When you’re wilting while waiting for a bus, it’s hard not to envy the cyclists whizzing by. So why not make the leap from pedestrian to pedaler? The advent of Capital Bikeshare has certainly made a two-wheeled ride more accessible. But sometimes what’s keeping you from hopping onto a saddle isn’t that you don’t have a bike. It’s that you have questions.
You know, the sort of questions that bugged Charles Haine as a 14-year-old, like, “What kind of underwear should you wear when you’re biking regularly?” Or, “What should you use to wipe away that snot that’ll form under your nose?” As a 32-year-old who’s now figured out the answers, along with a bunch of other stuff, he’s crammed all of his advice into “The Urban Biking Handbook: The DIY Guide to Building, Rebuilding, Tinkering with, and Repairing Your Bicycle for City Living” ($25, Quarry).
The former chairman of Bicycle Kitchen, a nonprofit bike repair shop in Los Angeles, Haine grew up in Montgomery County and once worked at City Bikes in Adams Morgan.
So it was in the streets of D.C. that he first recognized that biking could be your main mode of transportation. Even though he has a car now — owning a production company means he often has to haul 50-pound cameras — he still manages to get around without it 90 percent of the time.
L.A. isn’t nearly as bike-friendly as D.C., so his strategy for making it to his destination in one piece is to operate as if he’s invisible, which you basically are compared to gigantic cars.
“You know you exist, so it can be hard to remember that,” says Haine, who, surprisingly, is anti-helmet. He wears helmets when riding in dangerous terrain, but not when he’s just tooling around town. “That would perpetuate the idea that biking is scary,” he says.
What else shouldn’t frighten you? Understanding how your bike works. “The basics can be fixed by just about anybody,” he says. All you really need to know is how to fit your bike properly (your legs should extend as you pedal, but not all the way), how to change a tire and the mechanics of shifting gears. Master those and you’re good to go.
You’re more likely to go, too. “If you know how to fix your bike, you’re more attached to it,” Haine says.
And you’ll make us folks stuck at the bus stop very jealous.
Photo courtesy bendependent.com