¡hola! new to pittsburgh AND to biking
I’m Sarah, and I’m an early-20-something who just moved to Pittsburgh for graduate school at Pitt. When I moved here, I decided to buy a bike and try to pretty much replace my car with it (for multiple reasons including that I hate driving, I am spoiled because I used to live in a place where I could walk almost everywhere and can’t do that in the neighborhood I’m living in here, I’m a runner but super-injury-prone and thus need to force myself to do some cross-training, etc.).
I’ve been lurking for a few weeks and absorbing everything I can from all the wisdom on these boards. I have learned so much from these boards about biking safely in Pittsburgh (and have been pretty entertained by the cool people that seem to be part of this community), so I figured it was time I said thanks and introduced myself.
Oh, and I’ll introduce my bike, too: it’s one of these. A totally irresponsible purchase considering my financial situation as a grad student, but so far I feel like it was worth it even if I have to starve myself for a couple of months to recoup my bank account.
I have a couple questions, too, while I’m here. Feel free to pitch in with any advice you might have, if you’re feeling charitable.
1. Thanks to wisdom shared here and elsewhere on the interwebz, I acquired some good locks and lights and panniers and stuff. However, some of things I still probably need are sort of “emergency” supplies: things to fix a flat, etc. What do you guys carry on a regular basis, if anything? (And if you have brands to recommend so that I can get the most function for the least money, that would be super helpful too.) I figure a frame pump, patch kit, allen wrenches etc. would be good to have, but I imagine there might be other emergent issues to be prepared for or other items that I might need. (My commutes will only be 10 miles or so round-trip, so we’re not talking about anything really intense, but I may be riding further on other occasions too.) Sorry if this is a stupid question.
2. Related to the first question: what’s the best way to learn how to fix and adjust things on my bike (before I actually have a flat or something on the way to work, so that I don’t end up being a helpless idiot staring at my bike on the side of the road because I’ve never fixed anything on it before)? I know a little about Free Ride (and it’s not even a mile away from home for me) – even if I’m not actively fixing or building a bike, would it make sense to go to its classes to pick up some skills? Does someone here know whether the Sunday Series classes there are the kind of thing I need? I’m just not sure where to start.
I’m sure I’ll have lots of other dumb questions, but I’ll start with these for now Thanks so much if you can help.
Hope I get to meet some of you in person one of these days!
First off welcome to the city, and to the baord, as to what I carry I usually have some small tools a patch kit and one or two tubes in the bottom of my backpack. as well as a small pump.
The nice thing about pgh is if you do break down and can fix it you can always throw your bike on a bus and get home that way.
check out free ride at freeridepgh.org they have a schedule for drop in classes and can teach you alot about your bike. I also know that REI has some slasses as well, check out their calendar, in the spring they always have a basic bike maintenance class so ill be willing to bet they have them other times as well. and dont forget to join up on the Flock of cycles rides (lots of fun) they are at flockofcycles.org
again welcome. I am sure you will find lots of helpful people on the boards.
Welcome! Glad you found this useful.
I figure a frame pump, patch kit, allen wrenches etc. would be good to have, but I imagine there might be other emergent issues to be prepared for or other items that I might need.
A decent multitool can get you out of most jams. i like to carry a tube too, and a few links of chain, just in case. if you have a rack on your bike, it might also be wise to put a few rack bolts in your kit. put everything in a neat little bag and hopefully you’ll never have to use it.
what’s the best way to learn how to fix and adjust things on my bike Practice, practice and practice.
Free ride is great for that. volunteer to go in and fix some bikes up – youll learn so much. also, get a patch kit, and some old tubes from free ride (they’ll probably give them to you) and punch a hole in it. patch it. blow it up and check it. repeat.
The sunday series classes are great. it will definitly give you the base you need to move on, but of course the amount you learn is related to the amount that you try. i think it helps people learn how to think about how to repair your bike. you won’t remember everything, but at least you can at least diagnose a problem, have some confidence when you go into your local bike shop, and maybe even fix it, or find out how to at least look up how to fix it.
