How to cruise around town on your bike
If you want to join the growing number of Heights residents who use bicycles for short trips and exercise, this is the perfect time to start. If you plan to buy a bicycle, know what to look for to get the right bike for your needs. Local bike shops can help you find one in your price range, or, if you want to purchase a used bike, seek advice from a knowledgeable friend.
Bicycles range from awful to awesome, and you will need help finding the right one for you. You will also need to know some good routes and basic rules of the road.
The bike: If you want the health benefits of cruising to the coffee shop, around the neighborhood, or to work, you need a basic bike that is easy to mount and comfortable to ride.
Bikes with “step through” frames do not have a top bar. These bikes are easy to mount, offer an upright riding position and have a well-cushioned seat. Handlebars are flat or sloped up, and the frames are lighter than an old-school bike.
There are a few hills in the Heights, and a few gears are nice—three to eight is good for a city bike. Most bicycles have hand brakes, but you can still get old-fashioned coaster brakes on some models.
There is a bewildering array of bicycle styles. Hybrid or city bikes are good ones to get started. You can pull small children on a child trailer, or ride a tandem. Cargo bikes can carry larger loads with human power. An electric motor-powered bicycle lets you pedal, but the motor provides more speed and distance, and can boost pedaling for cyclists who are older, or have weak legs.
You get what you pay for: Bike shops carry a full range of adult and children’s bicycles. They will cost more than poor-quality bikes sold at discount stores, but the price typically includes several months or even a year of free service.
A low-end adult bicycle at a local shop will start at about $300. Bikes from discount stores are cheaper, but many riders are disappointed by their lack of durability.
Knowledge + Skill + Route selection: The more you ride, the more comfortable you feel on the road. Bicycles are classified as vehicles under Ohio law, so follow traffic rules and ride with the flow of traffic. If riding at night, use a white headlight and a red taillight. Cyclists can legally use the full lane, but ride as far to the right as you are comfortable. And, always wear a helmet.
Bike Cleveland’s Biking in Cleveland booklet is a wonderful resource. Also, Heights Bicycle Coalition (HBC) and Bike Shaker produce a Heights bicycle map with suggested side streets for crosstown travel, sold at local bicycle shops for just $2. A downloadable version is available on the HBC website, http://bikesintheheights.org.
Everything is closer than you think. Ride there.
Heights Bicycle Coalition
The Heights Bicycle Coalition was formed in the spring of 2010 and works to encourage citizens to ride their bicycles for fun, fitness and transportation. HBC member Mary Dunbar wrote this month's column.