How to Buy a Bike – 8 Simple Steps

cabrillo point - jake davis
This could be you. Pretty sweet. Credit: Jake Davis

How does one go about buying a bicycle?  What things matter?  Many people are interested in bicycling – to commute, for fun, to ride along with children, or to get in better shape.  If you don’t already have a bike or it’s been a couple of decades since you rode it can be intimidating.  What to look for, how much to spend, what kind of accessories are needed, etc?  Here’s a short list on how to approach buying your first bike, or the first bike you’ve had in awhile.

  1. Don’t overthink it.  You’re buying a bicycle, not a car that costs you tens of thousands of dollars.  Especially if you’re going to reduce your car usage, you’re going to save a ton of money, even if you buy a very fancy bicycle.  AAA estimates the average car costs about $9,000 per year.  Put another way, you could buy a $750 bicycle every month of the year and be even money with what you spend on a car in that time.
  2. Find a bike shop you like.  Whether you buy a new bike or a used one, you’re going to need someone that knows how to keep it in top shape.  Walk in to a bike shop near you and say hi to the people there.  Are they nice and fit your style? Awesome, you’re good to go.  Are they mean or you don’t really like the vibe? Walk out and go to a different shop, there are lots to pick from.
  3. Buy a bike.  Utilize the friendly bike shop you have identified and ask them what they’d recommend.  All you need is a general idea of what you’ll be doing – going to work, rolling down mountains, cruising along the boardwalk.  The good thing is that bikes have awesome utility so you’ll be able to do many of these things with whichever one you pick, but buying in the right general ‘category’ is a good idea.
  4. Can’t decide? Buy a hybrid.  Here’s my current bicycle – a Giant Escape hybrid.  Hybrids are basically a cross between a road bike and and a mountain bike – designed to handle a wide range of uses, with a little more comfort and durability than a road bike.  They’re all-around great.  I paid about $600 new for this bike.  My previous bicycle was a $200 used road bike I bought on Craigslist.  My wife commutes to work daily on a hybrid bicycle as well that cost around $450.

    2015-04-25 16.10.13 23
    My bike, with rear rack and pannier bag.
  5. How much should you spend? It really doesn’t matter.  For a new bike, I think it’s worth spending $500-600 to get a solid ride from a good brand.  You can buy a new bike for half that and be fine, or buy a used bike and also be fine.  If you’re buying used look for a good brand so you know the bones are good.  With your trusted local bike shop you can rest assured that if your bike has mechanical problems or just needs a tune up they can help you out.
  6. Get some accessories.  A few things you want to add to your bike to greatly increase the utility.
    1. A super strong lock. Get something from Kryptonite and always lock up your bike.  Thieves suck and will try to take your bike.
    2. Good lights – for both front and back, get some powerful lights.  I recommend doubling up on the rear lights for good measure.
    3. A small pump and two spare tubes.  In case you have a flat, you need these.  When you ride with your friends they won’t have these and you’ll be the hero. Rock on.
    4. A rear rack with a pannier bag.  This will allow you to easily carry things on your bike. Awesome.
  7. Take care of your bike.  I don’t know much about fixing bikes, I’m guessing you don’t either.  Plan to get a tune-up at your bike shop twice a year.  They’re pros at this stuff and will make sure your brakes work, your chain is well oiled, and your tires aren’t worn through.  Put it on your calendar and just do it.  It will cost $25 – $65 per time and is well worth it.  Later on you can do it yourself, but start with the bike shop until you increase your skill set.
  8. Have fun and ride often!  You made a great decision to buy a bicycle.  You’re going to be healthier and happier.  You’re going to save a ton of money.  (Mr. Money Moustache has awesome articles about the cost of commuting / cars.)  You’re going to make your community healthier and safer for everyone.

Have other tips for those looking to buy a bike?  Drop some love in the comments.

Ride with GPS – I’m an Ambassador! Help me highlight great SD rides.

Ambassador shieldI became familiar with the Ride with GPS app / website while planning for the most recent Bikes & Beers event here in San Diego.  Our events do not seek street closures, we want the experience to showcase how good our city streets can be for bikes without special measures like barricades, traffic cops, etc.  It’s meant to be a preview of the way we envision our streets in the future – filled with bicycles and people having a great, safe time in our city.  This can make it difficult to keep people on the route, though, since there isn’t a wide swath of empty road to follow as there would be with a marathon.

What we needed was a turn-by-turn tool to direct riders and after looking over many different apps I could not find what I needed.  I needed an easy-to-use app that could do voice navigation for a custom bicycle route.  Then I found Ride with GPS and it was just what we were looking for.  They even hooked us up with free access for all event participants.  It was great.  The app did voice turns, we could add custom instructions and photos, and it didn’t suck the battery like Dracula.

After being so pleased with the app during the event and the great support from the company, I volunteered to be an “Ambassador” for the brand.  Basically I’ll be creating a set of great rides in San Diego that others using the app can utilize.  So whether you’re a visitor or a local looking for a new ride, you can open the app and access the routes I’ve highlighted.  However, most of my biking in San Diego is functional, not recreational.  I’m usually towing a couple of kids and going to school, library, grocery store, etc.  I’m pretty much a newbie when it comes to the scenic rides throughout the county.

So I’m asking for your help.  If you have a great route you want to share, please let me know so I can add it.  Of course I’ll give you a shout-out too. 🙂

Hit me up via email – john.patrick.anderson@gmail.com if you have suggestions and thank you!

bike with trailer photo - 4-22
A typical day of riding for me

Airbnb in San Diego – Good Riddance to a Great Thing?

