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Bicycling safety tips can lead to better, healthier experience

By Laura Casey Published: May 4, 2010
WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — It was a 1992 Rockhopper Comp that got East Bay Bicycle Coalition board member Justice Baxter into cycling.

Baxter, 33, had a crush on a girl in Walnut Creek. He lived in Oakland, Calif.’s hilly Montclair district, and he was too young to drive. So, he’d ride the Rockhopper to the commuter train stop, go visit his sweetheart and then head back up the Oakland hills to home.

"It became a passion,” he said, "and it was a passion that lasted a lot longer than the short affair with that girl in high school. I started feeling the joy of being free.”

Baxter is now co-owner of the Montclair, Calif., bike shop Wheels of Justice. He and Barry Luck of Cycles of Change APC in Alameda, Calif., share some tips on how to get back on a bike safely for summer.

Safety lighting: Lighting laws for evening and nighttime bicycle riding are similar to the laws for cars. You must have a front light and a blinking taillight 30 minutes after sunset. "It’s a good idea to have lights on your bike any time you think people will not be able to see you well,” Baxter cautioned, adding that lighting in the fog or in the early morning also is a good idea.

The most expensive part of lighting is the battery drain, he said. He suggested investing in rechargeable batteries or newer USB-charged lights that plug into a computer to recharge before going riding again.

• How to buy a bike:
With all the websites and stores selling bikes, it can be confusing to buy one.

Baxter first suggested going to the closest bike shop where you feel the most comfortable. That doesn’t mean, he said, that the shop nearest to your house is the best.

The hope is that you will develop a relationship with a salesperson who will help you find the bike you want, and also to encourage you to go back to the shop for fixes instead of tucking the bike in the garage forever because of a minor break.

Second, Baxter suggested that you picture yourself doing what you want to do on the bike — whether it be cruising along a beach or pumping up hills — and how you want to feel when you are doing it. That will help the salesperson figure out which bike is the right fit. Expect to spend about $500 on a new bike.

• Tires and brakes:
It’s a sad fact that tires will wear and oxidize with time and will need to be replaced to avoid a blowout. Luck said you should inspect your tires and look for tears, cracks and threads. "Also make sure there’s still a decent amount of tread on them,” he said. If your tires are fine, Luck said it’s never a bad idea to top them off with air every time you ride to avoid damage to the tires, inner tubes and wheels.


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