I carry 2 tubes (a few bucks is worth not having to patch along the road), a tool kit, patch kit, and a few $5 bills and some $1’s.
For the rack, I would recommend not only carrying a few extra bolts, but secure them with blue loctite as well.
ETA: A nice floor pump is a must have. I also carry some form of a tire gauge. commuting on 700×25 makes it critical.
Oh and a couple of tire levers. it is such a pain to change a flat without tire levers and they are small and light.
+1 On a kit with Levers, Multi-Tool, 1 or 2 Tubes. I am of the general persuasion that the patch kit can stay at home, you can just swap the tube on the road and patch it at home. That said… I’ve probably shared my patch kit and frame pump with a needy cyclist more than I’ve used it myself.
I would recommend practicing changing your tube at home in the comfort of your living room a few times to get the hang of it. Especially before they get gawdawful dirty. Here are a couple links that should help.
see you on the road! yay!
and dont forget the cycling manifesto.
So helpful! Thank you all so much! I will look into all of those things. And that manifesto is awesome, haha.
Any particular frame pumps that I should look at (keeping in mind that I’m poor)?
Erok, I especially like your advice about learning how to think about how to repair a bike. I know I could probably find a way to drag my bike to a shop to have someone else fix it every time something goes wrong, but I’m too stubborn to accept that kind of thing most of the time – I really like to be able to fix things myself, or to Google them endlessly until I figure them out, or at least to go in and sound competent while telling someone what needs to be fixed even if I can’t do it myself. I know I won’t magically become a brilliant mechanic anytime soon, but I want to at least understand how my bike works as much as possible.
In theory, I like the idea of having the bus as a backup if I have bike issues and get stuck mid-commute, but I don’t really live close to any of the Rack ‘n’ Roll bus routes – are bikes ever allowed on any of the other bus routes, or is that pretty much not an option?
all the buses should pretty much have racks on them now. racking up is easy, and if you’re nervous there’s a video how-to on the port authority website, I think.
of course being prepared is always a good thing, but I wouldn’t really make much of an investment in equipment and stuff until you have a better idea of what you will actually use and want to carry.
Ah, that’s awesome to hear about the buses. I haven’t ridden them much yet, so I wasn’t sure.
And that’s a good point. I am trying to find a happy medium between being prepared and not spending money on things I won’t use.
Oh, and dmtroyer, that bicycletutor.com site is exactly the kind of thing I’d been hoping to find; thanks for posting those links.
@sarah, don’t make the normal bike work stuff seem like an unreachable goal. A short afternoon and some careful browsing online can have you fixing most anything, even it if it fixing it enough to get to someone to finish it. Many people are more than willing to lend a hand if asked.
Read the introduction to “Bike Rides Out of Pittsburgh” by local legend Oscar Swan. It has a section dedicated to the toolkit you should have with you, and also covers a lot of other useful things like a list of all the bikes you need to own.
The intro is online here: < http://polish.slavic.pitt.edu/pmvc/bikerides/bikerides.intro.pdf >. If you want the full hard-copy book I think some local bike shops still have it, or you can probably just get one directly from Oscar.
Welcome! Awesome bike, I would not call that irresponsible at all, it was a brilliant decision, and I know irresponsible. I think maybe my second-high-performance-road-bike-that-I-didn’t-need-but-had-to-buy-because-it-was-a-screaming-deal started to verge on irresponsible, but not really. Just wherever you go lock it, with a good U lock, as though there are hordes of beady eyed goblins in the shadows lurking to thief it away to the nether worlds, because there are.
Come to the September Flock of Cycles ride, 23rd, 6:00 pm. @ Dippy the Dino. Be there.
BTW, where are you originally from, just for a reference point as to your terrain and climate expectations?
