liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
[personal profile] liv
So, practical advice sought:

A] Does anyone have any experience of making voice recordings? Podfics or reading poetry aloud to share digitally, that kind of thing? It doesn't need to be professional level or even close, but it needs to be good enough quality that the words can be heard relatively clearly. Ideally I don't want to buy a lot of equipment or spend hours doing audio processing, but I'm not sure what the minimum set-up is to achieve this. I mean, my computer has a reasonable basic mic which is good enough for things like voice calls. And I know a lot of my students use their smartphones to record tutorials and so on, and apparently that's good enough to be a revision aid. So I imagine this should be possible without major investment, but I don't know where to start.

Software recommendations especially appreciated! My desktop is Windows and my phone is Android, and my netbook is going to be Linux eventually but that's a topic for another day.

B] I'm in the process of buying a bike. I've talked to Colin at University Cycles, and he's super helpful and has offered to lend us a couple of bikes at the weekend so I can try them out. What should I be looking out for when I try the bikes? What questions should I be asking? Also, what equipment do I need? I'm thinking lights obviously, panniers, and a lock, presumably a D-lock. Anything else?

I don't expect to become a serious cyclist any time soon. I'm intending to use the bike just to potter about Cambridge, so if I can go slightly faster and with slightly less effort than walking, that's about all I'm after. One of the suggestions Colin made was a Dutch bike, which he said was solidly built and easy to maintain; definitely those features are more important to me than speed or being fantastically light or suitability for difficult off-road trails. I'm approximately convinced by the argument that cycle helmets aren't a good trade-off.

I'm not quite sure how best to judge the price point for a new bike. I would rather buy a second-hand, good quality bike than a cheap rubbish new one, but I'm not sure how much of a premium there actually is on new bikes; I suspect most people feel like me. And I'm certainly willing to pay a bit more upfront for a bike that is easy and pleasant for me to use. But equally, if it does happen that the bike becomes my major means of transport or I get excited about long distance rides, I can always sell my starter bike and buy something more specialist; I don't want to buy a very fancy vehicle off the bat though.

I'm probably not going to be a very self-sufficient sort of bike owner; I'll most likely take the bike to the shop for anything more complicated than a puncture. I do appreciate that there's no such thing as a magic, entropy-violating machine that keeps going forever with no effort, I just don't want to make bike maintenance my major hobby.

I know there was something else too, but it's gone out of my mind. Anyway, please express opinions!

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Date: 2015-09-25 11:01 am (UTC)
simont: (Default)
From: [personal profile] simont
A few months ago I needed to record a few voice clips of myself. I didn't get good results from any microphone I already had, but I bought a basic USB headset (Logitech PC 960, for £20-odd) and that seems to work fine.

As it happens the voice clips in question are only for my own use (they're part of a script which organises my exercise routine by shouting at me when I need to change over to the next thing I do), but I'd have no hesitation in using the same recording setup for something other people were going to hear :-)

For the software side, I'm currently using Audacity. (On Linux, though if I remember rightly it runs on all sorts of platforms.) That suits my use case well because it makes it easy to record each voice clip several times, play them all back, cut out the one I liked best, gain-adjust it to the right volume and save just that part as a wav file. I suppose if I were going to do any kind of longer thing, I'd probably need to automate that lot a little better.
Edited (oh yeah, you asked about software too) Date: 2015-09-25 11:04 am (UTC)

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Date: 2015-09-25 11:08 am (UTC)
lethargic_man: (computer geekery)
From: [personal profile] lethargic_man
Audacity is indeed all you ([personal profile] liv) need, if your microphone is of decent quality (which is easily assessed), for either Linux or Windows.

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Date: 2015-09-25 11:13 am (UTC)
lethargic_man: (bike)
From: [personal profile] lethargic_man
Also, what equipment do I need? I'm thinking lights obviously, panniers, and a lock, presumably a D-lock. Anything else?

Mudguards; some bikes come without. Hand-pump and repair kit. Make sure it's got reflectors if it's second-hand. Also, I recommend something hi-vis if you're going to be cycling at night, e.g. jacket or bandolier.

