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  1. #1
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    How Short is Too Short for Fancy Bike Gear??

    Here's kind of an open ended question/topic regarding bike commuting and length/difficulty of commute related to need or perception for specific "gear" (I apologize for the rambling). I did some commuting by bike last year and liked it a lot - I can squeeze in a bit of exercise into my busy family life, and it actually take about the same time as commuting by car (not including getting changed). Once I get back to the States in April, I intend to do it at least 4 days a week (perfect timing for warm weather in the mid Atlantic). We are a one car household and want to keep it that way until fall 2006 at least (maybe longer).

    The commute is 7.5 miles each way - mostly downhill going to work, mostly uphill going home (perfect!). I have 3 bikes: one cyclocross, one steel roadie, and steel colnago. None of them are commuting bikes - all very "Race" oriented. I could do up the cyclocross bike as a commuter (space for racks and fenders )or turn the old steelie into a commute bike.. (no braze ons or space for fenders though) I have a lot of road bike clothing (winter stuff too).

    So here's the point (I guess)... I kind of feel like a poseur/jerk getting all kitted up to ride only 7 miles! The ride home is actually tough, the first mile averages 5% with a long 8% and some 13% sections (with no chance to warm up). Basically - unless I get into amazing shape, its a lot of work. Are any of you guys in the same boat? I'd love to be able to commute in a leisurely fashion but the ride home really requires effort... It seems like total overkill to get in all of my road bike gear for a 30 minute 7.5 mile ride. I feel kind of silly - there is a 60 year old guy that rides into my office from my neighborhood...in sweats no bike gear on a crappy Mt bike. I show up in my explosion of lycra and feel silly. This guy is twice my age rides in more than me with no gear at all. I did find out though that it takes him 1 hour to get in the morning and 1.5 hours on the way home (I take 25 min in and 30-35 home). Kind of funny how different we treat the same commute.

  2. #2
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    I would use the CX bike and gear it down to take the 13% hill more easily, commuting is not a sport so you dont have to win.
    For 7.5 miles I wouldnt usually dress in lycra race gear but occasionally I might.
    I have a lot of causal hiking style gear in wicking materials for these kinds of rides.

  3. #3
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    I wear lycra/poly mainly when it's cold. When it gets up over 60 or so I sometimes wear street clothes (shorts/t-shirt) sometimes poly (cheap black bike shorts & alertshirts top). If I'm going on errands, I might bring a pair of shorts to throw on over the bike shorts to avoid freaking the mundanes.

  4. #4
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    Yeah, I think I'll have to grow into the commuting "gear" I don't want to go out and buy all kinds of stuff to allegedly "save" money by not having a car. For the warmer weather I'll use the CX (its geared pretty well) and some of my road bike clothes. Like I was saying I just find it amusing to pull up in the office on my nice road bike and tights, softshell winter roadbike stuff - all for 7 miles. Seems funny. What's funnier is that I really don't have anything else to put on except cotton sweats and stuff.

    I guess the gist of this was I laugh at myself for getting all kitted up for a 25 minute ride. I feel like I spend more time getting dressed/undressed than riding. The whole process is pretty amusing - especially when the old guy rolls up on his old bike in street clothes.

    I can't wait to get back to commuting by bike when I get home (I really need the exercize).

  5. #5
    Zinophile tibikefor2's Avatar
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    I wear whatever is most comfortable to ride a bike. I wear the usual lycra high end bike gear even if its a 5 mile bike ride with my kids. I know that I sweat too much for street clothes.
    Tibikefor2

  6. #6
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    I'm in a similar situation although my ride in is tougher than my ride home. It's 6.7 miles each way but hilly. Unless I'm freezing for the first half of my commute, I'm pretty sweaty by the time I arrive. In the summer, I'm soaked thanks to our wonderful humidity in the NE. My solution to not looking all kitted-up yet still being mostly kitted-up is to throw some MTB baggy shorts over top of my bike shorts and use my looser fitting jerseys. I'm barely seen at work but people make a big enough deal out of me riding (even now, almost a year after I started) that I don't need comments about my clothing too. I sometimes feel silly getting all dressed up for a relatively short ride but I'm more comfortable that way and can take longer rides after work if I want to, making the clothing worth it.

  7. #7
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baldanzi
    I don't want to go out and buy all kinds of stuff to allegedly "save" money by not having a car.
    I don't like to spend much money on the stuff either, I'm pretty cheap, but the poly stuff does work. My favorite buys:
    Ascent bike shorts from eBay are easy to get at $20 each and are REALLY nice, 8oz lycra, I've washed mine many times so far and no noticable problems.
    Poly Ts from AlertShirts
    In colder weather, cheap lined nylon running pants, some running tights, a cold-weather compression top on sale for $20 at the sporting goods store.

    I think I have about $150 total into my clothes, not counting the $100 rain jacket from bicycleclothing.com

  8. #8
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    I wear the lycra on short rides also as I don't have any other clothing that is wicking and wouldn't get soaked with sweat. I already have my roadbike clothes so I can't justify spending the money on "commuting" clothes. Plus like was mentioned, it makes spontaneous longer rides more comfortable.

