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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 02-06-06, 10:55 AM   #1
pricklycommute
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Hey guys.

I currently have a 20 mile roundtrip, but may be moving in the next few months. The new commute would probably be around 40 miles roundtrip. With this in mind, and really wanting to continue daily commuting, I am trying to make the fastest commuter possible, within reason. I already know about strengthening the motor .

Currently I ride a Trek 520 touring bike. I like it alot, and am planning on using it for the longer commute also (it's got 7,000 miles on it, and I want more ). To speed things up a bit, I went with 25c Armadillos the last time I needed tires. This is from the 35c stock tires. Speed definitely improved. I then decided if I could use just one pannier instead of two, it would help the average speed also. It did, up to 1.5 mph on the downhills just from lesser wind resistance. This is all I have done so far.

My ideas now:

Switch to an Arkel Tailrider instead of the pannier. This should decrease wind resistance a bit. However, I usually carry pants, shirt, socks, emergency tools, and lunch. It might not be enough room?

Better wheels. The current wheels are 36-spoke Bontrager fairlanes (stockers). Great for touring, but I could probably get by with less for commuting. I am thinking about maybe some slightly more aero/light wheels, particularly for the front. Pricey though, probably a minimum of $200 for a set. Any ideas?

Aerobars. These would probably help a lot, particularly doing 40 miles a day. Not too pricey either, and a little bit of extra weight doesn't concern me too much. I have found wind resistance to be a much bigger factor. Can you run a headlight with aerobars, or do they interfere?

I have full-fenders, which I could take off, but the day I do that it will be pouring the next morning. I live in AZ though, so this could be an option, as long as I watch the weather every night. I don't think it would be worth the hassel though to save 5 seconds on the trip.

Any other ideas? I am already planning on upgrading to slightly lighter components whenever anything wears out, but it is a heavy tourer anyway, so I am not going to be a weight weenie. I just want to be sure I save a little bit of time and energy, so that I can commute as far as possible.

Thanks for your help.
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Old 02-06-06, 11:05 AM   #2
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I take it you already have clipless pedals or something similar to keep your feet attached? Regarding aerodynamics I agree that aerobars would probably help the most. Could you mount the headlight to the aerobars instead of handlebars?

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Old 02-06-06, 11:15 AM   #3
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This may or may not be an option for you, but I would drive in on Fridays, and take in most everything you will need for the week. That way, you might only need to actually bike supplies in on rare occasions, saving you alot of excess weight, and proably increasing your aerodynamics.
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Old 02-06-06, 11:19 AM   #4
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Yep, I have clipless pedals. I should have mentioned that one - good catch though, they are an enormous improvement over platforms!

I guess a light could mount to aerobars (might even be the same diameters), but you would need a portion of the bars to be perpendicular to the road for it to work. I am sure someone with aero bars runs a light?
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Old 02-06-06, 11:20 AM   #5
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Wheels: Zip 808's or Hed 3's. pricey.
Aerobars: yes
Rear rack: yes
fender: performance hit, but mostly unavoidable unless you want to pop on and pop off
Watch all cabling and get it as smooth as possible,
more aero clothes
practicing riding in the drops.

You may want to consider getting a new bike. you are looking for a tri bike. Wheels you can transfer, others may not.
Here are the best resources on you questions:

Overview
http://www.nytro.com/Articles.asp?ID=117
Details
http://www.nytro.com/Articles.asp?ID=119

To get the most of your rides, you'll probably want to consider taking out a loan and having a sweet ride.

Regular wheels
=============
Guru Carbon-ti 4.8k
Cervelo P3C- 4.8k [limited availability]
Quintana Roo Tiphoon- 5.8
Guru Aero-ti-- 5.9k
Litespeed blade- 6.7k

Add Hed3 wheels, +.6k
Subtitute Zipp 808s, +1.3k

Yeah, I've done the research, but not ready to pull trigger yet. The big problem with going aero is geometry of bikes is different and you are fighting yourself if you try to ride aero on now tri bikes. Road positioning is drops is best you can get with standard geometry.
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Old 02-06-06, 11:20 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yespatterns
This may or may not be an option for you, but I would drive in on Fridays, and take in most everything you will need for the week. That way, you might only need to actually bike supplies in on rare occasions, saving you alot of excess weight, and proably increasing your aerodynamics.
+1.

