If you’ve been around for a while (just over a year! I just renewed!), you know that I’m a big fan of Divvy Bikes in Chicago. And now that it’s starting to warm up around these parts, you might be considering signing up for a Divvy membership yourself. To which I say YES!! Here’s why, along with my Divvy tips.

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It’s cheap. Membership is $75 per YEAR.  That’s it, you don’t have to worry about maintenance costs or replacing your bike if it gets stolen. $75 is less than a monthly pass on the CTA. I actually pay per ride for CTA, and I need to reduce my RTA pre-tax deductions because of how often I take Divvy instead of taking the CTA when it’s nice out. Which brings me to …

It’s better than the CTA. Sometimes. In some cases, commuting via CTA or Divvy takes the same amount of time. In other cases, if your commute is via train + bus, Divvy can replace the bus leg. So on the days when the weather is nice, riding a bike is much better than standing on a cramped bus and listening to or smelling my fellow passengers. Or during non-peak hours, I could ride a Divvy home in the amount of time it would take me to wait for the bus. However, if it’s cold, rainy or the roads are covered in slush or ice, public transit is better.

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It helps you stay fit. It’s an easy way to get in some more cardio.

It’s better than owning a bike. Depending on your needs. I actually do own a bike (my brother made it, so it was no cost to me). I ride my own bike when I want to go on a leisure ride and don’t plan on leaving the bike unattended. When I want to get around? Divvy is so much better. I don’t have to worry about theft, I can take a Divvy one way and take transit the other way, and if the bike is acting weird mid-ride, I just go to the nearest station and swap it for a different bike, I don’t have to worry about maintenance. Even with the 30-minute time limits, there are so many stations all over town, you just dock it and then immediately check it back out. Takes 20 seconds.

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If you decide to take the plunge and sign up for Divvy, here are my tips!

Buy a helmet. One of the few inconveniences can be lugging around a helmet. However, an intact skull is worth it. You can pick up a helmet for under $100 (or under $30 if you’re fine with a Target helmet). We actually have three helmets in our home, so sometimes I’ll leave one at the office. I will admit that yes, sometimes I ride without a helmet. For me, that is the exception and not the rule, and only if I’m going a short distance (under a mile). And believe it or not, wearing a helmet will not ruin your hair, see:

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Buy a bike-friendly bag. I splurged and got the Po Campo Bike Share bag. I actually use it year-round, and not just when I plan to take a Divvy. It’s a pretty great bag all around! Big and spacious, lots of pockets, waterproof, and was designed to fit on a Divvy bike, with bungee cords to keep it in place. Using this bag at all times makes it really easy to just hop on a Divvy. I’ve used it every weekday for the past 9 months and it’s showing no signs of wear.

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If you’re new to urban cycling, start small. Biking on city streets can be scary. However, there is no shame in starting off with just shorter bike rides around your neighborhood, or picking a route that favors quiet, side streets. Or splitting your commute between transit and a short bike ride. My first few rides on a Divvy were just to/from a workout or the library, I had to build up my rides before I was ready to ride in the Loop. Eventually you will get comfortable. Divvy has tips on their website for using their bikes and riding safely. Also, I highly recommend anyone who plans to bike on the road (on Divvy or otherwise) take the Bicycle Safety Quiz.

Plan your outfit. You can probably ride in just about any shoe, but it’s easiest to get a decent grip on the pedals in treaded shoes (boots or sneakers) or a low block heel (motorcycle boots) or flats with rubbery bottoms. If you’re riding in a skirt, try the penny hack. Or pack a pair of bike shorts or leggings to wear under your skirt. Also, when it’s chilly, layers are good, and make sure to pack a pair of gloves or two, and a scarf. If you’re riding after dark, be reflective, just like you would be if you’re running after dark.

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Download an app or two. CycleFinder is necessary, it gives real-time updates for how many bikes and docks are available at every Divvy station. Route is also good for suggesting not only the Divvy stations nearest your current location and your destination, but a route between them. Google Maps also gives biking directions. Take a look at all the one-ways streets and scary intersections, and plan your route before your get on a bike.

Are you a Divvy member? What are your tips?
Thinking of taking the plunge? What’s holding you back?