goes to the bottom, the lighter stuff stays on top, and that weight is evenly dispersed between the two bags.

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My friend Meredith demonstrating the pannier method of shopping.

Panniers turn your bike into a pickup truck: They offer the carrying capacity of nearly two weeks’ worth of groceries, everything but the kitchen sink for a family trip to the park,  or simply all the odds and ends that you need daily. And with panniers, you don’t have to worry about the strain, weight, or sweat from carrying a backpack.

If you’re in the market for panniers, click here to read Momentum‘s reviews on over a dozen different options to choose from.

And speaking of groceries, biking, and WABA’s Women & Bicycles program, are you coming to the Women & Bicycles happy hour tonight at Glen’s Garden Market in Dupont? We’ll be there from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Click here for more details.

Women & Bicycles Tip: The 15-Minute Bike Wash

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This entry is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series. Women & Bicycles is WABA’s outreach and encouragement initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes. These posts certainly aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming and staffing. Click here to learn more and get involved.

 

I went 5 years without thinking much about bike maintenance or repair.  I figured, hey, if ain’t broke don’t fix it. I was frugal, but mostly lazy.

After learning this 15-minute bike wash technique, I’ve saved time and money. Keeping my bike clean–especially my chain–has prevented my bike from rusting, maintained my shifting, and minimized the amount of bike grease buildup on the right legs of my pants.

Frequency:
While  some folks religiously and meticulously deep-clean their bikes, I stick to my lazy ways and wash my bike after every major rain or about once a month, whichever comes first. 

Materials:

  • Liquid degreaser: I use SimpleGreen. It’s affordable,  non-toxic, and biodegradable.
  • Bike lube: Click here for Bicycling  magazine’s review of lubes
  • Rags (old T-shirts make great ones)
  • Bucket or wide bowl
  • Water
  • Used toothbrush

Be sure you’re wearing clothing you’re willing to get messy, and consider plastic gloves if you want to avoid grease-stained hands.

Location:
Turn your bike upside down in a backyard, patio, or driveway space. If you don’t have access to outdoor space, put down some towels or newspaper in your kitchen, soap up your steed in your bathtub, or ride to your local car wash.

Bicycle cleaning

Photo via Flickr user osto

Step 1: Rinse
Rinse with the hose, showerhead, or your bucket of water to get rid of the big dirt and the grit. This rinse is important because any bit of gravel or sand left behind will scratch your paint when you go to scrub.

Bike wash

Photo via Flickr user Cyclelicious

Step 2: Scrub
Spray or lather up your entire bike with degreaser (using a 1:1 water:degreaser solution) then scrub the dirtiest parts first, like your drivetrain. Use your toothbrush or any other bike-specific scrubbers on your chain, chain ring (front gears), and sprockets (rear gears).

Week 14 - Cleaning the Chain

Image via Flickr user MVCornelius

After you’ve given your drivetrain a thorough scrub and removed all the gunky buildup, use the rag to get into the nooks and crannies of your frame.

bike washing day

Flickr image via Thalia Kamarga

Step 3: Rinse
Rinse gently while removing as much of the degreaser as possible. The more degreaser left around, the more dirt it will attract later on

Wash down.

Image via Flickr user MFGCyclocross

Step 4: Dry
Dry your bike thoroughly. The bike experts recommend drying off your bike, especially the drivetrain, every time they’re out in wet conditions. Rusting is bad news. I keep a hand towel by my door and where I store my bike.

Bike Wash

Image via Flickr user J Holland

Step 5: Re-lube your chain
Lube up your chain while your bike is still upside down. It’s nice to get a good rhythm here. Hold the lube bottle in one hand and hold your pedal with the other. Rest the tip of the lube bottle in the middle of one of your chain lines, then start to slowly turn the pedal so that you’re getting a drop of lube in every chain link.

After you’ve lubed up every chain link, rotate your pedal a couple times so the lube settles down into the chain. Don’t shift here, just rotate the pedals. I used to shift my gears around thinking I needed to get lube in the gears and the derailleur (the mechanism that shifts your chain). But no, the chain is the only part that needs lubing.

