Bike Life 101

Evaluating a used bicycle

We are grateful to Keith "Lugs" Mayton for sharing his expertise in this guest blog post! You can find Keith online at 

Keith atop his trusty steed. Photo credit: Keara Mayton

Keith atop his trusty steed. Photo credit: Keara Mayton

While a new bike might seem expensive, it's a worthwhile investment and relatively cheap in terms of hours of fun per dollar. When you buy new, support your local bike shops. If you can’t afford a new bike, at least buy your accessories from and have your bikes serviced at local shops. 

If you simply can't afford something new, or just want to try explore bicycling before you commit, there are millions of good quality used bicycles in the U.S. that aren’t being ridden. Many of them eventually wind up posted for sale on Craigslist, social media, and the like, and some are a great value*. Here are some tips on figuring out whether a used bike is is worth purchasing. 

First, when you are going to assess a used bicycle at a personal residence, ensure your personal safety. Take a buddy, look at bikes outdoors, etc. Use your common sense.

There are six basic things you'll want to examine in a used bicycle you are considering:
1) frameset, 2) wheels, 3) drivetrain, 4) brake system; 5) brand and 6) fit. 


(*Editor's note: If an offer seems too good to be true, it very well may be. Stolen bikes are plentiful on Craigslist and some second-hand retailers—Once Ridden Bikes is a notable exception. Within Central Ohio, you may want to check Bike Snoop before you buy to see whether the bike you're considering has been posted.)

A beaut that Keith expertly salvaged. Photo credit: Keith Mayton

A beaut that Keith expertly salvaged. Photo credit: Keith Mayton


Look at the frame from various angles to try to determine that tubes are straight and aligned. Head tube and seat tube should be parallel. Seat stays and fork blades should be symmetrical. Check whether forks are bent back or twisted.

Check frame for cracks, bulges, or significant dents. Cracks often form on the down tube just behind the head tube. A bulge in that location is often a sign of a front end collision and might be accompanied by fork blades that are bent back. Also inspect for cracks in the bottom bracket shell. Check the drive side chain stay for excessive "chain suck" damage.

The headset should turn smoothly and without play.

A little surface rust here and there is generally not a problem.

Ask to adjust the seatpost and stem. This allows you to adjust the bike for a test ride and also permits you to ensure the seatpost and stem are not stuck, i.e. chemically welded or rusted in place, 'cause that's bad!

When you test ride the bike, you should be able to ride the bike no hands in a straight line without leaning to either side. If you can't, there is probably a problem with alignment or improperly dished rear wheel.


Spin the wheels and observe where the rims pass the brake pads to make sure they are reasonably true (within 1–2mm) both vertically and horizontally. Also listen and feel for roughness in the hub bearings.

Even if the wheel is true, be sure to squeeze all of the spokes by pairs to see whether the tension on the spokes is even. Flick spokes with you fingernail—the tone should be pretty consistent. A true wheel with very loose and super tight spokes is probably almost dead.

Check rims for cracks. Also, feel the braking surface—if an aluminum rim is significantly concave on the braking surface the rim is near the end of its useful life.

Tire wear is, of course, normal. For old mountain bikes a great upgrade is inexpensive (think Kenda) semi-slick tires to replace knobbies for riding on the street. Makes a HUGE difference in reducing rolling resistance.


The drivetrain should shift relatively smoothly. Look for bent, broken, or missing parts (to the extent you know what to look for).

Check cables and housings. Frayed ends are common. Fraying behind derailleur anchor bolts or cable stops probably requires replacement. Cable housings that are rusty, that lack outer casing, or have acute bends will also need to be replaced.

Replacement of a chain is almost a given so a dirty or somewhat rusty chain might not be a deal killer.

Check the chainrings while the crank is turning to see whether they spin true. Inspect the crankarms to make sure they are not bent or cracked. Check to make sure pedals are threaded in straight—otherwise they might be cross threaded, which might mean the crank arms would need to be re-tapped or replaced. Also examine the teeth on the chainrings for wear. Teeth that are worn out look hooked or like shark fins.

Grab both crankarms and pull back and forth sideways. Excessive play could indicate one of several possible problems. Pedals should spin relatively smoothly. Check plastic pedals for signs of cracks.


Brakes should operate relatively smoothly and, yes, cause the moving bike to stop safely. Make sure the brakes "return" after the levers are released. Failure to return indicates corroded cables/housings or weak, improperly adjusted, or brake broken springs. Inspect brakes and levers to see whether they are bent, cracked, or appear to be missing any pieces.

Check cables and housing as with drivetrain.

Brake pads wear and might need replacement. It's a good thing to upgrade them regardless.


I would avoid Pacific, Magna, Kent, Mongoose, Huffy, Columbia, and any brand sold at big box stores.

