Bicycles, all you need to know

Jamie Zawinski sells beer, does battle with unix derivatives and rides bicycles. He has posted to the Internet his collected wisdom regarding the latter subject.

"City bikes" and "road bikes" are designed for some Jetsons-slick hypothetical future city that I've never seen. Or maybe for the bike paths in Los Altos or something. Here in real cities, roads are shit, and if you want your wheels and tires to survive curbs and potholes, you need a hybrid. They're a little heavier and a little slower. Are you racing? No? Then you don't care.

We moved to Pittsburgh a few months ago from rural New Mexico, so have been considering the bikes: the city has a similarly compact, hilly landscape to San Franciso, from whence jwz's tips come. Reading this might just have convinced me to give it a whirl.

the collected jwz bicycle wisdom [jwz]

Published by Rob Beschizza

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42 Comments

  1. Cheaper solution: an old Schwinn or other bike from before racers became popular. Weighs like a tank, built like a tank. OK, maybe more robust wheels would be a worthwhile addition, and you don’t get shock absorbers… but the 35-year-old clunker is probably more durable and less theft-prone.

    I’m still chuckling at the brand name of my brother’s first ten-speed: Dae Yung. Happily, he didn’t.

  2. All of the discussion of backpacks and messenger bags is totally the wrong direction.. buy a rack and some panniers if you want to carry stuff around.. or even a big ugly basket.. anything but wearing the bag. It puts all of the weight up too high and it’s sweaty and uncomfortable.

  3. I don’t know a whole lot about Jamie Zawinski, but anybody who suggests riding without any lights, riding on the sidewalks, and paying people to do work you can easily do yourself gets a big thumbs down from me.

  4. Riding a bike around in Pittsburgh is suicide. There are absolutely no bike lanes and people treat bike riders like they’re using some alien hovercraft.

  5. More like “bicycle wisdom for people exactly like me that are in my specific situation”. I think most of his advice is garbage, but I own a road bike, so what do I know?

  6. i’m not sure what pittsburgh #4 lives in, but the pittsburgh i live in has a fantastic bike culture, and as long as you keep your eyes open it’s a great city for cycling.

    at least tow cycling magazines currently originate in pittsburgh too, the venerable Dirt Rag and the new upstart Urban Velo. both worth checking out.

  7. Target sells Schwinn bikes. I think the differences between the Target and high end bike shops are minimal, and the price ($120 + tax for a hybrid) was worth it. Best advice if you want to switch from car to bike is get the one you’re going to use. Anyone that gives you crap about not replacing the parts yourself and riding on the sidewalk (where legal) is a snob. I’ve been riding mine since gas hit $3.98/gal in LA.

  8. I own all the things he says mean you shouldn’t take my advice, yet I agree with most of his advice. Exceptions:
    As far as locks and theft-proneness: If you leave your bike in one spot outside for the whole day or overnight, it will be stolen; lock quality or bike lousiness are irrelevant. For locking up a few minutes at a time while you run an errand, a cheap, light cable lock is fine.
    I’ll pay a shop to change a tube if I’m a few minutes walk away when I get the flat; (not unlikely in my town); they may or may not even charge you. But if you’ve got to drive your bike there, his 10 minutes is out the window, so learn to do it yourself. Other maintenance, go ahead and pay the shop if you want; I like doing it, but things you don’t like doing is what paying people is for.

    I took his mention of sidewalks as meaning you can negotiate big intersections by temporarily acting like a pedestrian; sometimes a fine idea. Riding on the sidewalk at greater than walking speed is extremely dangerous; much more so than riding in the street.

  9. @Adam:
    “I think the differences between the Target and high end bike shops are minimal”

    You are mistaken. Department store bikes are ridden on average a few hundred miles before being thrown away. The manufacturers know this, and construct them accordingly.
    At my local non-profit bicycle collective, a bike-shop bike from the last 30 years pulled out of a dumpster is worth rebuilding into an excellent commuter for someone. A practically new Target bike is landfill. You want to spend just $100 on a bike, but spend it wisely? Seek out your local bicycle collective and they’ll hook you up with something built a while ago, but built well. Here’s one list:
    http://www.communitycycles.org/links.html

  10. Am I racing? No. Am I excited about the thrill of riding on the streets and know which streets are more fun to ride on? Yes.

    I have nine years of experience on the streets of SF and haven’t had a bike stolen while it’s been locked up. Maybe I’m lucky or maybe I’m just extra careful.

