How to buy patrol bicycles
The past few years have demonstrated the effectiveness of the bicycle for patrol and emergency medical response. Officers on bike patrol are more approachable, more mobile, and provide the community with reassuring visible presence. No one can dispute the tremendous success of bicycle patrol units nationwide.
Bicycle officers have been successfully deployed to congested areas like street fairs and events and wide open spaces like parks and residential areas with considerable success. Officers (and emergency medical responders) are able to respond more quickly than any other vehicle in a crowded area or during events where vehicle traffic is at a standstill. Bicycle patrol is efficient, economical, stealthy, and community-oriented.
The ideal patrol bike is a sturdy hardtail (no rear suspension) all terrain bike fitted with duty-specific components like heavy duty brakes, rims, urban tires and cargo racks. Current patrol bicycles resemble mountain bikes but they are actually set up as durable urban bikes.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Bicycles are user specific
If a patrol bike goes from operator to operator, each user must have their own helmet, shoes and saddle. This will insure a correct and familiar fit.
2. LBS first, bicycle later
No one can fit a bike to an officer better than a trained professional. And be advised that a new patrol bike is only good for about a week’s worth of riding before it has to be re-tuned after the cables and chain stretch. After that, routine check-ups are worth the investment. Pick the LBS first.
3. Design is more important than lightweight products
Scandium is great for racing because it barely weighs anything but it has a definite fatigue limit. Carbon fiber is also great for serious biking but is unforgiving and not wear resistant. Do not consider either material.
A patrol bike should have a compact frame deign, which means that the horizontal tube is a little shorter and the officer sits higher on the bike. The chain stays, the horizontal part of the frame that connects the crank to the back wheel, are often square or a little beefier to account for the heavy duty use and constant frame torque.
Quick-release seat clamps and wheel skewers are desirable. Officers often have to change missions and throw a bike into the back of someone else’s patrol car without the use of tools. After all, the CRT officer is a great candidate for bike patrol.
4. Component groups are important
V brakes, which pinch the rims to slow the bike, used to be the norm but disk brakes tend toward smoother heavy duty stopping power. It is not a coincidence that patrol bikes generally have disc brakes.
Mountain bikers pick components that allow for economy in motion. The less one has to move the hands around during a technical maneuver, the better. Several products combine the shift levers with the brake levers. Riders only use two fingers to get powerful leverage on the brakes, while shifting using the trigger finger and thumb. This is an excellent way to go.
Mountain bikes are generally built in component groups. That is, the derailleur is matched to the shifter and brake levers are matched to the brakes so they have the same pull ratios and operation. The better the component group, the better the package.
Test a new bike by shifting it through all of the gears under load. Pedal hard, fully equipped, and insure the bike can smoothly select its entire repertoire. Find a good hill, get the bike up to speed and slowly bring it to a stop. Anything less than smooth braking is unacceptable.
Puncture resistant tires are a must. Tubless folding tires are fine for back trails, the tubed ones with puncture protection are best for patrol.
5. Questions to Ask:
Do you have any other suggestions for officers purchasing bicycles? Please leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback.
PoliceOne Special Contributor Lindsey Bertomen, a retired police officer (and bicycle enthusiast), contributed to this report.
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