Making a Bicycle Your Own

A bicycle rapidly becomes a personal piece of property when you have to rely upon it for your transportation. This means you have to be able to carry things you bought at various stores, including groceries, and items you need to move with you to various destinations. The internet showcases many adaptations that people have made to their bicycles to achieve the mobility that all of us want.

That mobility is critical in all types of weather, and bicycles have a disadvantage on ice because it only puts two points of support in contact with the surface of the ice. Cars and trucks have the advantage because they have four points of support (or more if they have 3 or more axles), and they have much greater weight. There are solutions, however, for all bicycles. I offered some of these at the website for the radio report, “Bike-Mad Author Finds ‘Happiness On Two Wheels“, reported on All Things Considered on 05 May 2011. This post is a modification of those comments.

Posted: May 16, 2011
Updated: 28 July 2014


Robert Penn (author, ‘It’s All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels’) was interviewed by NPR reporter Guy Raz.  He talks about how he made his bicycle his mode of transportation, something he could grow old with.  He also tells stories about how others made assumptions about him because he didn’t drive a car regularly in town.  He relates the history of the mountain bike, and the role of the invention of the bicycle and its effects on women. His venture to find his perfect bike cost him thousands of dollars but he is happy with it.

Modified and Expanded from What I Posted on NPR

French Traffic Sign for Bicycles, Bike path not required, from Wikimedia
French Traffic Sign for Bicycles, Bike path not required, from Wikimedia

I felt the same way about my bike, except I did not share the idea of “growing old” with my bike–I was far too young to think about that possibility.  The bike was my mode of transportation to school when I attended university. I was living in a city right at the crest of car mania when people were just beginning to think about alternative transportation. The cheapest, livable, apartment I could find was about 1 mile away from campus. The time was about five years before the mountain bike became available, so I had to find a sturdy racing bike–no mean feat. I found a used bike for $25 and adapted it to what I needed in a transportation vehicle (the bicycle dealers laughed at me for my request). After all, I had not landed a full-time job that paid well enough to buy a car (since my job was school) and a bicycle could get around that city so much more easily than a car could (except there were some drivers that liked to aim their cars right at bicyclers ).

Copenhagen Bike Lane, from Wikimedia
Copenhagen Bike Lane, from Wikimedia

We did not have bike lanes back then, but even if they existed, these drivers still wouldn’t play fair. The bike was also the only mode of transportation available on a campus where it could take as long as 20 min to walk to the next class, or to my work-study job.


Sturdy wire baskets for bicycle, viewed from the seat end
Sturdy wire baskets for bicycle, viewed from the seat end. They are sold on Amazon.

I made this bicycle mine, as well. I was fully prepared for the road, as I had a battery-run headlight, turn signals, leg-mounted bike light, and a loud horn. I did regular maintenance, greasing the chain, oiling the axles, changing tires. I carried a tire pump with me. I rigged it up with baskets (which back then were well made with fairly sturdy stainless-steel covered, molded, composite steel that attached to the seat pipe and to the rear wheel axle ) for which I made some covers. Since it rained a lot there, I had to have some way to keep my books dry, and I could fill up both baskets and my backpack with library books.

Bicycle with Baskets
Bicycle with Baskets

The covers were made like “boxes” of denim that I pulled over the basket and attached a flip-up lid that fastened with velcro. I added a plastic liner to the covers, made of an old shower curtain, to keep water from splashing up over my books and groceries.  The baskets were just big enough to hold a grocery bag each, comfortably.  When I moved to another city, I couldn’t afford to take my bike with me, and had to buy another and baskets.  Unfortunately the manufacturer had down-sized the baskets. They were smaller, and made of much less sturdy aluminum. No doubt they, too, cannot be bought today.

Bicycles in Snow, near University of Graz, Austria. Photo by Dr. Marcus Gossler, on Wikimedia.
Bicycles in Snow, near University of Graz, Austria. Photo by Dr. Marcus Gossler, on Wikimedia.

When I moved to the Northeast, with its cold, icy and snowy winters, few people were riding bicycles during wet or snowy weather. But I had to. I had no car.



Photo of bicycle rim and tire, with chains added.
Photo of bicycle rim and tire, with chains added, modified from Wikimedia.

I fashioned chains for the tires by running flat-linked chain (because of the sharp angles in the loops) as curved lines through loops made from silk twine, that were held in place by sticking them inside the wheel rims between tire and rim, both ends sticking out on either side of the tire.  The air pressure in the tires kept them in place. the chains worked well for riding my bike to school over patches of ice.  However, I had to carry a needle-nosed pliers, extra silk loops, and bits of chain with me in my pocket because the gravel thrown on roads over the ice tended to cut the loops and even the chains.

A brilliant bicycle adaptation: "Storage within a triangle," idea by Yeongkeun Jeong, in collaboration with Areum Jeong
A brilliant bicycle adaptation: “Storage within a triangle

Many others have also altered their bikes for carrying things, ranging from the low-tech method to the heavy duty freight-carrying bicycle. A particularly ingenious idea is seen in the Triangle Storage method invented by Yeongkeun Jeong and Areum Jeong.

An ancient idea for transportation, the bicycle is a feasible mode of non-sport transportation today.

Relevant Website

Navigating with Bicycle: The Blind Can Use Mindfulness

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© Copyright 2014 by Martha L. Hyde and


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