    I’d say that a lot of things that jwz recommends are completely wrong and that this list sounds impressive if you have no clue what he’s talking about.

    C’mon, he recommends against getting something “fancy” like a light because it’s likely to be stolen? Then remove them when you lock up your bike. Ten years on the streets and he hasn’t learned that? This is worthless.

  11. You want to know everything about bikes? Don’t get your advice from the internet. Especially from JWZ. visit your local bike stores. You want a good, durable bike? visit your local bike store. Do not buy a bike from wal-mart, target, etc. Very, very bad idea. You will pay a little more in the local bike store, but you will likely more than make up for it the first time you need to have something adjusted.
    You do not have to get the highest-end, super chi-chi bike there is. Many great stores sell used bikes too-including the tough old Schwinns and Triumphs. The modern-day schwinn from Target is crap. avoid. There are some high-end schwinns that are great, but not really suited for city riding.

    Lock your bike. It won’t stop a dedicated thief, but if your bike is locked, and the next one isn’t, guess which one gets stolen?
    locks-the good old U-lock is out-it can be defeated by a pen cap. Go for a cable or a chain. And do not underestimate teh power of a bad paint job. If your bike is merely transportation, a flat, dark grey paint job (applied from the can, with no masking!) will make your bike look terrible. And completely undesirable.

    For city riding, have a shop install Mr. Tuffy’s in your tires. These might go by other names, but they are a thick plastic sheet that goes inside your tire. These are the best flat protection. Don’t use slime. Puncture resistant tubes are thicker than normal, yes, but still able to be pierced. If you can handle patching a tire, include a dollar bill or a mylar energy-bar wrapper as a “boot” for sidewall tears and punctures.

    Most bike store employees want to take care of you right. Which means they are not out to gouge you or sell you want you don’t need-they are merely enthusiastic about biking. Most will not only happily sell you Schrader valve wheels (ie, the car tire-style valves), they will steer you away from presta valves, or even drill out the rim of your bike so you can run Schrader valves. Bike stores are usually not car dealerships. And they often have competition (in big citys, especially), so if you feel you are getting a pressure job, say no thanks and walk out.

    Take care of your bike. Once a year into the bike store is loving care and attention by the standards of most bike riders, but it is all you need, unless you really abuse your bike.

  12. Taking your bike back to the shop to fix a flat is like taking your car back to the dealership to fill the tank.

    These are both things you can figure out how to do on your own with minimal effort. 😀

