Author Topic: What do I need to start biking?  (Read 4591 times)

Russell

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What do I need to start biking?
« on: August 10, 2015, 01:18:34 PM »
Hello Friends!

I am new to all of this crazy, awesome, Mustachianism, and I have just started biking to work this year. I am in terrible shape but young @ 24 so I can make things work. I currently live in Illinois where we get snow and decently cold weather (-20 windchill on bad days). I have no plans for this to keep me from biking.

I've read through Mr. Money Mustache's articles on cold weather gear, and buying from nashbar.com, but the prices on that site seem very high to me. I would prefer to go on craigslist / ebay and spend as little money as possible (buy as little as possible). Surprising I know. I am very new to biking and had a couple of questions, but any general advice would also be extremely appreciated:

1. What is the absolute cheapest oil I can use on my chain (that still works)? And where to get it? It seems bike shops always sell the marked up stuff, and I have been told not to ever use wd40 under any circumstances.

2. I have been looking for a winter jacket /face mask/ gloves/ base layer; that are lightweight and good for biking without having to pay an arm and a leg. Are there brands/ key words/ designs/ any other aspect, that I should be paying attention to while browsing? Examples are welcome.

3. I am looking for a helmet also, and wonder if there are known good brands. I have heard I should not buy secondhand, but are there any tips for doing so if I decide to anyway?

4. I am very interested in keeping my bike in as good condition as possible and repairing it myself. However, I am certain I will run into parts that need replaced. Suggestions for places/ things to look for by others that have gone this route?

Thanks for reading!

velocistar237

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2015, 01:56:56 PM »
1. A bottle of bike chain oil lasts a while. $2/oz is not unreasonable. You'll also want a way to clean your chain. I take the chain off and soak it in some degreaser in an old bottle. I should do it more often than I do.

2. Temperatures will vary, so layering is best. I usually have a base layer, fleece/sweater, and a shell. I have windproof mittens from Cabelas that work fine. The brand isn't that important, and it doesn't need to be cycling specific. Make sure the jacket sleeves are long enough for you. When you ride a bike, your sleeves can ride up and expose your forearms. The layers underneath might be enough that it's not a big deal. My mittens have a fairly long cuff. Get a balaclava. Windproof is good, but it has to be thin enough to go under your helmet. A friend gave me a fleece one, and I made a thinner one from some old thermals that's for cool weather.

3. Anything Ansi or Snell certified is good. Secondhand is discouraged. There should be an expiration date sticker somewhere on the helmet. If you can look at it before you buy it, stress it with your hands and see if any cracks open.

4. I like going to my local bike shop, but Amazon carries most everything. Search and compare, same as everything else.

nereo

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2015, 02:07:10 PM »
1. What is the absolute cheapest oil I can use on my chain (that still works)? And where to get it? It seems bike shops always sell the marked up stuff, and I have been told not to ever use wd40 under any circumstances.

2. I have been looking for a winter jacket /face mask/ gloves/ base layer; that are lightweight and good for biking without having to pay an arm and a leg. Are there brands/ key words/ designs/ any other aspect, that I should be paying attention to while browsing? Examples are welcome.

3. I am looking for a helmet also, and wonder if there are known good brands. I have heard I should not buy secondhand, but are there any tips for doing so if I decide to anyway?

4. I am very interested in keeping my bike in as good condition as possible and repairing it myself. However, I am certain I will run into parts that need replaced. Suggestions for places/ things to look for by others that have gone this route?
Velocistar237 has some good suggestions.  I'll add...
1) chain lube on amazon.com for under a few dollars and oz.  1 oz will last you a year or more (probably more).  If you are just getting started, a tooth-brush and dishwashing soap is a decent way to clean the chain (but a bit labor intensive).  If you want to get fancy, but one of these.
2) Depends on where you live, but layering is key.  MOst people already have a decent wardrobe.  I'd consider buying a high-visibility vest if you bike in/around traffic, but otherwise I just wear a combination of baselayer + fleece + windshell/rainshell.   I've bought literally no special clothing for biking (nothing I don't also wear going for a hike).
3) Just get a helmet that fits you.  Like Velcoistar said, make sure it's certified
4) Look for a bike co-op.  If you have any sized university or community college near you, chances are they have one.  Join, take their (often free) maintenance classes and you'll be shocked at how easy it is to fix your bike.  Because it is a coop, parts will be cheaper and you'll often find there are buckets of used parts you can draw from by being a member.   This is what I did. 
If you can't find a coop, places like REI frequently have bike-maintenance classes.

