All posts in “cycling”

4 Bicycle Styles Perfect for City Riding

One of the most common questions I am asked is, “What type of bike should I get for city riding?” Of course, absolutely any bike that’s in working order will work. The problem is that some bikes can actually make riding around town to run errands or get to work needlessly challenging and can even be downright uncomfortable.

While not always available in every bike shop, there are several bicycle styles that will make city riding more comfortable and enjoyable. And more comfortable riding means that you’re far more likely to hop on you bike more often. Here are four bike styles that will help you get the most out of city riding and enjoy every trip:

The Dutch Bike

The Dutch are known for their excellent approach to promoting everyday cycling with their extensive network of separated paths. And a common sight on those paths is the elegant Dutch bike. The upright riding position of these bikes allows you to see your surroundings and chat with other riders. In addition, many Dutch bikes also come equipped with chain and skirt guards, racks, and fenders all allowing you to simply hop on and ride in any clothes and in any weather. Dutch bikes with step-through frames make getting on and off the bike effortless. You may not be the fastest rider in the bike lane on a Dutch bike, but you will experience the most comfortable and relaxed ride of your life.

Brands to look for: Gazelle, Bobbin, Public

The Mixte

The Mixte (pronounced “MIX-tee”) is the perfect ride for hilly cities and along long and winding paths. Equipped with swept-back handlebars, Mixtes ride comfortably upright while still positioning you forward enough to breeze up hills and pick up speed when you’re feeling sporty. A common misconception is that Mixtes are just for women since they feature an angled top bar. However, you’ll find both men and women riding on these frames in many North American cities, often on classic models found at garage sales.

Brands to look for: Civia, Linus, Nirve

The Folding Bike

In dense, urban areas, where space is limited, folding bikes are the perfect choice. With smaller wheels, these bikes may look slow, but after a test ride you’ll find that folding bikes won’t hold you back on your morning commute. In addition to fitting in your apartment or under your desk at work, folding bikes are often allowed on public transit, allowing you to carry a quicker way to get to and from the train or transit station.

Brands to look for: Brompton, Bike Friday, Tern

The Cargo Bike

Cargo bikes are the ultimate car-replacement tools. Carrying kids, large purchases, a month’s worth of groceries? The cargo bike can handle it. You may experience some sticker shock when first looking at the wide range of cargo bikes available, but these prices are more than justified when you consider their versatility and ability to alter what you thought was possible on a bicycle. The cargo bike is perfect for families or people who need to take more with them more often.

Brands to look for: Christiania, Babboe, Yuba

What’s the best way to find the ideal bicycle for you? Try as many as you can. Stop by your local bike shop and see what they have in store. The right ride is waiting for you.

Photo: Anthony Niblett

How to Combine Bicycles and Public Transit

Guest post by Duncan Hurd, managing editor of Momentum Mag

On a warm, summer morning my partner and I prepared to set out on our bicycles. Our destination was nearly 62 miles (100 km) away. As we unlocked our bikes, a neighbor asked where we were headed. He told us that we didn’t look like the kind of people who would ride that far. He was right. We had no intention of cycling the entire way. We’d ride the first 2 miles (3.2 km) to a commuter rail station, hop on a train with our bicycles and complete our trip with a short bike ride from a train station to our destination.

Combining bicycles with transit for trips both short and long is a growing trend in North America. Public transit systems are installing bike racks on buses and at popular transit stops and some are including secure bike storage facilities, with lockers and repair stands, at transit stations. By making it easier to combine bikes with transit, cities can help alleviate rush hour congestion and provide a stepping stone toward motivating people to use their bicycles more often.

Most public transit systems provide an excellent way to cover longer distances at a much lower cost than by personal car. However, it’s very difficult for a transit system to provide stations or bus stops close to all destinations. Since many destinations are only a few miles away from a transit station, bicycles provide a low-cost, efficient and often faster way to start and finish your trip.

Take Your Bike with You

  • On longer trips, I often look for ways that I can take my bicycle along with me. The commuter rail service that connects Toronto to cities throughout Southern Ontario offers limited access for bicycles. On weekends and outside of rush hours bicycles are permitted on most rail cars. Local and regional bus services here also have limited space for bicycles, often just a front-mounted rack that can carry at most two bikes.
  • Taking a bike with you will often mean traveling outside of peak times. If space is limited for your bike and knowing there are a lot of people intending to travel with theirs it can throw a wrench in your travel plans, so be sure to check your local transit regulations beforehand.