Fuji, Panasonic, Bridgestone, Miyata, Nishiki, Univega, Trek, Giant, Specialized, and brands sold at reputable bike shops are generally good quality bikes. Really, most bicycles that were made in Japan or Taiwan from the 1970s through the 1990s tend to be pretty good, or at least not horrible.

Schwinn, Ross, and Free Spirit are a mixed bag. The lugged steel bikes of all 3 brands are generally good. The old electro-forged Schwinns like the Varsity, Continental, Collegiate, and Suburban were not horrible bikes but they are far heavier than necessary, as in about 40 pounds. Also, Schwinn now makes a line of bikes sold at big box stores. I would avoid those. Ross made cheap gas pipe bikes, easy to spot because they lack lugs and have one piece steel cranksets. Similarly, there are a few Free Spirit models that were made in Austria by Puch that are good. The good ones have lugged construction.

Older French and British bikes like Peugeot, Motobecane, Gitane, and Raleigh might not be a good choice unless you have some basic mechanical skills or a willingness to learn them. Weird threads, cottered cranks, and plastic Simplex derailleurs on the lower end models can make working on them a little more challenging. But when they are properly serviced and adjusted they can be good bikes. By the late 1970s, Raleigh and some European brands began having their bikes made in Japan and eventually Taiwan. I feel that the quality of these later bikes is generally higher.

It never hurts to do a little research on the brand and model before you go look at a bike. The catalogs of many of the major brands are posted in various places on the internet. For example, Waterford Precision has catalogs from before Schwinn went bankrupt. Sheldon Brown’s site has a lot of the old Raleigh catalogs.

If you want some basis for determining a fair price, I find it useful to search eBay completed auctions. Ignore ongoing auctions since bikes often eventually sell for far less than a “buy it now” price, and some sellers tenaciously relist bikes at inflated prices. Also, in my opinion, bikes sold locally should sell for roughly two-thirds of completed sales on eBay because eBay auctions reach the worldwide market for used bikes, which includes well heeled collectors.


Notions abound concerning how properly to determine whether a bike fits, and rules of thumb have changed significantly over the years. Also, principles of bike fit that might work well for someone who’s racing on a drop bar road or cyclocross bike may have little applicability to someone looking for a city bike with swept back bars and an upright riding position. So for purposes of this article, I’m going to boil it down to a few basic criteria. First, is the bike sufficiently comfortable when you test ride it? The seller should be willing to raise or lower the saddle or stem to help you figure this out. Obviously you should be able to achieve sufficient leg extension without extending the seatpost above maximum height. Also notice whether you feel either too stretched out or too cramped as a result of the distance between the saddle and the handlebars. In addition, are you comfortable with how the bike steers and handles? Last, regardless of the above, there should be at least an inch of space between your crotch and the top bar when you straddle the bike. Here's a helpful video that shows what this might look like for you:

Good luck with your search, and have fun!

Where to ride on the road

Updated January 2018

Cyclists in the correct lane position: a beautiful sight to behold.

Cyclists in the correct lane position: a beautiful sight to behold.

Cyclists may have a right to the road, but how that right translates into actual road riding is not inherently clear. And a theoretical right can become an actual wrong if you end up flattened by a car!

Ironically, in our experience the mistake that cyclists most often make is being too accommodating of motor vehicle traffic. Of course! Because cars are loud and fast and we can feel the danger on our skin! And it's rude hogging the road when motorists could be using it so much more efficiently! But when we ride too far to the right of the road—or worse, on the sidewalk—we become invisible and unpredictable to motorists. You can see why in this video we created (with funding from ODOT) for practitioners of youth bicycle programming statewide:


Where we ride on the road is the single best tool we have for averting crashes with motor vehicles. Cyclists inadvertently encourage motorists' bad behavior by maintaining lane positions that invite them to squeeze their cars alongside us when there's really no room to spare. While it's true that bad driving causes most crashes, when cyclists position ourselves to be visible and predictable to motorists we have a safer and more peaceful experience.

We have some quick tips below for how to position yourself on the road, but check out the EXCELLENT this, this and this for more in-depth coverage of the topic. Now, then:

Ride on the road.

Riding on the sidewalk is illegal in the City of Columbus, but more than that—it’s dangerous to ride on the sidewalk. Paradoxically, cyclists are more likely to be hit by a car riding on the sidewalk than they are riding on the road! This is because cyclists are most vulnerable at intersections, and every curb cut—4-way light-regulated stops with crosswalks, of course, but also alleys, driveways, garage entry/exit points, etc.—is an intersection. A motorist's view can be blocked by buildings, plants or other cars, and particularly those making a turn may not be able to stop in time when they do finally register your presence, because you're going faster than the pedestrians they expect to see. Riding in the street puts you within motorists' lines of sight and gives them time to react to you.