I'm approximately convinced by the argument that cycle helmets aren't a good trade-off.

Pshaw; Mayer Hillman's arguments cease to be valid the moment an idiot pedestrian steps out onto the road without looking and you come off and smash your head backward onto the road; or when you cycle past a street-cleaner just as the wind catches a bin-bag in his hand and inflates it so it snags your handlebars and tips you off your bike sideways (both things that have happened to me).

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Date: 2015-09-25 11:35 am (UTC)
starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)
From: [personal profile] starlady
I would second the recommendation for Audacity as the editing program--it's full featured, fairly intuitive, and has a decent online help platform. Also, second the recommendation to use some kind of external mike; the one rec'd above sounds fine, and if you're not going to be using it heavily, you certainly don't want to go much above that price point. Equally to the point, the quality jump from in-device microphone (shudder) to cheap external headset/microphone is huge and well worth spending a small amount of money.

I use my bike for shopping and commuting and I would recommend what's called a hybrid, i.e. in between a road bike (thin tires) and a mountain bike (thick tires). You may also want to get a step-through frame, which makes it easier to wear things like skirts while biking as you don't have to swing your legs all the way up and over the seat. It's what I have. Lights, panniers (I actually only have one, but also technically this means getting a rack put on the bike to attach the pannier to), and locks--bike theft is terrible in the Bay Area, I use both a loop lock and a D-lock, ask the shop people to show you how--are essential, as is a helmet. I can't say this enough; I was doored by a car (in a bike lane, on a designated bike road) and was knocked unconscious, had to get 13 stitches, but I was basically fine--no concussion, even--because I was wearing a helmet. It was broken, of course, by the impact with the road and if I hadn't been wearing it I'd be brain damaged or dead.

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Date: 2015-09-25 11:38 am (UTC)
wychwood: chess queen against a runestone (Default)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
a) Definitely definitely audacity, as everyone else has said.

b) Re: your comment below: pump is worth having one each because you ideally want to have a pump on you while you are out and about - if you get a slow puncture or just realise that you're a bit flat, you can fix things on the go. And they're so cheap that there's no real benefit to not having one each. Repair kits depend more on whether you would eg fix a puncture while out - I wouldn't, so it's not really worth carrying one around.

Gloves are very useful - I almost never wear them normally, but my hands get cold on the handlebars in all the wind. Also, if your chain falls off it's easily fixed but messy - get oil all over your gloves instead of your hands, that's my vote.

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Date: 2015-09-25 11:54 am (UTC)
lethargic_man: (bike)
From: [personal profile] lethargic_man
Repair kits depend more on whether you would eg fix a puncture while out - I wouldn't, so it's not really worth carrying one around.

I used not to, but if you get a puncture en route, it's a major nuisance having to continue your journey by other means and go back and collect the bike later. If you repair it on the spot, it's ten minutes out of your time (probably a bit more if you've not done it much before, maybe less if you use self-adhesive patches rather than vulcanising rubber glue), and that's it, you're back on the road, almost on schedule, and the issue is in the past.

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Date: 2015-09-25 11:56 am (UTC)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatam_soferet
Yes, mudguards! Otherwise you can't really go anywhere if it's even a little bit wet, which is idiotic. Also chain guards are useful if you're riding in skirts a lot, they add that bit of extra protection against getting your hem caught in the chain.

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Date: 2015-09-25 12:09 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
What do you want to record?

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Date: 2015-09-25 12:13 pm (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
There may not be a magic, entropy violating machine, but bikes come pretty damn close. They don't need much maintenance if they are set up right in the first place.

I have no advice for you because I'm in the US and you're not, so I have no ideas what brands are available to you, or what prices are like over there, but ENJOY.

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Date: 2015-09-25 12:19 pm (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
Bike fixing> If you don't want to do bike maintenance then most bike maintenance kit would be entirely wasted on you. A good track pump makes putting air in flat tyres easy, and might mean being able to ride it to the bike shop for further fixing so is probably worth it. Some spare inner tubes and tyre leavers (to get the tyre off) can be really handy if you are riding a long way from any bike shops, but if you are just going to be in Cambridge then there's little point.

