At today’s DC Green Festival, Katie Lupo of Gearin’ Up Bicycles in Washington, DC came prepared with a fun game of bicycle “Jeopardy” with categories like “Bike Maintenance and Repair,” and “DC Bike Laws.” Long-time DC bicycle commuters and newbie cyclists alike learned something new. As a bicycle commuter for the last 10 years in DC, here were my top five takeaways:
1) Remember to safety check your headset and bottom bracket: The headset is the part of your bicycle where the handlebars connect with the front fork. If these become too loose, you could lose control of your bicycle on a rapid descent. Test for fastness of the headset by squeezing your brakes and trying to rock your bicycle back to front. If the front wheel rocks, you need to tighten your headset. Same with the bottom bracket, which is where your crank connects to the bicycle. Try to move your pedals back and forth to the bicycle, and if there’s give, the bracket needs to be tightened.
2) Lube your chain every two weeks, or when the chain starts to make noise: I’m pretty sure I don’t lube my chain enough, and Katie’s session was a big reminder of that. A Deaf attendee of the session asked how to tell the chain needs lube if she can’t hear it grinding, and Katie offered a simple test: Tap the pedal lightly with the back wheel off the ground and see if the crank spins easily all the way around. If not, it’s time to lube the chain.
3) DC’s really improving its urban bike lanes: There were three miles of bike lane in Washington, DC in 2000. As of 2012, there were 115 miles.
4) There’s a DC program offering bike commuters a free ride home: In the event of an emergency that prevents you from riding your bike home from work, Commuter Connections offers four free taxi rides home per year to participating members.
5) Not all bike laws make sense: In DC, it’s legal to ride a bicycle without a helmet while talking on the phone. But it’s not legal to ride a bike without a bell, and in the event of an accident with a car, your lack of a bell could count against you. So, if you’re biking in DC, get a bell. (And wear a helmet, and don’t talk on the phone… that part’s just common sense.)