Bicycles are wonderful vehicles to own if you live in Charleston. Among the hundreds of pluses: there are no pain-in-the-ass hills to pedal up, they don’t cost a penny to operate or park, and they’re actually a lot faster and more pleasant to maneuver around town than cars. And last but not least, they are kind to Mother Earth. Here are some tips, resources, and general bits of information to help you survive the exciting and sometimes dangerous world of Charleston Bikeland.

First step: you gotta buy a bike. If you’re into the used and cheap route, Craigslist, pawn shops, consignment shops, and yard sales are solid bets. Also, never underestimate the power of conversation, because you never know who might be looking to sell. If you’re going for a new bike, there are plenty of L.B.S.s (local bike shops) where you can get brand new bikes, equipment, and service. A couple we’re fond of: Mike’s Bikes on James Island and Mt. Pleasant, and Charleston Bicycle Company downtown. There are also some new forces to be reckoned within the bike sales world of Charleston, like the guys at newly-formed Affordabike, who are in the business of making, selling, and servicing bikes out of their living-turned-assembly room on Morris Street. There you can pick up a brand new cruiser for just $99 (you even get to choose your own color).

Once you’ve got your ride, make sure that you lock it up, and lock it up well. Bike theft is a serious problem in Charleston, and it can really ruin your whole day if it happens to you. While $20 U-locks are cheap and spring locks are cheaper, if you just bought yourself a $300 bike, you should invest in a good lock to ensure that it stays put.

Where to lock it up is the next question. If you’re using a U-lock, bike racks, parking meters, and street sign posts are the only fixtures that are skinny enough to work. While the latter two are easy to find, bike racks sometimes are not. Clemson grad and Charlestonian Brian Graham has, with the help of others, compiled a list of bike racks around the city and put them conveniently into a map. To check it out, visit tinyurl.com/chasbikeracks.

Another way to keep your bike safe is by registering it. In South Carolina, your bike is an official vehicle, and if you live within the Charleston city limits, you need a city bicycle license. Registration is $1 at 180 Lockwood Blvd. If your bike does happen to be kidnapped, its recovery and return are a lot more likely with a license number.

There are plenty of bike lovers in South Carolina — so many that they have created advocacy organizations and cycling groups. Lots. Check out the Coastal Cycling Coalition, Holy City Bike Co-op, Charleston Moves, Lowcountry Fat Tire Freaks, and Critical Mass, a group that meets the last Friday of every month for mass bike rides that disrupt traffic in an act of civil disobedience. Their websites and Facebook pages are chock-full of information about meetings, group rides, laws, maps, and more.

A good, free place to get consultation about your bike’s permanent squeak or missing part is at Holy City Bike Co-op meetings, which are held every first and third Tuesday evening of each month at the downtown Public Library on Calhoun Street. The Co-op also holds Midnight Mystery Rides regularly, with a nocturnal ride through town ending in a top-secret destination. Check out holycitybikecoop.org for details.

If you just need to fill up your tires, look for the bicycle jutting out of the ground window of the Communications Museum at the corner of George and Saint Philip streets.

Rules of the Road

When you’re going out for a spin, keep these basic rules in mind:


• No biking on sidewalks.

• Bike with traffic, not against, and obey the traffic signals.

• Stay to the right.

• Both hands on the wheel. Er, handlebars.

• Use a light on your front and keep a reflector on your back so cars can see you at night.

• Don’t bike wasted.