Bike locks> D locks are better locks, but they are also REALLY ANNOYING because they don't fit round lamp posts or trees or other improvised bike stands. Also the good ones are very expensive. For me the trade off is that my cheaper bike gets a sturdy chain lock that goes round more things whilst the expensive bike gets a D-lock that cost more than many bikes (it was a condition of the insurance, I don't think I'd have gone with it otherwise).

Dutch bikes> the downside is weight. But Cambridge is flat. They are sturdy and reliable. And I quite like mine, except for the heavyness. Mine was about 150 from Colin second hand (a decade ago), although I went on to improve it with more gears and my preferred saddle (NB - saddles are very easy to change, if you find a nice bike with a horrid saddle then you can fix this by changing the saddle).

Bike accessories> some way of attaching luggage-to-bike is vital. Panniers are good, I also like baskets; although baskets do really change the handling of the bike. Many Dutch-type bikes come with dynamo lights, these have the advantage of never needing charging and remaining on the bike rather than getting lost. Chain guards, and especially fully enclosed chain cases are *brilliant* for avoiding getting clothes caught in the chain.

You should certainly take up the offer of an extended test ride; it's only by actually using a bike that you get a real idea of whether it is right *for you* - is it the right size for instance?

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Date: 2015-09-25 07:18 pm (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
Oh, and apparently we're having anecdote central on the sodding helmet debate so I'll add mine - I am *queen* of falling off my bike (multiple times most years). I don't even need the provocation of "pedestrian stepped out almost on top of me", I can fall off just trying to stop in the regular way... (I have done this stone sober) although "evading speeding bus" was the most dramatic unplanned dismount. I have fallen over running (my own feet hate me), down stairs, off punts, and whilst walking (OK, that was drunk, in stupid shoes). I have sprained ankles and grazed knees and ruined the elbow of my leather jacket. Were I less blessed in the bone-density department I would likely (as at least two friends have done) broken my wrist, arm, ankle or even hip...

I have *never* fallen on my head. Not even the time I rode my bike *up a wall* (I was a small child and stupid) or the time I tried to do a wheely on a speed hump and flipped the bike. I honestly don't understand how people are falling and hitting their heads in low speed falling off incidents (when hit by a car at 30mph and one has rather less time to think) and mostly conclude that either helmet-wearing destroys one's sense of how one's body is positioned and moving in the world or that I am unusually good at falling (practice helps?).

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Date: 2015-09-25 12:37 pm (UTC)
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
From: [personal profile] lavendersparkle
I suggest that for cycling about Cambridge, particularly if you're planning to cycle in skirts, a full chain guard and a skirt guard are very much worth it.

I bought my bicycle secondhand from Ebay. It was less than 50% of the price if it had been new. My feeling is that there is a time, cost, specificity trade off when buying bikes. Lots of people will pay a premium not to have to spend a month searching Gumtree for a suitable bike.

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Date: 2015-09-25 01:06 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] josiahd
I've had decent results with Audacity for recordings.

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Date: 2015-09-25 01:49 pm (UTC)
emperor: (Default)
From: [personal profile] emperor
Things you definitely want that aren't in your list - mudguards.

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Date: 2015-09-25 03:40 pm (UTC)
ceb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceb
I highly recommend Dutch bikes for your use case, though if you get a bike from Colin it will be reasonably-priced whatever it is; he's surprisingly hard to give money to.

Things that I find greatly reduce maintainance faff or otherwise make life easier, in rough order of cost:

* mudguards (you probably don't want the sort of bike that comes without as it will be either the wrong sort of bike for Cambridge or very cheap & nasty)

* a chain guard means you don't have to carry cycle clips around and don't have to worry about leaving your bike out in the rain where the chain will rust (Dutch bikes will have these)

* a skirt guard if you plan on cycling in long skirts or flappy coats. Again, Dutch bikes will have these.