  13. This guy is like Sheldon Brown’s nightmare.

    1. “Never take bike advice from anyone who owns bike shorts, clip shoes, a messenger bag, or a fixie. That’s like taking car advice from someone who enjoys rebuilding carburetors.” Right, don’t learn about bikes and riding them from people who do so. Also, don’t learn about your car from a mechanic or racer.
    2. “‘City bikes’ and ‘road bikes’ are designed for some Jetsons-slick hypothetical future city that I’ve never seen. Or maybe for the bike paths in Los Altos or something. Here in real cities, roads are shit, and if you want your wheels and tires to survive curbs and potholes, you need a hybrid. They’re a little heavier and a little slower. Are you racing? No? Then you don’t care.” False. I have ridden the same set of 700×23’s (that is 23mm across) for years. Try Mr. Tuffy. Also, one can put hybrid tires on a road bike or road tires on a hybrid. He is conflating the tire with the bike here.
    3. “So, get the cheapest hybrid you can stand. Shocks are a waste of money. You should be able to get a pretty nice brand new hybrid for $370 or so. You can probably get a used one for a hundred bucks.” While IMO he is correct about shocks in a city, cheap aluminum hybrids usually fall apart within five years. If you can afford only $100, a 70’s road bike will ride better, longer.
    4. “If you feel like you want a lighter bike so that it’s easier to carry up stairs: don’t bother. That’s optimizing the wrong thing. You’ll get used to it (by which I mean: become stronger).” People don’t get lighter equipment so they can carry the bike more easily up the stairs, they get lighter equipment so they can climb hills more easily. He should run up a hill with a 40# backpack on.
    5. “Get a bike that’s the right size for you, and has properly adjusted handlebars and seat. The shop will adjust it for you. If they won’t, or if they tell you it doesn’t matter, go to a different shop.” This is actually true. Should be point #1.
    6. “Get a u-lock. Lock through the frame and the back wheel. Your bike will be stolen, so don’t get too attached to it. This also means, don’t waste your money on junk like baskets and lights. Just get a backpack.” Yeah, you don’t need a basket because you’ll never want to carry anything substantial and don’t bother with a light because everybody can see you at night anyway, and you’d hate to waste a $10 on your light being stolen (because you didn’t unclip it when you locked up). It certainly won’t save your life.
    7. “I always replace my front wheel and seat quick-releases with $2 worth of hardware store bolts, and then bend the ends over. This might have some negligible effect on theft. I refuse to be one of those people who lugs around 3 chains and disassembles their bike every time they park, so that’s the trade-off I make.” Your local bike shop can do this for you properly. Having your front wheel come off while riding is awfully dangerous.
    8. “The bike-nerd at the bike shop will try to give you smooth, high-pressure (110psi+) tires, because they are more efficient. But if you don’t air them up weekly or more often, you’ll get pinch-flats every time you hit a pothole, which is always. Also, the gas station air pumps often only go up to 60psi anyway. Get knobby low-pressure (60-80psi) tires and they’ll last a lot longer. (If you do end up with stupid tires, you might want to get one of these.)” Bunk. There is no evidence that knobby tires last longer, and they are certainly inferior w/r/t traction.
    9. “Likewise, make sure the tubes you get have the kind of connectors that the gas station air pumps take. Bike shop nerds like to fuck you with goofy connectors sometimes, out of sheer mean-spiritedness.” He means select schrader valves over presta valves. Whatever. There is a good reason presta valves were invented, and there are cheap little converters that you can leave threaded on to one of your stems if you are worried about it. Your local bike shop will probably give you one for the asking.
    10. “Bike maintenance: don’t do it, ever. It’s not worth your time. Just take it to the shop. Getting them to replace a flat for you costs $20 and takes 10 minutes, including the tube, and you don’t get dirty.” I’m with Cabbotage@12. This is absurd.
    11. “Safety: I follow the Zodiac approach: always assume the cars can see you perfectly, and are trying to kill you. If an intersection seems iffy, use the sidewalk and crosswalks. If big streets like Market and Van Ness freak you out, there are always less traficky ways to go, or just stay on the sidewalks.” Cars do not expect fast moving vehicles on crosswalks as they intersect them (say, leaving a building’s garage). There are occasions when the sidewalk is best, like fast narrow suburban streets, but you need excellent visibility – not something you’ll get downtown.
    12. “Grocery shopping: yes, you really can do it with a single backpack. The trick is, shop small once a week instead of big once a month.” Or, you know, just to get a little crazy here, a rack and bag that attaches to your bike. Wtf.
    13. “If you try to dangle bags on your handlebars, you will die.” They are called handlebar bags. You can pick them up at your local bike shop. They are a very effective means of carrying gear, and used routinely by people who deliver heavy things by bike for a living.
    14. “Cross train and trolley tracks at a 45° angle or more or you will die.”. If “die” == “fall” && “45” == “20 to 60”.
    15. “You really do need to tuck in or roll up your right leg. (You won’t die, but you’ll shred your pants.)” Fair enough. There are also reflective straps that’ll do the same thing and increase your visibility.

    ARGH!

  14. @TwoShort

    What’s the reason the target bikes end up in the trash? It seems pretty well constructed to me.

  15. For a cyclist, jwz makes a great programmer. Out of 17 points, 8 are either dubious but essentially harmless, or are actively harmful.

  16. @ADAM

    Many bike shops actually refuse to work on department store bikes because of liability reasons. They’re so poorly constructed that some shops have been sued over out-of-the-box mistakes after doing work as basic as changing a tube.

    When you have something break in the middle of a 6 mile commute, you’ll wish you’d taken the time to learn how to fix basic parts yourself. Tubes only cost $4 and take 10 minutes to replace if you’ve taken the time to learn.

    And as far as lights are concerned. You’d have to be out of your mind to ride without them at night. I’ve been hit by a car in broad daylight. I wouldn’t be caught dead without my lights (front and back) when it’s dark out.

    My advice to people who want to start commuting by bike is:

    Get fitted. You need to know what your size is if you’re going to be spending significant time on your bike.

    Buy an old steel road bike from the 70s or 80s. You can find decent ones on craigslist for about 100 bucks.

    Change the old tires and tubes YOURSELF.