Ride at least 3’ from the curb. 

Riding closer to the curb than 3' puts you at risk of having to swerve into traffic to maneuver around hazards like glass, trash, potholes, storm grates, etc. etc. etc. And depending on the width of the road, you could end up squeezed if a car happens to be passing while another is approaching from the opposite direction (i.e., the passing car has no room to cross the double yellow line). So even though sometimes there seems to be enough space to ride near the curb, it's safer for us to force drivers to slow down and maneuver safely around us.

Ride at least 6’ from parked cars.

Riding in "the door zone" is a sure way to get a car door flung into your path. If you're within 3–4’ of a car, you're in danger of ramming the door itself; if you're within within 4–6’ of a car, you're in danger of swerving into traffic to avoid ramming the door. Ride 6' from parked cars to have full clearance and room to maneuver—and maintain a straight line! Every time you retreat to the curb at a break in a line of parked cars you create an need to merge back into traffic—and weaving in and out of traffic is unpredictable behavior that puts you at risk.

Ride in the middle of a narrow lane.

Physics exists! Which means that narrow lanes simply can't accommodate both you and a motor vehicle at the same time. In this situation—regardless of your speed or traffic conditions—you simply must ride in the center of the lane to prevent cars from passing too closely.

Ride in a bike lane…or don’t.

Bike lanes can reduce crash rates, but they can also be poorly designed, littered or otherwise putting you at risk. Luckily we have no legal requirement to ride within bicycle facilities! If you feel unsafe riding in a bike lane, or need to leave the lane to make a left turn, that is a legitimate and lawful choice.

Ride to prepare for your destination.

Just as when you're driving a car, you always want to choose the rightmost lane that serves your destination. That lane might indeed be the far-right lane, if, for example, you're headed straight and there are no turn lanes or bus- or taxi-only lanes in your path. But it might just as well be the middle lane, if, for example, you're  on a 3-lane road during rush hour and you're preparing to make a left turn in two blocks. It could even be the far-left lane, if you're approaching two left turn only lanes and the leftmost turn lane best positions you to turn left again immediately after the intersection. Always be preparing for your next move and choose your lane based on where you want to end up.


All of the above does not suggest you need to rock the middle lane of Sawmill Road at rush hour. Yes, you will want to follow the advice above regardless of the road or its traffic conditions (no, really!), but no doubt there are several routes to your destination. Read our advice on planning a route and be on your way!


This whole lane positioning thing is TOTALLY OUR JAM! This is what we do—we teach people where to ride on the roads. Let us help you. Come on a ride with us* and we'll teach you the ways of urban bike zen (oooommmmmmmm!). And you will be transformed!

*Our on-road educational rides are $300 for up to 5 people. Gather your friends for a fun 2-hour ride showcasing Downtown Columbus—any time that works for you! Contact us to schedule a ride today!

Cyclists' legal rights

Updated July 2017

Cyclists on a Year of Yay! ride claim their right to the road, and stay safe.

Cyclists on a Year of Yay! ride claim their right to the road, and stay safe.

There’s no bike law expert like the guy shouting at you out their car window, amiright?


It may surprise you (no it won’t) to know that most people have no clue how cyclists are supposed to conduct themselves on the road. Everyone is pretty clear that “Hey, you gotta stop at red lights too, man!”, but beyond that they’re making it up—uncharitably. In general, people tend to emphasize cyclists’ responsibilities and de-emphasize or outright ignore cyclists' right to the road. Often cyclists themselves don’t fully appreciate their rights or how they translate into lawful riding practice. But in terms of your personal safety, it’s confusion about your rights, more so than a sometimes-failure to uphold the law, that contributes to bike/car altercations. So let’s learn some bike law, y’all!


Knowing your rights will fundamentally change how you ride. Which is a good thing! You probably ride like a big, fat, slobbering apology, and it’s putting you in harm’s way! 

The first thing to know is that bicycles are classified as vehicles in the Ohio Revised Code (ORC)—just like cars, big rigs, motorcycles and scooters, tractors, RVs, Amish buggies and more.

OK, but so what?

Well, see, anyone who chooses to travel in road-legal vehicle, as defined by the ORC, has the exact same right to the road as anyone else. Period. Size and speed are irrelevant to the question of who can claim the most fundamental of all transportation-related rights: the right of way. In legalese, right of way is defined as:

“The right of a vehicle…to proceed uninterruptedly in a lawful manner in the direction in which it…is moving in preference to another vehicle…approaching from a different direction into its…path.”—Ohio Revised Code 4511.01

Translated, via analogy: Imagine yourself at a public water fountain. As long as you’re using it legally (not, say, poisoning the water supply), no one is allowed to tackle you in order to take their turn. Everyone must stand in line to wait until you’re done, regardless of how long it takes. They may have strong feelings about that, but regardless, assault is a no-no. Similarly, use of public roads is a case of first come, first served—which has some pretty radical implications for cyclists:

We cannot “impede traffic”.

