Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Taking the Lane: Jazzing up Your Bike for Commuting

Have you noticed any electric bikes out there?  I don’t seem them often, but I am seeing them more and more.  And everytime I do, I think to myself, I should get one of those.  On the days when I’m just too tired to put forth the energy to bike to work, I could jump on one and barely pedal.  And if I did pedal, I would just go that much faster.

Seeing these bikes, sometimes referred to as e-bikes, has got me thinking about all the fun gadgets out there that just make biking that much more enjoyable.

Do your wrists ever hurt while riding your bike?  They make these great ergonomic handlebar grips in various shapes and sizes.  I suffer from wrist pain when biking on my mountain bike.  I tried a pair of ergonomic grips and I will never go back to regular grips again.  Your local bike store should have them in stock.

For those techy people out there who want to know how many calories they burned, how far they went, or how fast they did it you probably appreciate the are apps for your smartphone that track your routes and mileage and even tell you how to get where you need to on the trails (great for those easily lost or in unfamiliar neighborhoods).  For the competitor in you the Strava app is great.  You can compete against yourself, friends, and people you don’t even know for the fastest ride on various streets, roads, and trails.  Other similar apps such as Endomondo and MapMyRide.  Google has an app that will navigate you to your destination using bike trails and bike friendly roads if your community has designated them as such.

Apps just aren’t for tracking where you went, but there are apps to help you fix your bike.  I personally am a fan of youtube when I need to make bike repairs, but a quick app on the go might prove useful.

English: Sigma Sport 700 Cyclocomputer
English: Sigma Sport 700 Cyclocomputer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bike cyclocomputers are a great add on.  If you have no idea what a cyclocomputer is, it is basically an odometer and speedometer in one.  Bell makes a nice cheap wireless one that will tell you your 
speed, distance, and keep track of your total miles ridden on your bike and is available in most discount stores.  You can always upgrade to a more expensive brand such as CatEye or Bontrager, and as a person who has both, I can say I’m pretty happy with the cheap Bell model to track my mileage.

If you will be riding in the dark, we all know you will be using a front and back light.  Not just a reflector, but a glow in the dark, light your path and see my tail light from more than 200 foot away kind of light.  But (yawn) that’s kind of boring right?  What can make it more fun are bicycle wheel/spoke lights!  Personally, I think these are pretty cool and they have the added bonus of making you that much more visible.  We have a pair of simple wheel lights.  They attach to the stem of the tube and centrifugal force activates the lights when the tires spin.  But when you watch the video below and see how fancy these lights can actually get, you’ll see just how cool they really can be and you might find yourself ordering some. Now I want some.

English: Looking west at a parked A2B Ultramot...
English: Looking west at a parked A2B Ultramotor electric bike in the East lower 70s on a sunny day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Now if you’ve got some serious cash to spend on making commuting a bit more fun and easier, perhaps an electric bike is the right option for you.  Perhaps you have a lot to haul, or your commute is rather far and the assistance of an e-bike might just be up your alley.  You can get a conversion kit for your current bike at a cost of $200 - $300. You’ll need to be mechanically inclined to install the kit, but that would be a significant savings over the cost of a new electric bike.  I see more and more brands of electric bikes popping up everytime I Google search for them.  Pedego has some really cute electric bikes and run just over $2,000 each.  Prodeco sells several e-bikes on starting at $800.  Most bikes will get you 18-20 miles without much pedalling.  And to be honest, the thought of not pedalling home on a really hot and humid day is certainly appealing to me.  I might have to start saving my pennies.

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