    If there are any other issues, ask a savvy friend for advice, visit a bike forum, or take it into a local shop and have them fix it for you. Going through the process of maintaining your parts, even if you’re just watching, will be invaluable when something goes wrong.

    For the love of god, spend the 20 bucks and get yourself a helmet!

    If you’re afraid your bike might get stolen, read up on good locking strategies, “uglying” your bike, or see if you can find a way to just bring your bike into your office.

    Enjoy yourself, take your time, and be careful.

  17. @Adam: I don’t know how long you’ve had your department store bike; I’m guessing not very long.

    Target bikes end up in the trash because they are not worth the time to fix. Derailers and brakes will not stay at proper adjustment even if you can get them there in the first place. Threads strip at lower tension than they ought be tightened to. Quality control on frame welds is non-existent.

    The simple fact is, even outside the small percentage of all bikes that ever pass through a bicycle collective, there are two seperate bike distribution channels in the US. Most bikes sold through bike stores are ridden several thousand miles in their lifetime. Most bikes sold through department stores travel perhaps a hundred miles in their lifetime. Manufacturers know this. It would be surprising if there were not differences in their construction.

    The bike collective is interested in devoting their time to bikes that will serve their new owners for many years to come; that will provide good return on the effort invested. Given this goal, and a stream of bike donations consisting of equal parts 2-5 year old Target bikes, and 5-30 year old bike-store bikes, where would you focus your efforts? Note the lack of any 10+ year old Target bikes. They just don’t exist, and it’s not because they weren’t made.

  18. Well, I commute nearly every day to campus 6 miles one way (here, stalk me: Googlemap
    ), and I can tell you that the guy has some decent points.

    One of them is that road bikes are not applicable in some areas. I am really happy that I have a mountain bike. Of course, road bikes sometimes fly by me, but at some points the road is just not present. As a bonus, I can take shortcuts on the grass, etc.

    Another thing he noted right is that all the drivers are trying to kill you, and you can take pedestrian rights for safety. Roads in a lot of areas were designed for car traffic, not bike traffic. The difference is that if a car slightly hits a car, there is no consequences; car-bike collision are much likely to be worse.

    Here are my bit od pseudo-wizzdom about bike commute (please comment on those!):

    1. Get a basket. And, ideally, a back rack to which a milk crate can be attached. This will allow you to shop easily (I think I just brought more than 10 kilos of food from Waldbaums).

    2. Get fenders if you don’t have ones (unless you will only ride on dry roads). Not really necessary, but quite nice to have.

    3. Always, I mean ALWAYS have your lights when you bike at night (unless you are biking on well-lit areas on sidewalk in an ideal universe)

    4. Whatever pepople above side, it’s OK to ride on sidewalks. I’m talking about Brooklyn and Long Island here, where either drivers are crazy, or there’s no bike path/shoulder, or both. Of course, it depends on the amount of people there.

    5. Carry a spare tube and a pump, because nails do grow on roads (and so do broken glass bottles). (I just got my last nail in the tube yesterday)

    6. “Self-healing” tubes with magic slime (and similar products) are a lie, there always exists a nail of the right size that the slime won’t stop. And nothing heals glass cuts.

    7. Tube patches work; however, tubes can be as cheap as $2. In case of failure, shop around and get whatever is accessible.

    8. Learn to replace the tube, you’ll have to do it often. (I timed myself today – it took exactly 15 minutes, and I am slow) Also, oiling the bike does not take much skill, but is good.

    9. Get a wider softer seat. Every bike that is not a “cruiser” comes with sadomasochisitic thin and hard seat. I can’t comprehend how this might be comfortable on long, bumpy rides.

    10. Get bells and whistles – for the heck of it =)

    11. Don’t get a bike in Walmart. Ever. Read what people above have said. It’s all true. Get an old Schwinn, if you like, not the new ones from Walmart. Bikes from Walmart or Target are targeted to landfill in a month.

    fooh… that’s all I can think of.. now comment ! -)

  19. Check your city’s laws regarding bikes. Here, bells (always), lights (at night), and helmets (for riders under 18) are required.

    The laws here also say that bikes have the right of way when there are no bike lanes and the road is narrow, not that the car drivers have actually read the rules or anything.

    Oh, and a basket and a padded seat make all the difference.

