Killerjackalope's Guide to Urban Cycling

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Introduction: Killerjackalope's Guide to Urban Cycling

Ok whether it be simply for work or play a bike is great way to get around town, as always there are innumerable risk factors and both upsides and downsides...

This is just a basic guide to help you:

*Choose your bike for town
*Help you keep safe
*Get around fast
*Learn a few tricks and tips I've collected over my years of urban cycling (since I was 11 and we had no car)

Well I'm going to go ahead and dive in, first up: choosing your bicycle...

Now out from me, basic cycling tricks and skills

Also this is entered in the bike month contest and it would be pretty cool to get votes and ratings if you like my 'ible...

Step 1: Choosing the Right Bicycle for Urban Happiness

First of all before anyone sticks their nose up at the idea of riding a lesser bicycle let it be known that having a really expensive bike for pootling or hurtling about town is a bad idea because:
  • It's very possible it could get stolen
  • If you have a bump or a car parks on it you'd be pretty sorry
  • You're quite unlikely to use it to it's full potential

If that isn't reason enough well...

In terms of pricing I would suggest that £200 is a safe number to aim for, if you decide to go over this consider bicycle insurance which I recommend anyway.

You need to figure out how you ride your bike in town, if you are riding on the road permanently then a road bike is probably a good option, they're light, capable of maneuvring on roads well and they're generally better value for money at the bottom end of the scale.

On the other hand a more off road style gives you more options, a good cross country bike can be had for a fair price and holds alot of good qualities in terms of ridability, it'll survive a bit of curb hopping and give you distance. Also no matter what someone tells you a cross country bike will go through a downhill course, I won a competition between some local riders on my old bike. Another good point about both road and cross country bikes is that you'll be a bit higher up in traffic naturally and way more visible due to this.

Of course if you're friendly with a bicycle shop owner there's absolutely no need to go pre-built at this price range, by carefully selecting parts on their differing qualities and prices a really sweet bike can be had for little money and he even put it together since we were giving the other one an overhaul, I went for:
The lightest frame within reason (pricewise)
24 speed shifter set and such
Simple powerful V-brakes (these are more likely to survive a crash and actually suit me better than discs, which also scream 'Steal me!')
The prescribed forks for the frame (way cheaper as you're not buying them separately)
Standard seat for the frame (it's comfy, otherwise I was getting a crappy one and making my own cushion)

Basically what I got for £180 was a great bike which suits me well and though being a bit on the prebuilt side the little touches like extra gears were worth the bother, and minus the disc brakes it ended up a cheaper bike...

Next up is more on choosing your bike, going in to the tasks.

Step 2: What Do You Want It For

You should know what you plan to do with your bike first.

If you want it for kicking around town and nipping to the shop then bargain basement will do the job, go a little under budget and get the best bike you can for the least money, especially if you're only using it occasionally.

If you're going to work everyday think about where you lock it up, if it's on the street look for a fairly low key bike, not one that gives away the price just looking at it, again choose it for the way you ride, and for where you ride, if you go on mostly cycle path or roads then definitely go for something more road orientated for less effort. If you have bounce over a million curbs consider full suspension.

If you use your bike as your main means of transport but still feel compelled to hurtle about like an absolute lunatic think hardtail MTB, with the sturdiest frame you can get, not really heavy just get something that can cope, I've actually snapped the suspension retainer ring clean off an el cheapo bike and it's not fun...

If you like to have nice float around town in a dreamy manner then think towards the codger bikes, they're not all for old people and tend to be nice and comfy for a calm little ride about.

I hope this helps before choosing a bike and always remember to do a few things:

*Always get a test ride, especially at big outlets
*Unless you're experienced in bike building just pay the labour or learn
*Shop around as much as you can, i went to big outlets and several specialist before settling on my semi custom
*Try out all the different kinds of bike on offer, I have generalized a bit here as a book could be written solely on all the type and sub-types

Step 3: Road Safety

This one's for being safe on the actual roads.

Never forget you're the squishiest thing on the road out there.

unless you're on a tandem with the fat mate...

I'm not really sure where the logical start is so here goes; When you're riding on the road in traffic don't go right in and hug the curb, this is quite dangerous because a small mistake will have you toppling on to the pavement or clipping a lampost. Ideally you should have enough room to ride along with out bouncing in to every graten and still be close enough to allow cars to pass. Keep an eye on your oncoming side and listen aswell, rather than annoy a driver and possibly cause a rash decision on their part pull in a little closer to the curb, it shows the driver that you're letting them past and it'll save you hovering beside a car any longer than necessary.

