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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 09-16-05, 03:42 PM   #1
violingrl
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Tell me what to buy!!!

Hi! I have been commuting for three weeks (after 6 years without much riding) and loving every minute. However, winter in Vermont is coming up, and I have questions about winter riding:

1. What EXACTLY would you all recommend that I buy for clothing? It gets really cold here, like, below zero for over a month sometimes. I probably need to buy everything, from boots or shoes to gloves, hat, helmet cover, undergear, etc. Please help me by listing brands that have worked for you, and approximate
prices. I know I sound like I don't know anything and that's because I don't

2. Do I need anything for the bike? The roads should be plowed. I ride a Raleigh SC30 (heavy bike) with a crate on the back to carry stuff (can't afford panniers yet and really want ortleib waterproof so I am holding out). I don't know what kind of tires I have, but I think they are hybrids (sort of wide with flat center and knobby sides).

Also, anything else you can think of. I am trying to plan for how much $$ I will need to spend.

Thanks for all of your great posts, by the way. I have learned so much and I LOVE biking!!
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Old 09-16-05, 04:05 PM   #2
Revtor
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Violin,
Commuting during a Vermont winter will be an adventure to say the least.

As far as what you need, you have to tell a bit more about your ride.
Approximately how many miles? Rural roads, or paved/plowed? Do you carry much stuff to/from work? How have you been doing so far physically on your commutes? Its only going to get slower and heavier during the cold half of the year. .

Tires depends on where you'll be riding. The best for packed snow is a tire that will pack in with snow., just like on car snow tires. This means wide, knobby bad ass tires. Nothing with a slick center patch. Go for studded tires if you forsee ice on your trip. You will probably want fenders if there will be alot of slush (unlikely in the Vermont temps)

Youll dress in layers so you can ventilate as you start to warm up, so you dont sweat. You'll need gloves for your hands (I prefer mittens), and winter boots yes. Some sort of helmet cover, or else a thin hat for under your helmet. definately glasses, ski goggles may be better. get good anti-fog ones. Thin waterproof pants over light sweats are good. Keep the road slush and mud off your clothes with a durable, waterproof later.

Make sure your tires/tubes are bombproof, because a flat in the cold is no fun.. Way less fun than it is on a normal day : ) Get your bike tuned up, and keep everything lubed well with a thin oil/grease. Spray your chain/gears down with WD40 after your ride to get ice/grit/water off. Dont let the crud accumulate on your driveline!! Salt will turn your bike into a single speed very quickly unless you are vigilant about maintenance.

ease into it slowly.. dont be ashamed or feel like any less of a true commuter because you took a day off. Be realistic (especially at first) and youll have a much better time. Dress up in your warm stuff ten minutes before you leave the house to build up some heat, this gives you some heat "reserve" until your body warms up from riding. Keep the temps regulated by opening and closing the jacket as you go!!!!!

Head and taillights are essential for early morning trips in the dark so you are seen by the cagers. Ask at the "total geekiness" thread. Those guys are the light masters.

Plan more time in the morning for your trip and take it easy, have fun!!

~Steve
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Old 09-16-05, 04:11 PM   #3
violingrl
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I only commute about 3 miles per day. Terrain is all uphill on the way, all downhill on the other. But I have been doing longer rides to get in shape (10-20 miles on weekends). I am learning how to work the gearing better, so things are going pretty well. I carry whatever fits in my crate, usually a change of clothes and some books. Roads are paved, plowed also. I probably won't commute if they don't plow!!!

Thanks for your advice
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Old 09-16-05, 05:06 PM   #4
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1. Good underwear. Look for those pricey high-tech long johns. Body Armor is a big brand name I think. Mosture wicking is the key term. Duck hunters, joggers, all kinds of sporting folks use these. Get socks and glove liners made out of same stuff

2. Wool socks and a wool sweater. Don't worry about staying dry while riding because it really isn't possible. Nothing is better wet than wool.

Because you're only riding 3 miles on a cheap bike, I suggest skipping any solution that costs more than $100. Although high tech gear from outfits like Cannondale or Pearl Izumi works really well for hardcore bike nuts, good wicking long johns ( $50), wool hunter's socks $6 (bright orange pulled over your pants cuffs) and a couple of Goodwill wool jumpers ($10) will work just fine.