final note:  Bikes are pretty simple machines to own and maintain once you learn a few key things. 

FLBiker

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2015, 02:07:49 PM »
Re: 2 -- totally agree about layering.  I got a longsleeve nike drifit spandex thing that is absolutely my favorite cold weather baselayer.  I found it at a thrift store for a couple of bucks.
Re: 3 -- agree with the certification and discouraging secondhand.
Re: 4 -- look for a bike co-op in your area.  Ours (sadly) closed, but I learned a lot about maintaining / repairing a bike (and using bike-specific tools) there.

One recommended extravagance -- I absolutely love this mirror: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003LVHZ4O

It's expensive, but works GREAT.  If you want to go cheaper, get some other sort of helmet mirror.  For me, the handlebar ones are useless.

Matt_D

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2015, 06:51:23 PM »
My input:

1 - A $5-10 bottle of chain lubricant at a bike shop will last you at least a couple years used properly, and extend the life of not just your chain, but more expensive bits like the chainrings/crankset, derailleurs, and cassette. Trying to use something else falls into the "penny wise and pound foolish" category in my book (and no, don't use WD-40! It will hurt more than it helps). The best type depends on your environment - different stuff works better in dry/wet conditions. If you're unsure, ask the staff in your local shop what they use.

2 - Look at ski stuff, anything that is good for skiiers (or snowboarders or even snowmobile riders) is good for cold-weather biking, pretty much, as long as it doesn't restrict freedom of movement too much. Remember though that biking is active and generates heat, so even in pretty frigid temperatures you don't want too many layers - mostly you need to block the wind. I would recommend buying the highest quality stuff (base layers and gloves in particular) that you can - if you do that they will keep you warm and last a long time. Remember that the lowest up-front cost isn't necessarily the lowest long-term cost (but conversely the most expensive stuff isn't necessarily the best). Read a few reviews on things before you buy.

3 - You can get a very good basic helmet (Giro/Bell/etc) on Amazon for under $30 (or at your local bike shop). Why are you trying to save less than $30 on something to protect your brain for several years?

4 - Get a copy of Park's "Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair." They're on the 3rd edition now I think, but you can probably find the 2nd edition somewhere for cheap and unless you have the latest-and-greatest in bikes, it'll work just fine. Very good anyone-can-understand-it approach to basic bike stuff. Also, REI occasionally has repair clinics if you're near one - I believe they're free. In terms of what wears out... check around online, and check in your local bike shop's discount bin. Ask the mechanics if they have any of [part you need] taken off something else. Shops are usually happy to sell slightly-used stuff if they can.

galliver

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2015, 07:48:43 PM »
1) Bike
2) Helmet
3) Lights if you anticipate riding at night.

Everything else can wait until you find that you're biking regularly. You have at least 2-3 months of good biking weather left before worrying about winter gear!

frompa

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2015, 08:06:50 PM »

1. What is the absolute cheapest oil I can use on my chain (that still works)? And where to get it? It seems bike shops always sell the marked up stuff, and I have been told not to ever use wd40 under any circumstances.

2. I have been looking for a winter jacket /face mask/ gloves/ base layer; that are lightweight and good for biking without having to pay an arm and a leg. Are there brands/ key words/ designs/ any other aspect, that I should be paying attention to while browsing? Examples are welcome.