@pearmask I didn’t realize bicycle tutor was now by paid subscription… sorry.. that’s kind of lame they used to be free.
@john: Thanks for that link! That answers my first question extremely well – and it looks like an interesting read otherwise, although the last thing my bank account wants to hear right now is that I need thirteen more bikes, haha
@edmonds59: Yeah, I actually looked at a lot of cheaper and/or used options and realized I just needed to get what I wanted so that I wouldn’t immediately be paying to upgrade or get things fixed on a used bike or whatever. So I paid a bit more than I wanted to, but I have this beautiful object that I am obsessed with and want to ride all the time, so I could certainly have worse problems (and who needs to buy groceries and pay rent anyway?). And don’t worry – I’m a little prone to paranoia and have already bought a intense set of locks that is honestly probably overkill for Pittsburgh, so those goblins have their work cut out for them.
And that ride actually sounds like a ton of fun; I will put that on my calendar!
@dmtroyer: Ah. That’s sad. Well, I’m sure some careful Googling will get me some of the same info (it’s worked for everything else I’ve ever needed to fix, so why not bikes?), and I don’t have to go far from home to get the rest from Free Ride.
@edmonds59: I missed your question about where I’m originally from and my climate/terrain expectations – I’m mostly from Knoxville, Tennessee, which is almost as hilly as Pittsburgh and much hotter with about 7000% humidity all summer. So the hills are nothing shocking to me, although I’ll have to get used to biking them, and the summer here is about a zillion degrees cooler, so heat is a non-issue. The legitimate snow and winter temperatures here, however, will definitely be new for me.
Welcome to Pittsburgh and the bike board. All good info so far, and wonderful questions, too. I’ll chime in here about the buses. About 99% of the buses have racks, so every route is now considered a rack-and-roll route.
Since you’re a Pitt student, you can use the system essentially fare-free; that’s a big plus because the fare system is both costly and complicated.
Combining bus and bike simplifies travel a good bit. Assuming the bike is rideable, you don’t have to get your exact bus, just one that gets you up the big hill between A and B. Miss the bus you intended (like I did after Friday night’s ride, by 10 seconds), and in less than a mile you can get a different bus that gets you most of the way there, and bike the rest.
Short version of the above, learn a bunch of bus routes so you have not only Plan A but Plan B (and Plan C). Maps help, so does riding buses, so does riding the bike in traffic with a bus up ahead somewhere.
Using the racks is easy, and quick. Practice helps. There’s a bit of a trick figuring out where to stand — just a tad downstream of the queue of people getting on with you, so you’re not tripping over each other trying to get on. Also helps to be (among) the first ones off. Make sure you stow the rack (and that it clicks) when you get off. Make sure everything attached to the bike is on good and tight, as it’ll get a good shaking on the bus rack.
All that said, the system works pretty well most of the time. Screw-ups happen, some drivers are grumpy, some riders are ignorant, occasionally a bus shows up w/o a rack, and certain media love to talk dirt about the system. But if it works, it helps. And you still have a bike to ride if it doesn’t.
Heck yeah, you’re a fellow Appalachian, just down the ridge. Always wanted to hit the Tail of the Dragon down there on a motorcycle.
For a pump to take with you, I strongly recommend getting one with a hose on it, such as a Topeak Morph (the Road Morph specifically). The hose makes pumping significantly more convenient, as you can brace the pump against the ground like a floor pump.
The Road Morph G model has a built-in gauge, which is handy. But the procedure for attaching it to a Schraeder tube isn’t obvious (or it wasn’t to me). The first comment on its Amazon page explains how. Also, be careful that the metal screw-on cap part doesn’t slowly get loose and fall off.
