Bother to Bike

Things to remember as you get psyched to bike.  

by Caroline Miller

As you’re breaking out your short-shorts in this early-spring sun, perhaps it’s time to dig out another fair-weather item: the bike. Those breaks are itching to be tightened and the gears are ready to be cranked. Even if your bike has collected dust for years, it’s not too late – pump up those tires and give biking another chance.  Here are some things to keep in mind as you hit the streets this season.

Rules of the Road
Your bike isn’t the only thing that needs maintenance; be sure to tune up your bike etiquette as well.  Though it doesn’t have an engine or a radio, a bicycle is a vehicle. Therefore, when you’re on the road, you must obey the same laws as a car. Turn signals, lights, and obeying stop signs are not optional. It’s important to use hand signals when turning, so your hands must be free, not texting or taking selfies. To signal a left turn, extend your left arm straight out to the side.  For a right turn, use the same arm, but bend at the elbow and extend your hand upward. At four-way stops and uncontrolled intersections, you must wait your turn – cars may signal you to proceed, but don’t assume you have the right of way.

It’s important to keep in mind that by Montana state law, you must always be on the road; it’s illegal to bike on sidewalks.  When in dual-use areas (such as the Gallagator Trail), stay to the right, and when you pass someone, give a shout and let them know you’re there – this is not only courteous, but required by law. Montana law also requires a light when biking at night. This means a front lamp visible and a rear reflector, each visible at 500 feet.

A demonstration of the above signal rule.  It's not rocket science.

A demonstration of the above signal rule. It’s not rocket science.

Safety First
So what can you do to be safe? It starts with respect. Respect other drivers and make sure you are following the aforementioned laws. You are not entitled to the whole road just because you have the agility to dart in and out of people. Keep in mind, Bozeman police can issue citations for using your phone when biking. When you do make it to your destination, park in a bicycle rack (MSU may impound your bike if it’s locked to anything else). Later, when you head home, make sure you have a headlamp or flashlight. Make sure you register your bike with the City of Bozeman or University Police – should your bike get stolen, they can get it back to you promptly if recovered.  And wear a helmet, people, accidents happen.

A simple way to get your bike impounded on campus.

Why Yearn the Burn?
So if you don’t bike, why should you? Besides the health benefits – your calves will get yolked in just a few short weeks, and your lungs will thank you for the extra fresh air – there are many other advantages to biking. First, it’s an excellent way to relieve stress after a long day at school or work. Second, you reduce your carbon footprint. Third, biking can be faster than driving. As fun as it is to do laps around MSU parking lots, biking can get you to class or around town in a comparable amount of time. Lastly, you can spice up your daily commute by adding a leg on the trail – Bozeman is surrounded with bike trails also. (Mountain biking is yet another reason; click here for info on that.)

Score better parking than you’ll find in the SB lot.

Deals on Wheels
If you’re bike-less and don’t know how to get the tires spinning, there’s a variety of shops ready to sell you a fresh set of wheels. The Gallatin Valley Bike Club sponsors the Bike Swap in mid-April, where you can purchase a previously-loved bike from a fellow Bozemanite. University Police also holds an annual bike sale in where you can purchase a bike that has been impounded (so make sure you register your bike). If you want to clean up that bike that’s been sitting in your parent’s garage for 15 years, head to the Bozeman Bike Kitchen, where you can learn the necessary tips & tricks. Outdoor Rec at MSU also helps students learn bicycle maintenance. If you have the know-how already, just head down and borrow their tools.

One of Bozeman's many shops that will buy, sell, or fix up your ride: The Bike Peddler

One of the many shops that will buy, sell, or fix up your ride: the Bike Peddler, near Oak & Rouse.