Henry Raess lives on the West Side and rides one of his three bikes weekdays to and from work on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Usually, he hops aboard his Surly Cross-Check all-purpose bike. Sometimes, it’s his road bike. On winter days, it’s a Huffy mountain bike.
“A lot of people bike just for fun,” said Raess, 33, event manager with the nonprofit advocacy group GObike Buffalo. “A lot of people do it to get to or from work or school ... and there’s some people who are doing it because it burns calories and it’s a fun way to get around.”
Biking opportunities in Greater Buffalo have never been better, Raess said, but it’s important to keep your bike in good shape and follow safety rules:
Q. How important is a bike tune-up at the beginning of the season and what’s the best way to approach that?
If you’re not familiar with your bike at all, you can take it to your local bike shop. That might cost you between $40 and $60 on average, which is not so bad if you’re doing it once a year.
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It’s a good idea for safety and convenience, for being able to learn how to ride without any hassle. Knowing a bit about your bike is a good thing, especially the ABC quick check, so you can go over and make sure the primary components are working OK, nothing’s rubbing against your break pads, everything is functioning relatively smoothly.
The ABC quick check goes like this: A is for air in the tires, making sure you know how to properly inflate the tires. How much they should be inflated is written on the side of almost all tires. B is for brakes, making sure your tires are spinning smoothly without rubbing against anything, and that the breaks are working smoothly and it isn’t taking you too long to stop the bike. C generally stands for crank or chain or something related to the chain rings, Making sure your chain is lubed, the gears are changing all right, that nothing is too clanky or getting stuck. You want to do the check before you head out on a ride.
Q. What does a bike shop normally do in terms of a tune-up?
There’s usually a few different levels of service. One is tweaking things, making minor adjustments to make sure everything is working smoothly. They can go all the way up to an overhaul, which is taking things apart and re-greasing them. That’s kind of a rebuild of the bike. Maybe the bike has been neglected for a long time and you want to make sure you get it back up to par.
Q. Is a minor fix something you can do at home or in your Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday Community Bike Workshop?
Yeah. Something like an overhaul requires time and tools and a lot of knowledge of the bike but doing a simple tune-up at the beginning of the season isn’t too difficult if you know a little bit about bikes. Things like lubing up brake cables and chains, and tightening brake cables are ideally things everybody would know how to do themselves. That’s something people can learn how to do at our community shop. (For hours, see gobikebuffalo.org)
Q. How much does it cost to become a member of GObike Buffalo?
It’s $35 for an annual membership for one person. We have student rates for slightly less and family and household membership for $60 that would give you two adults and up to two children. You can register on the website.
Q. Should everyone learn how to change a flat bike tire? How hard is it?
Unequivocally yes. It’s not that hard to do. It only requires some really basic tools you can put in your pocket or backpack, like tire levers and a patch kit. If you know what you’re doing, you can do it in as little as 5 or 6 minutes, and even if you’re not the best at it, it would still only take 10 or 15 minutes. The best way to learn is asking someone who knows to teach you how to do that – to spend an hour doing a couple practice runs – or you could come to our community bike shop either during our opening hours or we also sell day passes, for people who want to come and work for a day, or we also have classes that rotate. One of our rotating classes is “How to Fix a Flat.”
Q. For the serious biker, where should they look for a group ride?
The Niagara Frontier Bike Club. They do rides every single day from about May through September or October. ... Most tiers are medium to advanced. Most rides to at least 30 miles and get out of the city or on the fringes.
Campus WheelWorks has four tiers, including some for Lycra-wearing high enders, and the “ice cream group. All of our GObike Buffalo events are easy to intermediate. We don’t really do to much at advance level. We want to make sure it’s successful and family friendly for most of our events.”
Q. Talk about key rules of the road.
It is the law, and also from a safety perspective important, that you ride your bike with the flow of traffic. That’s something I really want to stress. There are many people who feel safer (facing traffic) because they can see traffic or believe it’s the safest way to do it, but depending on what data you look at, you’re about seven times more likely to get in an accident at an intersection when you’re going the wrong way. ... Traffic isn’t looking for you when you’re in an intersection and you’re going the wrong way.
Other than that, bicyclists are supposed to follow all the rules of the road. Being alert for a driver or other bicyclists are important. Helmets are required for our events.
Q. Do you have favorite spots to bike?
I ride the bike all the time just to get around the city. I like riding a bike anywhere, really. We have a lot of really nice waterfront paths that are really easy and convenient. They’re off road, well paved, fairly well maintained. You can ride for miles on the Outer Harbor. In terms of what’s in the city, all the routes that have bike lanes or bike paths are pretty good and the waterfront is really great.
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