Not always an option for everybody, but this is the best way to pare down your on-bike cargo.
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Old 02-06-06, 11:21 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by yespatterns
This may or may not be an option for you, but I would drive in on Fridays, and take in most everything you will need for the week. That way, you might only need to actually bike supplies in on rare occasions, saving you alot of excess weight, and proably increasing your aerodynamics.
That's a great idea. You could even do it on Wednesdays or something to put a rest day in the middle of the week... I sure do love having my truck sit motionless for weeks at a time though.
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Old 02-06-06, 11:22 AM   #8
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Tailrider: I can fit a shirt, pants, belt, socks, soap and wash cloth, and a sandwich into the main pocket but it's a tight squeeze. Having the sandwich in a plastic container helps keep it from taking the shape of your clothes. I have some bandages, my work badge, garage door opener, and deordorant in the side pockets. I carry my emergency tools in a seatbag. When I need to bring more in, I use my Bug along with the Tailrider.

Wheels: You can get a set of 32 spoke Mavic Open Pros for under $200 if you look around. They are quite light for the money and will help if you have a lot of uphills (assuming your stock wheels are heavy). You won't give up much strength either although I wouldn't want to do a loaded tour with them.

Aerobars: Never used them but those who have say they work. If your ride has long sections without traffic, they could be useful. I wouldn't want to give up that much control while getting buzzed by 5 cars in a row (like this morning's commute).

Fenders: What's a little rain when it's as warm as it is in AZ? Suck it up

Other ideas: I know it's mostly the engine, but on my lightweight roadbike, I'm a good 2-4mph faster uphill than on my commuter. Maybe it's just because I only ride the lightweight bike on nice days for fun rides (it's too nice to commute on) so I've got more energy. Regardless, less weight is always a plus if it fits into your budget but don't go crazy over it. Once you start caring about 50 grams, you've gone too far.

I've done a 14 mile commute (for a week) on my current MTB (rigid fork, slicks, fenders, rack, etc.) and even with a lot of hills it's not painfully slow. But, if I had a 20 mile commute every day, I think I'd always be using a light road bike.
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Old 02-06-06, 11:27 AM   #9
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Hmm... you've already gotten thinner tires. I think that makes the biggest difference on speed.

All this aero stuff you're talking about will get you 1 or 2 miles per hour more, but I don't think you'll see a dramatic decrease in the amount of time your commute takes. You're right about the fenders - it's not worth the hassle. What you ate and drank last night probably has more effect on your speed than how aero the fenders are, and you're probably not going to feel like hammering out a time trial twice a day, every day, anyway.

The biggest time saver, I have found, is finding a better route. The most direct route isn't always fastest - sometimes there are alternates that avoid the stoplights and busy intersections that slow you down. Identify the parts of your commute where you are delayed by traffic, and see if you can eliminate them by taking other roads.

Also, it helps to streamline your leaving-the-house routine. Have your helmet, gloves, shoes, etc by the door ready to go in the morning so you don't spend ten minutes looking for something. Think of Pedro Delgado in the 1989 Tour De France - he showed up a minute and a half late for the prologue, and could never make up that time on the road.

My suggestions are a bit off topic, sorry.
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Old 02-06-06, 11:29 AM   #10
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Overview
http://www.nytro.com/Articles.asp?ID=117
Details
http://www.nytro.com/Articles.asp?ID=119

To get the most of your rides, you'll probably want to consider taking out a loan and having a sweet ride.
\

Great articles and advice! Thanks a lot. I could always get a recumbent for optimum speed if I were to get a new bike, but the low position scares me a bit. A new bike isn't the best way to save for a house either, unfortunately.
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Old 02-06-06, 11:34 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pricklycommute
Hey guys.

I currently have a 20 mile roundtrip, but may be moving in the next few months. The new commute would probably be around 40 miles roundtrip. With this in mind, and really wanting to continue daily commuting, I am trying to make the fastest commuter possible, within reason. I already know about strengthening the motor
Hey, Prickly, I feel ya. But I do a 30 mile round trip commute, and if I really hammer on a good day, I'm lucky to squeeze an extra 5 minutes each way.

Lighten up if you need to, or strengthen the motor, but I think your main adversary will not be time, but endurance. If I were you (and I'm not ) I'd think about ways to enjoy your longer ride and not wear yourself out...and leave the house a little earlier!