Chain Lube

Image via Flickr user Garrett Lau

Step 6: Remove the excess lube
This is essential! Take the rag you used to dry off your bike and remove as much lube as you can from your chain. The most time efficient technique is to lightly hold the rag around the chain while slowly pedaling with the other hand.

cleaning bike chains is so hot

Image via Flickr user Amy

Things I’ve Learned Along the Way:

  • Never use WD-40, ever
  • Don’t spray your bike down with too much force or you’ll waterlog your parts
  • Always remove as much lube and degreaser as possible or your bike will quickly collect more dirt
  • Cleaning your bike is like changing a flat tire: We all have different approaches and tips to share
  • Remember to appreciate your smooth-shifting, good-looking, squeak-free ride!

Resources: Biking Visibly

This blog post is part of a new series by our bike ambassadors. It’s dedicated to presenting tips that will encourage new riders to get started. We’ll link these posts on our Resources page, forming a library of tips for beginning cyclists.

Staying visible on your bicycle is extremely important, but easy to overlook: You may not think you’ll ever get caught biking in the rain, dark, or fog, but the more you ride your bike, the more likely it is to happen! In the winter in particular, if you’re not lit up, you’re nearly invisible. Today, we’ll cover the basics on some obvious (and maybe not-so-obvious) ways to stay lit up.

THE OBVIOUS
Front Light

Mount a light on your handlebar and let your light shine where your bike is heading. This should be sufficient if you’re biking around town and have the added benefit of streetlights to light the way. A helmet-mounted light will shine where you’re looking. Consider doubling up if you’ll be out alone on a trail at night!

Rear Light
Flashing, or not flashing, put a red taillight to your rear. It’s a personal preference if you wear it on your bag, jacket, or mount it to your seat post, but the higher the light, the more visible it is to drivers. Remember to only use a red light behind you. Just like a car, a red light indicates a bike’s rear.

Consider a light set like these Planet Bike blinkies.

Reflectivity
At the very minimum, bicycles are required by law to come equipped with standard reflectors, front and back. If you purchased a used bicycle, or yours have fallen off over time, consider adding reflectors to your wheels, pedals, under the seat, or on your handlebars. If you want to add something more unique or stylish, there are plenty of creative options out there from reflective stickers, bike wrappers, tape, and reflective wheel stripes. Check out more about reflecting on your bicycle.

Hi-Vis Clothing
Safety black is not a real thing. While your all black coat may be stylish, it camouflages you in the dark. Consider wearing bright colors, or adorning your outfit with high-vis items such as a vest, ankle straps, leg or wrist bands. Many bicycle-specific clothing companies have reflective stripes built into their clothing and bags, but you can achieve the same function much more affordably by adding reflective tape to the gear you already own.

To test what you’ve got, have someone else ride your bicycle in your high-viz gear so you can get have a clear picture of how easily you’re seen.

THE NOT-SO-OBVIOUS
Reduce Your Speed
Slow down! This is less about you being visible and more about being able to see any obstacles in front of you. Particularly on roads you are less familiar, obstacles and debris are more difficult to spot in the dark.

Lane Positioning
Where in the lane should you ride to be most visible? Hint: Don’t hug the curb! Taking the lane (or riding in the center of a travel lane) is your legal right, and helps keep you visible to drivers. If no designated bicycle lane is available, riding in the center of a traffic lane not only allows you to avoid hazards near the edge of the road, but prevents oncoming vehicles from turning directly in front of you or passing too closely. And doing so keeps you out of the door zone (the area three to four feet away from parked cars).

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Women & Bicycles Tip: Know Your Bike Infrastructure

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This entry is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series. Women & Bicycles is WABA’s outreach and encouragement initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes. These posts certainly aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming and staffing. Click here to learn more and get involved.

There’s a good chance the bike infrastructure we use today wasn’t around when you learned to ride a bike (and it probably wasn’t mentioned in your drivers’ ed course).  This week, we’d like to help you familiarize yourself with some different types of bike facilities out there.

Sharrow
Madison Dr closed to traffic - lovely! #bikedc #shutdown
Sharrows are street markings that serve as reminders to road users that bicyclists have rights to the lanes on these routes—even though cyclists may, for the most part, legally ride in the road. Sharrows are often placed on routes that see more bike traffic or on streets that are too narrow for drivers to pass bicyclists safely as reminders.