Trucks and buses are a big danger, trucks more so as a bus has a glass door right in the blind spot for cyclists, there's alot of risk in being just in front or behind of a trucks wingmirrors as this means the driver can't see you unless the cab is quite low, if you're down the side of the truck they'll be able to see in their wingmirrors and if you're out in front a little they'll be able to see at least your head.

The watch out fors:
*More senior drivers, in particular the classic hunched over the wheel type, they're likely to need a few extra seconds to react
*Boy racers - most of this breed will either attempt to knock you over or race you.
*The DOE - for some odd reason the drivers of DOE trucks have an odd compulsion to race bicycles in a friendly but deadly manner probably UK only
*The white van man - He will undoubtedly roll up his copy of the sun, light it and set you on fire given half the chance, the telltale scrapes of other paint will give you a warning, I know these things, I used to be a white van man...

Step 4: Cycle Path Safety and General Courtesy.

Public cycle paths are a great thing, they provide nice smooth paths with no traffic for the majority, this however doesn't mean you are completely safe.

Other cyclists - It's a cycle path, of course there are other cyclists, which are friendly for the most part, and you should be too. However there are dangers as you will usually be sharing the path with others and the chances are that it's not all that wide. Coming to corners that you can't see past can be pretty dangerous if they're easy to shoot through quickly, slow down for these and try and get some kind of look beforehand, a head on collison with a cyclist is not desirable and if both of you are moving fast then you'll likely not have enough time to react accordingly. Cyclists are also pretty forgiving about overtaking but that doensn't mean you need to charge past them, if there are ways around them without coming too close to them then use them, especially on windy days, which are covered in the next step.

Pedestrians - Pedestrians will generally expect to see cyclists on the cycle path but there's no need to swoop past them like a lunatic, however if you need to you should be able to, in later steps I'll cover this too. Give pedestrians a bit of leeway and warn them you are coming through should you need to, a bell is one way but I prefer using my voice as you can say something that lets them know what's going on, a bell just makes people turn round and look for a few seconds most of the time.

Dogs - Dogs are hard to predict and generally quite squishy or large enough to cause an accident, either way running in to one is an ugly prospect, when I see dogs up ahead I tend to slow down once I'm near them and give as much room as possible, that way if the dog has a sudden urge to get in the way there's less chance it will, even if there's lots of room let up a bit so you can react to what happens and brake or dodge accordingly.

Other cycle path tips:

*Stick to the same side as you would on the road, public mentality means most people do
*Don't be afraid to go off the beaten track to avoid someone
*Don't be rude to other users of the track, they're likely there frequently
*With a clear path feel free to charge along as fast as you like but always be alert
*Relax on the cycle track, it's a place to enjoy cycling

Step 5: Weather You Say?

In a town environment weather plays merry hell with cyclists, the high density of people and buildings can worsen this too.

Wind - This is one of the biggest hazards to cyclists, it's bad enough with gusts etc. but when you add loads of people and traffic, grids of taller buildings and no space it becomes hell on earth. There's one particular hill I go down on the way to work and the wind blasts out of every side street across the road, the problem here is that it throws you out towards the road every time you pass a street, meaning you have to correct fast and somehow stay out of the car windshield behind you. The trick here is move out in to the road a bit on shorter bad stretches and let the driver behind deal with it, this way you don't end up flying in to the side of them while attempting to go somewhere. On longer stretches consider slowing down a bit and keeping in to the side. For less severe wind you can usually get away with cycling faster, that way your forward inertia helps counteract the wind's effect on you, and you'll have to make less of an adjustment and correction to your direction.

Rain - It's just water, but it is very dangerous for many reasons, not to mention it annoys everyone and makes them grumpy, thus making cycling more dangerous. It can also make certain other surfaces very slippery, many of which are very common in the urban environment, here's a small list of the main wet day dangers:
*Almost all decorative paving stones, especially the like of marble and granite
*Flagstones which cover a large portion of pavements
*Any semi smooth paving near and under large trees
*Wet leaves
*Manholes, access holes will all be like ice
*Rubbish will tend to ski on the ground, especially big mac boxes for some odd reason
*Watch out for discarded umbrellas they get caught in your spokes and give you punctures easily

Snow and ice - I haven't had a huge amount of experience with these but generally you need to keep at medium speed, don't turn sharply and expect nothing of any rim brakes, disc brakes are weakened but won't ice over the same way. Though it's nice because in bad snow you'll literally be the fastest thing on the road as cars etc. can't turn as safely as you. Your front wheel cleaves the snow quite neatly but you can only angle yourself so much before a mini drift forms underneath the tyre and it washes out, prepare for a soft landing. No braking during turning either, there's just not enough friction, if you're messing around slides are good fun. As a last note on snow etc. try and look ahead for hidden obstacles under the snow, curbs and the like can throw you off balance very quickly.

