As commuting by car gets uglier across the country, more and more people are rethinking whether bike commuting could be a better option. A recent study found bike commuting has increased 25% in downtown Denver alone!
Congestion is the major motivational stick but there are plenty of carrots too. Studies have shown that dealing with unpredictable and increasingly long commutes can have a big impact on job satisfaction and can even impact our mental health. Our own survey results confirm the same. Shamelessly gloating for a minute: 72% of Faraday riders report being happier after getting one of our bikes. Combined with health benefits, environmental benefits, and the Fun factor (especially on a Faraday bike) there's no wonder more Americans are becoming bike commuters.
To make ourselves useful to the growing ranks and those considering joining them, we've compiled the best advice for navigating the urban jungle on two wheels. If you have more, let us know.
Comfort has taken a back seat as the industry has become increasingly focused on making road bikes lighter, more specialized, or without brakes. But if what you’re after is city bike that can handle bumps on the road, carry cargo, dodge potholes - and get you to your destination safely, what you’re looking for might not be a 10 lb carbon fiber racing machine.
We're obviously biased but here are some things to look for when choosing an every-day city commuter bike:
1 // Saddle: Keep your bum happy. There’s a lot of room for preference here so try as many as you can, but if you’re looking for a recommendation, we think you can’t beat anything by Brooks. Like a new pair of shoes, give it some time to contour to you and you'll forget it's even there.
2 // Posture: It's better to be a meerkat than a tortoise (stay with us). For city riding, you want to easily see and be seen. Swept handlebars provide an upright riding position that’s both more comfortable and safer than being hunched over with your neck tipped back. Your head is higher up, your neck has the full range of movement - meerkat mode. Our Cortland model is an example of a fully upright “Dutch” riding style, and you can install a handlebar riser if you want your bars even higher.
3 // Tires: Most city streets have cracks and potholes. You want a hearty tire that can handle the bumps. A puncture resistant 1.75” wide tire will give you more resilience and additional shock absorption, a good place to start. Our 26” diameter wheel is slightly smaller than many road bikes but it makes a big difference in maneuverability.
4 // Frame: Carbon-fiber makes sense for a road race. For the rat race, consider a frame material like aluminum or steel that can absorb bumps as you ride and knocks as you lock it up at your destination.
5 // Lights: Comfort for your eyes is just as important. At night visibility is everything and there’s no shortage of options out there. A Faraday comes with integrated lights that include a powerful 300-lumen headlight that you never have to be worried about charging or getting stolen.
6 // Fenders: Don’t be that person who shows up with a racing stripe on your back.
7 // Kickstand: An often missed but sensible addition for comfort between rides. There's not always something convenient to lean your bike against and the sight of a bike starting to fall is terrifying.
Let’s be honest, this is probably the biggest thing keeping most people from riding in the city: cars seem scary and unpredictable.
However, they’re also often sitting in gridlock traffic, especially during commute hours. In many cities across the world, the average speed of a car can be in the single-digit mph zone. Meanwhile, our pedal-assist electric bikes, for example, get riders up to speed quickly so you’re often outpacing and maneuvering cars as you go. Faraday riders agree. The upright posture and smooth acceleration of our bikes allow 70% of our customers to say that they feel safer on Faraday than on a regular bike.
Whether it’s one of ours or another city bike, here are some steps to make sure you’re being as safe as you can on the road.
Take some time to plan your route. Your local bike coalition will often have some helpful city guides and Google Maps has an impressive “Bicycling” overlay that shows where you can find dedicated bike lanes. If you’re considering venturing out to a new part of your city, use this map and plan ahead so you’re not stuck at a stoplight looking at your phone.
Let me Google that for you. If you’re unsure of the rules of the road or are hesitant about jumping into city traffic on a bike, consider seeing if there are resources online or classes nearby that you can take. The League of American Bicyclists has some great resources and you can search to see if you live close to a bike coalition that can probably point you in the right direction. Great classes like “All-Weather Riding” and “Intro to Urban Bicycling” are offered by the SF Bike Coalition, for example.
Know your rights. In California, any pedal-assist electric bike that has a top speed of 20 mph, like a Faraday, can use any of the state’s bike lanes, paths, or trails. For rules of the road for an eBike in your state, check out these resources from People for Bikes.
