The most important component upgrade
January 10th 2019
So now you’re enjoying your new CHANGE bike. You’re taking it places a bike couldn’t go before, riding it far more than you’d ride a folding bike, and you want to take your enjoyment to the next level. What’s the first component to get?
First, it’s probably not about bling.
Unlike Phelps’ blinged out Cadillac Escalade, you’ll be manually hauling your upgrades up every hill, so make every choice count.
Modern bikes are more standardized and upgradeable than ever. So what component upgrade makes the biggest difference in your life?
- If you keep slipping on steep, muddy hills, upgrade to knobby tires.
- If you’re spewing mud everywhere, upgrade to fenders or mud guards.
- If you don’t have the control you need on sharp, technical turns, upgrade to wider handlebars.
- If you want to store your bike unfolded but flat against a wall, get a THINstem.
- If you’re feeling it in your back after a lot of riding, upgrade to an angled stem.
- If you’re really feeling saddle sore after a long ride, upgrade your seat post to something that absorbs shocks, like the Cirrus Bodyfloat.
And the winner is…
But mostly, your first upgrade should be the one with the biggest potential difference in your life. The phrase is overused, but for good reason: Safety first.
I highly recommend lighting, both forward and back–not just to see where you’re going, but also so car drivers see where you are.
Like your bike itself, lighting is a good investment only if you use it. So don’t let yourself fall into the trap of not using your light because you want to save the battery or don’t have a stockpile of replacement AA or AAA batteries.
Get a USB-rechargeable battery, and you don’t even need a dedicated wall plug. Just stick it into any computer at work or standard USB plug at home.
The best USB lights mount securely on your bars with a clamp, but also snap off for quick recharging. (This also makes your light easily removable by bike-rack grazers, so remove it if your bike is alone in a public place. Think of it as a bonus, in case you need a flashlight in your pocket.)
The rear light won’t help you see at all, but it’s perhaps even more important than your front light, because this is for drivers you may never see. According to my local bike shop, use the blinking setting during the day, especially overcast days, and the solid setting at night. For two reasons:
- A bright light decreases night vision. Once your light flashes, this makes you essentially invisible until the next flash.
- Impaired drivers are attracted to blinking lights. So a drunk driver on the way home from a bar at night may actually be drawn to a flashing light a night–exactly the opposite of the situation you want.
Once you’re safely visible to everyone, day or night, then whatever other component makes you enjoy your bike most is the right one for you. You’re already saving money every mile you don’t drive, so splurge a little. It’s not like you have to set a new world record to qualify…
See you on the roads!
Bob Forgrave is president of Flatbike, an
ecommerce company offering full-size folding bikes
and kits to make any bike take up half the space.