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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 02-05-06, 02:13 PM   #1
sabaka
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Want to start commuting, need help modifying bike

Newbie commuter here...have been mountain/road biking for a few years.

I am seriously thinking about getting into commuting on a regular basis (I already run short errands around town on the different bikes I own). I have this old Trek 820 that I would like to convert into a serious commuter.



Problems:

1.) I don't really know where to start.
2.) I would like to upgrade the stem/handlebar situation, and I also don't like the grip shifters. I think I can "handle" that (wow, that was a terrible pun), but I need ideas on the perfect bar setup for commuting (I know this is mostly personal preference).
3.) I know I need a pair of semi-slicks as opposed to what is on there. I just got a new disc wheelset for my 03 Cannondale F400, and will probably put the non-disc wheels from the C-dale on this 820.
4.) What would you suggest for fenders/racks/panniers/etc.? This frame does not have braze-ons for any of the above...how would I go about attaching such things?

Biggest problem/hurdle:
5.) My drive to work is approximately 18 miles one way. Most of this (15 miles or so) is on a major 4 lane U.S. Highway (65 mph speed limit). I can cut that off to approximately 12-13 miles on the major highway by going through a neighboring town. There is no way to cut it down any further, unless I take my F400 and go through the woods. I have to take the highway the rest of the way. About half of the ride on the highway has enough shoulder (3-4 feet) so that I would be out of the lane of traffic, but the other half has zero shoulder, so I would have to occupy a lane.

My question is...do any of you other commuters have a similar situation? Is what I am thinking about doing crazy? Insane? All of the above? I really, really want to try this, but I am worried about the highway situation. Most of the highway is straight, so there will be no surprises for a car speeding around a curve not seeing me in time.

I would only attempt doing this during the summer, when I have plenty of daylight both in the morning and at night. I work from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm dayshifts and 6:00 pm to 6:00 am nightshifts (I work a rotating weekly schedule).

Any help/input/suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Even if this commute to work is not possible because of safety concerns, I will probably go ahead with the modifications on the 820, as I never ride it in its current state.

Thanks
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Old 02-05-06, 02:26 PM   #2
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I dont know the hiway or area where you live, sabaka, but
your rig is very commuter useable. I cant comment on the safety
issues except I will go miles out of my way to avoid one mile in
a car infested area.
Other people will elaborate more on certain stuff, but for me I
would say get the unappealing, nerd stuff right away !
These nerdish requirements being a rack (backpacks HURT after
a while), full fenders, good front light and back blinkie system
and a bar end mirror. You think you might not need some of
this stuff but if you stick with it you will be surprised on how your
whole outlook morphs into one you didnt expect.....all the sudden
fenders look cooler than carbon fibre and safety colors look kooler
that lycra This stuff doesnt weigh alot and there will
eventually come a time when you appreciate it. Also...a muti-tool
and patch repair kit are a MUST ! I prefer a multi despte its bulk
because I have dropped stuff in the grass, at dusk in the rain and
not been able to find it
Other than that, a heightened sense of awareness is all you will need !
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Old 02-05-06, 02:52 PM   #3
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I second getting fenders. You will really appreciate them when it is really rainy out, because you can drive swiftly through puddles and not worry about getting near as wet or dirty. Also, when you get a rack, if you don't want panniers, try strapping one of those plastic milk crates on the rack for hauling stuff. I've been trying that for a while now, and I like it (although, you will have to be able to swing you leg reasonable high to mount it, but I imagine that the same would go for panniers.) Also, I think that as well as having a patch kit, a small pump would be a good idea (so you can inflate any patched tires). A speedometer is also a nice, but not entirely nessisary addition.

I can't speak from experience in regards to mirrors and lights, but I imagine those are handy (I'll hopefully be getting some in a week or two).

Oh, and depending on your city bylaws, you may be required to have a bell or something on your bike if you intend to use bike paths so that people on foot can hear you coming (that is the way it is in Calgary, at any rate, or so I am told).
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Old 02-05-06, 04:01 PM   #4
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When I was commuting 17 miles, the worst problem was boredom. I just got tired of putting so much time into commuting, it was taking time from living.

I also treated myself to a Bianchi Eros to make the commute a little faster. Definitely you should have road tires and fenders and a rack will come in handy.
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Old 02-05-06, 05:34 PM   #5
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Slick tires (flat resistant), fenders, and SPD pedals. A rear rack and panniers if need to haul more than will fit in a backpack or messenger bag. A good front light and at least one good rear LED blinkie light.

Also, get reflective ankle bands and reflective vest/sash for yourself.

And a Kryptonite NY3000 U-Lock or OnGuard U-Lock so you'll have something to ride home each evening.

Leave the shifters, bar, and stem alone unless you just want to spend money.
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Old 02-05-06, 06:01 PM   #6
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Artkansas is probably right. If you are riding18 miles one way, you might want a faster bike. Maybe a road bike? I use a heavy old MTB, but I only have 5 miles to go.
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Old 02-05-06, 06:06 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sabaka
Newbie commuter here...have been mountain/road biking for a few years.