* a dynamo with lights permanently attached to the bike (so you don't have to worry about batteries/carrying lights around) - these come in two sorts, hub (more expensive and make taking the wheel off a bit more faff, but super reliable) and bottle (cheaper but more likely to go wrong). You're less likely to get this already on the bike unless it's expensive, but they can be retro-fitted and you know lots of people who can do that for you.

* hub brakes and gears - Dutch bikes will probably have these. They reduce maintainance faff and leaving-it-out-in-the-rain pain at the cost of making it faffier to take your wheel off, but particularly in the case of hub brakes they're much easier to get safely aligned than rim brakes.

Remember when you're test-riding that saddle height is very easy to change, and Colin will happily swap the handlebars for ones of a different shape if you find the ones on the bike awkward (lots of Dutch bikes have very swept-back ones which I find uncomfortable).

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Date: 2015-09-25 03:46 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
Haven't read other comments, pldase forgive repetition:

Mudguards and a skirt guard keep clothes clean and stop long skirts getting caught in your wheel.

A fully-enclosed chain stops clothes getting caught in the chain and also means the chain needs much less maintrnance. It also means you need to have hub gears (if you have gears at all). You may not want gears in Cambridge but if you do I think 3 should suffice. They're quite helpful on hills or in a strong headwind.

I like having a front hub dynamo which runs a very bright front and back light. This is expensive but means I am never caught without batteries in my lights. (I use battery lights also, partly because belt-and-braces, partly for better total visibility).

I wear a helmet that looks like a hat. This means I don't suffer as much from the "she has a helmet, I can pass v close" problem, but if I get squished by a lorry nobody will tell my grieving family I should have worn a helmet. Bandbox and Yakkay are two brands that sell helmets with various different covers. Neither are cheap.

I have never fallen off my Dutch bike and accept that in injury terms the helmet is probably extraneous.

For a "just get on and go" bicycle I think it's hard to do better than an upright Dutch-style bike. They are not light and therefore not very fast, but they're pretty reliable, and with the right panniers can carry a week's worth of shopping. Thry'd be fine for things like a day trip out to Wicken Fen for a picnic, too.

Your bike needs to be harder to steal than the other bikes. Using two kinds of lock helps.

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Date: 2015-09-25 06:47 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
OK, having read the other replies:

-not all bicycle pumps will inflate all inner tubes. The two most common valve types are Schraeder and Praesta; a good track pump can cope with either of these. I usually try to pick one and stick with it because I always lose the adapter for my portable pump.

-I agree that it's worth spending money on puncture-proof tyres, especially on the back wheel, especially if you have a type of bicycle where removing the back wheel is a significant faff.

-I actually really love coaster brakes (pedal backward to stop: will fail if a) the chain breaks or b) you spend so long going downhill that it overheats and the metal deforms), but YMMV.

Lots of this is down to preference, so it is definitely worth spending time testing any bicycle you might buy.

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Date: 2015-09-25 03:48 pm (UTC)
ewx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ewx
Based on my experiences:

Consider USB-charged bike lights. Makes recharging very convenient.

Consider puncture-resistant tires. They're not 100% indestructible but they do help.

Consider cartridge brakes, if not immediately then the first time you replace your brakes. Replacing brakes is one of the easier maintenance tasks; or at least, it causes me a lot less swearing than puncture repair does.

Keep a spare inner tube around. It's quicker to swap inner tubes than to repair a puncture. (I'm bad at the bit where you repair the punctured inner tube at your leisure though!) Some people just keep whole wheels ready to swap in...

Make sure you actually know how to pump up tires in advance of having to do so. A colleague spent several minutes pumping vigorously at a closed valve not so long ago.

Figure out strategies for not leaving things like lock and lights at home (or anywhere else), and for ensuring lights stay charged (if you don't use a dynamo). For me the danger points where the lock leaves the bike but doesn't always come back are repair and maintenance activities.

Panniers are MUCH more pleasant than backpacks, but you don't have to decide between the two: you can get convertible backpack/panniers, ideal for multimodal journeys.

