There’s a lot to consider when venturing out into the world on two wheels. We’ve compiled the necessary tools to get you rolling on your car-free lifestyle. Read on for some great information and resources to help you prepare for safe travels. It’s really quite simple!
Basic Skills & Maintenance
Each day you plan to hop on your bicycle, take a few minutes to check that everything is working right – it’s as easy as ABC.
With your thumb, push on your tires to see if they’re properly inflated. If they give, they need air. The amount of air that your tires should have is printed on the tire in PSI (pounds per square inch). Most floor pumps come with a built-in pressure gauge. Pump the tire up until you reach the recommended pressure. It’s also a good idea to check your tire for damage like tears, scuffs, or loose threads. Those are signs that you’re ready for a new tire.
Check to make sure your brake pads aren’t worn out. If they’re thinner than a nickel, they should be replaced. Also check to see that your brake levers aren’t traveling too far. When you squeeze the brake levers as tightly as possible, you should still be able to fit your thumb between your handlebar and the brake lever. If that’s not the case, your brakes should be adjusted.
Turn your pedals backward to test the chain’s mobility. Make sure it moves freely and you’re not hearing any squeaking. If it’s noisy, apply some chain oil. While rotating your chain, try to apply one drop of oil to each link. Use a rag to wipe off excess oil from the chain. It’s also a good idea to check the quick-release levers on your wheels to ensure they’re fastened tight.
Choosing a Bike
Obviously you’ll need a bicycle to start your car-free adventure. Not sure where to start when choosing a bike? Click on the screen below to see a one-minute video from the League of American Bicyclists on how to choose a bicycle that suits your needs and your budget.
It’s also important to select the correct frame size when choosing a bike. This will ensure that you’re riding comfortably and pedaling efficiently. If you’re not sure what size you should select, you can check out this handy frame size calculator from ebicycles.
If you’re already outfitted with a proplerly-sized bicycle, there are a number of ways to adjust for further comfort. The League of American Bicyclists put together another handy video on how to adjust your bike.
Missouri Bike Laws
Missouri has passed a variety of laws aimed at helping bicyclists and motorists share the road safely. The summary below will help you to understand your rights and responsibilities on the road.
- Bicycles are vehicles under Missouri law (307.180) and cyclists have the same rights and duties as operators of other vehicles (307.188)
- Cyclists shall ride as far right as is safe except when making a left turn, when avoiding hazardous conditions, when the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle, or when on a one-way street (307.190)
- Cyclists may ride abreast when not blocking other vehicles (307.190)
- Cyclists may ride on the shoulder of the road, but are not required to (307.191)
- Cyclists shall ride in the same direction as traffic (307.191)
- Cyclists shall signal when turning (307.192)
- Bicycles shall be equipped with brakes (307.183), a white front light, and a red rear light or reflector (307.185)
- Motor vehicles shall not park or idle in bicycle lanes (303.330)
- Operators of motor vehicles shall maintain a safe distance when passing cyclists (300.411)
- Cyclists shall not use the sidewalk in a business district (300.347)
- If a red light does not change for a completely stopped cyclist after a reasonable time, the cyclist may proceed if there is no approaching traffic (304.285)
What to Wear
It’s possible to ride your bicycle in almost all types of weather – just make sure that your attire matches the elements. Here’s a quick guide for determining how to dress appropriately when bicycling in different types of weather.
Always wear a helmet designed for bicycle riding, and make sure that the helmet is properly fitted. Check out the following League of American Bicyclists Video about how to do a basic helmet check.
What to Bring
Especially in warm weather or on long rides, bring a water bottle. If you plan on stopping and leaving your bicycle unattended, bring a lock (see more about locking up your bike below). If you’re traveling any distance, bring a spare tube, pump and tire levers so that you won’t be stranded by a flat tire. Cyclists who have experience in bike maintenance may bring additional tools, but for most trips, the equipment listed above is adequate.
Out and About
Here are a few key principles from the League of American Bicyclists that underpin all US traffic laws:
- First Come, First Served
Everyone on the road is entitled to the lane width they need. This includes the space behind, to each side and the space in front. If you want to use someone else’s space you must yield to whoever is using it.
- Ride on the Right
In the United States, everyone must drive on the right-hand side of the roadway.
- Yielding to Crossing Traffic
When you come to an intersection, if you don’t have the right of way, you must yield.
- Yielding when Changing Lanes
If you want to change lanes, you must yield to traffic that is in your new lane of travel.
- Speed Positioning
The slowest vehicles on the road should be the furthest to the right. Where you position yourself on the road depends on the location of any parked cars, your speed, and your destination. Always pass on the left.
- Lane Positioning
Bikes can share the same lane with other drivers. If a lane is wide enough to share with another vehicle (about 14 feet), ride three feet to the right of traffic. If the lane is not wide enough to share, “take the lane” by riding in the middle.
- Intersection positioning
When there is a lane that is used for more than one direction, use the rightmost lane going in the direction you are traveling.
- Follow all street signs, signals, and markings
No matter what vehicle you’re using, it’s good to let others know what maneuvers you’re planning. Below are some basics for signaling while riding.
- Left Turn: Fully extend your left arm out to the side
- Right Turn: Fully extend your right arm out to the side or bend your left arm up at a right angle with your hand flat.
- Slowing or Stopping: Extend your left arm out at a right angle with your hand open
The diagram below shows how you can prevent theft with several different bicycle locking techniques. The most important things to remember are to make sure that your frame is securely locked to the bike rack and that your lock is reliable. The best locks are “u-locks” (as shown in the diagrams below); other locks are cables that are opened with a key or a combination. Your local bike shop carries a variety of locks of different styles and prices.
You can also protect your bike by registering it with Bike Index, a free service that makes it easier to recover your bike in the event that it is stolen. Bike Index stores identifying information about your bike and works with law enforcement and bike shops to help reunite you with your wheels. Note: if the police recover your stolen bike, they will not release it to you unless you know the bike’s serial number, so make sure to keep a record, or register with Bike Index.
Routes in St. Louis
While you can get a pretty good idea of what route to take through Google Maps, it’s best to take a look at the Bike St. Louis map and identify the most low-stress route to your destination.
Trailers, child seats, trainer cycles, and training wheels. There are a number of ways to bring your child along for an enjoyable ride. The Chicago Department of Transportation has put together an excellent brochure on Bicycling with Children. Want to see why it’s such a good time? Check out Dave and Gus Lloyd’s story from our We Know a Better Way Campaign below:
Know the Risks
No matter what mode of transportation you choose, there’s always some risk when traveling on the road. Even the most experienced riders can improve their safety by understanding what situations are commonly linked to collisions and injuries. The table below compiles data collected for several years by the League of American Bicyclists and shows the types of collisions that most commonly result in fatalities.