Biggest problem/hurdle:
5.) My drive to work is approximately 18 miles one way. Most of this (15 miles or so) is on a major 4 lane U.S. Highway (65 mph speed limit). I can cut that off to approximately 12-13 miles on the major highway by going through a neighboring town. There is no way to cut it down any further, unless I take my F400 and go through the woods.

Thanks
Call a realtor.
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Old 02-05-06, 08:02 PM   #8
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When I decided to get back into commuting again, my mountain bike was just fine. Nothing was needed except lights, high-visibility clothing and a good panier. I prefer the grocery-bag kind. No zippers to fumble with. Just dump my stuff in and go. I can strip off layers and drop them in without stopping, too. Also, I bolted the sucker on to the rack so I don't have to worry about theivery when I stop at a store.

Oh, and one more thing: I got a shorter stem so my privates wouldn't go numb.

P.S. I also ride my recumbents to work now. But my mountain bike was the first one I started with.
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Old 02-06-06, 12:39 AM   #9
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Lights, slick tires and fenders would be a good start. I still don't have a rack on my commuter, but I don't have much to carry or far to go.

This bike does have braze-ons unless the bike pictured is not yours.
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Old 02-06-06, 01:00 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by squeakywheel
Artkansas is probably right. If you are riding18 miles one way, you might want a faster bike. Maybe a road bike? I use a heavy old MTB, but I only have 5 miles to go.
Agree. 18 miles is a long way on a mountainbike. I commuted for 5000k on mine before I test rode a touring bike. Although I had armadillo road tyres on, they're heavy and I hadn't realised what a slug the mountain bike had become through the addition of muddies, lights, racks, bar ends......
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Old 02-06-06, 08:16 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by squeakywheel
Artkansas is probably right. If you are riding18 miles one way, you might want a faster bike. Maybe a road bike? I use a heavy old MTB, but I only have 5 miles to go.
I have a road bike...1999 Specialized A1 Allez Comp w/full Ultegra. I don't want to sacrifice it to commuting, as it is my pride and joy. I don't want anything to happen to it.
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Old 02-06-06, 08:19 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Denis K
Call a realtor.
Point taken...LOL
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Old 02-06-06, 08:27 AM   #13
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Also, I forgot to mention that I do have some old Ritchey SPDs that I am going to throw on there, as well as a more comfortable saddle. I also have an old computer that came off my Allez when I got a new one that I am going to put on the 820. I won't need a serious lock or anything, since the plant that I work at is in a rural area with nothing around but the plant. I would also be able to bring my bike in the plant and keep it in the control room with me. Plus, most, if not all of my coworkers would not be seen near a bicycle (if you saw some of these people you would believe me!).

Thanks for all the replies so far...I still have a lot of thinking to do before I commit to this. I still just don't know if it is safe or not.
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Old 02-06-06, 08:33 AM   #14
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Agree with many here

Pedals
Tires
Rack
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Old 02-06-06, 09:17 AM   #15
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are you positive there aren't additional routes? Most 65 mph highways are limited access, and my prohibit cycling. Even if it doesn't, it's not fun to ride on a busy road with traffic going much faster than you. In fact its quite loud. I'd pull up mapquest and go to the most detail level and try to find another way there. If there just isn't one, I have to say I personally wouldn't do it.

You may be able to find a much longer route...say 30 miles of roads with light traffic. If you can do that, do the 1-a-day thing. Drive to work, cycle home, cycle to work, drive home etc.
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Old 02-06-06, 09:41 AM   #16
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are you positive there aren't additional routes? Most 65 mph highways are limited access, and my prohibit cycling. Even if it doesn't, it's not fun to ride on a busy road with traffic going much faster than you. In fact its quite loud. I'd pull up mapquest and go to the most detail level and try to find another way there. If there just isn't one, I have to say I personally wouldn't do it.

You may be able to find a much longer route...say 30 miles of roads with light traffic. If you can do that, do the 1-a-day thing. Drive to work, cycle home, cycle to work, drive home etc.
I have lived here all my life. I have thought and thought and studied maps, etc...there is absolutely no other way to get to the plant than this major highway. The plant sits right off the highway. If there was another, longer way, I would take it in a heartbeat, but there is just no other way. Unless, as I said before, I take my F400 and go through the woods!
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Old 02-06-06, 09:46 AM   #17
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Thats a bummer. If that's the case the realtor option looks better if you really want to cycle commute. Good luck with your decision.
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Old 02-06-06, 10:24 AM   #18
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ok...I have been studying some more maps, and figured out that I can take some different side roads that I didn't notice before. If these maps are correct (I am going to drive the route on the way home tonight to check it out), I can cut my distance on the major 4 lane highway down to about 4 miles. This may be possible, after all. Thanks for all the input!
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