3. I am looking for a helmet also, and wonder if there are known good brands. I have heard I should not buy secondhand, but are there any tips for doing so if I decide to anyway?

4. I am very interested in keeping my bike in as good condition as possible and repairing it myself. However, I am certain I will run into parts that need replaced. Suggestions for places/ things to look for by others that have gone this route?

Thanks for reading!


1.  Don't fuss over this.  Find a decent bike shop and ask them what to use, and then buy it.  This stuff goes a long distance.
WD40 is not a lube, it's a water and oil displacing material you use to clean parts if necessary. 

2.  The answer to this is totally locality related.  Find some die hard cyclists in your area and ask them what they use.  Generally, the fundamental principle is LAYER, LAYER, LAYER.  You will be amazed at how little you need to keep your core warm when cycling in even the coldest weather, and probably also at how tricky (and important) it is to keep your hands and feet warm in cold weather cycling.  I live in cold snowy Pennsylvania, and for many years when I had a ten mile each way bike commute, I did layered wool socks and fully enclosed dansko clog boots that lasted for YEARS (and came to look quite bad ass, if I do say so myself.)  Get over the notion that you need to lay out big bucks for cycling specific clothes.  You don't.  You can easily layer up in thrift store wool sweaters and socks.  Again, ask those around you who are already doing it.

3.  Used helmet? No fucking way.  Shell out for a decent certified one, make sure you fit it properly, and keep it adjusted for maximum protection.  In winter, when you'll probably be wearing a warm under-hat or balaclava, you may need a slightly larger size, or adjust the back knob (if you have an adjustable helmet) to be a little bigger for your comfort.

4.  Best advice I can give on bike repair is, read up ahead of time and don't be afraid to get your hands dirty.  Cycle mechanics are so damn obvious once you start to look at them, not to mention elegant in many cases as well.   Bike parts are mostly very cheap (IMHO) wherever you buy them, though as always you are probably best off finding the most reputable bike shop in your area and going there for parts.  You would also do well to get a bike repair book of the same approximate vintage as your bicycle.  (Yes, the mechanics change over time.) The real cost of maintenance is the time it takes.  But arrange yourself a good work space, put on some decent tunes, and go at it.  I also second the notion of finding a bike co-op in your area if possible.  If that's not possible, look around for some cycling mentors and ask them to help you through.  They'll likely do it.

And last but not least, HAVE FUN!  Though cycling has its mustachian value and function, a great part of its attraction is that it's also plain old enjoyable.   

tvan

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2015, 08:55:29 PM »
I just got this helmet. Fits great

http://www.amazon.com/Schwinn-Thrasher-Adult-Bicycle-Helmet/dp/B00012M5MS/ref=zg_bs_3404571_2

Also got a Specialized tricross for $170 off craigslist in fantastic condition. Be patient with craigslist. Set up alerts. Move quickly when you know it's a good deal.

Jakejake

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2015, 09:15:13 PM »
I lucked out and found an illuminite jacket at a thrift shop. I'm not sure how reflective it really is from different angles at night, but I bought it for that reason. And then it turned out what I really love about it is the armpit zippers for venting. Best feature ever.

My son in law swears by vests, and can get away with a lighter flannel shirt under one as long as his core is warm. I'm the opposite, my core overheats while my arms can be freezing, so I got knit arm warmers. He was gifted battery heated socks which he never bothers to use. I didn't know he had an unused pair of those - I actually made a pair for myself because my feet get cold after a half hour or so if it's 20 or below.  It may take some experimenting to find what works for you.

Below 40 I like wearing cheap ski goggles or else the wind and cold makes my eyeballs sting and my eyes water up and it's hard to see. With my face mask on, I had to learn to breath down - when I get tired, I have a habit of sticking out my bottom jaw and sighing or huffing a bit upwards, which fogs up my goggles.