A well-maintained bike is a safe bike. As a general rule, you should have a tune-up at a bike shop every 6 months or at least once a year. You can follow the same rule for an electric bike. You’ll notice a difference when a bike mechanic dials your brakes, oils the chain, and tightens anything that needs it. At a minimum, make sure to follow the “phone, wallet, keys” check before you head out each day. On a bike, those ABC’s are: Air (no flats and balanced between wheels), Brakes (tested before taking off full speed), Chain (is on the gear ring and shifting properly).
Have a plan in case something goes wrong. The nice thing about urban riding is that there’s probably a bike shop nearby if you happen to get flat or have another type of mechanical issue. Know your routes and what your bike shop options are.
Don’t be put off by a little rain. Weather can make urban riding less appealing, but with the proper gear, it’s totally doable and even fun. Here’s a good guide to wet weather riding. On a Faraday electric bike, you don’t have to worry about components getting wet. We use stainless steel on all of our parts and the electronics are all waterproof rated.
A few final thoughts. Consider a cell phone mount if you need to refer to GPS along the way. You might lose a few style points with a bell, but it’s definitely a smart thing to have and are there are some cool options to choose from. Avoid headphones that can distract you from the sounds of the city and...mom knows best...don’t forget to wear a helmet!
Ok, now you’re safe and sound, but what about your bike?
Register your bike. Do this as a first step. It’s worth it and takes 5 minutes. Bike Index is approaching 5,000 recovered bikes on their system.
Protect your accessories. Leaving a restaurant and finding a seat or wheel missing can almost be as frustrating as losing a bike. You can use a security kit like this one to protect your seat, handlebars, and wheels from thieves looking for a quick score.
Lock smart. There are some obvious best practices that you’ve probably heard before: try to lock your bike in high traffic areas, never leave it outside overnight, and don’t follow the same routine every day (thieves notice if an expensive bike is always in the same location). We recommend following the advice of Wirecutter and getting Kryptonite’s New-U Evolution Mini-7. Combined with the security kit mentioned above and a good U-lock, you’re ready to lock your bike. Find an immovable object like a bike arch and ideally get the rear wheel and frame inside the U-lock. If your U-lock is too small to include the frame, locking your rear wheel inside the rear triangle as shown below will also secure your entire frame –skeptical? Try it! Double down and use two U-locks if you want to be extra safe.
Consider a tracking device. We’re working on our own GPS device for our electric bikes, but in the meantime, you can find some aftermarket options with a quick search. For a low-cost hack, consider hiding a Tile on your bike. We’ve tested on our demo bikes and it works well.
Get insurance for your bike (or lock). We’ve found renter’s and homeowner’s policies are pretty unreliable, especially for eBikes. State Farm quoted us a $500 cap on a potential electric bike claim, and that’s before a $500 deductible. Say what? And other policies don’t cover eBikes at all. Private insurance options allow you to insure your Faraday electric bike for around $20/month (less for other bikes). Kryptonite offers an Anti-Theft Protection Offer that’s worth a very close look. For $25 you can get 5 years of theft coverage that will cover the cost of your bike (yes, even an eBike!). Pay attention to the fine print though, with the biggest caveat being that you have to have photo evidence that the locked failed.
Speaking of theft, beware of the garage. In SF about 65% of bike theft comes from a garage and home break-ins, while only 15% happens while bikes are locked on the street. Making sure that your bike is actually locked to something in the garage or safely secured in the house is probably the biggest step you can take to avoid theft.
To get back to gloating, sometimes it’s hard not to feel good about using our electric bikes to avoid traffic or train delays in our hometown of San Francisco. The beauty of a bicycle is that you have a lot more control than you do with other modes of transportation. Leave when you want, take the route you want, avoid traffic and parking headaches. That’s especially important in a city where unexpected events like a flaming balloon on a track can delay an entire system during a morning’s commute.
Riding a bike in the city is a fun, healthy, and efficient way to get around. If you’re considering the extra safety and comfort of getting a Faraday electric bike, remember that you can finance a Porteur S or Cortland S for less than $4/day. How does that compare to the cost your daily commute currently?
If we missed a tip that you think we should have included, email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org