The Chainlink

Please don't flame me for posting this, but I am looking for help in picking a bike and learning how to ride a bike safely in the city. I am a mom and I work downtown. I would like a bike for casual riding, possibly with the ability to carry a kid or two, and maybe for commuting to work if I can get the hang of it.

I need help!

What kind of bike should I get? Not able to spend a fortune but willing to invest in a good, safe, well-built and reliable bike especially since I might be transporting children on it.

Where can I take a bike safety class on traffic rules, proper locking techniques for the city, etc?

How can I learn the best and safest route from home to work? 

Thank you! 

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Active Transportation Alliance was doing some classes this summer, but I don't know if they have any scheduled right now.  You could start by calling them.  You could also check with the League of American Bicyclists to see if they know of anyone planning a Traffic Safety Skill class in the area.

The best place to start looking for a bike is at one or more local bike shops.  There are many good ones in Chicago and you can test ride different bikes.  Friends with bikes might be willing to let you try theirs so you can get a feel for different kinds of bikes.

Women Bike Chicago just did a "mentoring" meet-up, and we might do one again soon.  If you would like to send me a friend request, I can get you more information.

Chicago League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructors just started planning Traffic Skills classes for Aug, Sept, and Oct.  Tentative locations are UIC and DeVry.  Some course descriptions are at http://chicagobicycle.org    Drop me an email. I'll notify you when the next class will take place.

Larry Mysz
League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor
Larry@chicagobicycle.org

I second Larry's comments!! If you Learn to Ride with an LCI, they can provide a bike for the lesson and help you select the right bike for you after you've learned to ride.

Hi CityMom! Being new to cycling is nothing to be ashamed of at all. We are, in fact, still offering City Cycling Classes every 2nd Saturday of the month. You can register on our site here. We'd love to have you join us! Our expert instructors should be able to answer all of your questions regarding bike choice. As far as choosing a route goes, I'd encourage you to pick up a free Chicago Cycling Map at our office or at virtually any bike shop. It's a good one this year!

Kevin Dekkinga

Membership Manager, Active Trans

Thanks, everyone! JW I sent you a message. 

Kevin I actually have a friend who works with you at ATA. I just emailed her and she sent me some more details. This is exactly what I was looking for so thank you very much!

But before I take a class it appears I need a bike :) I have been to some bike shops around me, but the bikes they recommended don't seem to be in line with the recommendations in the "open letter" on this site that suggests variations of a road bike with drop handlebars. I had also been looking at cargo bikes but those don't seem to be ideal for commuting, though I really don't have the space in our home for multiple bikes. 

I would love suggestions on a first city bike for a female, ideally one that would work well with a child seat when needed. I have two kids, but it doesn't seem like there's a good bike for both commuting to work alone and transporting two kids on weekends, so I may have to give up on the cargo bike thing.

Any advice is welcome. Thanks! 

Given your commendable plan to commute and haul kids around, my advice is to ignore any advice that suggests  any kind of "variations of a road bike with drop handlebars." Get a bike that lets you ride in an upright position so you can see and so that others can see you. You will be a lot more comfortable a lot safer and have a lot more fun. 

Hi CityMom! 

You may want to check out BFF Bikes. Annie (one of the owners) has worked with lots of moms to set them up with bikes that meet their needs.

My own bike recommendation... I bought my Bianchi Volpe from BFF and I've found it to be a great multi-use bike for touring and camping. I bet it would also be great for pulling a trailer. 

get a trailer! you can hook it up on weekends and take if off during the week.

I would do a Hybrid or Mountain bike with smooth road tires.

2 kids would suggest the Hooptie on an http://www.xtracycle.com/family/ extension.

But xtracycle / longtails won't fit racks on buses.  May not be allowed on trains.

And they require a little extra room if taking them indoors.

Many bike shops have helpful pamphlets with useful information on turns, emergency stops, how to cross railroad tracks, etc. (I don't think you need a 9 hour course to ride a bike).

You don't have to spend a fortune on a bike. Wal-Mart, Target, Sports Authority sell some bikes comparable to bike store bikes, but are $200-300 less (decent dept store bikes cost from $200-300).

On sites like Google Maps, magnify the map so you can see the one-way streets. Using Google Streetview, preview the street and see if it has a stoplight at major streets like Grand, Irving Park, etc so you can get across. You can even use Google to see which streets have bike lanes, although those are likely to be full of bikes. Take a quiet residential street instead. Try different routes.

If you travel at a decent pace (not too fast) and pay attention, you'll be fine.

I think a lot of this advice is great e.g. working with local bike shops for information on riding, using Google maps. Google has a great cycling route option that's helped me find my way many times. 

I do disagree with the advice to purchase a Wal-Mart or Target bike because those bikes are not really made to last and lack quality components. My advice, if you aren't able to afford a new bike like a Volpe or a Surly Cross Check, is to visit West Town Bikes or Blackstone Bicycle Works or Working Bikes or Bikes N' Roses and buy a vintage or used bike from them. Not only will you get a better bike, all of these organizations are non-profits and the money is going to a great cause.

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