Bike Lane
Spectacular bike commute weather this morning, but riding directly into the sun is a challenge!
Bike lanes provide a dedicated space for bicyclists on the roadway. Without a lack of physical barriers, however, cyclists still must be wary of riding in the “door zone,” the 3 to 5 foot area along parked cars, double-parked vehicles, road debris, and turning vehicles. Parking in bike lanes is illegal in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

Cycletrack
Penn Av bike lane
Cycletracks are protected bike lanes. Some provide physical barriers from other road-users and effectively form an on-street bike path. Click here to check out 19 creative ways cities are protecting cycletracks.

Wayfinding
Metropolitan Branch On-road Trail Sign
Yes, if you build it, they will come. But first, people need to know what you’ve built! Wayfinding encompasses things such as street signs placed throughout the region to direct bicyclists to trails, paths, and other amenities.

Bike Box
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Bike boxes give priority to bicyclists at intersections by providing a designated space to queue up in front of cars. Bike boxes improve the visibility of bicyclists and can help prevent right-hook collisions.

Mixing Zone
Sunny, at this point in the ride
Mixing zones are merging areas. Traffic that is turning at intersections must yield to bicyclists just like they would with another automobile and enter the mixing zone. Sometimes this means the vehicle may need to wait in the bike lane at the intersection before turning. This is perfectly fine as long as the driver yielded to bicyclists.

Bicycle Corrals
Washington, DC bike corral
Bike corrals are an efficient use of on-street bike parking. They transform a parking space or sidewalk area into bike parking. Portland just recently installed its 100th bike parking corral! How many have you spotted in our region?

The future of bike infrastructure?! Bike superhighways, underground bike parking systems, bike overpasses…and maybe even SkyCycle, an elevated bike network of bike paths.

Resources: Basic Bike Commuting Gear

This blog post is part of a new series by our bike ambassadors. It’s dedicated to presenting tips that will encourage new riders to get started. We’ll link these posts on our Resources page, forming a library of tips for beginning cyclists.

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Commuting by bicycle isn’t complicated. You don’t need much to get started. Once you have a bike that fits you and is in working condition, you’re almost all set to ride. These basics will ensure that you’re safe, lawful, and comfortable.

A helmet: While a helmet is not required by law in D.C. for riders over the age of 16, there’s nothing wrong with protecting your head.

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U-lock: Unless you are just taking your bicycle out for a spin, you’re going to want to be able to leave your bike outside your destination (i.e. Metro station, restaurant, workplace, etc.) and rest assured it will be waiting for you when you’re ready to head home. Purchasing and properly using the best lock you can afford will provide a sense of security when you don’t have your eyes on your bike.

Lights: Requirements for lights vary by jurisdiction, but regardless, it’s important to keep yourself visible on the road. Make sure to use a white headlight (front light) and a red taillight (rear light) when it’s dark, foggy, or in wet weather. There are several types of bike lights, and the one that suits your needs depends on your ride. Riding a dark trail at night? You’ll want the brightest one you can find to help illuminate the path in front of you. Riding down a heavily light cycle track? Maybe you can get by with smaller blinky lights. Even if you don’t think you’ll ever ride at night, you never know when you may leave work later than you planned, get caught in the rain, or decide you need to take your bike out after dark.

Some bicycle commuters often find that it’s nice to have a few extras beyond what’s absolutely necessary. These nice-to-have items include:

Bell: Bells are not only for your safety, but for the safety of other bicyclists and pedestrians out on the road. A bell can communicate to others that you’re passing, warn jaywalkers that you are approaching, or grab the attention of a passenger hopping out of a cab before they door you.

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Fenders: Avoid loking like a skunk after your rainy day rides by adding fenders to your bike. A wet and puddle-filled ride becomes more enjoyable when you’re not working about getting your clothes filthy on the way.

Gloves: Plenty of riders use cushioned gloves on their everyday commute throughout the year. Protecting your hands from the cold, wet, and wind is crucial during the winter months since most braking and shifting control comes from your hands and fingers. For most short commutes, your usual winter gloves will suffice.

Women & Bicycles Tip: Be Prepared for Bike Theft

e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwIThis entry is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series. Women & Bicycles is WABA’s outreach and encouragement initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes. These posts certainly aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming and staffing. Click here to learn more and get involved.

