I managed to borrow a small camera from my friend so I decided to mount it on my helmet during my morning commute down to work. The quality of it wasn’t too bad so I decided to share it online via youtube. Now the bike videos I normally see on youtube are of crazy bike antics like bike messenger races or insane stunts but this video is different since it isn’t about speed or tricks, it’s just a guy leisurely riding in Toronto. Hopefully, it will show people that riding a bike in the city isn’t as dangerous as people have claimed it to be.
As mentioned in my previous post, doing a pre-ride check is important in preventing any major issues your bike may have, but once in a while something may happen during a commute that may require road-side repairs; it could be a flat tire or a loose bolt falling off. The following post is a simple run-through on must-have items which can save minutes from your commute and prevent costly trips to the bike shop.
For information on how to use any of these tools and do the repairs yourself visit: www.bicycletutor.com or www.parktool.com
Must haves: The following are a list of things you should always have on you during your commute or leisurely ride.
The bare necessities for my commute: Multi-tool, CO2 Inflator, levers, wrench, tube and wet-nap
-Multi-tool – these little tools are very light and compact but can do a lot. Use these to tighten any loose bolts, re-align brake pads, tighten brakes or just about anything else that requires a hex-key set or screw drivers. Make sure the multi-tool you get can actually be used with your bike, for example: If your bike uses bolts with a TORX head (some disc brakes use them) then it would be good to have a multi-tool with a TORX wrench.
-Wrench – for those of us riding older bikes or have wheels that use nuts instead of a quick release skewer then having a wrench is also a must (you can’t fix a flat tire if you can’t remove your wheel from the frame). If only your wheels use nuts then you’ll most likely need just a 15mm wrench, but if you have an older bike that uses various sized nuts then an adjustable wrench would be better.
-Spare inner tube or patch kit – in the event of a flat you could just lock up you could bring it into a shop to fix it but that could take hours depending on how busy they are and it will cost you. Fixing the flat yourself can save time and money and gives a good empowering feeling. Make sure the tube matches your tire and also be sure you know how to replace a tube or patch it.
-Tire levers – these are needed to remove the tire from the rim, you will need these to replace a flat unless you want to MacGyver your way through it and use your quick release skewer as a lever.
-Pump / CO2 Inflator – no point in having a spare tube with you if you can’t inflate it. Pumps come in different sizes depending on your needs. They can be big enough to mount to your frame or compact enough to fit in a saddle bag. A CO2 inflator is a much more compact and quicker option to a pump but is costs more in the long run. Be sure your pump/inflator is appropriate for your tube’s valve stem (Schrader or Presta).
-Tire boot – if there is a large gash or tear in your tire you cannot use it or else your inner tube will protrude out of the opening and pop. A tire boot is a good temporary fix until you can reach a bike shop. You can either buy an actual tire boot or just use a folded up Canadian Tire bill as the fabric is thick and strong enough to keep the tube from coming out from the tear.
-Zip-ties – zip-ties make great temporary substitutes for missing bolts or can be used to keep things secured such as bike lights if something were to break. It’s good to keep a few of them just in case something happens.
Should haves: if you’re planning a ride out of the city or if you know you will be far away from any bike shop then these items are great to keep with you in case you need to do more extensive repairs.
-Chain tool – some multi-tools have these built in but if yours doesn’t you should have one in case your chain breaks and you need to reinstall it or cut a link off.
-Extra chain links – if your chain does break and you do lose a link or two, having a few spare links can help keep you rolling. Ideally, having a quick-link or master link in your tool kit will save space and make installation a snap.
-Moist towelette – it’s a good idea to keep a few of these on you to clean your hands after doing any repairs.
-TTC token or change – in the event that the damage is irreparable it’s always good to have a backup means of getting to where you need to go.
Before you leave the house you check to see if the iron is off and you lock the door.
Before you go to work you check to see if you have your wallet and you’re wearing pants.
But before you go ride your bike do you check to see if your tires are inflated properly and that your brakes are in working order?
A pre-ride check only takes a quick 5 minutes but can save you even more time in the event of an emergency such as a flat tire or a broken shifter cable but it’s something a lot of us don’t normally do. So here is my quick tutorial, known as the ABCs, on how to do a quick pre-ride check on your bike (did I mention this is quick?).
