Tag Archives | bikes

Image by Bre Pettis, Flickr

Image by Bre Pettis, Flickr

You’re almost set to hit the pavement, but first, it’s important to learn some quick maintenance points. A well-maintained bicycle is the best defence against breakdowns. However, no matter how much you dote over your bike, it is inevitably going to get a flat. Keep a kit on hand:

  1. Bike pump
  2. Puncher repair kit
  3. Allen keys (varying sizes)
  4. Tire levers (used to pry off tire from wheel)
  5. Spare tube

You should also have bike lube on hand to keep your chain well-greased – a dry or dirty chain is more likely to snap. It’s also a good idea to periodically clean off dirt from your hub, cogs, brakes and frame. You should also try to get a tune up from your local bike shop every 4 months or so.


A bike lock is the most important piece of equipment for keeping your bike safe. Firstly, try to lock your bike in an open and well-populated area. Make sure you lock it to something sturdy. Refrain from locking it to trees, because the lock damages the bark. Instead, look for bike racks, sturdy metal fences, and lampposts. When locking your bike, you should ideally use two locks. Always make sure one lock locks your back wheel and frame to a sturdy object. Your second lock should lock your front wheel to the frame.

Unfortunately, no bike lock in the world will keep a determined thief from pinching your bike. As a guide, you should aim to spend 10% of the cost of your bike on a bike lock. So for example, a $500 bike should have a $50 lock. The most recommended method of avoiding bike theft is to make your bike undesirable to steal.


Cycling is really fun, and the more you do it, the better you will get at it. The most important things to keep in mind when deciding to commute by bike are: do I have the right equipment? Do I know where I’m going? Am I being safe on the road? Keep these things in mind and you’ll have a fun and rewarding experience.

See you on the road!

Image by carljohnson, Flickr

Image by carljohnson, Flickr

So now that you’ve found the bike that’s right for you, you need to figure out what to wear. Don’t worry – you don’t have to wear those really unflattering bike shorts (although they’d certainly help). Here’s a list of some of the essentials, and tips on how to wear those cycling shorts without anyone noticing:

  1. There’s nothing more miserable than cycling when you’re cold or wet. Rain gear is essential for keeping you comfortable and giving you the motivation to continue cycling.
    • Galoshes: rubber moulds that go over regular shoes
    • Gloves: waterproof, padded and reasonably warm
    • Pants: slip-on waterproof pants that are lightweight and easily stored in a bag or pannier
    • Jacket: similar to pants, make sure it’s wind and waterproof, lightweight and covers your lower back
    • Hat: can be worn under your helmet
  2. Warmth is all about layering, which traps warm air close to your body. It’s amazing how quickly the body warms up, and if you start sweating and don’t have adequate ventilation, it will actually make you feel colder than you really are. Be aware that any exposed skin may lead to frostbite, so wrap up well.
    • Socks: cold feet are sad feet. Wrap up well with warm socks or double up on regular socks
    • Gloves: something warm that still allows you enough finger movement to work your brakes and gears
    • Base layer:
      • Cycling shorts (which are padded)
      • Long johns: don’t worry; wear them under cycling pants so no one has to see them
      • Thermal top: it’s tight and sits close to the skin to wick away sweat and trap warm air
    • Pants: something comfortable that stretches. Wind and waterproof is advisable
    • Some kind of long-sleeve cotton sweater or t-shirt to trap warm air. However, cotton should not be worn against the skin
    • Jacket should be worn over a warm base layer: look for something lined and warm, but also breathable. Cycling jackets are specifically designed with the rider in mind
    • Hat: warm toque to protect your head and ears
    • Face mask: if it’s really cold out, covering your face is a good idea to stop frostbite, especially when there’s a nasty headwind
  3. Summer is a great time to bike to school or work. The only thing you have to worry about is humidity and sweating.
    • Socks: ankle socks are best here. Something lightweight and breathable is preferred
    • Gloves: fingerless gloves are great because they allow a breeze but still deliver padding to your palms
    • Shorts: cycling shorts are great because they wick sweat away from your body and dry quickly. They also have built-in chamois (padding) in the bum area. If you’re uncomfortable wearing something that leaves little to the imagination, aim for a pair that are lightweight, quick-drying and breathable
    • Top: cycling tops are great for the same reason as shorts. They also have front zippers in case you get hot. Most cycling jerseys have pockets in the back
    • Shades: firstly, and most obviously, they keep the sun out of your eyes. Secondly, they stop dirt and debris from getting in your eyes

Remember, this is just a general guide. You’ll find from experience what works for you and what doesn’t. Dress for the conditions outside, and try not to get caught out in weather you didn’t prepare for. The Weather Network has now become your new best friend.

This is Part Three of a four-part series on Bicycle Commuting. Also check out:
Part One – Bicycle Commuting: The Benefits for Students
Part Two – Bicycle Commuting: Which Bike Is Right For Me?

Image by Tejvan Pettinger, Flickr

Image by Tejvan Pettinger, Flickr

Cycling is an excellent mode of transportation for students – just think of the money you’ll save and the calories you’ll burn! You might think that the rain accompanied by spring means it’s time to put away your bike: however, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment!

Cycling is an impactful social, financial and environmental choice that drastically reduces greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Not only that, it has great health benefits, too.

Health Benefits

Let’s imagine that we commute by bike to school, which is a 30 km (round) trip. It will take us 90 minutes to complete this commute. For an average male, that burns over 9000 calories a month – just getting to and from school. You could give up your gym membership and bask in the glory of your new-found mode of transport! Not to mention, getting an early morning workout will keep your brain active and your body fresh; cycling is a full body workout that improves cardiovascular fitness, strengthens muscles, burns fat and improves coordination.

Financial Benefits

Keeping your bike on the road is cheap and easy: you don’t have to pay any municipal fees or taxes, and maintenance is relatively hassle-free. It also works out to be cheaper than using public transit. For example, Toronto Transit Commission monthly student passes total $1296 per year. You don’t even have to commute everyday by bike to help reduce this price. If you were to only bike during the summer (3 months) it would reduce this total by $324 – giving you significant financial savings.

If you cycled our 30 km school commute instead of driving, you would save yourself over $75 per month just on gas. You can see for yourself with this nifty Commute Impact Calculator from Metrolinx’s Smart Commute program.

Environmental Benefits

Let’s not forget about the great environmental benefits of commuting by bike. The Seeds Foundation reports that the average Canadian produces roughly 5 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year. However, if you were to leave your car in the driveway and cycle our 30km daily commute, you would save 1.6 tonnes in greenhouse emissions per year!

Stay Safe

Before we go any further, there’s one issue above all others: safety. Cycling need not be a dangerous hobby or commute.

  1. Although helmets are not required by law in Ontario, they serve as the best type of defence against head injuries. A good solid helmet should cover your forehead and fit snugly.
  2. Lights are important for improving your visibility. White lights are used at the front of your bike, and red lights at the back. Reflectors also increase your visibility. These should come with your bike.
  3. In Ontario, a bell is mandatory for any bicycle. They are a cheap and effective way of audibly alerting pedestrians to your presence.
  4. Follow all road laws in your area. Pedal power does not exclude you from the responsibility of obeying proper road safety. No running red lights or stop signs, no riding on the sidewalk, etc.

This is Part One in a four-part series on bicycle commuting. Also check out:
Part Two – Bicycle Commuting: Which Bike Is Right For Me?
Part Three – Bicycle Commuting: Do I Really Need To Wear Those Unflattering Shorts?