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Bikes Are in Short Supply, but You Can Get Your Hands Dirty and Fix up an Old One

Illustration for article titled Bikes Are in Short Supply, but You Can Get Your Hands Dirty and Fix up an Old One
Photo: Jacek Dylag (Unsplash)

Like many things right now, bicycles are in short supply. As the pandemic ensues and we continue social distancing, lots of us are looking for alternatives to public transit and walking for getting around. While you might not be able to buy a fresh new ride right now, if you’ve got an old bike tossed in the garage, or happen to find a good deal on Craigslist, you can still cruise through town while keeping your distance—here’s what you’ll need.

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Saddle Up

Illustration for article titled Bikes Are in Short Supply, but You Can Get Your Hands Dirty and Fix up an Old One
Graphic: Jordan McMahon
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B17 Short Saddle | $93 | Amazon

That fixie you grabbed off Facebook Marketplace might have a decent saddle, but there’s no telling how long someone’s used it or how much sweat it’s soaked up—not fun! Grabbing a new saddle won’t just make sure you’re starting fresh and clean, it’s also a fun way to give your bike a bit of character.

I’m a fan of the B17 Short from Brooks England. It’s made of leather, so it takes a while to break in, and might not feel great at first, but after a few rides you’ll be sailing on the coziest ride in town.

Let’s Roll

Illustration for article titled Bikes Are in Short Supply, but You Can Get Your Hands Dirty and Fix up an Old One
Graphic: Jordan McMahon
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Maxxis Ardent EXO Tubeless Tire | $50 | Amazon
Stans NoTubes Tire Sealant | $20 | Amazon

If your bike’s been laying around for a while, chances are its wheels are gonna need some love and care. What you’ll need will depend on your bike’s wheel size, and if you want to go tubeless or not. I’m a fan of tubeless tires since you’re less likely to get a flat, which can be handy if you’re in a city with bike lanes that aren’t kept up (you can help with that!) or you’re riding on dirt trails a lot. My bike has these Maxxis tubeless tires, which are lightweight and durable enough to withstand even the bumpiest trails. Pair it with a good sealant, like this one from Stans No Tubes to make sure you don’t get any flats while you’re out on a ride, and it’s good for up to eight tires.

If you’ve got an older set of wheels, or you’re unsure of whether your wheels are compatible with tubeless tires, you can always call your local bike shop to double check or get some info on some wheels that may work.

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Rack ‘Em Up

Illustration for article titled Bikes Are in Short Supply, but You Can Get Your Hands Dirty and Fix up an Old One
Graphic: Jordan McMahon
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Wald Rear Bike Rack | $22 | Amazon
Wald Giant Delivery Basket | $45 | Amazon

Commuter bikes are great for getting around, and with a nice rack added on, they can help you carry all your gear across town with ease. There’s lots of racks to choose from, but it’s worth picking out a durable one that’ll keep your stuff secure. I’m a big fan of Wald racks, since they’re sturdy enough to hold a decent amount of weight, and make a slick addition to a bike’s aesthetic.

You could also grab one of their baskets to hold a couple grocery bags, a few beers, or even a lil’ alien who’s just trying to phone home. Their Giant Delivery Basket is almost comically large, but it’s built to carry some serious cargo, so you won’t have to worry about making multiple trips. If you’re gonna be riding through tighter spaces, or just don’t need that much room, there’s a smaller, cheaper version available too.

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Get a Grip

Wald City Bicycle Mid-Rise Handlebar | $22 | Amazon

Maybe your bike’s good with the handlebars it’s got, but there’s also a lot of fun to be had in converting an old bike, say a mountain bike, into a commuter bike. (There’s even a whole community dedicated to it). Part of that conversion would be switching up the handlebars to give you a more upright position, which is more comfortable for rides around the city, and gives you more control over your bike while sitting upright.

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These handlebars from Wald are affordable, sturdy, and easy to install. Just be sure that they’re compatible with your gear shifts, if you’ve got ‘em. You’ll also want a couple grips to go on the end, and these ones from Velo Orange are cheap and easy to cut if you need them to be a bit shorter.

Put Your Lights On

Light & Motion Urban 700 Bicycle Headlight | $70 | Amazon

Bikes are fun, but the roads can also be super dangerous if you’re not careful. Too many times I’ve been startled by an angry driver on the streets of Long Beach for simply cruising on down the road. There’s no combatting hostile or careless drivers, but you can make sure your presence is known and help reduce your risk.

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Not only will lights help cars see you, they’ll also keep you from getting any citations, since many states require you to have a light on your bike. You’ll want to get lights brighter than the legal requirement, though, especially if you live in an environment with little light, or prone to fog. The Urban 700 from Light & Motion isn’t the cheapest you can get, but your safety’s worth a couple extra bucks if you’re going to be out on the road a lot. It’s capable of emitting up to 700 lumens, which is plenty for both letting cars know you’re there and lighting up the path in front of you.

Update: We’ve added some notes about the compatibility of older bicycle wheels and tubeless tires.

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