  20. I like how he’s trying to encourage those who are total novices and who are easily intimidated, but I think this should raise the bar for the quality of advice, not lower it. To wit:

    1. Yeah, don’t take the advice of the lycra’d/skinny-jeaned crowd as gospel. Take it with a grain of salt, but take it. You’re smart enough to know what is reasonable for you and what isn’t. So, often times, are they.

    2. Get a hybrid if you’re more comfortable riding it, but you’ll be fine on “skinny” 700cc tires too…if you don’t *try* to run *into* potholes. Still, maybe a hybrid will work out better. Just keep in mind that many “city bike” hybrids have geometry with “foot-forward” geometries that work well for flat cruising, but which make climbing even short hills really awkward.

    4. If you have to climb a lot of stairs with your bike, get a lighter bike. Get stronger, too, if you like, but at the end of a long day, your bike commute shouldn’t culminate in a weightlifting workout. Even one flight of stairs with an overly-heavy bike is a needless pain in the ass.

    6. Get a U-Lock *and* a cable lock. Use the U-Lock for one wheel and the frame and the cable lock for the other wheel. Get a mini cable lock for the seat, too, if you lock up in areas where the resale value of a used bike seat is sufficient incentive for theft.

    7. If you carry a U-Lock and a cable, you don’t need to ditch your quick-release skewers.

    8. You really should be filling up your tires on a bi-weekly-ish basis regardless of what kind you have.

    9. You can get a little adapter that allows you to convert a Schraeder (”gas-station-style”) to Presta. For, like, two bucks. Or, if you don’t have strange desire to visit the gas station as much as possible, get a floor pump for, like, $20. (And get a portable pump for when you ride.)

    10. I’m as mechanically inept as they come. Can’t do very basic shit. But I can change a flat tube. Everyone can learn this and everyone should — flats don’t only happen in places within easy walking distance of a bike shop (or during business hours).

    11. Yes: be paranoid. Assume they don’t see you. And I personally don’t mind bikes in the sidewalk, but as a point of courtesy and safety, only when they’re riding at walking speed and, furthermore, can hold a straight line at that speed.

    15. Or you can just put a chainguard on your bike and wear your pants however you damn well please.

    I think he has a point in cycling novices needing advice tailored to them. Hard-core elitists will often overestimate the general populations abilities.

    But this guy grossly *under*estimates them.

  21. JWZ = jackass. Prides himself on being good at some things and enjoys stirring up controversy by insulting the equally jackass members of the cult of the fixed-gear. If anyone is really curious about bike tips and HASN’T heard of bikeforums.net, well… now’s the time to go visit that font of knowledge.

    No one among my insanely knowledgable group of biking friends would, when asked by someone who doesn’t know much about biking, tell them to get a fixed-gear bike… despite us owning more than a few among us AND owning a messenger bag or two AND some clipless pedals. In fact, if that uneducated person asked about getting a fixed-gear, we’d probably dissuade them from getting one – for the same reason that I don’t recommend FreeBSD as a desktop operating system for my mom. I mean, it’s just not the right tool for what the person needs. Instead, I’d probably recommend an old english three-speed… which is generally perfect for conveying someone around town in comfort and safety.

    Things that I would tell my non-biking girlfriend if she was getting a bike (instead of me building her one):

    – Old steel frames are nice, touring or crusing geometry is nicer, and both combined are even better yet;
    – Lights will save your life;
    – Racks with baskets let you carry things easily;
    – It’s nice to not be wet, so get some light-weight fenders. I hear they make them out of plastic these days;
    – Lock both wheels… duh. Lock one to a post and one to the bike. If you have a basket, you can carry your locks in it… genius!
    – Know how to change a flat tire, and keep your minimal toolkit with you when biking, with an extra tube or two, some tire levers, and a way to get the wheel off. Not that you HAVE to change the tire every time you have a flat, but when you’re stuck in the middle of Crown Heights with a flat tire, you’re gonna want to be able to do it. The bike shop is a great resource, but don’t expect to have one around whenever you need it. And no, NYC buses don’t let you bring bikes on or carry bikes on the front… and no, taxis don’t like to do that, either;
    – Don’t ride on the sidewalk. Seriously. Unless it’s 4 am and you’re alone and the road is in terrible shape;
    – Have a bell on your bike and use it. If it gets stolen, well, that’s $10. If someone steps out in front of you, that can cost a lot more than $10;
    – Get a chain-protector on your bike. You know, the kind that’s on an old english-three speed? They make them again, and they’ll save your pants a lot of pain.