 

You’re an expert at locking your bike.* But are you an expert when it comes to finding your stolen bike?

bike thief

Here’s what you can do if your bike gets stolen:

Mourn. Your baby is gone–for the time being.

Immediately file a police report. Call your local police department and provide the date, location, and approximate time of the theft. Give the police officer a detailed description of the bike including serial number, make and model, general description of its aesthetic, and any small and noteworthy details that might distinguish your bike from someone else’s (ex: parts, add-ons, flare, stickers). It’s important to take note of the officer’s name and contact information and the case number.

Notify your network. push a picture and a description of your bike to your friends who can help be on the lookout. Send out an email, post an update on Facebook, and tweet to #bikeDC.

Research.  Scan local Craigslist and eBay sellers for your bike, and check out sites in other nearby cities.

Don’t get confrontational. If you or someone you know sees your bike on the street, notify the police immediately. If the bike is locked up outside, lock it up with your own lock until the police arrive. For your safety, we do not recommend confronting the person riding your bike. Anecdotal evidence indicates it’s entirely possible that the person riding you bike has purchased it from the person who stole your bike.

Most importantly, be proactive.  First, see if your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance covers your bicycle. Second, take the time right now to print off and fill out WABA’s Bicycle Record Sheet. Don’t put this off–you will sorely regret it if you do. The National Bike Registry will also aid your bike’s return. For $10 you can register your bike for 10 years. After submitting your bike information to the Registry’s national database, you receive a tamper-proof label with a unique tracking number. If your bike turns up with the police, they will know exactly who it belongs to. Click here for more information.

*Click here to become an expert at locking your bike. Please.

Women & Bicycles Tip: Add These to Your Shelves

e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwI This entry is part of our Women & Bicycles Tips series. Women & Bicycles is WABA’s outreach and encouragement initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes. These tips certainly aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming and staffing. Click here to learn more and get involved.

 

Recently, we posed this question to the WABA staff: “What books have enriched your understanding of the power of bikes and your approach to bike advocacy?”

Here are some titles we heard in response. They’re a well-rounded look at planning and advocacy for the curious reader, and could make for great holiday gifts! That said, this list is in no way comprehensive. Do you have a favorite urban studies, planning, or bike-related book? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter (or leave a comment on this post).

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Asphalt Nation, Jane Holtz Kay

City Cycling, John Pucher and Ralph Buehler

Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs

Edge City, Joel Garreau

Everyday Bicycling, Elly Blue

High Cost of Free Parking, Donald Shoup

Geography of Nowhere, James Howard Kunstler

Pedaling Revolution, Jeff Mapes

Sprawl, Robert Bruegmann

Stir it up, Rinku Sen

Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt

The Third Mode, Jeff Olson

Walkable Cities, Jeff Speck

Walking Home, Ken Greenberg

Women on Wheels, April Streeter

 

Resources: Quick Fixes and Maintenance Tips

This blog post is part of a new series by our bike ambassadors. It’s dedicated to presenting tips that will encourage new riders to get started. We’ll link these posts on our Resources page, forming a library of tips for beginning cyclists.

Previously in this new serious of resource tips, we talked about finding and choosing the right bike. Once you’ve found the bike that works for you, it’s important to make sure it’s in good condition for riding before venturing out onto the road.

ABC Quick Check
The ABC Quick Check is an easy-to-remember, fast way to make sure your bike is ready to go. It helps you identify up front things that could be inconvenient problems if they crop up while you’re riding. What does it stand for?

A is for Air: Give both front and rear tires a quick squeeze to make sure tires are firm, not soft. Check the sidewall of your tire to find out what level the air pressure should be, and use a pump to fill to that amount. It’s a good idea to check for any cuts, tears, rocks, or other flaws in the tires. Proper tire inflation and care helps prevent flat tires.

B is for Brakes: Check both hand brakes (if your bike has two) by making sure the whole brake pad squeezes tightly on the wheel’s metal rim, not on the rubber tire or on empty air. There should be space between the hand brake lever and the handlebar. If your brakes do not fully stop the bicycle, do not ride until they are fixed.

C is for Chain: Take a look at the chain. Is it dry or rusted? If so, apply a tiny drop of chain lube to each link. Each link should be free of rust and debris. Click for more advanced chain maintenance.