Sunny weather - Has hazards, yes most of which can be countered with a pair of decent sunnies. however keep in mind:
*The sun can get in your eyes and both distract or blind you (as in when it's in your eyes not forever)
*If you have fair skin lotion up
*Dehydration sucks
*Drivers may have the sun in their eyes too, so keep your wits about you
*Good weather brings lots of people out so again be on your toes both people and traffic wise.

Volcanoes - These require you to have several special items, including a fireproof and preferably super heat shielded suit, a bicycle hewn competely from titanium, tyres and all and a breathing equipment. Basically you'll be fine, just keep an eye out for approaching lava flows and falling rocks of magma, if all else fails steal a pickup truck and put on an English accent despite not being english)

Step 6: What Else Is There?

There are a lot of tricks you can learn to help get you around quicker and with a bit of fun thrown in.

First off is the bunnyhop, this is great for saving you from backwheel blowouts, going down a steep hill and on to a curb invariably runs the risk of of blowing the back tyre as it hits the curb, simply bunnyhopping allows you to carry full speed and not worry about the tyre.

Being able to go down steps is also good, for up to three it's just like hopping a big curb and for more just slow right down and allow your momentum to build and carry you down, make sure you stay planted on the pedals though. Eventually I'll do a short video 'ible to go along with.

You should learn to master the art of emergency stops, generally using your front brake in a controlled manner is the best plan, you want to be braking as hard as possible without going over the handlebars.

Another thing to learn is the stoppie or endo, allowing your back wheel to come up in to the air while stopping hard with the front brake, it's just handy to have control over this so you can stop up short and fast by converting some extra inertia into rotational momentum, it's not essential but helpful to be able to control the bike in this position...

Riding with one hand is a very important skill when it comes to signalling or indicating, as you need to take a hand off the bars to do so.

Practicing sliding the back wheel out can be a useful skill, sometimes just to make it round a tight spot and sometimes to avoid your front wheel washing out by shifting the balance of grip to a controllable tailslide you can avoid some messes.

Step 7: Things You Should Consider Investing In...

High pressure Tubes are a good idea or the extra thick ones, these will lessen the chances of blowouts and punctures.

Large volume tyres and tubes will give you more cushion for the pushin' as well as a wider track for extra stability at lower speeds...

Tube protectors can really help with punctures aswell as putting something extra between the rim and the road if you get one, rather than ruining the rim the second you go flat. You could even make them from old tubes.

Tyres with side knobs are a great idea if you're worried about washing out, there isn't any corner on the tread, meaning you won't have any sudden losses of grip during leaning corners.

A damn good lock is a good investment aswell and learn how to lock up the right way here Read the comments on that one too.

A comfy seat is must for any rider and is probably the cheapest way to make your bike better.

If you prefer not shouting at people I would suggest getting yourself a loud bell.

If you cycle you should already have a helmet, if not consider it essential.

Cycle gloves are a nice comfort, they save you all those callouses on your hands, you can get ones designed to protect your wrists in crashes, I would recommend these, after a recent high speed crash my palm still can't be leant on at the bottom, have to get a doctors appointment, I've probably chipped a bone. So investing in cycle gloves is a good idea then, fingerless preferably as you can slip on a thin warm glove on cold days underneath.

Locking quick releases for your wheels and seatpost are good, keeping the ease of use without the theft worries associated, however I plan to switch out to standard nuts and carry a wrench, since I have an allen key and multitool aswell, I take off one of my pedals and/or the seat to stop theft.

If i've missed anything feel free to make suggestions in commenting.

Step 8: The Thrills and the Spills

Well this instructable was written by a human bike rider, not a team of pro's or the like, it's designed to encourage people to get on their bikes and quit driving around town, it's just nicer that way, for everyone.