  22. as a total bike dork i will refrain from going into the finer details of this post but i have one tip to add. In the winter, when i really want to wear pants and keep myself warm, i wear a rubber band around my right ankle. When i get on my bike i put the rubber band over my pant leg to keep the fabric out of the gear. I just find it to be a quick, easy, and cheap way to save my pants from total destruction.

  23. Sheldon Brown rules. I bought my bike from his shop, a Surly Cross-Check. It’s scary fast on dirt roads, and pretty nice on the highway, too. I use my beater in town to run errands.

    Ignore jwz. Stay off the sidewalk, fix your own flats. Get a sweet ride and go really fast. It IS worth it. What did you spend on your car? Your computer? Please!

    Check out Sheldon Brown’s site. He was a great man and he will be missed.

  24. I ride a bike every day in Los Angeles. I do not own a car. Also, I work at the Bicycle Kitchen, http://www.bicyclekitchen.com . So I’d say I know a bit about riding bikes in the city.

    This JWZ guy is full of it! I can’t believe the BS he is trying to pass off as wisdom to unsuspecting novices.

  25. “the collected jwz bicycle wisdom”? Lame. He forgot one:

    0. Don’t take cycling advice from some random internet tool who still thinks a black background on his blog will make him seem moody and cerebral.

  26. @fatcat1111 Thank you for doing that.

    As a lycra clad speed junkie who rides an expensive bike, I’d like to say that when someone asks me about bikes the first question I ask them is, “How are you going to use it?” That is the most important question. When you know what kind of riding this person is going to do, then you can find the right kind of bike.

    And there are options to go in between road and hybrid. Get a cross bike and you can go bombing down hills, clear mud, ride wider tires and have good climbing abilities.

    There are so many different types of bikes that can be matched for need and comfort that a bulleted list is useless.

  27. I live in Nashville, which is pretty hilly but pretty bike friendly in the core metro area. I grocery shop using a hybrid with 700c tires and a set of metal basket panniers. I commute on a single speed road bike from the 90s with no problems. I will occasionally hit a sidewalk if an intersection is too congested or road work impedes a lane ,etc . . . I never do so if peds are present, I will walk the bike instead. Another pet peeve of mine is cyclists who run lights and stop signs and go the wrong way down one-way streets. You want the respect we deserve on the road? Stop breaking the law. Hand signals work too.

  28. Just piping in to recommend (third, I guess) Sheldon Brown’s most-excellent website. I have little hope of ever moving the needle on the cool-old-biking-guy-ometer; he’s got the thing pegged to the right. I’ll miss him too.

  29. @ AMS – Seriously? There’s no bike racks on buses in NYC? That’s ridiculous! Here in Minneapolis they’re on every single one – and you can even take your bike on the lightrail, as there are vertical racks for them there.

    I bike at least nine miles a day, not counting after work errands. And as anyone above will tell you, jwz = fail.

  30. I bike every day on Los Angeles. The cold hard truth is jwz is more right than any bike nerd will admit. Yeah, changing a tire is something everyone should know how to do.

    But bicycle riders should rider wherever it’s safest. If that turns out to be a road, or sidewalk, or somebody’s lawn, and it sometimes does, so be it. Sure, it’s not ideal and has its risks. But if you have enough sense to successfully ride on the street, then you have enough sense to ride on a sidewalk.

    All bicycles are junk and disposable. Repeat that phrase until it’s stuck in your head. Even the lowest maintenance bike needs more upkeep than a typical auto. Observe actual bike riders in the average city, not the bike enthusiast, but the actual average joe and you’ll see. Cheap, disposable bikes to be ridden until broken or stolen are the rule. Save the fancy road bike for the spandex weekend toy.

  31. Road bikes are fine on ANY road if you’re in decent shape. Rough roads suck if you rest all your weight on the saddle (read: seat) because it’s like having a jackhammer shoved up your ass. When it gets really bumpy, take some of the weight off your butt and put it on your legs. If it’s still a problem, get a road bike that can take fat tires (cyclocross bikes) and run lower tire pressure.

    Worst. Cycling Article. Ever.

  32. FYI, #33, numerous studies have shown that the street is an order of magnitude safer than sidewalks or multi-use paths. Like, 30 times safer.