Lock It and Leave It

  • Many transit systems encourage commuters to leave their bicycles at transit stations. Sheltered bike racks and indoor storage facilities are sometimes available. You may be required to pay a fee or obtain a membership for some storage facilities, though outdoor racks are often provided free.
  • When leaving your bicycle at a transit station be sure to take anything with you that could be easily stolen. Make sure you use a secure lock, remove your lights and cover your saddle to protect it from the weather.

Travel By Bike Share 

  • Bike share systems are rapidly expanding and are a perfect complement to public transit. New York, Chicago, Vancouver, and Los Angeles among others are all expected to launch bike share systems in 2013. In cities where bike share systems already exist, like Montreal, Washington, DC and Boston, bike share stations are often located alongside transit stops. This makes the transition from train to bike simple. By using bike share you never have to worry about locking your bike or theft.

North Americans are embracing bicycles as their preferred transportation choice in ever-growing numbers. By allowing people to choose how they travel, and offering ways to combine walking, cycling, transit and even driving, cities can help address our diverse transportation needs.

Duncan Hurd is managing editor of Momentum Mag, an independent media company that promotes, encourages and inspires “Smart Living by Bike.” He lives in Toronto, Canada and believes that every ride is a group ride, even if those around him don’t know it yet. Subscribe to Momentum Mag’s free newsletter.

Photo: David Niddrie

How to Enjoy Winter Biking

Guest post by Duncan Hurd, managing editor of Momentum Mag

“I’m not one of those die-hards” is most likely what you’re thinking. Winter cycling, especially in snowy, rainy and bitterly cold places, is often believed to be only for the truly dedicated. The ones who are out there making a statement, dedicated to the cause of two-wheeled transportation for life. I know because I once believed this myself. Winter weather arrived and I started buying monthly transit passes again, my bicycle stowed away until spring.

winter bike ridingBut then on one cold day I kept on riding. We had been experiencing a very mild winter that year and as long as the streets were dry I was on my bike. I made only short trips at first. Going up the street to the grocery store, across town to a friend’s place or riding one neighborhood over to a restaurant. I commuted by transit during the day, but my evening and weekend activities all remained by bike. Sure, it was cold and my eyes would water and my nose would run like Niagara Falls. So I bought some handkerchiefs and kept on riding. I bought a better pair of gloves and kept on riding. I learned to love wool and kept on riding.

As the mercury drops and the days feel like they’ve barely started by the time it gets dark again, continuing to bike ride is the best way I’ve found for improving my mood and giving me energy to do more than just sit under a blanket. If you’re curious about riding in the winter here are a few tips to help you get started:

Start Small

You may have a personality that allows you to jump right into anything, but I sure do not. Biking is never an all-or-nothing proposition. At first you’ll spend more time debating with yourself over whether or not you should ride, but over time you’ll learn what works for you.

  • Ride when you’re comfortable and ride to help you become more comfortable.
  • Start on a quiet weekend and set a destination.
  • Experiment with what clothing you’ll wear and give yourself time.

Consider Your Wardrobe

I prefer to dress for the destination. While I do own an array of cycling gear, most of my winter weather bike trips are for transportation and not recreation. Having been car-dependent for far too many years, once I began walking and biking in the winter I quickly realized that I didn’t have clothing suitable for the outdoors. I didn’t own boots, my jackets were too thin, my gloves proved to be just for show and I owned maybe two cotton sweaters.

There are plenty of cycling-specific gear choices that can help you feel more comfortable on your bike in the winter, but these aren’t a necessity. I’ve started wearing more layers, choosing wool over cotton and thinking about comfort and warmth as well as aesthetics. I’ve now built a wardrobe that surprisingly still looks like what I would regularly wear to work but is also going to keep me warm on winter walks and rides.

Your Bike Needs Love

Winter streets can wreak havoc on your average bicycle. In Toronto, ON, we get snow and slush and roads covered in salt and grime. When it’s wet your tires will pick up road debris and toss it up at you and your bike. Left to freeze and accumulate debris and moisture will ruin your gears, render your brakes useless and eat away at parts prone to rusting.

  • Wipe down your bike after messier rides to help keep parts running smoothly longer.
  • Learn basic chain maintenance.

If becoming an amateur mechanic isn’t for you, then consider what bike you ride. Upright city bikes so common in Amsterdam and Copenhagen are excellent all-weather vehicles. Fenders keep debris away from you, chain guards protect the parts that keep you rolling and internal-gear hubs and hub brakes conceal moving parts, increasing their longevity. You’ll enjoy your winter rides far more if you don’t have to worry about your bike.