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Old 02-06-06, 11:39 AM   #12
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Wow, more great ideas. It's good to hear that the Tailrider has so much room, I may have to pull the trigger. I'll keep an eye out for Mavic Pros too, not a bad idea. I have heard that the difference in speed between 23c and 25c tires is nonexistant - true?

As far as the diet goes, I always am faster on the way home if I eat something an hour before. When I get home, I have been using whey protein right away recently, seems to help "recovery". Maybe a breakfast would help too. I don't do anything but drink a glass of water before I leave now, but there is no way I could do that going much more than 10 miles without bonking... Good point.

As far as the wind resistance of panniers goes, I plan on doing a test sometime this week to quantify it. I will coast down a straight hill a total of nine times in the same position. No pedaling at all. 3 times with now panniers, 3 times with one, and 3 times with two. Then I will stop at a certain point and check max speed. I may also record the time required to go a certain distance, but that might be hard to do while riding. Dorky, I know, but I'll be sure to post the results.
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Old 02-06-06, 11:43 AM   #13
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Good point, Bigman. I find the same thing. When I hammer I save about 4-5 minutes on the commute, but arrive a lot more tired/sweaty. Setting the alarm five minutes earlier is cheaper than any aero wheelset too.
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Old 02-06-06, 11:46 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pricklycommute
Overview
http://www.nytro.com/Articles.asp?ID=117
Details
http://www.nytro.com/Articles.asp?ID=119

To get the most of your rides, you'll probably want to consider taking out a loan and having a sweet ride.
\

Great articles and advice! Thanks a lot. I could always get a recumbent for optimum speed if I were to get a new bike, but the low position scares me a bit.
Surprising a bent does not save much versus an aero tri bike. The tri aero position is within 1mph of bents and takes care of both the muscle training and low visibility issues with the bents.

Quote:
A new bike isn't the best way to save for a house either, unfortunately.
True, but pay back is a lot soon than you think.

Assumptions:
Ideal bike, like custom Blade with Zipp 808's: 8,500
Cost per mile [from AAA] $0.75
Commute Rides per month: 11

BREAKEVEN
Miles to break even: 10,933
Round trips: 273
Bike paid for: 25 months

Note this is unlike a car, it is not all lost. You might consider:
1. a 3 year loan for perfect bike [whatever brand of tri bike]
2. riding more than 11x a month
3. putting gas money into jar each week that you ride 4 days

As long as you watch your debt ratios and your credit rating you should be ok. Now if you can put away the money for 11 rides a month, $439.25, for 25 months. It will be so easy to afford the house monthly payments. The two killers for a house are: 1] the down payment, and 2] adjusting budget for increase in monthly payments.

Good luck.
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Old 02-06-06, 11:57 AM   #15
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Surprising a bent does not save much versus an aero tri bike. The tri aero position is within 1mph of bents and takes care of both the muscle training and low visibility issues with the bents.



.

It depends greatly on the bent and the type of terrain you are riding in. I might try renting a bent before you buy though. A faired bent can be a lot faster if your commute is flat and heavy crosswinds aren't an issue. I am much faster on my bent than my upright with aero bars primarily because I get more oxygen in the bent position and can hammer harder for longer with my bad back. So there are a lot of variables to be considered for sure. I am probably slower than Lance on my bent, but I am faster than myself on an upright in aerobars on it. If you have a lot of hills, I would not recommend a bent unless you have back problems (my back won't let me climb more than a few miles without going crazy but on the bent it isn't an issue so again I am faster as I eliminate a problem that previously limited me there but people without back problems will be faster in steep hills on an upright usually).
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Old 02-06-06, 12:11 PM   #16
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Some of the SWB bents aren't supposed to have too much extra weight to carry up hills. The lower efficiently of bents up hills is a problem. But if need a bent, don't look down on bent riders.

Another thing not mentioned and worth about .8mph is putting a fairing like Zipper on a road bike.
It's probably another $300-400. Concern here would be cross winds and storage at work site.
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Old 02-06-06, 12:17 PM   #17
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Lots of good advice here. My addition: EAT WHEN YOU GET TO WORK. There's a short window after exercise during which you get a great chance to reload your muscles, so eat some carbohydrates as soon as you get to work (even a bagel would be good).

