Aren’t you relieved August is over? Seriously, between the heat, the air & water show (aka. war porn) and the back to school buying bonanza, the once lazy dog days of summer have become the pressure cooker of frayed and volatile emotions.
By contrast to the period preceding Labor day, early weeks of Chicago autumn offer a relaxed vibe and some of the best cycling weather of the year. Even if you haven’t ridden much this summer, this is a fantastic time to roll out your bike right now and take advantage of milder temperatures, less crowded trails (and campgrounds, if you fancy overnight bike trips).
If you haven't used your bike to get around before, rest assured that it will get you from point A to point B in the city quickly and easily, with no waiting and less hassle than public transportation, and at a considerably lower cost than a car. For riding short distances around the neighborhood, just about any bike will do. Really. Any basic bike is good enough to get you started, as long as it meets the following criteria:
It rolls, and
IT STOPS. Seriously, this is non-negotiable, if your bike doesn’t stop, get it to a mechanic. Your safety, and the safety of others on the road, is surely worth the price of a tune-up. This seems like a good place to point out that, having been in the business of selling and repairing bicycles for a quarter of a century (yes, I’m that old), I can tell you that if I had a buck for every time someone tells me their bike is “in really good shape”, but whose bike — in fact — failed a basic safety inspection performed by an experienced mechanic, I would be happily retiring in Sedona not having to run a bicycle shop. So, it bears repeating that your bike should be in good repair. It’s perfectly understandable that you may not know what to look for, and that’s what we (or your local bike store) are here for. We'll go over it with you, and recommend needed repairs.
But, to continue, don't let lack of fancy equipment be an obstacle. You can always upgrade later if you get more into it (Pro Tip: Winter is a great time to upgrade your biking equipment, often at a great price. It will also make you extremely popular at your seasonally slow local bike shop!) If your needs grow, you may want to move up to a lighter, faster bike. A good quality hybrid bike is a great choice that, at $500-600 won’t break the bank, and will easily handle almost any riding in and around Chicago.
Contrary to what you may have been told, you don't need tons special equipment or garments. While seasoned riders can get quite picky and vocal about their favorite bike brands and gear, chances are you already own almost everything you need to begin enjoying your bike today, and even using it for transportation. With a decent pair of shoes, comfortable pants, light sweatshirt, windbreaker and a backpack, you can ride to and from work, head over to the coffee shop, bookstore, or post office, and pick up a few groceries on the way back most of the way through autumn.
While you really don't need to rush out and spend a bundle on expensive bicycle gear, a few well-chosen, reasonably priced items will make your commute more efficient, comfortable and safe.
Protect your head. Bicycle helmets are not required by law in Chicago, but that does not mean you should leave things to chance. We strongly encourage you to wear a well-fitting helmet, and forgo the use of headphones while cycling.
If you need to leave your bike unattended, invest in a good lock, and learn to use it properly.
Basic front and rear lights are required if you ride after dark.
A bike must have working brakes to be street-legal in Chicago.
Good quality street tires will reduce rolling resistance, provide better handling in inclement weather, and protect against punctures. If you are considering new tires, Cosmic Bikes offers a complete Flat Prevention Package that will protect you against flats for ONE FULL YEAR!
Rear carrying rack and bags will take the load of your back and ensure a more stable ride.
Fenders will protect your face, clothing and bike from excessive splatter.
Your butt will thank you for a comfortable seat.
Yes, you can ride safely on the streets of Chicago. For the traffic averse, the best advice I can offer is follow your gut. The safety of your ride rests largely within your control, and there is absolutely no reason to push yourself into situations that don’t feel safe to you. And most of all, enjoy — enjoy the still-warm days and crisp evenings, explore your city, and relish the ride.
You will not regret it.,