Becoming a Cyclist: My Setup

I picked my bike out of a rewards catalog, so I only had one decision to make: a horizontal top tube (aka a “boy’s bike”), or a sloping top tube (aka a “girl’s bike”). Thank goodness I didn’t have to make any more decisions, because I spent the next three months comparing and considering and stressing over every other accessory a bike might need.

I was terribly afraid of buying The Wrong Thing and regretting it later. While I’m not sure if I bought The Right Thing, I’m satisfied with my choices. In case anyone wants to know what The Satisfactory Thing is for me, here is my setup.

Note: I based a lot of my purchases on what The Wirecutter recommended at the time, and I bought most of it through Amazon. Those two websites run my life, but I don’t blame you if they don’t run yours.

Safety Equipment

Getting a helmet was a non-starter. In the 15 months since I got my bike, I’ve ridden exactly once without my helmet (and that wasn’t by design). I chose the Schwinn Thrasher Lightweight Microshell Bicycle Helmet. It is relatively comfortable, easy to adjust, and visually unassuming. This is probably the first piece that I will replace (or place a request with Santa for an upgrade).

Ever since I read the book Traffic, I have driven my car with the lights on no matter the time or the weather. Headlights are not just so that I can see the road; they are so that other drivers see me. If I’m concerned about the visibility of a 3000lbs car, you better believe I want drivers to see me and my 25lbs bike. For this purpose I have the NiteRider Lumina 1100 Boost Headlight and NiteRider Sentinel 150 Tail Light. They are both easy to turn on and off. They hold a charge for weeks at a time, and they let me know when they are low on battery so I’m never surprised by darkness. The first day I rode my bike with these, a stranger yelled at me to mansplain let me know my light was on. He saw me and noticed me—so I know they are doing their job.

I also have a cheap Schwinn bike floor pump. It measures the PSI and adds air. I don’t have any need for more bells or whistles.

Security Equipment

Living near and working on a college campus, I was convinced that my bike would be stolen. No, not stolen. Disassembled piece by piece. Picked over like a carcass on the savanna. One day I’d leave work to find nothing but a broken U-Lock, a pedal, and a post-it note saying “thanks, sucker.”

I don’t even have a ~*~fancy~*~ bike, but I’ll be damned if the roving gangs of collegiate bike thieves look twice at my bike before moving on to easier prey. In that spirit, I may have gone overboard with my security measures.

Bike cables and ulock

It started with the crowd favorite Kryptonite Evolution U-Lock. Of course, I got the one packaged with a KryptoFlex Double Loop Cable. After experimenting a few months with putting the U-Lock around the tire and the frame (a real pain), I now loop the cable through both tires and secure the U-Lock using the top tube.

But what if someone can cut through the cable? Well, instead of just handing them my tires by leaving the factory quick release skewers on, I upgraded to skewers that require a hex key to remove. That’ll slow them down!

I didn’t need to replace the skewer for the seat, since mine came with a hex key skewer instead of quick release. But any old IKEA-shopping delinquent could carry an allen wrench, so I got a smaller KryptoFlex cable which is permanently looped through the rails under the saddle. I secure this leash to the seat post using a small velcro strap, and the U-Lock loops through it whenever I park.

As a final security measure, I always remove my headlight and tail light before walking away. Take that, criminals!

Storage Equipment

Choosing a storage setup was less about fear, and more about practicality. I never planned to go on arduous trail adventures; I mostly planned to commute to work and occasionally buy groceries. I looked at panniers for weeks, but always returned to a preference for baskets. I first purchased a front basket, but multiple people smirked at this idea, so I returned it.

Bike storageI ended up with an arrangement I’ve only seen a couple times, but I like very much. I have a Planet Bike Eco rear bike rack, with a Wald folding rear bicycle basket on either side. These baskets are perfect for my lunch box, a bag of gear, and/or a standard grocery tote. They are easy to close, which I always do to leave plenty of room at the rack for other bicycles.

My gear bag is just a cheap zip-up bag I got from a work conference. When I’m on the road, it contains my U-Lock and chain. When the bike is parked, it holds my lights and sometimes my helmet. I could have bought a fancy pannier, but the baskets let me use whatever is lying around.

You may be thinking, “She has all these cables and locks and rituals around parking her bike. She must really love doing it.” You would be incorrect. I have made the system as routine as possible, but I truly hate locking up my bike. For that reason (and to minimize exposure to weather and bugs), I always bring my bike inside at home. I mount it on a Racor Solo Vertical Bike Rack, with the rear tire resting in a Delta Da Vinci Bicycle Tire Tray. This rack is sturdy and simple. It’s never been in my way, and I sleep soundly without a care for thieves or spiders.

fullsizeoutput_1a16Occasionally I will take my bike on a non-arduous adventure. For this purpose I have a Saris Bones 2-Bike Trunk Rack. As the bumblebee confounds science by its insistence on flying, this rack appears to be held on by the counter forces of various straps and intense prayer. My bike hasn’t fallen off, so I simply knock wood and keep moving. Never do I ever regret getting the step-through bike frame more than when my bike is on this rack; the rear end of the bike sticks up in the air and it looks dumb as hell.

The Satisfactory Thing

Looking back on my first year of riding, I wouldn’t have chosen anything differently. I might upgrade my helmet and add a noisemaker (just to feel powerful), but I am content in knowing that bike bandits cry into their pillows, lamenting they will never have what’s mine.


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