Part 1: The Absolute Necessities
Like many others, I’ve gone riding with just the clothes on my back and the bike itself. However, for maximum fun and legal compliance, there are a few things you should not leave home without:
- A solid U-lock: It doesn’t need to be the Kryptonite brand specifically, but many urban areas are rife with bicycle theft and wire or chain locks just aren’t going to keep your bicycle safe. And you need a lock no matter how safe you think your bike cage is, how nice your neighborhood watch, or how gnarly your bike’s condition– I’ve gone through at least a dozen bicycles in my life, and no matter what, if you leave the bike unlocked or locked poorly, it will be stolen! Even in broad daylight, in a bike cage in front of a college dorm on a busy street, even with bolt cutters and tons of witnesses seeing someone bike away while holding the handlebars of another bicycle, your two-wheeled lover will be taken. The necessity of a solid U-lock is just a fact of life.
- Front and rear lights: These don’t need to be fancy or expensive, but you do need to have them and they do need to be bright enough to see at dusk. You’ll need one white light in front and one red light facing behind you, and they don’t necessarily even need to blink. You just need them so cars will know where you are and can avoid you. (Also, in many urban areas these are required by law.)
|Some bike lights. From TriRadar.com|
- Helmet: Full disclosure: I don’t wear one regularly anymore, and there is some controversy over whether you really need to wear a helmet. It’s going on the “must-have” list, however, because in some places helmets are legally required. Furthermore, they’re also good practice if you’re new to cycling, trying a tall bike, travel more than 20 miles, or ride at race pace. Basically, if you think you need one, wear one. I know many fabulous girls who wear them all the time, and you can get a cute pink one and put bird stickers on it like my sister, or get a sporty one with a visor like I have, or find a cheap and effective one at the store. No second-hand, though: You must be sure that you know it’s never been dropped, cracked, or (ahem) used to break a fall, since after that most experts encourage you to get a new one. The article behind this link is pro-helmet biased, but offers good information on buying and replacing a quality bicycle helmet.
- Flat Tire Repair Kit: Have you ever fallen in a train track, lost your friends, and gotten a flat in the middle of the night, far from home, in the pouring rain? I have! For some of you more seasoned cyclist ladies, this is a familiar unpleasant sitch. For the new or lucky, the rest of us will tell you: flats are an inevitability! Empower yourself with the ability to get back to safety on your own by carrying a little repair kit and learning how to use it. You can get one like this portable bicycle tire repair kit from any store, bicycle specialty shop, or even online, for under $5. If you buy from a bicycle shop, they’re usually happy to show you how to use it.
|Cycle Force Group Bike Tire Repair Kit|
- Waterproof Sunscreen: Bicycling actually lessens the amount of sun damage to your skin, but don’t let that get you complacent! Slather face and exposed skin with SPF 30+ at least 20 minutes before you go outside, and carry a small tube with you to re-apply every couple hours. When I know I’ll be out for a while, I apply waterproof (and sweat-proof) SPF 90 for my face and SPF 30 for body, and carry with me a small waterproof SPF 30 for reapplying. Yes, you need sunscreen every single day, even if it’s cloudy, snowing, or raining.
|Cate’s skin is SPF’d up for this 2013 #BikeSelfie|
See? You don’t need spandex, toe clips, rear-view mirrors, or any fancy gadgets or equipment to ride your bicycle. Just a bicycle in working order, a few necessities, and a spirit for urban adventure!