Not having a car in Portland is awful.
That was sarcasm. It’s easy and frankly, the better option. There are bike lanes every where, and driving is a bummer. There’s so much traffic in the city, who needs it? Portland gives bikers everything we need. Every time I approach a new, big intersection on my bike, I think, Oh no, will it go on? Then I look across the road and see the painted bike lane symbol with plenty of space, and even a traffic light to tell me when it’s my turn. It’s the city’s way of saying, Yes, right this way, you are welcome here. Thanks, Portland! The city’s bike friendly attitude is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I ride respected.
The benefits of biking are obvious now, thanks to bike advocacy, but here’s a reminder: bikes serve the environment and are cheaper and less maintenance than a car. They are good exercise, fun, and more social (biker bar, anyone?). They are easier to park (never pay again), smaller and more maneuverable (cruise passed traffic), and make me happier and less stressed (hello endorphin, goodbye traffic jams).
Bikers are more likable. When someone says, I drive a – insert fancy expensive car name – I think, Huh? Ew, boring, go away. But when someone says, I ride my bike, I think, hmm I like you, keep talking.
As bike inclusion spreads, there’s no reason not to kick back a stand and get rolling. Here’s how I got all my bike gear for as cheap as possible, and hopefully it will help others learn and look into ways to become an urban biker in their city.
Step 1: Get a bike (Duh)
I got mine for $50 on Craigslist. Craigslist has an entire section for bikes and bike parts. Usually functioning bikes don’t go for that cheap and are well over $100. I lucked out, how? Because I was on Craigslist from the moment I woke up until bed time. Good deals go fast, so check the website several times a day and don’t wait to contact the seller.
Do your research and know what you are buying. Things to consider: How far away is the seller? How will you pick up and transport the bike to your home? Where will you safely store your bike when it’s not being used? Is the bike your size? Does it have gears? What’s the catch if there is one? Damages? Bike brand? Tires pumped? Why is the seller selling? Is it the proper bike for the types of surfaces you’ll be riding on? For example, in Portland, it’s okay to buy a fast road bike. Some cities have too many pot holes, bumpy surfaces, cobblestone roads, or require too much riding on the sidewalk to go that fast on thin tires. Maybe a hybrid is best.
There are other sources than Craigslist. Check out your local community bike store. Many have earn-a-bike programs that help you build your own bike using donated parts. This way, you save money and reuse perfectly good bike parts while learning the ins and outs of bike repair.
Step 2: Wear a helmet.
I’m not your mom, but it is the safer option. You’ll feel more confident wearing a helmet. Drivers and other bikers respect you more if you follow the rules. Bike advocacy and awareness has come a long way, so don’t be the one to ruin it.
New helmets are expensive and most bike shops don’t sell them used because their strength has been compromised. I bought mine on eBay for $12. Know your size before you buy online.
Step 3: Get a lock
This is the most crucial step if you ride a bike in the city. Bike theft happens in every city all over the world so don’t think you are somehow above it. You’re bike can be stolen by anyone, anywhere, anytime, and the percentage of bike thefts have only increased in the past few years.
I lucked out and found a vintage Kryptonite on Craigslist for $5. But spending a good about of money on your lock is more than worth it. Check out the website/blog Funked Up about how to properly lock your bike, avoid theft, and everything there is to know about safe urban biking.
Step 4: Get lights
If you know you’ll be riding at night, lights are necessary.
I’ve gone through a few sets of lights and bottom line, the more you pay the more you get. I started with the Blackburn Click Combo, which was my cheapest option ($25 for a set), but they also broke in two months because of rain water.
Then I had something like the Blackburn local 50 front light ($20 for one light). This was a great light that I would have bought again, but I needed something a little more powerful in a busier city.
This time, I bought the Blackburn Central 100 front and rear set for $65. It was steeper than I wanted to pay, but unlike cheaper lights that require batteries, these are rechargeable via a USB cord that comes with it. They will probably need to be charged enough times that in time, I’ll have saved money. They are also more powerful with multiple settings.
The front light only let’s other people see you. For $20 on Craigslist I bought a vintage LED headlamp for my helmet (original price: $70). It has three settings of various focus, like a spot light, so I can see everywhere I look.
Check out the views of my first big bike ride in Portland. It was twelve miles round trip to work. Half the ride was on the Eastbank Esplanade, a running and biking path along the east shore of the Willamette River. An incredible ride!