Alexis shared what rocks about cycling in Vancouver last month. For September, she’s outlining the bare essentials for cycling downtown – or anywhere else!
Bare Essential 1 – A Bicycle
I know, stating the obvious – but sometimes the obvious needs to be pointed out. I have a tendency to delay embarking on new ventures until I’ve gathered together a pile of fancy equipment and supplies. Cycling, I’ve learned, is incredibly democratic. As much as I may covet a sweet new Electra Cruiser complete with tassels on the handlebars, all I really need is the old mountain bike that sat unused in my storage locker for ten years. Any bike will do. Okay, maybe not your toddler’s balance bike, but dig out your old rusty beast, clear the cobwebs, oil the chain, and you’re in business.
If you’re mechanically challenged (like me), you could even take your long-neglected two-wheeler to your local bike shop for a tune-up. They’ll get you up and cycling in Vancouver in no time flat. I love the guys at Denman Bike Shop for their low-key but efficient expertise.
Bare Essential 2 – A Helmet
You’ve got to protect your melon. According to the Province of British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act Section 184, “A person commits an offence if that person operates or rides as a passenger on a cycle on a highway and is not properly wearing a bicycle safety helmet…” You can be fined up to $100 for non-compliance. So despite a helmet’s hair-mussing ways, you’ve got to wear one. The law says so, fiscal prudence says so (I can think of other things I’d rather spend $100 on than a fine), and that whole setting a good example for your children thing says so too. Pesky children.
There are a couple of different styles of helmet to choose from – a sleek, lightweight racing style or a slightly bulkier retro helmet. The racing style is lighter, and has more ventilation, making it a great choice in the summer for keeping a cool head when someone cuts you off in traffic (ha!), but is not so great for rainy cycling in Vancouver winters. All those ventilation holes allow the rain to soak right in to your scalp. The retro helmet style, which I bought recently, feels heavier and has less ventilation, but my theory is that I won’t be sporting such a drowned rat look this winter. As well, the helmet’s built in brim should keep rain out of my eyes when Vancouver’s monsoon season begins in earnest.
Until this year, I’ve been a fair weather cyclist only. I’ll let you know if the helmet really lives up to my expectations!
The most important thing about a helmet is fit, which is crucial. Make sure to try on several different brands and sizes before you buy. An ill-fitting helmet will not only be less safe, it will make you less likely to want to cycle at all.
Bare Essential 3 – A Bell – A Must for Cycling in Vancouver
Until recently, I didn’t know you needed to have a bell on your bike. City of Vancouver Street and Traffic By-Law No. 2849, section 60B states: “No person shall ride a bicycle upon a street unless the bicycle is equipped with a bell capable of being used as a warning.” So there you go.
I have a grey, nondescript bicycle and an unhip but great fitting and highly visible white helmet. The bell is where I went all out – large and bright blue with white stars on it. It’s pretty. It makes a very satisfying old school doorbell-like “ding dong” sound. It has personality!
Make sure your bell’s installed on your handlebar in a position where it can be easily reached. And do not show your three year old how it works, or you’ll never ever be able to go anywhere with him unless you let him ring it at least three times. Trust me on this.
Those are the most basic of bare essentials to help you get started cycling in Vancouver. If you’d like to bring your little one along, guest poster Talia Erickson recently made some great suggestions for cycling in Vancouver with a baby. In my next article I’ll have some optional recommendations for things I’ve found that make biking easier and more enjoyable. For example, I’ll be looking to get into wet weather equipment as I gear up for my first winter as a cyclist in Vancouver.
How about you? Any gear you can’t live without? Share your thoughts in the comments!