by Lucy Schiller

Buying a bike sets you up not just with a fantastic, economical, healthy way of transportation, but with a ton of resources here in SF. From free rides to bike education, the opportunities abound. Consider this brief primer a diving board into owning and using a bike in San Francisco. Wheels up!

Free Rides
Shopping for a steed means test-riding a lot of different types of bicycles, if you’re doing it right. Pretty much every bike shop in town will let you take one of their gleaming stallions out for a spin. Even if you’re not buying new, trying out a slick, well-oiled specimen doesn’t hurt. It’s probably a good idea, actually, to get a feel for what you’re looking for and what’s out there. Mission Bicycle Company and Public Bikes both pride themselves on their test rides.

Free Air
Ah, the insidious flaccid tire. Nothing (short of a fully flat tire, Critical Mass, or the decision to lug construction materials/Halloween costume swag/a Thanksgiving turkey on the back of your rig) will slow you down more. Luckily, air is everywhere. Many a bike shop will have a pump stationed out in front for the community’s use. Don’t be tempted by gas stations (though why would you be? There are more bike shops in town than fuel spots) and their air; it’s hard to calibrate and you run the risk of blowing out your tube altogether. Everybody Bikes, San Francyclo, Performance Bikes, and a bunch of other places have outstanding pumps. Get it? Out…standing? Outstanding on the sidewalk?

Look no further. SF Bicycle Coalition, a behemoth of bike advocacy, holds a ton of classes on urban cycling, publishes guides to city biking, and even offers insanely helpful maps detailing how best to avoid our serious hills. A lot of these resources are free; a $35 membership gets you inside deals and helps support a lot of really important work.

You have joined the ranks of a huge and dynamic community. The party-hardy can enjoy nighttime rides a la Bike Party, Midnight Mystery , or Critical Mass (you know, that kinda big-seeming get-together a few weeks ago). The daytimers can learn to wield tools and build community as much as bikes at the Bike Kitchen (lessons in bike maintenance, repair, and use are also abundance at BK). For the mid-evening carousers, Velo Rouge and Mojo are bike-centered cafés who know how to carboload in style: big steaming piles of hashbrowns and icy-cold beer.

Lucy Schiller is a writer and barista working in San Francisco.