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Date: 2015-09-25 04:08 pm (UTC)
green_knight: (Bike)
From: [personal profile] green_knight
I have a Ridgeback Comet bike (I don't think they make that precise model anymore), which cost around £300 and it's the damn nicest bike I've ever ridden. It's a hybrid (equally light and sturdy) and I love it to bits. (Did I say it's great?)


I'll umpteenth the call for a helmet: I've come off this bike once (chain slipped off and instead of getting lots of traction the pedal slid through, and moments later I hit the ground); I've almost come off when getting too close to a minute edge in the pavement that aligned perfectly with my wheel.

My advice on bikes it to try out every style and every size until you find one that fits you like a glove - I've had lots of people trying to sell me bikes that are too small (I ride a 21' frame; people have tried to flog me 18' and even a 16'. AAARGH.) The right frame size makes a lot of difference.

Personally, my experience with trying to find a good second-hand bike were abysmal: you're better off buying last years (or the year before's) model than a bike that might have been kept outside, ridden up and down kerbs, or otherwise abused.

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Date: 2015-09-25 04:11 pm (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
Everyone else has said this already and I have nothing new to add really, but:

My bike kit includes
  • Spanner that fits the wheel so I can take it off the bike
  • Pump and mini puncture repair kit - glue & patches, tire levers. As said above, I don't really know how to use them, so I'm sometimes unsure why I bother
  • Bright USB chargable lights and cheap battery Argos lights in case I forget to charge the expensive ones or they've accidentally turned on in my bag and run out unexpectedly
  • Good winter cycling gloves which I wear 9 or 10 months of the year
  • Cycling helmet
  • Reflective jacket - and I keep meaning to also get reflectors for the spokes and bright arm and leg bands
  • A change of socks for when my feet get inevitably wet, because warm dry socks are a super treat after a cold wet cycle ride

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Date: 2015-09-25 04:54 pm (UTC)
lethargic_man: (bike)
From: [personal profile] lethargic_man
I don't like the really really bright lights one sometimes sees; they dazzle oncoming traffic so they can't see anything else. I wouldn't want to be the cause of a car hitting a pedestrian they couldn't see because a bright bike light had shut down their iris.

I recently got a new bike headlight; I'm strongly tempted to put masking tape over it when I use it at night.

Oh, which reminds me: studies have shown keeping your sidelights on during the day reduces accidents; I do this with my bike too now.

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Date: 2015-09-25 04:32 pm (UTC)
damerell: (cycling)
From: [personal profile] damerell
Heavier, but there is something to be said for two locks of different types - D and cable. A typical member of the chavousie carries one tool and steals bicycles that can be stolen with that tool.

Dynamo lights are good, but - although I still use a dynamo - the advent of modern LED lights has made battery lights vastly more viable than they were. In particular I think it is worth having two entirely independent rear lights (at least one of which, hence, will not be dynamo driven) because you can't tell when your rear light goes out until some idiot hits you up the stern tubes.

I also like LED battery head-torches, even if I do keep losing them. It is much easier to deal with a mechanical in the dark with a light that's fixed to your head than one fixed to the bicycle (especially if it's a dynamo-fed one that will go out in four minutes).

Gloves are good in the cold and wet - the hands feel the weather more than other bits. Waterproofs - others speak highly of rain legs.

A pump is useful even with no puncture kit - if you get a slow flat you can pump it up and ride home.

You might consider a mirror, some people like them. For all my skepticism on the subject of plastic hats, I was taken with the ingenuity of the "Reevu", a helmet with an ingenious periscope-ish arrangement such that if you looked up at your hat-brim you were looking out the back of your head. Bicycle mounted mirrors generally give problems with vibration.

A cyclecomputer is really nice if you wish to feel smug about getting the miles in. Avoid expensive wireless computers; wired ones are much cheaper and even the low-end ones are very reliable.

A saddle cover (or "plastic bag", as unsophisticates call them) eases life on wet days.