A is for Air and tires:
The sidewall of your tires indicate the recommended air pressure (in PSI or Pounds per Square Inch) to ride your tires with. If they are too low you run the risk of getting a pinch flat, if they are too high the inner tube may not be able to hold the pressure before popping. Routinely check that your pressure is adequate and to the recommended PSI (A cheap tire pressure gauge from Canadian Tire or a bike pump with a pressure gauge is a must for this). Do a quick check on your tires to see if there are any bulges, wear or embedded objects in your tires as any of these can result in a flat. If you see any of these things try to re-inflate the tire, boot your tire or replace it, you may need to take your bike in to a shop if you do not know how.
Inner tube bulging out of the tire bead; deflate your tire and fix this ASAP!
B is for Brakes and cables:
Having functioning brakes is very important for safety so make sure your brakes engage properly. Squeeze your levers and feel the brakes stopping your wheels, if they don’t you should check why (it may be a case of a loose/broken cable, worn out pads or improperly set up brake pads). Ensure your pads are lined up with your rims and that they have not passed the wear indicator line. If they have you should replace them immediately. If you have some extra time to spare, routinely clear any gunk build up on your brake pads by sanding it down a bit with sandpaper.
Wear indicator line; if the line is gone replace the pads to increase stopping power
C is for Chain and drive train:
A gunky, kinked or rusty chain can slow down your pedalling efficiency and cause excess wear on your drive train. Lubricating your bike frequently can help keep your chain happy (avoid using WD40 since it leaves your chain dry). For best results, clean your chain, gears, chain rings and derailleurs with degreaser then lubricate.
A rusty bike is an unhappy bike
Check your derailleurs (if you have any) to see that they shift properly and that the cables are not frayed or rusting. Sluggish shifting or damaged cables are a sign that you may need to take it into a shop for repairs.
So for a quick recap:
-Check tires for damage and adequate tire pressure
-Make sure your brakes work and your pads aren’t worn or misaligned
-Check for good shifting and keep your chain oiled up
As much fun as it is riding a carbon fibre road bike or a full suspension mountain bike they just aren’t practical for riding in the city with its poor road conditions, theft and inclement weather which can do a number on our bikes. We also need a few things such as fenders, a rack or even reflectors on our ride just to make our commute bearable. Sure there are bikes out there designed for commuting but with prices starting at $500 it may be steep for many potential first time buyers or cyclists. Sure they beat department store bikes in terms of quality and performance but the price tag also makes them targets for bike theft.
Weighing in at $325CND (After tax) this bike is designed to be your bar hopping, wet weather, grocery getting, everyday commuter. There’s a men’s and women’s model and and each one comes ready with an all steel frame, 6-speeds, fenders, chain guard, kick stand, rear rack, and reflectors. Both the wheels and seat post use a solid axle bolt rather than quick release skewers to deter theft as well. Inspired by the commuter bikes of Europe, this no-frills bike is pretty enough to ride but not attractive enough for thieves to eye. Other nice features include 700c wheels rather than 26″ mountain bike wheels, giving you more options for street tyres and better speed as well as V-brakes rather for better stopping power. For anyone who’s interested, the frames have horizontal dropouts in case you’re thinking of turning this into a single-speed/fixed gear/coaster brake/3-speed bike.
However, there are a few draw backs to the bike. The bike only has 1 chain ring up front and 6 gears on the rear which may not be ideal for people who have to commute over hilly terrain. I personally don’t mind since I’ve been riding a single speed for ages now.
Another drawback is the bottom bracket which uses the old school style adjustable-cup-and-cone rather than sealed cartridge bearings. It’ll do the job, but over time the bearings will be exposed to the weather and will need to be regreased.
Beater Bikes aren’t comparable to high end bikes…but that’s the point, they’re meant to be beaten around on your daily commute. I’m already seeing some of these on the street and I’m hoping to see more. For more information visit: www.beaterbikes.ca
Post Script: This was written a year ago and since then I’ve seen a number of them on the street and I even had a chance to ride one and darn are they fun to ride. I love how they are ready to ride without having to dish out extra cash to get the bike commute ready and it seems like many others love them too.