Quick is for Quick Release: Quick release levers make it easy to adjust or remove parts of your bike for maintenance and storage purposes. Make sure any quick releases (usually found on seat posts and at the center of wheels) are closed and pointed towards the back of the bicycle.

Check is for…Check!: Look over the rest of the bicycle. If you see any broken spokes, missing nuts or bolts, or have a wiggly seat that you can’t tighten, do not ride. Fix any small issues before you ride to prevent injury or causing damage to your bicycle! If you are unsure how to fix any problems on your bicycle, contact your local shop or schedule a bike tune-up.

To see an ABC Quick Check in action, watch this video.

Fix-a-Flat
Flat tires are nearly inevitable and can leave you stranded if you don’t know how to fix them. But it’s an easy enough process that most riders can pick up quickly. The best way to learn how to fix a flat is to watch a demonstration: To see a tire-change in action, check out this Fix-a-Flat video by REI.

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You need a few things to fit a flat: tire levers, a pump, a patch kit, or a spare tube. The process goes like this: Pull your wheel off using tire levers. Remove tube from inside tire and check for punctures or tears. Use the patch kit to repair a small leak, or replace the tube with your spare. Slightly inflate the new tube and replace the new tube inside the tire. Put the tire back on the wheel, and the wheel back on the bike. Tighten any quick releases or brakes you may have loosened to get your wheel off. You’re ready to ride!

Tire levers, levering

Clean and Lube a Chain
To keep your chain in good shape, it’s important to keep it cleaned and lubricated. Having a well-lubed chain protects the moving parts from excessive wear and tear caused by friction and rust.

There are many different types of chain lube on the market, and how frequently your bike needs to be oiled largely depends on how frequently you’re riding and the conditions the bike endures. For the most part, lube only when your chain sounds squeaky or appears dry. Cleaning and lubing your chain after riding through wet, muddy conditions will keep it from rusting.

Make sure to use bike-specific lube and be careful to avoid over-lubricating. Wipe away excess lube before riding.

Wipe your chain down so that the lube doesn’t get sticky or goopy.

 

Do It Yourself?
Your local bike shop likely offers a free or by-donation basic maintenance class. Co-ops like The Bike House and Velocity are also good options. Or check out REI’s post for more info on cleaning and maintaining your bicycle.

Women & Bicycles Tip: Download WABA’s Free Bike App

e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwI This entry is part of our Women & Bicycles Tips series. Women & Bicycles is WABA’s outreach and encouragement initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes. These tips certainly aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming and staffing. Click here to learn more and get involved.

 

We’ve got a smartphone app. It’s free and available for iPhone and Android. Download it and use it with abandon! You can track crashes, input personal information, and access D.C.’s bike laws. (We hope to add Maryland and Virginia’s laws at some point in the near future.)

It’s been a while since we’ve touted the usefulness of this resource. How about a screenshot tour of the app’s capabilities to remind you why you should use it?

Know who to contact when you’re in a crash.

Bike App

Read the rest of this entry »

Women & Bicycles Tip: Reflect On Your Bicycle

e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwI This entry is part of our Women & Bicycles Tips series. Women & Bicycles is WABA’s outreach and encouragement initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes. These tips certainly aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming and staffing. Click here to learn more and get involved.

The days are shorter, commutes home are darker, and those bike rides are getting a little colder. Let’s talk about staying warm and staying safe. If you haven’t already, check out this cold-weather riding infographic from GoDCGo and BikeArlington.

Click to enlarge

We could all use some simple, low-cost tips on biking through these colder months: How do you layer? How do you protect the extremities? How do you stay flashy?

This week, our focus is on the flashy. Reflectivity is important for all road users, and it’s becoming an trend—sometimes, even fashionable. There’s reflective gear for all kinds of mobile beings, from runners to cyclists to dogs.

Why stay flashy? As vulnerable users of the road, cyclists must do what we can to be most visible. It’s our responsibility to position ourselves in the road properly, use bike lights, and adorn our bodies in vivid, vibrant clothing and accessories to further our visibility powers.

Your local bike shop likely has plenty of high-viz gear in stock. Here are some of our favorite products:

Another affordable approach? Purchase some rolls of reflective tape and go to town.

Here’s what you should aspire to:

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