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Date: 2015-09-25 06:48 pm (UTC)
emperorzombie: (Default)
From: [personal profile] emperorzombie
I wear these style gloves for cycling. I also have ski gloves but I only bother with those if it is extremely cold or wet. For headgear I have a buff which will fit under my helmet and keep my ears warm.

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Date: 2015-09-25 07:52 pm (UTC)
chickenfeet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] chickenfeet
I ride two kinds of bike regularly. My own I use for exercise and longer trips. It's a hybrid and great for when you want to do 50-60km reasonably fast but it's not ideal for pottering about. I also use Bikeshare for commuting, concerts etc. Their bikes are very robust, a bit clunky even, but they are great for using wearing street clothes and they survive the appalling state of the roads in the downtown. Key factors seem to be simplicity (3 speed hub gears), mudguards and chain guards - to keep you clean and an upright sort of riding position. I'm not sure how bad Cambridge is for bike theft but one of the reasons I tend not to use my own bike for concerts etc is risk of theft even with a decent U lock. If theft is an issue it might be an argument for not spending too too much.

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Date: 2015-09-26 08:10 pm (UTC)
hairyears: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hairyears
You've listened to recordings of your own voice, right?

No matter how good a speaking voice you have, the recordings will always be unflattering - try not to be dispirited by that.

Cycle Helmets

Date: 2015-09-27 10:49 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I know there is an opinion that accident rates increase with helmet usage. Is this a properly validated study?

Were you in Cambridge when JH hit a pothole and came off his bike? He circulated a photograph of his broken helmet with the caption, "This is what my skull would have looked like if I had not worn a helmet."

Personally, I always wear a helmet, however short the journey. I do not understand the difficulties in wearing a helmet. In contrast, a lock is a nuisance but is essential in Cambridge.

I do not know University Cycles but I have found Station Cycles (now in the Grand Arcade car park) helpful for both new and second-hand bicycles.

As many friends have commented, always test ride a range of bicycles. A bicycle must fit the individual rider.

I found out the hard way that cheap bicycles, new or second-hand, are rubbish.

Southernwood

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Date: 2015-09-28 05:43 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
Random thoughts on discussion, wow that's a lot of comments.

I muddle through assuming I won't get a puncture, and if I do, I walk the bike home and replace the inner tube. I used to try to patch tyres, but it never worked as well. Learning to do that better is still something I intend to do "one day", but isn't a high priority.

I don't do much other maintenance stuff. I learned how to notice when the tyres need pumping (though "every week" would be better), or if the breaks are rubbing, and I can adjust a few simple things. Taking it to a bike shop is perfectly acceptable, as long as you have the time.

If you do long cycles where walking home isn't an option, then yes, being able to fix puncture and carry on is needed, but I don't.

I assumed I'd show you maintenance stuff that I already know as it comes up, so don't feel the need to learn it pro-actively unless you want to.

Gloves -- in winter, I really really need gloves, but I found anything that cut out wind-chill was fine, I didn't get anything fancy.
Lights -- Yes!
Lock -- We talked about this a little.
Chain guard, mud guard, etc -- Sometimes extra, but definitely needed on commuter bike.
Pump -- I have already. I may even have an old hand pump for "topping up" if you get a slow puncture, although I don't bother, I just limp home somehow.
Simple tools -- I have, although not great ones.

Dynamo lights -- may be better, I don't know. USB lights, I didn't have them before, but they sound much better, I wouldn't get ones that need batteries if there's another choice.

Dutch bike -- I'm not sure how much less maintenance it needs, I ended up cycling more than I expected every time I made a decision, so I didn't want a heavy bike, but if you're happy to go slow, may be better.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-28 06:17 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
I personally wonder if a reflective jacket isn't MORE useful than lights, but I never got one because of the faff.

And yes, whatever Colin at university cycles sells you is almost certainly good value.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] damerell - Date: 2015-09-28 06:48 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2015-10-05 05:19 pm (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
Also, back cycling today - an accessory I like and I don't think anyone mentioned is a waterproof cover for my seat so that if the bike is left out in the rain I don't have to sit down in a puddle.

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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