Progress: Biking

I bought a bike Friday from Phoenix Bikes, which is a non-profit organization that takes old and donated bikes and repairs them for resale. Plus they teach kids how to repair and ride bikes, which is wholesome and commendable. It’s located in Arlington behind the Barcroft Park recreation center. My bike is a Peugeot, Bike probably a model from the 1970s, and a good friend who is one of those biking people helped me pick it out, and gave invaluable advice on alterations and necessary accessories. The first lesson I learned about bike-buying was this, actually: Find someone nice who is a Biking Person and ask them. S/he will be able to tell you what to look for in a bike, and the stuff you will need along with your bike. S/he might also be able to fix your bike for you if it breaks, which is crucial. The second thing I learned about bike buying is that it’s probably going to cost more than you think, especially if you want to ride at all after dark. The Peugeot was an incredible $75, though most of the other adult bikes at Phoenix- and they had a great selection of bikes in really good shape- were from $125-175. For a more general comparison, in Spokes (a fancy bike-stuff store with several locations in Nova) I didn’t see a bike under $350 (though I didn’t look hard), and Wal-mart sells bikes for around $150.

Once you’ve got a bike, you’ll need a helmet (around $40 at the bike store, around $20 at Wal-mart). After that, gear is partially optional. Head and tail lights and reflectors are a good idea, and necessary after dark. Since I’ll be using the bike to commute, I also need a lock- on loan from my friend now- and a pack big enough for my lunch and a change of clothes, since I’ll be showering at work. Given the frequency of the commute, I’ll also need more exercise clothing, so that myMilk Crate cycling is not entirely laundry-dependent. In terms of luxuries, I sprang for a gel seat pad, because bike seats, especially old French ones, are tortuous. My bike came with a rack (which I considered a necessity), and I’ll be attaching a milk crate to it with a bungee cord, to make an ultra-stylish lunch/grocery carrier. So I got my set-up for ~$200, and the only other things I have left to buy are my own lock, a few clothes, and a car carrier for my bike, in case of not biking. Some of the items I got I could have gotten for less, and some aren’t entirely necessary, so a good kit could end up being ~$200 total if you prioritize and shop around.

The next step is to actually ride the thing, which I am looking forward to now that I have that gel pad. Alexandria has an extensive map of local bike paths, and one of them just happens to run right from my apartment complex to right near my office. From one jog along it, I remember it has a long creepy tunnel and a small ford.

The last thing I learned about bike-buying is that it’s difficult to get bike stuff from a Biking Person. This Biking Person will assume that you are a Biking Person yourself, when in reality, you may just want to be a person with a bike. Having my Biking Person friend around was a huge help, since he could deal with the other Biking Person in their code language, and explain it to me. I went to the bike shop all by myself, but I did feel intimidated by the Biking salesPersons, at least until I found my gel seat pad. Then I knew everything would be ok.

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5 Responses to “Progress: Biking”


  1. 1 arrrrrix October 8, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Yay bikes! I wish I had known about Phoenix before I went and blew over $350 (the cheapest bike in the store) on a new bike from Revolution Cycles last weekend. All in all, I’m pleased with it, but it lacks a certain French-vintage-charm, risen-from-the-dead-in-fiery-glory, je-ne-sais-quoi :0) I rode it around Georgetown and the monuments this weekend, and plan to start riding it to work once I find a suitably low-traffic route. I’m not sure how much more energy-efficient I can get than riding the metro, but if I can slip in a workout in the process, I’m all for it. I still lack a super-spiffy milk crate and rack, so enjoy yours, and good luck with your new “commute.” Happy pedaling!

  2. 2 virescent October 8, 2007 at 11:55 am

    Thanks! Check out the map of Alexandria bike trails, actually- at the bottom, good trail maps from surrounding areas (Arlington, Fairfax, DC proper, etc.) are linked. Let me know how it goes! And yeah, I’m wondering about the relative advantage of getting bike stuff at bike stores- supporting local businesses is great and all, and they do seem to have better technology (wider selection of LED head and taillights, etc) and selection, but the prices are so much steeper that it gives me great pain. Wasn’t riding a bike a lot simpler and cheaper when we were kids?

  3. 3 Callous October 10, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    A company that sells a product manufactured by the use of labor gained by underprivileged children, may seem wholesome and commendable to some, but to me it smells an awful lot like a sweat-shop. In addition why should we use foot pedaled bicycles when there are so many much more efficient motorized vehicles at our disposal. Advancements in technology have allowed for the combustible engine to provide multiple horsepower which gets us to where we need to be faster and more effectively.

    Secondly it is immoral for the advocation of bicycle helmets to be worn or mandated. There was a time in this country when the survival of the best and brightest meant something. The kid who ate too many marbles, didn’t get to have kids of his own to mess up things for the rest of us. Now we are a nation of fat, lazy, stupid people whose only use is to be minions for those better than them, which includes a dancing monkey.

    So instead of bike shopping as a way to waste precious time, try driving a ’57 Thunderbird with lead additive in the gasoline, while eating quarter pounders, in the old Styrofoam containers and just chuck those puppies out the window. And by puppies Michael Vick I am referring to the styrofoam containers.

  4. 4 Biking Person October 16, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    Yay, I’m mentioned in a blog! I’m FAMOUS!
    I’m really glad that you’re enjoying your bike, it’s a great way to be physically active and travel great distances with more expediency than walking! If you ever want to trade your green milk crate for a gorgeous pink one, let me know. I’ve located a good set of used 27″ tires for you and hope to pick them up this evening… do you want to have a tire changing lesson soon? It’s another one of ‘those’ skills that go hand-in-hand with owning a bicycle!

    Cheers!
    Biking Person

  5. 5 virescent October 16, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    Sounds awesome- let’s plan some time for it. And thank you so much for my ties, Biking Person! My milk crate now has no viable degrees of freedom left.


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