    Funny, that part about bikes being disposable. If by upkeep, you mean turning an adjustment screw on a derailleur, you’re right. My early ’90’s Trek cost me about $80 over the last 3000 miles, which I think you’ll agree is a fairly low cost of ownership. My fixie hasn’t needed anything other than a new bottom bracket and a new tire or two in the last seven years.

  33. Oh, shit, Rob, Pittsburgh is constantly rated one of the worse cities for cycling. This also means that the bikers around here are pretty hardcore, but fewer bikers also means that cars have no idea how to react when they do encounter you. When someone pulls up behind you and lays on the horn, that’s your official welcome.

  34. #29 “There are so many different types of bikes that can be matched for need and comfort that a bulleted list is useless.”

    thank you @GARY, thank you.

    i ride a fuji track bike that i built up myself because it’s incredibly fun for me.

    would i tell a novice to do that, or scoff at them for wanting a more practical bike? hell no. JWZ is just trying to start shit and act like everyone who loves biking is as big of a jerk about it as he is, and in the process he’s giving out some bad — and potentially very dangerous — advice.

  35. Aw god. I hate hybrids. If you are an average boring person with below average strength and coordination, then by all means, buy a bike that was desinged for fat, weak, clumsy people who couldn’t lift their own weight.

  36. Its funny how these laundry lists work. They start out with a few good tips and then very quickly descend into madness. And then the trolls come. The most important thing to understand is that the original post is about commuting via bicycle specifically in San Francisco. If you want to commute by bicycle and you don’t live in SF, talk to people who are already doing it in your city/town/village.

    If I could add anything to this conversation, it would be that there needs to be a nationwide effort to encourage people to commute via cycling. Posts like this may get a few people on the bike, but what we really need is the government (yes, those jerks) to work hard to make cycling a viable alternative to driving 2 miles to buy groceries. The biggest stumbling block IMO is safety. Only our government can work to make improvements to our traffic laws, our roads and build bike paths and other infrastructure that will make cycling safer.

  37. Mixed advice from JZ in my opinion. I was particularly perturbed by the suggestion that it is a bad idea to get advice on cyling from cycling enthusiasts; and the advice against shopping at your local bike store.

    There is an ever-wider range of bikestyles available, and a lot of overlap between uses, obviously – but the hybrid/city/cross style of bikes designed to be ridden on all but singletrack and offering a big range of gears but without the drawbacks of the skinny-tired, drop-bar “racing bike” are just great for most people. Don’t agonise over it, get good advice and just “get on your bike”. There is strength in numbers and every cyclist out there improves the safety for every other cyclist – the statistics (and a casual observation of traffic behaviour in Beijing) confirm it.

    Besides, the delight at realising that motorists only hassle bikes because they’re secretly jealous is wonderful. It’s the “Dear Abbey, I bought all the exercise equipment, but I’m still lazy” argument. Most people “want” to lead more active lifestyles, weigh less, be able to play the piano etc etc but are just to damn lazy to change/do it/learn. Seeing people on bikes getting the exercise, having the fun and saving the money that should rightfully be theirs (if they weren’t so fucking lazy) just drives them crazy and its great!

  38. #35

    And yet after riding all my 41 year life on a mix of road/sidewalk/wherever, I have never, ever run over a pedestrian, pet, of suffer any significant injury on the sidewalk. I’ll repeat, bicycle riders should rider wherever it’s safest. If that turns out to be a road, or sidewalk, or somebody’s lawn, so be it.

    Cost of ownership isn’t much of an issue. My main bike cost essentially nothing. Well, that is, unless you count the time putting it together, maintaining it, etc. In which case, the cost would be notable. This is exactly what bike nerds don’t get. Folks like jwz aren’t looking for a reason to turn a wrench (which is partly what bike nerds exist for). They’re looking for an easier way to commute or shop other than walking.

    The least expensive bikes to maintain are very common and desirable around here. The lowly beach cruiser. One speed, coaster brake, non intimidating, as reliable as bicycles get.

    But then you tip your cards. There’s no arguing with the sanctimonious fixie rider. You guys view yourselves as the apex of the bicycle cult, deserving of utmost reverence for mastering the art of riding one gear, no coasting. The very antithesis of jwz, bringing bikes to the masses, not gating them for the elite.

  39. Don’t you guys have puncture resistant tyres in the states? Armadillo + Continental Gatorskins have revolutionised cycling in London (land of broken glass). I’ve had ~2500miles (14 months) cycling on the current Continental Citycontacts with zero punctures. This isn’t particularly unusual.

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