The State of Ohio Court of Appeals ruled in State v Selz that requiring cyclists to travel at the speed of motor vehicle traffic would effectively ban them from public roadways, which is not what the law intends. This ruling is important because it affirms the idea that cyclists impeding traffic is nonsensical; we are traffic! Vehicle operators can’t be expected to maintain speeds faster than the inherent speed of the vehicle in/on which they’ve chosen to travel. And just as farm equipment can’t be expected to maintain a speed of 55mph, bicycles can’t be expected to maintain a consistent 25mph.

We do not have to “share the road”. 

“Share the road” is a horrible, terrible made-up phrase meant to help cyclists assert their right to a lane. But it is commonly misinterpreted by motorists to mean that cyclists should share our lane with (ahem, defer to) them. Again—size, speed and traffic volume are irrelevant when it comes to who’s got right of way, and nothing in the law requires us to yield to other traffic, for any reason apart from the usual (e.g., merging, stop signs, etc.). In fact, it can be extremely dangerous to do so!

We need not ride “as far right as possible”.  

The law says to ride “as far to the right as practicable, NOT “as far to the right as possible. The distinction is everything. To ride as far right as possible would keep cyclist forever in the rightmost lane, close enough to the curb and parked cars to clip them. But to ride as far right as practicable is to ride as far to the right as safe and reasonable for you. In fact, there are many reasons to avoid a far-right position on the road, and no one—not cops*, not judges, not fellow cyclists, not your mom, not crazed motorists—can dictate otherwise. We decide where we ride. Here again is the ORC:

This section does not require a person operating a bicycle to ride at the edge of the roadway when it is unreasonable or unsafe to do so. Conditions that may require riding away from the edge of the roadway include when necessary to avoid fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, surface hazards, or if it otherwise is unsafe or impracticable to do so, including if the lane is too narrow for the bicycle and an overtaking vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.—Ohio Revised Code 4511.55, Section C


As A cyclist, YOU can ride literally anywhere on the road, going any speed, regardless of traffic conditions.


At this point your mind very well may be blown. You may be thinking, “yeah well, that’s all fine and good but how does my theoretical right to the road translate into actual not getting killed?!” Or maybe, "That is THE! RUDEST!" Or, "Yeah, but I'm sure she's not accounting for...". Or perhaps you’re feeling empowered in a way you never have before.

Ironically, to the extent that cyclists can control safety outcomes vis-a-vis motor vehicle drivers, the safest way to ride is to assert your right to the road (indeed, it's downright dangerous not to). This is because excessively accommodating motor vehicle traffic renders a bicyclist invisible and unpredictable to drivers. It is therefore critical that you take a lane when necessary, refuse to yield when it’s not safe to do so and ride far enough from the curb that you can safely maneuver around hazards. It’s true that drivers may have all sorts of feels about that. But it’s not “rude” to exercise your right of way, to take up time and space on the road. It’s your right and you need to claim it—not for the sake of it or to be a jerk, of course, but to keep yourself safe! 


It tends to surprise people how much they can influence motorists’ behavior by exercising their right of way and riding visibly and predictably in the proper lane position. Join us on an educational ride to gain the confidence you need to assert your rights and stay safe out there! Yay Bikes! members ride free on our monthly How We Roll educational bike rides, but space is limited so register now!

In the meantime, for some easy reading, check out Bob Mionske's classic Bicycling and the Law: Your Rights as a Cyclist to learn ALLLLL the nuances of bike law.

*If you’re given a ticket for failure to yield, impeding traffic, being too far from the curb, etc.—be polite to the officer, but fight it in court. Because you will win.

Cyclists’ legal responsibilities

Following the rules of the road? Pure joy!

Following the rules of the road? Pure joy!

Around these parts we focus much more on cyclists' right to the road than their legal responsibilities. For one thing, cyclists are at higher risk for not fully appreciating and enacting their rights than they are for failing to uphold the law. For another, most Americans have learned to drive, and most of the rules for driving also apply when we ride. Nevertheless, there are some particulars you'll want to know to stay on the right side of the law and to stay safe. Below is a summary of the biggies outlined in the Ohio Revised Code's (ORC) Chapter 4511. Various local municipal codes tend to vary slightly from the ORC, so always check the code that applies in your 'hood. Now, then...

TRAFFIC FLOW: ORC 4511.55 Operating bicycles and motorcycles on roadway.

Cyclists riding on a roadway should ride as near to the right side of the road as practicable (not as far to the right as possible). We may travel two abreast but not more. 

PATHWAYS: ORC 4511.051 Freeways—prohibited acts., ORC 4511.07 Local traffic regulations.