Ride with Care

It’s tempting to make your winter rides as short as possible by riding fast and furious. While extra exertion can help you warm up, it also can get you into trouble.

  • By riding slower, it may take a little longer to warm up but you’ll be better prepared to navigate around debris and keep an eye on your surroundings.
  • Biking slower may also help you identify new places to stop and warm up such as at a book store you’ve not noticed before or a café you’ve never found time to visit.
  • Always remember your lights. Since people may not expect to see you out on your bike, and since clouds and earlier evenings make streets darker in winters, it is always best to have your lights on at all times.

Finally, have fun. While not all winter rides are going to be bliss, learn to have fun and feel comfortable biking. It will keep you motivated to ride all year.

Duncan Hurd is managing editor of Momentum Mag, an independent media company that promotes, encourages and inspires “Smart Living by Bike.” He lives in Toronto, Canada and believes that every ride is a group ride, even if those around him don’t know it yet. Subscribe to Momentum Mag’s free newsletter.

Photo: Kathleen Wilker

Bike Share System Tips

Guest post by Duncan Hurd, managing editor of Momentum Mag

We hadn’t planned on biking that morning in Montreal, QC. As my partner and I were walking to meet friends we couldn’t help but notice BIXI bike share stations along the way. At the first station, we used the poster-sized map to make sure we were walking in the right direction. At the second station, we paused to read the instructions and take a closer look at the 3-speed, boomerang-shaped bicycles. Once we reached a third station we decided to swipe a credit card, release two bicycles and pedal away.

Bike Share photo by Kathleen WilkerThere are currently more than 300 bicycle share systems in operation around the world. New York City plans to launch North America’s largest system—with 7,000 bikes spread across 400+ stations—in March 2013. Los Angeles is also developing bike shares.

Each city’s bike share system may vary by pricing and membership rules, but most are intended for users to make short trips between stations. Swipe a credit card or membership key and bike share systems provide quick and convenient transportation for trips that may otherwise require a longer walk, transit or taxicab.

Ever used a bike share system before? Unsure if the one in your city is right for you? Here are four tips to get the most out of bike shares:

1. Commute Partly or Fully by Bike Share

Bike share systems are often intended for commuters and you’ll find stations conveniently located at or near transit hubs. This means you can use bike share to get to public transit as well as get from a transit station to within a short walk of your destination. Often, cities offer bike share memberships at discounted rates to transit pass holders. By making all or part of your commute by bike share you can get to your destination faster and save money.

2. Explore a New City by Bike Share

There’s no better way to get to know a city than by bicycle. Many bike share systems offer short-term memberships of 24-72 hours that are perfect for tourists. You can use the maps provided by most systems to plan your route from station to station and dock your bike when you’ve found a place you’d like to explore on foot. Note: Keeping a bike out of a dock for longer than 30 minutes may mean increased user fees, so plan for short trips between stations and not a meandering route around the city in one go.

3. Do One-Way Trips Quickly

Does the forecast call for rain later in the day? Are you heading out to an event where you intend to drink? Since bike share systems allow you to return a bicycle to any station, you can get to your destination by bike and then choose to take transit or a taxi home. I’ll often use bike share for one-way errands including riding to the shop where my day-to-day bicycle is being repaired.

4. Work Out by Bike Share

While I’ve read of competitors bringing bike share bicycles to triathlons and cyclo-cross events, these rides aren’t intended for intense physical work-outs. However, by making more of your trips by bike—even short ones—you can start to see some improvements to your health over time. Bike share can also help you mix up your regular work-out routine. Take bike share to a gym location further away or dock your bike in a different neighborhood and jog home. Most bike shares also have baskets allowing you to carry your gym clothes.

New: Bike Shares Now on Walk Score

As of December 18, 2012, Walk Score mapped nearly 1,600 locations of bike shares across North America. Search for any address in these cities and find bike share locations listed as one of the main categories: Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Houston, Washington, D.C., Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Broward, Charlotte, Des Moines, Kailua, Kansas City, Madison, Nashville, Omaha, San Antonio and Spartanburg.

Duncan Hurd is managing editor of Momentum Mag, an independent media company that promotes, encourages and inspires “Smart Living by Bike.” He lives in Toronto, Canada and believes that every ride is a group ride, even if those around him don’t know it yet. Subscribe to Momentum Mag’s free newsletter.


Photo: Kathleen Wilker