Apart from those issues, it’s a great pump.
i had all this advice, but it looks like most of it has already been said!
i’ll second what escargonaut said, and add that the number one mistake n00bs make with frame pumps is to get too aggressive using the bike to brace the pump and ripping off the valve. the hose will help mitigate that.
also, to agree with edmonds, i think your bike is beautiful and that you’ll eventually come to think of it as one of your most responsible purchases!
also also, i’m surprised no one has mentioned sheldon brown’s website. essentially, a bike shop owner with an awful lot of great knowledge to share put up everything he knew on the internets for the benefit of us all. just about any question you have about bikes can be answered there, once you start feeling comfortable doing your own repairs.
i second the suggestion of just removing and replacing your tube in the comfort of your own home. read a guide first, as there are a few tricks that will make it easier and help you not explode your tube in the attempt.
and lastly, things i carry. i have a pannier pretty much everywhere i go, but if i don’t, i just abbreviate the list somewhat:
a multitool – as erok said this will get you out of most jams
a frame pump
a patch kit
an extra tube or two – i’d rather put a new tube in and patch at home, but you can help others or have it in case you go through more tubes than you expected (not likely, but it’s easy to bring along)
a spoke wrench – probably overkill, but i like to have it
a chain tool – it’s tiny, and you’ll be happy to have it that one time you need it every five years
i think that’s about it. it’s all overkill, but if you’re carrying a giant bag with you, it’s nice to have the right tools just in case.
@edmonds59: Yay Vols indeed (and ‘Dores sometimes, but not Titans).
@escargonaut/Steven: Thanks for the info about pumps. I figured a gauge would be helpful, but I wasn’t sure whether the hoses mattered, so that helps. I’ll probably look into that Road Morph G; I had noticed it before since it has decent reviews on Amazon.
@hiddenvariable: Thanks for the support of my bike choice – the non-bike-owners in my life thought it was a silly amount of money for a poor grad student to spend on a bike, but I am very pleased and expect that I’ll be glad I chose that in the long run!
Luckily, I had already seen Sheldon Brown’s site (probably because someone linked to it somewhere else on this board) – and it is indeed very helpful.
I figure I won’t need all this stuff immediately, but along the same lines as what HiddenVariable said, if I’m already going to be dragging around a giant bag with books/laptop/etc., the relatively small amount of space/weight that it takes to be prepared for mishaps is worth it. Anyway, these responses are so helpful – thanks so much! I will start working on accumulating some of these things (and learning how to use them)!
Welcome to the board and to Pittsburgh!
Sounds like you got some great advice in here already, but I will add some extra nuggets!
a)If you are worried about $$, all you need to start & to keep you rolling is the patch kit, tire pump, tire levelers, and the tool-kit. For that, I recommend ((for affordability)), to just get the TOPEAK TOOL KIT. Found at REI, and for only $29.95, it gets you all above, and the pump comes with a bracket that you can attach to your bike & carry there.
NOTE: Granted there are other better bike-pumps out there, but this kit & pump has kept me rolling no-problemo, and for the price, pretty nifty too!
2) On the side, get an extra inner tube that you can use if on-the-rush to repair a tire. That way you just replace the inner tube, and then patch the old inner-tube at later on.
3) Get some cleaning & lubrican oil to keep your chain & drive train clean & running smoothly. Get some “Simple Green” all purpose green from any store ((like this: http://www.drugstore.com/popups/largerphoto/default.asp?pid=205364&catid=184274&size=300&trx=29888&trxp1=205364&trxp2=1)). And some “Epic Ride” as a nice lubricant: http://www.rei.com/product/712428/white-lightning-epic-ride-lube-4-oz
Just use an old towel or t-shirt to apply & wipe-off the material (follow instructions).
Personally, I’m not the greatest at keeping my chain clean, but do try my best! Once a week of lubricating will keep the chain happy
4) Get some fingerless riding-gloves ((brand doesn’t matter as much, just make sure that the gloves fit your hands and are snug on them)). The padding in them will save you stiffness/numbness in your hands. Plus, they usually have reflectance strips, which are helpful when signaling a turn on the street. Plus, in case that you ever fall in your bike ((hopefully never!!)), if/when you fall, the gloves will protect your hands from road-rash & tearing them apart. Plus, if you are all sweaty, the fabric in the gloves is good at wiping some of the sweat off your forehead
5) A cage for a water-bottle ((more handy when riding than having it on your bag/pannier)) for hydration.
