So, you’ve managed to lay your hands on a velocipede and you’re raring to go pedaling around Bridgetown. Awesome! Besides common sense, possibly a bike map, a water bottle, and a good lock, what do you need to consider yourself fully equipped for pedaling Portland’s streets and trails? Surprisingly little, it turns out.
A Bit of Biking Accessory Perspective
Allow me a brief digression. I used to live on a very small island, a beautiful place that was also a popular vacation destination. This island has miles of forested bike trails, very little vehicle traffic, and lovely views around every turn. In short, biking paradise. One day as I sat in the market square eating an ice cream cone, an older tourist came and sat beside me. He was all decked out in cycling gear. Everything looked very new, and very expensive. As he was quite overweight, panting, and sweating profusely, it didn’t seem that far of a stretch to presume that he didn’t do a lot of biking. What gives with the $500 outfit?
I had been biking the same roads and trails year-round for some time; pedaling was my only form of transportation. I didn’t have any fancy duds, yet I seemed to be doing just fine – I had a good time biking, I hadn’t injured myself, hadn’t crashed my bike. Was I missing something?
No. And neither are you. If you enjoy biking but don’t have the money, time, or effort to invest in making sure you Keep Up With the Cycling Joneses by having all the latest, most expensive gear and trendy outfits, don’t sweat it. Sure, a case can be made that professional cyclists need these things, but we’re not professional cyclists, are we? Nope, we’re just regular people who enjoy taking in the air via two pedaled wheels. Enough with the confining, expensive conformity already.
So, what DO you need in the way of cycling gear to be safe and street smart while pedaling Portland? Let’s break it down:
Legal Biking Necessities
Legally, if you’re an adult over the age of 16 in Portland, you are required to possess the following two items to ride the streets of Portland: A front bike headlamp and a rear red taillight, “when visibility is poor,” i.e. when it’s dusk, twilight, dark, or there are generally crappy lighting conditions. A front and rear light (get a blinking red light, they’re super kicky and fun! And they can be seen from quite far away, perfect for making your way home after a night of carousing at your favorite watering hole) represent the minimum in bicycling safety gear. True, some cycling stores offer very expensive brands, but you don’t necessarily need top shelf brands (or prices). Fred Meyer has perfectly fine bike lights ranging in price from $8 to $20.
Ok, so now you’re legally covered. But may I presume that you’d also like to survive this pleasant outing, to arrive safely back at your nest with all your brain functioning intact? Then allow me to urge you with the utmost seriousness to invest in and faithfully wear one of these amazing inventions – the bike helmet! (Here’s a photo of mine:) It cost me all of $25 brand new at Fred Meyer. It’s a Bell, a well-known brand of brain case, and it’s comfortable, well fitting, and I look adorable as heck in it. True, if you are over 16 years old, you’re not legally required to wear a helmet, but jeez, why wouldn’t you protect your brain, your ability to think and reason and remember the names of your closest friends and your favorite beer? Wear a helmet!
For extra security: If you would like an extra layer of physical safety and emotional well-being, I’d like to share my bike safety acquisition for this year: The Safety Vest! Perfect for winter and late-night burrito cart runs, my new safety vest can be seen by even the worst, most distracted Portland driver up to half a mile away. I got one in a HUGE size, so I can sling it on over even my bulkiest sweaters and vests and still swing my arms with total ease and freedom.
And that’s it, that’s all you need to doodle your way around P-town on two wheels. Wear what’s comfortable for you, be well lit, protect your noggin, lock that bike up tight, and you’re good to go. Be courteous and smart, ride defensively, obey traffic laws, don’t worry about what anyone else does, or has, or wears. Just do you. Let’s keep Portland real and Portland bike lanes accessible to all.