I'll confess, I did some bicycle- and self-bedazzling on the cheap through aliexpress. Some things I got from them:

1. reflective spoke tubes because I was doing a lot of commuting in the dark. I also use a head lamp and tail light but I read that sometimes cars will see a single light and not realize what it is. The spoke reflectors scream "hey, it's a bike!"
http://www.aliexpress.com/item/A96-Free-Shipping-New-12PCS-Reflective-Bike-Bicycle-Wheel-Rim-Spoke-Bike-Mount-Warning-Light-Tube/1999805011.html

2. both clear and tinted goggles: http://www.aliexpress.com/item/2014-New-Outdoor-Windproof-Glasses-Ski-Goggles-Dustproof-Snow-Glasses-Men-Motocross-Riot-Control-Downhill-Free/32223263439.html

3. neoprene face mask: http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Special-Offer-New-Winter-Windproof-Half-Face-Mask-Veil-Neck-Protector-For-Hiking-Bike-Bicycle/32250592897.html

and I don't see the exact ones I got, but if you search there for fleece thermal bicycle pants, you will see padded fleece lined lycra sort of bike pants or tights that you can wear on their own or under street clothes. The ones I got were about 20 dollars, and I was surprised - on their own, they keep me comfortable down to 25 degrees with no other layers, no problem.

I have that same exact thrasher helmet tvan just posted! I lucked out and got it clearanced at kmart for $3, then realized the glue holding the shell on was defective. You'll see some reviews mentioning that. I read up on that, and based on internet recommendations got 3m black weatherstript adhesive to attach it, and that's worked perfectly. Now that I have that sorted out, I love the helmet, it adjusts well for my tiny summer head, and my large hat and goggle encased winter melon.

Jack

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2015, 08:11:29 AM »
3. I am looking for a helmet also, and wonder if there are known good brands. I have heard I should not buy secondhand, but are there any tips for doing so if I decide to anyway?

All new helmets will provide good protection in a crash (I've never actually seen one for sale that wasn't ANSI/Snell certified). The difference between the cheapest and most expensive helmet is not safety, but rather things like weight, ventilation, and comfort in general.

I always buy the cheapest new helmet I can find (or at least, the cheapest with a built-in visor and non-feminine color scheme), which is usually Giro brand and about $30.

Do not buy a used helmet. There's no way to tell if the styrofoam has already been cracked or compressed (under the plastic shell, where you can't see it) and if it has been, it won't do its job.

bobechs

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2015, 09:39:35 AM »
1. The least expensive oil would be automatic transmission fluid.  It's very good oil but you would be crazy to buy a quart -- that would be a lifetime supply for a hundred bikers.  Look in an appropriate dumpster for recently emptied bottles.  The remainder in one, two or three will last a good while.  Mobil 1 or other synthetic motor oil is also a good lube.

2. If the temperature is above freezing your problem is not holding it heat but shedding it.  At those temperatures if you feel chilled, bike harder.

3. Look online, you should be able to get a very good helmet around thirty dollars or less.  I use a snow sports helmet that was given to me.  The fact that it's not part of the MAMIL uniform is a plus as far as I'm concerned.  If you have a lot of heads here'e an ultra cheap source:

http://www.prorider.com/cns/Economy-Bike-Helmets?gclid=CLeOhsaLnccCFQkFaQod43IBVg

zolotiyeruki

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2015, 10:13:46 AM »
I bike to work in northern Illinois.  My commute isn't long (3.5 miles) but here's what works for me in terms of clothing in the winter.
Work is super casual, and I'm too cheap to go out and buy biking-specific clothes.  I wear stuff I already have:

Bottom: regular clothes I'm wearing to work (pants, shoes)
Top: t-shirt (or other shirt I'm wearing to work), hoodie, fleece jacket
Hands: insulated leather gloves
Head: balaclava, hood from hoodie, helmet

robartsd

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2015, 11:46:59 AM »
1. Proper lube extends life of drivetrain components. The important thing is to have lube inside the chain rollers reducing wear which elongates the chain. The elongated chain wears out the teeth on the other drivetrain components. I've seen recommendations of never adding lube without first throughly cleaning the chain as lube added to a dirty chain contributes to dirt getting into the rollers. As others have said, a little lube goes a long way.