6) Helmet, locks & lights ((and sure you know all about that already)).
7) Always keep your eyes open on the road & pay attention -always!! Cars can change their mind, turn, run lights without warning!
REI recently had a free womens-mechanic class, where it showed how to change a tire & do basic bike maintenance. They might have more coming up soon. Although, as other have said, the interwebz, free ride, and asking people is just as good.
Personally, I patched my first inner tube & changed my first tire while following a the instructions online from a biking blog I google up!
9)Don’t know if anyone has mentioned to always also have some snack/candy/gigs newton/chocolate bar/banana/gu/cliff bar on-you as a “pick-me-up” snack food on the road. This is in-case you are tired or are low on energy, and you need some reserve energy to get home in decent shape. Personally, as a girl, I always have mini-chocolate bars, candy, or gu with me. Sometimes I do too much riding around, and when it comes time to go home, sometimes I’m feeling too whiped out. In cases like that I just consume one of the above, and it fuels me enough to get home.
Sure, you can always instead throw your bike in a bus rack and go home, but if you just want to GO, or are mid-way home and understimated your stamina to get there, the extra-energy snack will help you get there.
10)And…. have fun I guess! The rest of of it will come to you as you get more experience riding your bike & riding in the city -TRUST ME
Okok…. hope this was helpful!!
ps: Oh, and OH YEAH! Make it out to one of the “Flock of Cycles” rides! A great way to meet people, enjoy the city, and to hone your riding abilities in a group. A bunch of people in this board a regulars in it
+1 to the flock ride. September’s ride will be excellent.
+1 on the pack some extra snacks, you never know when you need them but you will know when you need them.
@ headloss +1 on the pack some extra snacks, you never know when you need them
Yes. In an ever-uncertain world, I always carry 3 or 4 dozen donuts – attached around my waist.
… with bottle cages on the front forks to carry extra coffee?!?!
I want a Jelly Belly utility belt.
“Look! Up in the sky! It’s the FatSignal!”
oh, not sure if anybody mentioned it, but an extra waterbottle cage and waterbottle can be used to house a “misc tool kit” consisting of whatever tools you can fit into the mouth of the water bottle. That way you can remove it easily at your destination but don’t have to worry about it taking space in your backpack or panniers or whatever. Just an idea that I’ve seen others use.
Personally, I love tempting fate with schwalb marathon tires. The only flat I’ve ever gotten was from me using my hand pump incorrectly and wrenching off the valve stem. (wussy french valve design, can’t handle a little oafish tugging!). That taught me to 1) learn to use the pump properly (thank you LBS) and 2) carry extra tubes.
If you’re serious about wanting to do repairs yourself, practice when you don’t HAVE to be there in 20 minutes, maybe even on a beater bike you don’t have to ride in the morning. I got a book on bicycle repair… it’s mostly blue with lots of pics, and every once in a while I get ballsy and tinker. I never tinker saturday nights, because my beloved LBS is closed on Sundays and I like to make sure they’ll be available to fix whatever it is I manage to do to it. They’re also awesome about telling me how NOT to do whatever it is they are fixing, and usually will show me how to fix it myself. So no matter what you do, when you encounter people who know more than you do about bikes, ask them tons of questions. (thus you’re in the right place, these guys are super smart, or at least fake it really well)
welcome to da Burgh, come Flock with us!
“oh, not sure if anybody mentioned it, but an extra waterbottle cage and waterbottle can be used to house a “misc tool kit” consisting of whatever tools you can fit into the mouth of the water bottle.”
Parmesan cheese containers work too.
mmm… parmesan cheese… added benefit, all the tools smell terrific. now I want italian food.
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