March 31, 2010

Bikes In Transit (Part One In a Series): Getting Ready to Bike

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This is the first of a series of posts on bikes and transit. Biking is an important mode of transportation for millions of Americans, whether it is for health, transportation, leisure or sport. Using bicycles with transit can help increase the health and convenience of using public transit and vice versa. We here at Nextstop are big proponents of biking and bike infrastructure for St. Louis. Please let us know if there is more information that we can provide or distribute to promote biking in the region.

Note: In this video I demonstrate how to use the bike racks on MetroBus without a bike with me! (it was in the shop! Ha!) You can see how it works though. Thanks to Jim Barnthouse at Arch Observer for the great video.

Oh, man, IT’S HERE. Spring. It’s warm air, blue skies, cool pavement. For me, that means getting back on my bike – the poor neglected machine that’s been parked patiently in my basement over the winter (I don’t typically bike during colder months, but plenty of St. Louisans do!). Many days in warmer weather I like to take my bike on the bus or train to allow some added flexibility and enjoyment. To me, nothing makes me appreciate the sense of “place” in an area than exploring it from the seat and speed of a traveling bike.

But I realize one must not leap on that bike without looking. Springtime is a great time to look at the overall health and safety of your bike before embarking on that first major ride.

I talked with Nick Valdes of Big Shark Bike Company and Seth Teel of HOK to discuss what riders can do to get their bikes ride-ready:

“A.B.C.” – Air, Brakes, Cables

Seth recommends the “A.B.C.” method. First, check your tires for air. Tires that are not holding air well may have a leak or other problems. Nick says to be on the look out for dry-rot on the tire wall, tread wear, or feeling of hardness to the tire rubber. All could be signs that it’s time to replace your tires.

Bike use wears down brake pads. Make sure the bike can brake safely, and replace pads if needed. You may need to also replace the cables or chain, especially if your bike has been outside for part of the winter.

Nick recommends taking your bike to your local bike shop for a tuneup before you start the season to make sure your bike is working safely and efficiently.

Tire Repair Kit

If you plan on biking for longer than a few minutes away from your home, it’s a good idea to keep some basic bike repair gear with you, including a set of tire levers, one spare tube with the correct tire size and valve as your bike specifies, and an air pump.

Here’s a video I found useful on how to change a flat tire on a road bike. Don’t mind the jazzy background music:


As someone who often bikes near or after dark, I cannot stress how important are rear and front lights. And quite honestly, they are pretty cool. You can get energy efficient LED lights that can be permanently mounted to your bike, or removed whenever you park it.

Safety Gear

This is pretty obvious, but if you are going to the trouble of having your bike work properly, you should make sure you are safe as well. Wear a helmet, please. If you will be riding near dusk or dark, consider reflective strips or clothing to help cars and pedestrians spot you.

Get Ready to Ride!

St. Louis is blooming with great biking resources, from local urban trails to long training runs on the weekend. Here is a list of our favorite resources:

Trailnet – Loads of great rides for all ages, as well as other programs to help keep communities healthy and active.

St. Louis Bicycle Federation – Rides, swap meets, bike parking, advocacy and a lot of other benefits of membership.

Bike St. Louis – A system of on-street bike routes throughout St. Louis City and County. Great for learning how to get around town.

Madison County Transit Trails (part of Madison County Transit!!) in Illinois. 85 miles of scenic bikeways…great for exploring and long rides!

Great Rivers Greenway – Collaborative projects like Open Streets/Bike to Busch and the St. Louis Master Bicycle Plan, GRG has great events and projects to follow and participate.

Know of any other great resources or tips, let us know!

Next in Series…using bikes with transit!

9 thoughts on “Bikes In Transit (Part One In a Series): Getting Ready to Bike”

  1. RTBones says:

    Courtney —

    I am curious. While the video does walk you through the “mechanics” of the rack, why didn’t you _actually_ put a bike on it, then take it off again?

    1. Courtney says:

      Jim was going with me to ride a MetroBus for the first time, and asked how to use the bike rack. We didn’t have our bikes, but I showed him, and he made it into a video!

  2. Jeff says:

    Great post, Courtney. I wish I’d seen this before the first time I used the bike rack!

  3. David Shane says:

    Oh, checking the brakes isn’t important! Psshaw. Especially if riding in Forest Park. Just keep your fingers crossed.

  4. Daron says:

    The best suggestion for bikes and transit is to make the need to put the bike on the train unneeded by getting a bike sharing program at every train station.

    I ride the bike to the train and park it. I ride the train. I get off, and I grab a different bike.

    That takes a lot of money and a vigilant caretaker though, so we can save that project for later.

    For now, I’m curious about your thoughts on folding bikes. Some bikes fold up to fit in backpacks. In Singapore you can only take your bike on the train if it folds up smaller than a piece of luggage.

    Some bikes are bigger. When I move back, I intend to get a rather large cargo bike. I’ll easily take up the space of two bikes if I got on the train with it. Could I? Should I?

  5. Jimmy Z says:

    How about adding bike lockers at Metrolink stations and Transit Centers? Much like park-and-rides for cars, they help address that “last mile” challenge.

  6. Johnny says:

    Great topic! I like the idea of either a bike locker or bike sharing program. As far as folding bikes go, a friend of mine bought a very nice folding bike from a company called Dahon.

  7. Lace King says:

    Just wanted to say thank you for this post! I ride my bike all of the time and have avoided using the bike and ride option because I was never sure just how to use the bike rack, and I figuerd I would make a fool of myself the first time I tried. Now I know. Thank you!

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