City Desk

Gear Prudence: My Building Hates Bikes!

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Gear Prudence: Before each bike commute, I want to make sure I have the essentials with me. What do you think are the minimal necessities a bike commuter needs? Is a patch kit and a Metrocard enough? —Packed, Ready, Ever Prepared

Dear PREP: The minimal necessities will vary depending on the length and terrain of your commute and your individual preferences. A patch kit is a good idea, but then you’d also want to bring along tire levers and a pump. Might as well also take a spare tube. If you can fix a flat tire, you’re probably handy enough to fix other things and could carry a multitool. A backup tire? Sure! Two? Twice as good! Carry a folding bike on the rack of your normal bike “just in case?” Shark repellent because you can never be too cautious? Hard to say no. At this point, you’re probably driving a Subaru hatchback to work just to carry all of your bike contingency “essentials.”

Travel light. If you’re not handy and never too far from a bus stop, leave the tools at home. Nothing ruins an already ruined commute more than trying to fix a busted bike on the side of a road. Don’t bother. Put your bike on the front of the bus and sort it out later. Aside from bus fare, always carry some ID. That’s important. —GP

Gear Prudence: I am buying a condo. The building currently doesn’t have secure indoor bike parking and my unit is a third-floor walk-up. What do I do?—Secured Convenient Housing Lacking Everyday Parking

Dear SCHLEP: You have a few options and the most practical one involves a catapult. Set it up across the street and aim for the closest window. Remember to sweep up any broken glass—you don’t want to catch any flat tires.

If medieval siege weapons won’t work, get used to carrying your bike. Look to cyclocross, a sport that combines off-road bicycle racing with the best elements of dog agility training and hotel bellhoppery, for inspiration. According to Bill Schieken, author of Skills, Drills and Bellyaches: A Cyclocross Primer, the most secure carrying technique involves hoisting your bike onto your right shoulder and reaching your right arm around the headtube to grab the left handlebar end with your right hand. Or try the “suitcase” carry, in which you skip the shouldering and hold the top tube with your right hand and place your left hand on the left handlebar end, keeping the bike seat on the outside of your right elbow.

Longterm, figure out who else in the building has a bike and band together to petition for a bike room. That may not be as fun as catapults or cyclocross, but, ultimately, it’ll be much more practical. —GP

Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who blogs at talesfromthesharrows.blogspot.com and tweets at @sharrowsdc. Got a question about bicycling? Email gearprudence@washingtoncitypaper.com.

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