Bicycles are permitted to ride on any roadway except freeways. Local authorities may further regulate where bicycles are allowed to operate—for example, some municipalities don’t permit sidewalk riding while others explicitly do—but they may not prohibit the use of bicycles on any public street or highway. 

EQUIPMENTORC 4511.56 Bicycle signal devices.

Lights: Bicycles operating in low light or inclement weather must be equipped with: 1) a front white light visible from at least 500’ to the front and 300’ to the sides (this light may also be on the cyclist), 2) a red reflector on the rear visible from 100–600’ when illuminated and 3) a steady or flashing red light visible from 500’ to the rear (which may be combined with the reflector). Red lights should not be used on the front and white lights should not be used on the rear of the bicycle. 

Sounds: Bells are fine; sirens and whistles not so much.

Brakes: Every bike must have a functioning brake (We’re lookin’ at you, Mr Fixie). 


Bicycle helmets are not mentioned within the ORC, but some local codes require their use for at least some members of the populace (e.g., children under age 18).  

YIELDING & OVERTAKINGORC 4511, many clauses.

No specific bicycle ordinance here, just do precisely as the motorist does—yield when turning left and to pedestrians, funeral processions, emergency vehicles, etc. Stop at red lights and stop signs. Overtake vehicles on the left, not the right. 

SIGNALINGORC 4511.39 Turn and stop signals.; ORC 4511.40 Hand and arm signals.

Cyclists are required to signal our intention to turn, change lanes OR stop (no, really!), with two exceptions: 1) when we are in a turn-only lane and 2) when we need both our hands on the handlebars to maintain our safety. Left turns should be signaled by extending the left arm horizontally, right turns by extending the left arm upward or right arm horizontally and stops by extending either arm downward. 

SHENANIGANS: ORC 4511.53 Operation of bicycles, motorcycles and snowmobiles, 4511.54 Prohibition against attaching bicycles and sleds to vehicles. 

Cyclists can’t operate a bike: 1) while carrying anything that prevents at least one hand from being on the handle bars, 2) with more than one person on it (unless the bicycle is equipped for that purpose, like a tandem) or 3) that is attached to another moving vehicle. Also, at least in the City of Columbus, it is unlawful to ride with headphones covering both ears. 

PENALTIESORC 4511.52 Bicycles—issuance of ticket—points not assessed.

Cyclists found to be violating any provision of traffic law may be ticketed and required to pay a fine and/or attend a bicycle safety course. With the exception of Operating a Vehicle Impaired (OVI) offenses, cyclists who commit traffic violations do not have points assessed against their driver’s license. 

So now you know! No excuses! :)

Riding Columbus' first protected bike lane

The City of Columbus celebrated the grand opening of a new protected bike lane on Summit Street December 3. Protected bike lanes are physically separated from traffic and the sidewalk. The protected bike lanes are part of an effort to add standard bike lanes to Summit Street between East 11th Avenue and I-670, and on North 4th Street between East Hudson Street and I-670. The project which began construction in October 2014 is the first of its kind in Central Ohio. Along the way, Yay Bikes! collaborated with the Department of Public Service to provide ongoing feedback to city engineers.

To complete the resurfacing and bike lanes project, ODOT will resurface both 3rd Street and 4th Streets between I-670 and East Fulton Street in the spring of 2016.  Following the resurfacing, the City of Columbus will install standard bike lanes on both streets between I-670 and East Fulton Street.

In addition to a greater sense of security for bicyclists who are less experienced in riding with traffic on the street, bike lanes result in motorists driving slower because roads seem narrower.  While there are many benefits to protected bike lanes included in our roads, the addition of bus bulbs, queue boxes and a new type of traffic provide an opportunity to highlight tips for traffic safety.


  • ­ Be alert for bicyclists and obey al traffic laws, signs and signals. ­
  • Do not park in the protected bike lane.
  • Park in the marked lane between the travel lane and the bike lane.
  • Cars parked in the bike lane are subject to ticketing. ­
  • Do not drive in the protected bike lane.
  • Motorists can make turns across the bike lane, but must yield to people riding bicycles in either direction. ­
  • Look both ways before turning across the bike lane.
  • Through bicyclists have the right-of-way at uncontrolled intersections, driveways and alleys. ­
  • Do not block the bike lane or turn box when waiting to turn onto Summit Street from a side street. ­
  • Do not block driveways when parking.
  • Under City Code, motor vehicles that block driveways are subject to ticketing and towing.


