Things that 'Bike People' are wrong about

bike bell
Buy a bell, and join the rest of us in civilized society. (Photo: TBD Staff)

It doesn’t take a long glance to know that people who like bikes should have no say in what anyone wears — we ceded that authority when the very first cyclist added a Primal Wear brewery jersey to his cart. But bike people are wrong about so many other things, many of which have to do with bikes.


1) Kickstands

As someone who’s frequented bike shops for a long time, I’ve heard some unbelievable bullshit from clerks. But my worst example of bike-shop-buffoonery was an exchange I observed at Spokes Etc. in Alexandria that occurred when a would-be bike buyer asked a clerk why the bike she was interested in didn’t come with a kickstand.

His answer wasn’t the truth: “Kickstands add weight to your bike, a prospect that chills the blood of the people who spend the most money in here.” Instead, the clerk told her “Because road bikes are made to be ridden. You’re not supposed to put it down.” She persisted, confused, and did not ask him why if that were true, that road bikes were equipped with brakes. He kept repeating the inane line. Amazingly, he sold her the bike anyway.

Here are some times you might need a kickstand — if you want to stop your bike somewhere and buy an apple, if you want to lock it without it slipping down and becoming accidental street art, if you want to put your kid in a bike seat without risking his/her future. Here is when you don’t want one: When you are trying to win a race. If the latter case is more likely, fine, don’t buy a kickstand.

2) Bells

Basic human decency dictates that when you are on a self-propelled, wheeled machine, and you pass someone on foot or on a self-propelled, wheeled machine of their own, that you alert them to the possibility that you may collide with them should they decide to vary their path.

I am never not astonished at how many people disregard this component of the urban compact. The greatest offenders are, not surprisingly, people on road bikes, who feel that a bell would add ounces to their bikes that may shave a few milliseconds off their “times.” Why these people think that others should potentially get killed because of this extremely minor inconvenience is a handy illustration of the thin line between bike racing and sociopathy.

Look, you need a bell if you’re riding around people. Take it off before your big race. Get a good loud one, like the beautiful Japanese bells sold by Annapolis' Velo-Orange or the Incredibells sold in most bike shops. You won’t need to spend more than $10, and it will help you become a functioning member of society.

3) Messenger bags

A good second choice, but a much better option for most cyclists is a rear rack with a pannier that clips on (I use these, which are expensive but work really, really well), freeing your your back from getting slapped around as you ride. Exception: If you are a bike messenger.

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