2. I don't have experience riding in a very cold climate (record lows in Sacramento tend to be in the 20's), but the key to comfort is managing exposure wind and moisture (including venting). It is easy to maintain core (and usually leg) temperature while riding, but arms & hands, face, and feet can be difficult to keep warm. Also consider what you'll have with you in case a mechanical failure keeps you from getting to your destination.

3. I've heard that the standards for equestrian helments is nearly identical to bike helmets and as already mentioned snow sports helmets may also be a great choice in cold weather. Generally helmets get more expensive with more ventilation (it's more difficult to meet the requirements with more/bigger holes).

4. I bought Nashbar's "Big Tool Kit" (similar to the "Nashbar Essential Tool Kit" they now sell) nearly 2 decades ago which allows me to do nearly any needed repair. The only tool from it that I was not satisfied with was the spoke wrench - but the current kit includes a different one. You might be surprised just how long many bike parts last if properly cared for; of course things like tires and brake pads need relatively frequent replacement even with proper care.

crazy jane

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2015, 11:50:07 AM »
Utility pro wear. Sorry no link. Very visible clothing at reasonable prices.

Russell

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2015, 01:51:48 PM »
Thanks for all of the input & links everyone. Those aliexpress.com links are pretty badass.

I really like the idea to join a coop, so I need to check around.

Ansi/ Snell certified new helmet that keeps me alive so don't skimp. Guess that makes sense.

Don't be cheap, be smart about the chain lube. I can do that.

I promise - last two questions - for a rule of thumb if I bike 5 miles every day, rain or snow, how often should I be oiling my chain?
Taking it off and cleaning it?

Thanks again!

nereo

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #15 on: August 11, 2015, 02:21:41 PM »
Quote
I promise - last two questions - for a rule of thumb if I bike 5 miles every day, rain or snow, how often should I be oiling my chain?
Taking it off and cleaning it?

I follow the school of thought of: "let the chain tell you" - if you can hear any squeeking or creeking, it's time to clean and lube.  I probably do mine about once per month and I have a similar ~5mi commute, although I could do it slightly more frequently.
Also - while taking the chain off can be the best way of cleaning it - that's not entirely necessary.  5 minutes with a tooth-brush and a degreaser like Simple Green will do almost as good a job, as will buying one of these thingies.

Whenever you lube your chain, run it around several times and then use a rag to wipe off all the excess.  You want the lube to be between all the links, but the chain itself to appear almost dry - that cuts down on the amount of sand/dirt that will cling to your chain and cause premature wear.

frompa

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #16 on: August 11, 2015, 05:25:56 PM »
How often you need to clean your chain depends on under what conditions you've been riding.  After I've ridden in a long rain, or in any amount of salty slushy ice, I try to clean and lube before I ride again.  This is not a difficult or lengthy process, though, so you won't be intimidated by it after you've done it a couple of times. 

Russell

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #17 on: August 12, 2015, 09:19:53 AM »
Thanks for the cheaper cleaning kit link nereo. I will see if I can find something similar locally and if not, buy that one.

We have a pretty awesome local coop here, where you volunteer and then get to use anything you need, so I am going to join them and hopefully be able to provide help to others once I really know what I am doing.

I am glad I posted here, everyone has provided excellent information. Thanks!

galaxie

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Re: What do I need to start biking?
« Reply #18 on: August 12, 2015, 10:06:31 AM »
I find that the hardest things to keep warm on a longish winter bike ride are my face, hands, and feet.  The biggest quality-of-life improvements for my riding have been AWESOME gloves, waterproof boots, and a wool balaclava (breathable but warm, not gross on my face when wet).  I'm considering ski goggles for this year.

In the fall, depending on your climate, you might appreciate having rain pants.  Or you can just get wet and change your pants when you get there.  If it's warm enough that's a fine strategy.