It's about the ways you use your bike.

Wish List Addendum

In New York City on 14 December 2010 at 2:26 pm

I’m midst exam (literally. I have the DOJ Horizontal Merger Guidelines and a half-written analysis of a potentially problematic merger sitting in front of me as I write) but I figured I owe it to Justin, our reading public, and anyone looking for the perfect gift to give/ask for to add a little something here.

I’ve never used velcro-straps on my pants (I prefer the old “tuck in sock” or “roll one side up like a thug” method) but I would otherwise heartily endorse Justin’s list. Considering the numerous pants with a chewed up right cuff and socks covered in grease marks I have owned, I should probably endorse the straps, as well. Nevertheless, I have a few items to add.

1. A basket. I ride my bike for fun, sure, but I usually ride it to get places. In very few of those places is a giant sweat-mark on the back of your shirt considered high fashion. A satchel bag is handy for when you’re toting a book or two and a U-lock, but for anything more substantial, you’re going to want a basket. Mine is a nifty, lightweight affair known in trade circles as a “milk crate.”

Rear basket large enough to store a small dog.

I occy (bungie) strap it to a Nashbar rack on the back of my bike. It’s big enough to hold a few bags of groceries or around six gallons of milk, and has served me well. However, my repurposing of the milk-crate was an indignity forced upon me by not having loved ones with easy access to new cyclist gift guides like this one. You can get panniers to hang off a rear-rack, a front basket, or a proper rear mounted affair. For maximum storage, you can go front and rear.

2. Tools. I have stripped more than one nut for want of a good wrench. If you plan on having a bike for a while, you should learn how to maintain it (see Justin’s recommendation on lube and tyre levers). It’s cheaper in the long run and incredibly fulfilling. There are some basic tools that you can get at your local hardware store that are pretty essential. A ratchet set is essential if you don’t use quick release. Park makes a great set of bike-specific tools that are usually worth the investment. I bought a cheap chain tool when I first started working on my bike and it broke pretty quickly. My Park chain tool is still going strong. Cone wrenches, chain whips (for fixed-gear riders), allen keys/wrenches, and wire brushes (for cleaning) are all incredibly useful.

I have one similar to this

3. A wall rack. Some of us live (or lived) in wide open wonderlands where $800/month will get you a backyard and a carport with a storage closet for your bike. Some of us live in New York where $800 will get you an upgrade from a closet to a closet with a window. Wall racks are a great way to display your bicycle (I always envied Jerry Seinfeld for his stylishly hung bicycle) and a great way to save space.

Justin got fancy with this...

Check the load limits on whatever rack you buy and make sure you know what you’re hanging it from. A single hook for the front wheel is pretty effective in dry-wall as long as you aren’t hanging a Flying Pigeon, but if you can heft that thing over your head, my hat is off to you, sir or ma’am.

4. In the same vein: Car rack. Some might argue that the whole point of having a bike is so you don’t need a car. To them I say: well you bloody well try hauling a week’s worth clothes and two dogs home from college over thanksgiving break in your fancy new front-mounted bicycle basket. A bike rack for your car is a good way to transport your bicycle long distances. If you, for example, got a bike for Christmas from your generous parents but now have to get it back to your place a few hundred miles away, you would feel extra-loved if your parents had the foresight to throw in a car rack. My girlfriend’s parents bought her a Thule rack at the same time they bought her a bicycle for just that reason. When we were in Austin, we used it to take our bikes out to Bastrop and Dripping Springs for some rides in the country which we thoroughly enjoyed. Alternatively, you could ask your folks for a truck.

5. A bike pump. Justin, did you mention this? I’m a big proponent of poly-pumpery. You’re going to want a floor pump for your place. They are big (relative to the little ones which I will shortly discuss) but will fill your tyres much more quickly. Look for one with a built in pressure gauge so you can fill your tyres to the manufacturer’s recommendation.

You are also going to want a mini-pump to take with you. I have, numerous times, changed a tyre with my handy patch kit, only to walk around looking for a bike shop with a pump to borrow because I didn’t yet have or forgot my pump. (I’ve never found one who wasn’t accommodating). A small pump is lightweight and great for getting you home after a flat, but they take a good deal of effort if you are trying to pump up skinny road tyres to a decent pressure.

Make sure the pump matches whichever of these is on your tyres.

In either case, make sure the pump you buy is compatible with your tyres. These days, tyres come with two types of valves (Presta and Schrader) and some pumps are only compatible with one type of valve. Many pumps these days are compatible with both, but check before you buy.

I’d like to finish by noting that bike ownership need not be accompanied by the willy-nilly purchasing of vast amounts of expensive gear. Nor should these lists deter you from considering the joys of becoming a cyclist. While I consider some of these items essential (pump, tyre levers, helmet, lights) many are simply useful (wall/car rack, basket) and the rest simply add to the pleasure of owning a bike by allowing you to learn more about it and become more self-sufficient (tools).

Have a merry Christmas or holiday of your choice, and happy cycling!

UPDATE: 12.14.10 Added pictures, tags and a link.

  1. I second that penultimate thought. Don’t spend a ton of money on a bunch of gear (unless you want to). Get what works for you and what you need.

    On the tools note, yeah. Knowing how to maintain your bike is like knowing how to cook. The pleasure it adds to such a simple act is immeasurable and immensely satisfying. We’ll have to do a ‘Tool Box Essentials’ post one day.

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