Choosing the Right Bike
I had done it. I had moved to the suburbs from the city. Now I needed a bicycle. When I lived in the city, I found it challenging to be athletic outdoors. It felt too congested. So now, everything had changed. There were no more excuses.
I wanted a solid, stealth bicycle that wasn’t going to break the bank, but would still serve me very well in most situations that I threw at it. A good jack of all trades bike. I wanted something that could handle bad things and still look good. A cross between a police bicycle and a cyclocross bicycle.
I spent hours online researching bikes. What kind of bike do I want? Mountain, Hybrid, Road, Cyclocross…what the hell is cyclocross? Then I gave up. A few months passed and I was cleaning out my bookmarks in Chrome and noticed my ‘bike’ folder with a few random links. One of them was to the Specialized website, there was a hybrid bike bookmarked, and it seemed to fit all of my criteria.
I knew I wanted something that was off road capable, but still very street friendly. This led me in two different directions; a cyclocross or a hybrid. The cyclocross seemed to be a more ‘off road racing’ bike, whereas the hybrid looked more like a fitness bike, which fit my needs.
A few months later, my fiancée and I revisited the topic of getting bikes, and decided it was time. I was tasked with helping find the right bike for her, given our current local biking options. I decided, with lots of help from talking with other bike owners that the brand I should go with was Cannondale. I liked their brand story and the reviews I was hearing and reading.
I picked out a similar bike to the original Specialized that I had initially liked. It was the Cannondale Quick CX 4. It had everything I thought I needed. So, I called the closest bike shop and went in with my fiancée. I picked out a similar model for her, but wanted to hear a professional’s opinion before sounding too convinced on either model. I immediately asked the guy who works at the bike shop if he had the Cannondale Quick CX 4 in stock, he left and came back and said that they do not, but that the could sell me the Cannondale Quick CX 3 for the same price.
Learning on the spot that the 3 is actually slightly better than the 4 – I decided to go with it. Plus I thought it looked cooler in the ‘midnight blue’ color that it came in. My fiancée got the female version of the same bike. We left with our bikes ordered, and came back a week later to pick them up. Now it was time to make them our own.
Who knew how difficult it is to find a reliable source for a good bike setup on the internet, or for that matter in a bike shop. Everyone has their own setup, or lack of a setup, but there was no defined, “this is the light you should get” or “this is the rear bike-rack that you have to have” – it was all pretty low key. Sort of hippy-like, “whatever works.” I was searching for a defined list of trusted and true bike accessories.
When I used to skateboard, I was introduced to certain brands when I started out by friends and the people who worked at the skate shop that were undoubtedly the best. Of course this was all opinion – but it was unanimous. Example,
“Independent makes the most consistent and durable trucks that you can buy…. Spitfire wheels are great, but they wear down fast.”
There was none of that here, or at least that I had discovered through my research and discourse.
Picking out a helmet was a difficult task. The majority of them either look like they are for Lance Armstrong, a 13 year old boy or a grandma. They are all pretty lame. You pretty much have to look into a mountain biking helmet if you want something that doesn’t make your head look like a mushroom. On top of that, I’m not in the market for hitting my head on anything – so I didn’t mind the fact that most mountain biking helmets cover more area, and are generally more secure fitting, and encompassing. So, I looked and I looked. A few stuck out – but the one I finally decided on was the Bell Super 2 Bike Helmet. It had stellar reviews and looked pretty bad ass, and it had a visor that might come in handy. I got it in medium, it fit perfectly – and it was a purchase that I knew I wouldn’t regret. Yes, it wasn’t cheap. I spent $90 on a helmet, but is this really something you want to cheap out on? No. Oh yeah, it also comes with a GoPro mount for the top of the helmet.
A long time passed by and I was getting tired of racing out of places in order to get home before it got dark out. I knew I needed a light for the front and the more I researched the more I realized I needed a little red light for the back. This was probably the most frustrating thing to research. Finally, I found a lot of information on what light in particular that was both affordable and solid, and left a small footprint on the handlebars. The Cygolite Metro 550 USB Light was the light my fiancée and i finally decided on – I’m happy she found it. I almost gave up on this because there were so many mixed reviews on so many lights on Amazon. 550 seemed like a good amount of lumens. I’m not sure I need anything more than 350 – and from what I’ve read – anything above 700 is flat out dangerous to other people.