If you feel like spending some dough get some carbon-soled shoes for those clipless pedals. Stiff shoes ==> better power transfer.
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Old 02-06-06, 01:21 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pricklycommute
My ideas now:

Switch to an Arkel Tailrider instead of the pannier. This should decrease wind resistance a bit. However, I usually carry pants, shirt, socks, emergency tools, and lunch. It might not be enough room?
I use a tailrider for my commute. Depending upon the size of your lunch, that should be fine. I keep an all in one tool, some tire wrenches and wallet, lip balm, some change, etc in mine all of the time. Then I can usually fit a pair of pants, a couple of light shirts or one sweatshirt, socks and underwear, and a lunch with maybe a sandwich and an apple. If I need to take home a towel, it still closes. I'm amazed at how much the top expands. You will need to really fold clothes obviously, so if wrinkles are a problem for you, I don't know what to tell you.

40 miles is a lot. I'm lazy and moved closer to work.
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Old 02-06-06, 01:29 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by pricklycommute
Yep, I have clipless pedals. I should have mentioned that one - good catch though, they are an enormous improvement over platforms!

I guess a light could mount to aerobars (might even be the same diameters), but you would need a portion of the bars to be perpendicular to the road for it to work. I am sure someone with aero bars runs a light?
I use a Profile UCM (Universal Computer Mount) on my aero bars to hold my cygolight. You can view it at: http://www.profile-design.com/2006_p...utermount.html
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Old 02-06-06, 01:46 PM   #20
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so how does it work? does one of the tube pop off for sticking the light in, or what?
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Old 02-06-06, 01:47 PM   #21
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I have an 18 mile one-way commute now. Like others have said, just slow down and relax. The best time I have made one way is 1:04. My average is 1:10. Getting there in 6 extra minutes is a much slower and more relaxed ride and didn't cost me anything. I don't think all the money for new parts to shave weight is really going to decrease the time it takes to get there. I mean, is 5 more minutes worth all the money thats been talked about in this thread. Plus I'm no where near as tired when I get there in 1:10 opposed to 1:04.

Have fun on your longer commute.
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Old 02-06-06, 01:53 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by HiYoSilver
so how does it work? does one of the tube pop off for sticking the light in, or what?
The wire wraps around the aero bar tube and then you twist the UCM tube on... It create a perpendicular bar that you can mount things on (cyclo computers, lights etc...) Think of it as a long knob that sticks out (perpendicular) from your aero bars.
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File Type: gif ACC UCM installed1.gif (5.4 KB, 703 views)

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Old 02-06-06, 01:53 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yespatterns
This may or may not be an option for you, but I would drive in on Fridays, and take in most everything you will need for the week. That way, you might only need to actually bike supplies in on rare occasions, saving you alot of excess weight, and proably increasing your aerodynamics.
+2 - I've been doing this for a while now. It saves time, saves weight and it's much easier than lugging shoes, pants and a shirt everywhere. Then you could just stick your lunch in a bag that's in your slipstream - no aerodynamic penalty. It's already been mentioned in this thread, but lighter wheels and better aerodynamics will make the biggest difference to your average speed. Wearing close-fitting clothing will help - a puffed out windbreaker is a bad idea.
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Old 02-06-06, 02:04 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pinkrobe
a puffed out windbreaker is a bad idea.
Word. I see a lot of roadies with ultra-aero equipment wearing jerseys that fit like normal shirts.

All the $$$ aero gear on the bike can be pretty much negated by a jersey flapping in the wind. If you're not willing to drop your jesey one size, you can probably forget the bladed spoke wheels and teardrop-profile seat post.

Obviously in foul weather you'll need to comprimise this, but it's also a lot cheaper than zipp 404s the rest of the time.
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Old 02-06-06, 02:24 PM   #25
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i ride a similar bike, a stripped down 80s trek 720 touring bike with Mavic MA40s. i find it is only around 3-5mins difference if i use my bianchi racer which is around 4 lbs lighter with semiaero wheels. I have a commute of around 50k round trip. I find if you set the seat as forward as it goes and the bars down a bit you can get a nice position with minimal discomfort.

I only carry a messenger pack so i limit myself to minimal gear. But i have to say i do leave clothes and laptop at work and most of what i carry is food. lots of food. if you have a commute over 20k you get really hungry throughout the day.


I would recommend going with a more minimal load to save weight and dialing in the position with an aerobar before spending a lot of money. I also use a single at the front to save weight, bc my route is hilly but not excessively so (total climbing is at most 300m each way). I use a mustache bar and go on the hoods to replicate a TT position.
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