  • ­ Be alert for motorists, pedestrians, bicycle signs and signals and obey all traffic laws, signs ­.
  • Yield to pedestrians and wheelchair users who may be crossing the protected bike lane. ­
  • Be alert for turning vehicles when approaching uncontrolled intersections, driveways and alleys. ­
  • Stay to the right and allow faster bicyclists to pass safely.
  • Be alert for other bicyclists passing. ­
  • Before overtaking and passing a slower cyclist, look to be certain there are no oncoming cyclists from the opposite direction or pedestrians about to cross the protected bike lane.
  • Once you are certain there are no oncoming cyclists or pedestrians, give an audible signal by saying “on your left” to the slower cyclist in front of you before overtaking and passing them. ­
  • Be aware the bike lane may weave as it approaches intersections to make bicyclists more visible to motorists.
  • ­ Use caution when exiting the bike lane.
  • If crossing Summit Street, wait in the green turn boxes to wait until it is safe to proceed.


  • ­Be alert for motor vehicle and bicycle traffic.
  • Look both ways, watch and listen for bicyclists traveling from either direction before crossing the protected bike lane. ­
  • Always cross the street at a crosswalk. ­
  • Use caution when crossing the protected bike lane at other locations, such as when entering and exiting parked vehicles. ­
  • The protected bike lane is for bicycles only.
  • Use the sidewalk when walking along the street if it is practical. ­
  • Do not stand or wait in the protected bike lane.
  • Use the concrete island bus bulbs to wait for buses.

Columbus-area bike shops

Bike law across the region

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Explore bike law throughout the MORPC region by selecting or searching for "Traffic Code" upon clicking the buttons below . 

Dressing for weather

Shirley Droney, all geared up for a chilly Year of Yay! ride. 

Shirley Droney, all geared up for a chilly Year of Yay! ride. 

When considering how to ride comfortably though all of Ohio's wild weather, two truisms bear repeating—first: "There is no bad weather, only bad wardrobe," and second: "Layer, layer, layer".  But when it comes to the particulars of outfitting for rainy, snowy or just plain frigid rides, there are a couple schools of thought:


The minimalist view is expressed here and here, and by the following:

"When people ask me for tips on winter bicycling, I have very simple advice: Wear what you would have worn if you were going to walk outside in the winter. If it’s wet, throw on some water-proof pants on top of your regular pants, and that’s it. It’s very simple."

The argument from this camp is basically that people (i.e., marketers and hardcore cyclists) overcomplicate dressing for weather, causing the average person or fair-weather cyclist to balk at the expense of acquiring all the required gear, and/or the stigma of looking too much like a whack-a-doo. They claim that most weather-appropriate cycling gear is already in your closet, and that a trip to the thrift store for wool layers and the like should suffice to get you through most weather conditions—stylishly!

Cue photo of an adorable Dutch cyclist riding her sexy self through a whiteout:

Also, though not explicitly in any article I could find, this side of the aisle gives nod to the so-called "invisible cyclists" among us who ride all year long out of economic necessity, regardless of their ability to afford special gear. Clearly not everyone can afford the luxury of fabrics that wick!


There are dozens and hundreds and billions of helpful articles and buyer's guides out there by people who are all-in on cyclist-specific gear for weather. Here's their rebuttal to the minimalists:

"I'm not a fashion victim who's been gulled by marketers or taken for a ride by the bike shop sales staff. I'm a rational adult who is quite capable of making choices based on my own experience and on the advice of other cyclists. My winter cycling equipment and clothing have been evolving for several years, as I discover what works for me, in my particular climate—and more days than not, what works looks like the images [of cyclists in weather-specific gear] you point to with ridicule."

The argument here is pretty simple—the gear works. It was designed to work for cyclists riding in a specific set of circumstances, and it does. So if you want to ride in all conditions, these cyclists say, you will invest in a wardrobe that makes it possible. After all, no matter what you spend it's still cheaper than driving!


We at Yay Bikes! tend to be a practical bunch, and accommodating of all styles on the spectrum of "gear-full" to gear-free. If it works for you? Great! There are posts here and here that reflect that 'tude, and you should check them out.

Bottom line? Our best advice, in a nutshell?

Regardless of whether you're going for style, function or both: employ extreme measures to protect your extremities! If your hands or feet are cold (and they will be), your ride will be misery.

But of course we always encourage you to make your own informed decisions—by actually riding your actual bike in actual real-word conditions alongside actual cycling friends. We invite you to join us and learn first-hand the tricks that will allow you to go from a fair- to an all-weather cyclist! Our Year of Yay! rides occur on the second Saturday of every month, so together we experience the full spectrum of Ohio weather. Case in point:

We ride in ALL weather!

We ride in ALL weather!

Good luck out there, friends, whatever you wear! May this be the year you tackle Nov–May!

Oh, and for some additional reading pleasure, see our article on Columbus Underground for some winter riding tips.

Planning for contingencies

Updated Nov 2017

Practicing using the bike and bus racks on the May 2015 Year of Yay ride.

