Get On And Stay On [from BA 42-300]

Get on and Stay on

"Next time you’re out and about, pay attention to who’s riding the candy-colored bikes. Being girly and riding bikes—in whatever way you want—is an extremely powerful combination."

by Rachael Spiewak Lualhati, Co-Founder, Sopo Bicycle Cooperative

Your bicycle is your most important accessory. This? Coming from a feminist, a bicycle mechanic, and a community bike repair shop organizer? Why, yes. Allow me to explain...

After six years of community bicycle repair, six years of commuting by bicycle in Atlanta (a formerly bike-unfriendly town), I can tell you what it takes to get someone on a bicycle: fashion and function. But if you’re new to cycling, all you need to know is what feels easy or difficult, heavy or light, comfortable or not.

You have expertise in what you think is cool, and the same principles apply to bicycles. All that’s missing is exposure to the wide and wonderful world of bicycle parts, and that comes over time. What will help you along—and this isn’t a shameless plug—is spending time in a community bicycle repair shop getting your hands dirty. That’s the purpose of these shops: to make the love of bicycling accessible to everyone by allowing you to learn by doing.

When folks come to our bicycle shop looking for their first commuter bikes, they often insist that they want any old thing. “I just want something to ride,” they’ll say. “I don’t care what it looks like.”

“Nonsense,” I reply. “If you don’t think you look hot on your bike, you won’t ride it.” Sometimes I get this explanation from women in particular: caring about fashion too much is a girly thing to do, and being girly is bad or disempowering or anti-bike. I say, next time you’re out and about, pay attention to who’s riding the candy-colored bikes. Being girly and riding bikes—in whatever way you want—is an extremely powerful combination.

Putting bicycles into familiar categories makes it easy to get started. Do you like bicycles that look old or new? Do you prefer the kinds of bikes you see at local bicycle stores, or do you prefer things that appear to be vintage? Do you like the look of a road bicycle, or what you might call a 10-speed? Or do you prefer something meant for trails, with a thicker frame and knobbier tires? Maybe BMX or track bikes (so-called fixed gear bikes) are hip in your neighborhood. Here's a hint: you can test ride all kinds of bikes at local bicycle stores. Have that store size you up while you’re at it. Like shoes, your bicycle should fit you. Otherwise, you can do damage to your body and spoil the fun.

Almost all bicycles can be modified, painted, bedazzled, upgraded, and rearranged to suit you, even over time if you decide you like something else. Some bicycles will be more practical to ride in your town than others, depending upon elevation, terrain, your route to work or school, and the weather, but every cyclist has a different opinion. Figure out what you like, and then make it work for you.

Your only limit is your imagination, and possibly budget. Again, that’s where community bicycle repair shops come in. If you spend enough time at one, you’ll find buried treasures for cheap or trade. If you still need inspiration, I’m sure you’ve heard of Instagram and Pinterest. ;)

Soon you’ll find that your bicycle is an extension of yourself, your best friend, and the one accessory you absolutely can’t leave home without.

Evan P. Schneider