Riding bikes in Portland is fun and easy. We don’t have the brutal hills of San Francisco or Seattle, and we don’t have the insane traffic of New York. Tons of people ride bikes every day in Portland, and you can, too!
First, you need a good bike and a few essentials. A used bike is generally the cheapest way to go. Craigslist is full of bikes. Do some research on the kind that will suit the needs of the type of riding you want to do.
If you need a bike strictly to get around town, a road bike is probably the way to go. They aren’t generally too heavy, as they’re built for riding quickly on roads.
If you think you might want to ride around the trails of Forest Park or head out into the mountains for some serious off-road biking, then you’ll surely need a mountain bike with beefy tires and bomb-proof construction.
You can also find hybrid bikes meant for those who want to ride on all types of terrain. Craigslist has a bike for every type of riding, but do some research before you buy and don’t necessarily settle for the first bike you see.
Portland is lucky enough to have an abundance of bike shops around town, so if you’re set on buying a new bike you’ll have an overwhelming amount of options. Ask a friend about which bike shops they’ve had good experiences at.
All you really need to get around town is a good bike, but there are a few essentials you should consider that will make riding safer, easier and more pleasant.
A helmet is an absolute must-have. Yeah, it might look dumb, and it might mess up your hair, but it’ll be worth it if it saves you from severe brain trauma. A good lock is also important.
If you plan on leaving your bike anywhere outside, a hefty U-lock is absolutely necessary. Bike theft is a pretty serious problem in Portland, so invest in a way to keep your bike secure.
Lights are also an absolute must-have. They’re actually required by law when riding at night. You need to have a white light for the front of your bike and a red light for the back. Good lights are not something you’ll want to penny-pinch on, either. If they’re too dim, they’ll do you no good. At night, a good light will help drivers see you and will help you see the ground in front of you so you don’t hit that nasty pothole. Generally, brighter lights are better, but there is such a thing as too many Lumens. You don’t want to blind anybody. Talk to an employee at your favorite bike store about light recommendations.
It’s funny to joke about how much it rains in the Pacific Northwest, but nobody wants to get stuck between destinations without proper rain gear when the flash flood comes. At the very least, get yourself a nice waterproof jacket. You can decide about buying the rain pants after you’ve experienced wet jeans.
You also might want to consider your options when it comes to carrying a bag. Some people prefer to carry a backpack—it’s the simplest method and likely the cheapest, since everybody already owns a backpack. But others hate the sweaty square it can leave on your back after a few miles of riding.
A lot of people install a rack over their back tire and hang panniers over the sides. Panniers are bags that clip onto a bike rack so that you don’t have to carry it on your body. They’re generally waterproof and come in a range of sizes and prices.
On my own bike, I put a flat porter rack over the front tire, just below my handlebars. I then zip-tied a basket onto it so I can put whatever I want in the basket and carry it with me. Baskets are definitely convenient, but putting weight on the front of a bike can sometimes negatively affect the steering. Do some research and decide which option would be best for you.
Once you get rolling, you might want to consider buying a membership to the PSU Bike Hub, where students can get discounts on essentials like helmets, locks, lights, bike bags and rain gear. The Bike Hub also does repairs for cheaper than the average Portland bike shop (as long as you have a membership) and they have repair stations so that students can work on their bikes themselves at no cost. If you don’t know how to fix it yourself, a Bike Hub staff member is never far away, and they are always willing to teach you.
Riding a bike is terribly fun, particularly when the weather is nice. We’re approaching summertime, so now is the perfect time to find a bike and get rolling!