Practicing using the bike and bus racks on the May 2015 Year of Yay ride.

A common refrain among those who exclusively drive to work is that they need access to their vehicle in case of emergency. But several local services—and a touch of gumption—can help you handle the unexpected when your car isn't available. Employ several of the following strategies to put your mind at ease and fully embrace a bicycle commute!


AAA Ohio

AAA now offers a Bicycle Breakdown Service as part of their regular membership program! AAA Members can receive a free tow when breakdowns disrupt their ride.  

Emergency Ride Home / Taxis

MORPC's Emergency Ride Home program allows anyone who carpools or vanpools, walks, bikes or rides the bus to work a 100% taxi fair (including tip) in the event of unexpected overtime, personal illness or family emergency. Register for free in advance using the link above and use the service up to 4x per year!   

Otherwise, there's always Uber and Lyft, of course. 

Bike & Bus

What it lacks in speed, COTA's Bike & Bus service makes up for in safety and reliability. Buses are there for you in terrible weather and when you need to extend an almost-but-not-quite bikeable journey. 

Car share

car2go service area

car2go service area

car2go, Columbus’s car share program, offers a lifeline for the active commuters who roam within a few miles of downtown. Become a member by paying a onetime signup fee and get 24/7 access to smart cars located throughout the city for just a few cents per minute! You can use car2go to go anywhere you like, as long as you end your trip in a designated "home zone" parking spot.


People who like you and know what you're up to in life are usually thrilled for an occasion to help when you hit a snag. (No really, they are!) So, to help them help you: think through the circumstances that would require you to get somewhere quickly—it's probably a shorter list than you were expecting—and, before anything goes awry, draft "Team You". Present each team member with what could be asked of them, in what circumstances, and have them commit (or not) to doing That Thing You Might But Probably Won't Need. Create redundancy on your team by having 2 or even 3 people willing/able to give you a ride, pick up your kids, stay late or leave early, etc. After a commitment has been made, check in periodically to find out if anyone's circumstances have changed, and to notify them if yours have.


If your place of employment has a Wellness Committee, propose that they coordinate an informal network of colleagues willing to support others' active commutes by being emergency contacts. This could be a simple project that launches a wider conversation in your workplace about how to be bike friendly!


It may not be a "plan" to rely on the generosity of your acquaintances, per se, but in a pinch it's possible that a desperate plea will yield fast results from someone you half forgot existed. It's worth keeping social media in your bag of tricks for dealing with unfortunate surprises.


Join us to become part of a community of cyclists doing our best to manage our crazy bike lives, and sharing what we learn with others.

Recovering a stolen bicycle

Lock it up, even in a garage!

Lock it up, even in a garage!

While the chance of recovering a stolen bike is slim, it’s not as unlikely as you might think. Here are the strategies we suggest for getting it back:


It is challenging to (lawfully) retrieve a stolen bicycle, even one you know is yours, without having the serial number that proves you owned it. Write this number down, snap some pictures of your bike and stash both away (i.e., EMAIL IT TO YOURSELF)  in case of unfortunate circumstances such as this. Do it NOW! If you’re in Columbus, you can also store this information online through the Bug Your Bike service, which also provides a free RFID chip for your bike that City of Columbus, OSU and COTA officials can scan to help reunite it with you. If it’s already too late for you, check with the shop where you bought the bike to see if they have a record of it; your purchase receipt may also help.

On left: bike before theft. On right: bike after theft.  

On left: bike before theft. On right: bike after theft.  


Report the thefts of your bike to the police using their online system. They likely won't find it, but if anyone else does, you'll want that police report on file. If you do locate your bike, call the police to escort you as you attempt to retrieve it. The internet is replete with stories of people who pretend to buy their stolen bikes only to sprint away on them, but this is a very dangerous practice and not recommended. After your report is filed, call the police recovery room monthly for up to three months (when all bikes in their possession are auctioned). It's always possible your bike has been recovered without having its serial number run against the database of those stolen.


Post a photo and details of the theft on the Bike Snoop Facebook group page, members of which keep their eyes peeled for stolen bikes. Group moderator John Robinson also happens to be a great local resource for the poor souls who’ve had their bikes stolen!


Post a photo and your story on your personal Facebook page and other social media, as well. It's not unrealistic to imagine that a distant connection might happen upon your bike out there in the wild. It's happened before.


Watch craigslist, for Columbus and surrounding areas. If you see your bike for sale, contact the seller right away with a neutral offer to buy at the listed price. If you have proof of ownership, request a police escort to help you recover the bike. If you cannot prove ownership, consider simply paying out of pocket for the bike. Whatever you do, never attempt to steal the bike back! And don't post that your bike has been stolen—that's a sure way to prevent thieves from posting it for sale.