Spend your money on better lighting for the bike if need be.
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Old 09-16-05, 05:20 PM   #5
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Here is what I wear in winter in Minnesota. I have ridden only down to zero degrees, however.

My helmet is solid on the top, so it provides some wind protection. It also has a face shield, but I leave it up in the dark because it is tinted.

At the army surplus store I found one of those pull-over hoods that covers the head and neck, leaving the face exposed.

Also at the surplus store, I got some cheap ski goggles. I would recommend not going as cheap as I did ($5) because a little better quality would be a little more comfortable. The next level up would the in the $20 range, and above that one could spend a lot at the fancy ski places.

If it is really cold, I wear one of those face masks that covers the lower half of the face and fastens behind the head. I can't remember where I got it, possibly out of the Brigade Quartermaster catalog, but they must be commonly available in outdoorsy stores. The nose runs a lot when one wears this. Put this item on last, because after you are warmed up you might want to take it off.

I also have a home-made item, a tube of thin stretchy fabric. I can wear it around the neck to plug up the top of the jacket, or stetch it over the head like the hood, if the regular hood is overkill.

If it is not really cold, I have a thin cap which I believe was designed to be a bike helmet liner and so probably can be found at a bike shop (mine was a gift). I wear this if the hood or the stretchy fabric tube are too much.

On the torso I wear a Tshirt and cotton shirt--the work clothes. Over that I wear one of those polar-fleece jackets. This has a high collar so it can plug up the neck. Over that I wear an unlined parka shell jacket from REI. As the temperature drops, I replace the fleece jacket with a heavy wool army-surplus sweater (another gift). The next level of cold will have me replace the unlined parka shell with a lined jacket--actually a parka-like, thinsulate coat that was a hand-me-down from my late father. A real parka would be vastly too warm. If it is dark I will wear over the jacket a yellow reflective vest, sort of like a sleeveless jacket. This adds a touch more windbreak. I never have had to go to more clothing than this, as far down as zero degrees.

On the legs, I wear the cotton docker-like pants that are the work outfit. Over that, I wear a pair of pants that are designed just for that purpose--to be over-pants. They were another gift, out of the Mass Army-Navy catalog. They are unlined. As the temperature drops, I add either long underwear, the polypropylene wicking stuff, or, again from the surplus store, some wool paratrooper pants with plastic wind shields in the thighs in place of the unlined overpants. I never go both--it is the cotton work pants with long underwear underneath and unlined overpants on top, OR the cotton work pants with the paratrooper pants on top. Once again, one must not overdress or one will get very uncomfortable.

For feet, I have a pair of insulated hiking boots from Payless Shoesource, for about $25. Usually I wear cotton socks in them. As the temperature drops, I replace the cotton socks with wool socks. The next level of coldness will have me adding those little white wicking socks under the wool socks. When there is snow, I use gaiters to cover the tops of the shoes and bottoms of the pants. This, too, has served me down to zero degrees. Sometimes the feet have started to hint that they are cold, so at colder temperatures I might have to do something else, but I don't know what yet.

The hands are a problem. Down to around freezing I wear leather gloves with wool liners from the army surplus store. For colder temperatures, I have those leather "chopper" mitten shells. Inside those are the wool liners that come with them. Inside the wool liners are a pair of hand-knitted mittens from my late aunt. For just being outside, these are good to 20 below. On a bike, with the wind chill, they are not. My fingertips still get a bit numb after a few miles, and I find myself curling up my fingers when I hit stretches of road where I don't have to brake or shift. I am still searching for better hand gear. There is some outfit in Duluth that makes super-duper cold-weather biking gloves (reviewed on www.icebike.com) but they cost over a hundred dollars. I have tried plastic inside the leather shells as wind blockers with no success. My brother says that rabbit fur mittens work, but I have trouble with that solution on principle.

The exact temperature points where one adds, subtracts, or changes clothing probably depend on individual circumstances.

Hope this gives you some ideas. Riding to work in winter is fun because people seem to think it must be a miserable thing to do. Except for fingertips, I never have been cold riding a bike in winter, because I tend to overdress. If anything, I am a little too warm.
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