First, you'll need a bike. Here's some great advice on selecting a bike. You can also stop by our community workshop during open hours and see what we have in stock.
You'll also need some essential accessories: a lock (see our advice on locks here), a set of front and rear lights, and a helmet.
Non-essential accessories that could make your ride easier include a bag of some sort to stow your air pump, multi-tool, cellphone, cash, etc., and a waterbottle and waterbottle holder.
ABC Quick Check
Always give your bicycle a once-over before you begin a ride. Following this easy-to-remember checklist will help ensure that you arrive at your destination safely.
- A - Air. Make sure tires are properly inflated (and stay that way).
- B - Brakes. Give them a squeeze while the bike is moving to ensure they're not too loose and that you can stop the bike quickly, nor too tight and rubbing against the rim.
- C - Chain/Crank. The chain should be taught, lubricated and able to change gears without any trouble. The crank should rotate smoothly all the way around. Give the crank arms (where the pedals attach to the bike) a push and pull toward and away from the bike. They shouldn't be loose whatsoever.
- Quick. Check any quick release levers to make sure they're tight and pointed in the direction of the frame (not pointed forward or downward).
- Check. Look over the entire bike and make sure that nothing is loose, broken or out of place.
Intro to Winter Biking
Many people in Western New York believe that riding through the winter is an activity reserved for the seriously hardcore cyclists among us. But really, all it takes is a little preparation, the right gear and a can-do attitude. Buffalo is a four-season city, and biking is a great way to make the most of winter — we can't wish it away and it's probably going to stick around until March — and keep your blood flowing in January. Here are some tips to keep you rolling when the snowflakes begin to fall:
- Start slowly.
Take a few short trips on your days off to get a feel for it and make sure you enjoy it before you commit to a full-on winter commuting schedule.
- Plan ahead
Find out which bike lanes are plowed, and plan your route accordingly. If there are no bike routes, take traffic-calmed back streets where you’re most likely to have the road to yourself.
- Get visible!
Falling snow, low clouds, short days, and dim light all seriously obscure vision. Get yourself a good, bright set of waterproof bike lights, and don’t leave the house without them.
- Adjust your braking
Similar to when driving, you don’t want to slam on the brakes while biking on icy roads. Brake slowly to prevent spinouts, and brake more on the rear wheel. Give yourself twice the amount of time to come to a stop as you would in the summer.
- Don’t strap/clip in
You probably shouldn't be going too quickly anyway, and in case you fishtail or start to fall, you’ll want to have your feet free to get them to the ground.
- Ride defensively
Even in areas where there are high rates of summertime cycling, most people don’t expect bikes on the roads in the winter, so they often aren’t looking out for you. Give motorists extra space, stay out of blind spots, and make eye contact with drivers whenever possible.
- Learn to recognize ice
Black ice forms where snow melts in the sunlight then re-freezes once the sun goes down. Ride carefully in areas which get direct sunlight all day, or anywhere that appears wet on a below-freezing day.
- Take the lane
Snow and debris accumulate along the curb, basically taking over the line where most people usually bike. Ride in the middle of the lane. It will also make you more visible and ensure nobody can pass you without changing lanes.
- Maintain your bike
Wipe your bike down every day to avoid rust. Clean and lubricate the chain and gears once a week if you’re riding a bike with a derailleur, and clean and lubricate the brake lines every few weeks. The GObike Community Workshop offers classes on winter bike maintenance if you want to learn more.
- Expect to fall
You probably will. Ride slowly and anticipate a slip or two.
- Be reasonable
Combine winter-biking with public transit if you have a long trip or you get cold and tired halfway through. And if there's a blizzard during your morning commute, you might want to leave the bike at home (no one is going to see you in white-out conditions anyway). Remember that winter biking isn't about proving how hardcore you are, but about enjoying our local winters and staying active.
- Gear up
Having the right equipment to ride safely and comfortably is key. We recommend the following: get a winter bike (single speeds and mountain bikes make great winter bikes), master the art of layering, invest in warm, waterproof, wind resistant clothing (winter jacket, bike gloves, a face cover or balaclava, goggles, winter boots and lights).
Adapted from an article by Hilary Angus. Originally published in Momentum Mag.
Selecting Your Route
Here are a few great tools for selecting a route:
Bicycle Rules of the Road
Bicyclists are required to follow the same road rules as cars. This is important for your personal safety. A major concern many bike commuters have is the potential dangers of riding in traffic. Cyclists who learn and obey the rules of the road have 80% fewer collisions than those who do not. Here are essential safety tips:
- Ride on the right. Riding against traffic is a major cause of bicycle accidents.
- Be predictable. Avoid sudden swerves and stops.
- Be visible. Wear bright, reflective clothing. Use lights and reflectors in low-light conditions.
- Follow and obey signs, signals, and pavement markings.
- Signal when you are turning or stopping. Look over your left shoulder for traffic before you make a move. This also signals motorists.
- Yield to pedestrians.
- Watch for road hazards such as broken glass, gravel, and potholes.
- Position yourself appropriately. On wide roads, ride 3-4 feet to the right of cars in the traffic lane; on narrow roads, stay just inside the traffic lane so vehicles must partly cross the middle line to pass. (This removes the temptation to squeeze by you.)
- For turns, work your way into the proper lane 150 feet early; if you can’t get in by 40 to 50 feet before the turn, go straight and double back. Stay at least a foot away from the curbs, where debris accumulates. Always allow enough room for a car door to open when passing parked vehicles, and never weave in and out of traffic between parked cars.
- Ride defensively and respectfully. Watch for people who may not be looking for you, and be courteous to other road users.
Find Out More
A complete list of New York State Vehicle and Traffic Laws as it pertains to bicyclists can be found by visiting the Governor Traffic Safety Committee’s website.
The best way to learn how to ride safely and gain confidence is to learn from others! Check out our event calendar for group rides and events.