Sad to say, but many second hand shops continue to pay out of pocket for bikes, turning a blind eye to red flags that they’re stolen goods. Check and recheck ReTAGit (multiple locations), Dandy Bikes in the OSU area and pawn shops (Deal Breakers, in particular) for your bike. Second hand shops along a COTA line are especially likely to peddle (ha...) stolen bicycles. If you're lovely about it, shop owners who can put a human face to bike theft might even alert you if they see your bike come in. But be prepared to recoup them what they spent acquiring your bike—it's unfair, yes, but at least you’ll get it back.

A special note about an exceptional shop—Joe Kitchen, owner of Once Ridden Bikes in Clintonville, hates bike theft. Anyone who sells to him has to allow him to make a copy of their driver’s license, and if he finds out he has purchased a stolen bike he will not only help the owner recover it, he will testify in court against the thief. If Joe suspects a bike of being stolen, he’ll do his best to hold the seller there while he calls you and/or the police.  If only all shops had such integrity.


The Bike Snoop recommends this page to help you prevent future losses, or at least better handle the fallout. Also, don't forget to look for our bike corrals at community events, where a fence and team of dedicated volunteers keep your bike safe from thieves!


When someone takes the bike of a friend, it’s personal. Join our community, make lots of friends and boost the number of eyes watching out for ya. You never know who might be the one to recover your faithful steed.

Planning a route

Updated July 2018

Would that route selection were always so easy...

Would that route selection were always so easy...

Whether you’re headed to work or the grocery store, your goal is to plan a route that maximizes both safety and sanity. To that end, here are some strategies we suggest:


Assuming you had the knowledge and confidence to ride any street, which features would you prioritize? Some cyclists prefer the most direct path, while others are more sensitive to factors including traffic volume and speed, terrain, presence of bicycle infrastructure, levels of (or perceived levels of) neighborhood crime and more. Sometimes the same cyclist will prioritize different features on different days, depending on how they feel! So, not to leap straight from “planning a route” to “planning multiple routes in both directions”, BUT if you can find not one but several routes to/from your destination you’ll have options when it comes time to hop on the bike.


Maps don't account for your personal preferences, of course, nor do they note factors such as construction detours; they should be considered more a starting point than the final word. There are numerous options for mapping a route online and in the app store, but the best for transportation cycling remains trusty ‘ole Google Maps. Select the bike icon, type in your start/end points—remembering to route the reverse trip as well—and you will be given several good route possibilities. In Franklin County, we are also fortunate to have the Columbus Metro Bike Map, designed by MORPC with input from local cyclists. The map color codes roadways by their "Level of Comfort"—green, yellow or red—and identifies CoGo Bike Share stations, trail heads, COTA Park & Ride locations and more. 


If all the routes available to you seem impossible, it may be time to expand your notion of an accessible road. Because when you know the rules and how to safely negotiate traffic by bike, many routes you thought impossible suddenly aren’t. You’ll be amazed at the roads you can ride comfortably when you know what you’re doing! Each month, Yay Bikes! offers our educational How We Roll rides for FREE to members, and we encourage you to check them out. 


Cyclists have at their immediate recall all the thousands of miles they’ve ridden, including all the hazards and workarounds they’ve discovered. Also, they are typically keen on sharing (and sharing and sharing… ;) their knowledge, so you’ll quickly be able to access all sorts of golden nuggets. Join the conversation on our Facebook page or, even better, join us on a Year of Yay! ride to soak up our collective expertise!


It may make sense to drive a route before you bike it—especially if you’re making a relatively high stakes trip, like a work commute. But driving and bicycling couldn't be more different experiences, so don't be discouraged by how you imagine it will feel from within your car. Invite someone with experience riding similar roads to join you the first time, as it will be more fun and they'll likely have lots of good advice. If you plan to travel during times when the car volume will be high, practice your chosen route on a weekend, or perhaps mid-day. Even if you can’t mimic the precise conditions you’ll encounter on a your “real” ride, you’ll feel more at ease having practiced it.


In Central Ohio there are a surprising number resources available to support you when it’s too __(hot, wet, tired....fill in the blank...)__ to ride all the way—like MORPC’s Park & Pedal locations, COTA’s Bike & Bus program or Zipcar’s car share program (perfect to pair with a folding bike!). It is likely possible for you to bike at least part of your way to a destination, no matter how far away or how challenging the traffic conditions. Many of these resources can do double duty to save your *ss in an emergency, as well! 


You will not sacrifice any mythical hardcore cyclist street cred by choosing less trafficked streets or meandering bike paths, or EVEN by driving/ bussing part of the way and biking the rest. Explore potential routes casually by bike and choose the one(s) that make the most sense given your level of skill, comfort in traffic and daily logistics. We at Yay Bikes! are happy to help—it's kinda literally what we do—so join us and jump in!