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How to Set Up a Bicycle for Serious Commuting in a City

By: Karl T. Ulrich

Recently one of my former students asked my advice on how to set up a commuter bike for daily, year-round use in Philadelphia. I had been inspired by a recent trip to Copenhagen to think about the ideal commuter bike, and so jumped at the chance to help her set it up. Here is the resulting rig.

Philly urban assault vehicle

The modifications from a stock Xootr Swift are as follows:

One of the most interesting components we installed is the Reelight SL100 front and rear lighting system. This is a lighting system made in Copenhagen and used on most of the bikes in the city there. The front and rear lights mount on the wheel axle (just by clamping the axle nut or quick-release skewer) and they are powered by a magnetic induction system. A magnet mounted on the spokes provides a little spike of electricity each time the wheel rotates past the light. That impulse generates a flash of the LED lamp. So, whenever the bike is moving, the front and rear lamps will be flashing. It’s a very nice system and one that you can install and forget about.

One last trick is to use a tie-wrap (aka “zip tie”) to secure the quick release skewer to the bike frame (or to the Reelight mount in my case). This deters someone from removing your wheel and walking off with it. Since, I feel the tires and tubes will protect against punctures, this seems a reasonable action to take to allow the bike to be locked up without necessarily securing the wheels. Of course, if necessary, the tie wrap can be cut.

This bike rides great, is highly visible, and has great daily cargo capacity. So far it is perfect for riding daily in Philadelphia.