Last Wednesday morning, April 22, the City of San Diego Smart Growth and Land Use Committee held a public comment hearing on the topic of short-term rentals in San Diego in advance of creating a proposal clarifying the status of this sort of property use and potentially creating additional rules and regulations.

2015-04-22 09.25.26
After the hearing room was full, many more waited in the lobby.

The meeting was attended by hundreds of San Diegans and testimony was heard in 30 minute chunks with those opposing restrictions on this property use alternating with those supporting restrictions.  Many, myself included, were unable to speak during the 4 hour meeting.  A continuance of the meeting will be held on May 29th for those that were unable to speak.

San Diego’s primary issue is it is a very desirable place to live and visit.  It’s a good problem to have.  Today there are more vacation rental properties than ever, the hotel industry just came off a record-breaking year, rents are high and rising, as are property prices.  There is more demand for every type of property than supply can keep up with.  Further impacting the supply is a strong sentiment across most of the city against increased density and/or building heights.

The city is approaching this issue in the wrong way.  A small number of San Diegans have had issues with short-term rentals – mostly complaints of noise, trash, or impacts on street parking.  For those not familiar with common San Diegan complaints, the lack of pavement on which to park private vehicles at public expense is nearly always the top of the list.  Joni Mitchell is probably crying.  More likely, she’s darkly laughing.

The complaints raised have existing rules and penalties that can be applied.  If enforcement of those rules is the issue then the solution is to improve enforcement by increased staffing and resources.  The solution should not be to curtail the property rights of every property owner in the City of San Diego.  Banning or restricting the ability of property owners to use their property is not the answer to problems with enforcement of public nuisance laws.  It would quite literally mean reducing the property rights of hundreds of thousands of San Diegans due to the complaints of a few hundred or perhaps a few thousand.  That is not a relevant or appropriate response.

Restrictions on use of platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, and others would also be a real disservice to homeowners throughout San Diego.  For the first time, technology is putting the opportunity to utilize what is typically the largest asset a family owns, their home, in the hands of every property owner.  Vacation rentals have existed for decades in San Diego but were mostly relegated to property management firms and wealthy individuals that could hire staff to manage the properties.  Today, this is possible to the average person whether they are renting their home once a year or every night of the month.  This is a great thing.  It also means many dollars coming into and staying in San Diego, benefiting our entire economy.  Unlike hotels, which are often owned by non-local companies, home-sharing brings dollars into our city and keeps them here – in the pockets of our friends and neighbors.  Win win.

Are there bad actors among the property owners and visitors in San Diego? Certainly.  There are also bad actors among homeowners and renters.  When there is an issue there are tools to remedy them.  Utilize the tools we have, don’t take away a great opportunity for all property owners in San Diego and a boon to our economy across the board.

Meet the new site. Same as the old site.

I’m moving this website back to the WordPress platform after a stint on the Weebly platform per the advice of persons that know much more about these things than I do.

I’ll likely lose some old content in the process and will take a few weeks to get everything pretty but hopefully it will be worth the effort in the long-term.

Have a great night and hope to see you back here soon!

– John

Have a bike? You need a pannier bag, or two.

Have a bike? Probably. Maybe you use it, maybe you don’t.  You almost definitely know how to ride a bicycle – per a recent FiveThirtyEight article an estimated 94% of Americans know how to ride a bike.  Why such a high percentage? Because bicycles are cheap, efficient, elegant modes of transportation that are fun and socially engaging.

If you already bike, you really need a rear rack and a pannier bag or two.  What’s a pannier bag? It’s a fancy word for a bag that hooks onto your bike so you can hold stuff.  They are awesome and an instant, cheap upgrade that makes takes your bike up about five levels.  You have a European man purse to impress friends with at parties.  You can carry things like laptops.  You can pick up a six-pack of beer or a picnic without having to do the handlebar hang wobble ride.

For a long time I didn’t have a bag but bought the wife one for taking to work on her daily commute.  I was jealous so I got the same bag – a Linus “The Sac” canvas pannier bag.  The official site lists it at $69 but I think I paid $55.  Either way, it’s a nice bag that lasts well so I think a good value at either price.  It’s mostly waterproof except for probably in a heavy downpour – living in San Diego I wasn’t concerned on that count.

To show just some of the functionality even a basic bag like this provides I took some photos of my trip to the grocery store today.  Grocery shopping by bike is a somewhat frequent topic of conversation at bicycle meetings – non-riders can’t understand how one can carry groceries without an SUV.  Basically, you buy groceries slightly more often – probably a benefit if you mostly eat fresh produce and food instead of mega-size boxes of industrial junk.  You also use a functional bag to carry your groceries and buy some fancy chocolate as well with the money you saved on not using an expensive car for every minor trip in life.

2015-04-25 16.07.44
Step 1 – Buy delicious food

.

2015-04-25 16.08.49
Step 2 – Put groceries in bag. Do NOT squash avocados!

 

 

2015-04-25 16.10.13 23
Step 3 – Put bag on bike, ride home.

 

 

2015-04-25 16.38.27
Step 4 – Unpack, and cook something yummy. Note: beer not even shaken up.

 

That’s it.  Bonus: you already have a reusable bag wherever you’re riding so you can help to kill less fish, turtles, dolphins, humans, and generally make our planet a better place.  Since you’re riding a bike you’re also not giving small children in your neighborhood asthma so feel good about that one too.

Cheers and keep on riding on.