Now while writing this I actually had a bad crash on my bike, spraining my wrist, removing large portions of elbows and badly bruising my hip, knee's and ego. I'm itching to get back on the bike and have some fun again.

There's alot of fun to be had on a bike, you get to travel for next to nothing (what you put in your packed lunch) circumvent most annoying traffic problems, help the environment and look like you're dead fit... Just don't overdo it on the spandex...

As last word let me say bike safe and always wear your helmet, it's a little hypocritical because I'm awful for that bad habit but it could mean life or death...

I do hope this instructable finds you well, I don't know all there is to know nor have I read all the books and whatnot, I do have alot of experience in the urban environment and so decided to write this, save the off roading for another day, well writing about it anyway.

Have fun - Killerjackalope.

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148 Comments

Well done on your 'ible. You made very good points. Making notes on your Volcano procedures. lol :) As for road cycling, I find it not for the faint hearted. Where I come from, a left hand signal means hit me on the left, right hand signal means...etc. lol. Cars are the worse, pro drivers are the most courteous in my experience. You can cycle on ice fine, you just can't turn/stop. :) I've had a few injuries the worst being a hand colliding with a metal end post and a wet leaves slamdunk onto a coping stone which chipped my pelvis. Still, love cycling, its great transport and exercise :) Thanks for your 'ible.

Well, in Italy "pro"-drivers are the most undisciplined, worse than drivers. 99% of times, they run out of cycling lane (eh, they're GREAT cyclist not like normal people! :-\ ), they run paired or three in a line (!!!), they cross with red light. I also noticed city-mountainbikers are not so appreciated by racers in Italy (and vice versa on the hills and country).

BTW, I am a three-day a week, no brand hardtail mountainbiker. I also have to confess 80% of Italian people is very rude and nervous (sometimes, me too, when riding a bike)

I'm glad you enjoyed reading it, I've had countless accidents and agree totally about professional drivers, taxis are actually great for it, they rack up fares by driving slower and they aren't in any hurry to overtake... Buses aren't too bad but their wingmirrors are a nuisance... I remember skating through a junction with wet leaves, funny I started on the pavement...

THANK YOU VERY MUCH! With capital letters! :) I've already heard some of your tips but there are unusual tips too!

I think bunnyhop and other "stunt" moves are quite difficult. I have a 6 kilometers 30% country-70% street route to reach the gym, but I would like to learn how to sharp turn only my rear wheel to make a 70° sharp turn. So these "stunt moves" are pretty good also for a (humble) city ride.

I was tempted to buy a Kevlar band to insert between my inner tube and the tyre but your idea of a half cutted old inner tube is FANTASTIC! Well, it's not kevlar but my inner tube will be 100% more thick.

Hope you have made other tutorials: I will check later. Thank you very much

The best thing to do is this. Get yourself some kinda smallish cart, you can throw one together with a sheet of thickish wood a brace in the shape of an X underneath secured in the corners, some handrail type shizzle (leave the back open), and some wheels of some sort. The rest I leave to you.
(Tip: If you live in America, armour (armor for you yanks (:) is recommended. Put industrial metal plate on the sides and top of the cart, maybe at least 2-3cm thick, double layer it if you have loads of thin bits.)
Next, get a machine gun with a tripod mount on it. Stick yourself a pole into your floor (armour the floor for mine and turd protection), and whack a MG mount on the end of it. If you plated the cart, cut a hole for the gun to point through at the back. Then by some arcane magik, attach it to your bike (this is urban warfare, use your ingenuity to survive).
Get a friend to ride with you through rough areas, and have them sit in the cart to man the gun. You'll also needs bullets, leg strength, and a license to kill. Tenacity helps too, seeming as being up there as the engine means you're gonna get shot out. You could make an armoured shell for your bike too if you like, and maybe add a pair of guns to the front, (with gears and rope you can make easy access trigger pulls to fire at the front).
Good luck surviving the hoods brothers.

the white van man in our neighborhood sells stolen items and burns things all kindsof things

 Dogs are NOT "quite squishy"  I happen to own a dog and he is not at all squishy.  In fact, a large dog could probably kill or at least seriously injure you if you don't respect their instincts.

The squishy bit was a joke, in reference to little dogs...

 in that case,  the small ones are very squishy   the small ones are also quite fat

"the small ones are very squishy   the small ones are also quite fat"

... Spoken with such eloquence! As for your logic, all big dogs kill and all small dogs are fat, simply seamless.