However, it seems very durable, the casing is solid, the top light nicely illuminates, it has many different modes – my favorite being the SteadyPulse mode where it is solid bright, than flickers three times very quickly – in case any vehicles or other bikers are heading towards you. I think this was a great purchase as well. I’m also happy with the red light we picked out. The Stark Bike Tail Light had to be waterproof – or obviously it wouldn’t be a contender. This thing seems to be perfect for the job, minus that it doesn’t have a USB rechargeable battery like the front light. Overall, very happy.
Ok, I can see at night, my dome is protected. Now what if I want to leave my bike alone when I get to my destination. How am I going to lock it? Well – I wanted something durable and safe. What I found out was that nothing can stop someone who has the right tools on them and wants to steal your bike. That’s just the Greek Tragedy of owning a bike and putting a lot of thought and care about how you want to make it your own. Some very disagreeable human can appear one day, cut or saw the lock off and take your bike apart and re-sell it. It’s clearly a nightmare scenario – but one we must all address. So how could I do my best to avoid this from happening? I always heard U-Locks were more capable than chain locks. However, I locked my Kryptonite U-Lock on my bike in college and lost the key and my friend eventually came over and sawed right through it with an angle grinder in under 20 seconds. The point is – I had to get the best in my price range. The Kryptonite KryptoLok Series 2 Bicycle U Lock with 4ft Flex Cable seemed to be the best option. Heres the thing though – how do I mount this thing on my bike without it taking up all that valuable real estate that could be used for bags, drink holders, etc. It’s impossible, the supplied mount for your bike could work, but it would block way too much valuable space – and on top of that it rattles. I researched and researched and the best option for me seems to be just Velcro-ing the bike lock to the frame in the upper corner. It’s cheap and it’ll do the trick. Or just throw it in a backpack. I’m not at the level of riding yet where I want to invest in a back rack, and quite honestly – I’m not sure I would ever use it. For now, this is settled. Time will tell how this goes.
The Cell Phone Holder
This might be deemed as a luxury, as music often is – but it just makes everything that much better. I knew I had to mount my phone on my handlebars so that I had the ability to listen to music, look at maps while I’m riding (or the Strava app which will record my rides on a map), the average speed I was going, the distance, and many other statistics. Seeing this realtime, like a speedometer and a GPS unit in front of me while riding was just too hard to ignore. I had to find the best mount for me.
I looked at fully enclosed mounts, which looked good for harsh weather instances, but the fact that most new phones now are waterproof (took long enough) – this feature really lost it’s appeal, and made the phone look like it was in a bubble – I imagined it would make the screen hard to read, more susceptible to glare and fog, etc. So that was ruled out.
Then there was the minimalist holder with rubber bands on every corner. There were a few of these, and I almost broke and got one. But then I found the holder which I immediately knew was right for my setup. You had to remove the stem on your bike (the middle circle that connects the handlebars to the frame) and add their stem that has a little slick middle piece that you slide your phone onto. The only downside is you have to buy another phone case to 3M stick the slidable part on the case. Then you are able to slide the case to the main stem. It’s awesome. It is by far the best mount I found on amazon, and it was hard to find. But I’m very happy I found it. It’s slick, totally solid and just makes sense. The case I bought for it was $6. I was worried that it’s not diesel enough for the off chance of the bike dropping – but then I read on the instructions that the 3M stick-able aspect adheres better to transparent plastic cases. BOOM. A big win.
I’m not done yet, and I also bought a water bottle holder that I thought looked cool on Amazon. Most are $8 but this one was $15 – but it was matte black carbon fiber and it weighed practically nothing, had stellar reviews and just looked awesome. The Matte Black Bike Water Bottle Cage was worth it. I’m not done adding stuff, but I think this is a good place to stay for a while – to see if I really need to add anything else. For now, I think the setup is complete – yet agile enough to go on a light-to-medium length / difficulty expedition. Riding during the day or at night on a light trail with the world all around you as all your senses are being fired up to match the self-propelled environment you glide through – is pretty incredible.