  9. #9
    Life is good RonH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baldanzi
    The commute is 7.5 miles each way - mostly downhill going to work, mostly uphill going home (perfect!). I have 3 bikes: one cyclocross, one steel roadie, and steel colnago.

    So here's the point (I guess)... I kind of feel like a poseur/jerk getting all kitted up to ride only 7 miles!
    Compromise!

    My commute is only 8.5 miles each way and I wear black bibs and bright jersey/vest/jacket.

    Use the cyclocross as your commuter.
    My bikes: 2001 Litespeed Tuscany---
    2013 Cannondale CAAD 10 2 "Racing Edition"--The bike shop owner said it's toast. R.I.P.

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  10. #10
    it's my road too, dangit sydney_b's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tajsss
    Plus like was mentioned, it makes spontaneous longer rides more comfortable.
    ++

    My commute is only ~6.5 one way, but I often have an opportunity to take a long ride home. Having the bike specific clothing makes that comfortable. Plus, it dries really fast so I never have to put on damp things. (I can't seem to ride slow, I always work up a sweat.)

    /s

  11. #11
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    I have been changing clothes long enough that from gear to office or back is about 5 minutes. In a hurry I wear an office-casual shirt and pull trousers on over bike shorts/tights and rechange when I can. If the man-in-sweats is happy that way, fine, that is his style. Almost all of my riding gear is in solid non-dayglow colors. Jerseys can pass for casual shop/office clothing. If the job situation can not tolerate any bike gear I just get there earlier and change in a mens room. Sweats would get stuck in my drive train.
    This space open

  12. #12
    Senior Member geeklpc1985's Avatar
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    When I commute I hall a** so I do get all 'geared' up. Over all I am looking for speed and being comfortable. You might get funny looks but they will get over it. Also for going car-free for almost 2 years now, I am in great shape, and I show it off.
    Good Luck,
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  13. #13
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    I wear cycling gear on my 8.5 mile commute. I nearly always arrive at work (and home) sweaty or wet so I have to change any ways I might as well ride what is most comfortable. Sure I could get by with shorts and a t-shirt but it would be uncomfortable. So I just look for sales on inexpensive gear and do my best to make sure they last.
    Craig

  14. #14
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    I could care less about the funny looks and I like going fast too! Actually most people compliment me on riding in to the office....I'm my own worst critic. There's just a part of me that I guess is envious of the older guy (with the same commute) that rides in really s-l-o-w-l-y on a casual bike. I think I was just lamenting about not being able to get some cool single speed or commuter special bike. I'd love to be able to throw on my work clothes and casually ride in to the office on some wacky bike with a flip-flop hub and a brooks saddle.....no such luck - that darn hill in between me and the office!!

    Now if I could just get up the courage to bike commute for these last 6 weeks I'm in Italy....that's a whole other set of logistical problems (I'm working on it right now...)

  15. #15
    Senior Member rule's Avatar
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    My commute is much like yours, about 9 miles each way, easier in than back. But I also tack in a bit of climbing or training time on the way home.

    I generally always ride in the gear that makes sense for me, and don't spend any particular time thinking about what anybody else thinks. For my commute these days that is baggies over tights with layers of Pearl Izumi tops in the mornings, and just the baggies and a long sleave jersey for the ride home. I ride fast and vc, mostly on designated bike route roads which around here means a bit wider but no bike lanes. Over time I have found that the more that I look like I have my act together on the bike, the more positive response and cooperation I get from traffic. When I look like a ****, I get treated like a ****. That has consistently been the way that it works on my commute, even in terms of interacting with the peds and locals along my route. So I do try to dress more like a cyclist than not. Folks around here have seen enough cyclists to know the difference when they see one. For whatever reason, it seems to let folks know that I can hold my own. When it comes time to keep my speed up, the cycling gear really helps too. But yeah, I am not really interested in getting all geared up like I am going our for a time trial. That wouldn't really work for me either.

    I never really have thought too much about what folks at work are going to think. We have about a third of our workforce who commute without the use of a car. Some walk or use mass transit, but a bunch ride their bikes. When my coworkers do let me know what they think...which doesn't come up much but happens every now and then...they really don't think much at all what I am wearing or what I am riding. They mostly just encourage me to stick with it.

    If they do comment about what I am wearing and riding, they typically will say something like, "Yeah, you look fast." It gets back to what I have found with the traffic around here. If I look fast and capable of sharing the road, most of the folks along my route are really good to share it with me. When I have headed out in cut-off and a t-shirt, I get more in the way of honks, close passes and folks trying to beat me to turns and intersections.

  16. #16
    or tarckeemoon, depending marqueemoon's Avatar
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    My commute is 7 miles each way with a fair bit of climbing. The only time I get really geared up is when it rains. Otherwise, I pretty much ride in the clothes I'm going to work in. I keep extra shoes at work so I can ride clipless though.

  17. #17
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Personally, I like to wear cycling shorts for even very short rides. Like my 3 mile commute! You can laugh if you want--I think it's pretty funny too. But comfortable. I do wear shorts or pants over them for city driving. Otherwise, I feel like I'm wearing my bathing suit in public.

    Bike shorts are expensive but they're great value. I have used the same "cheap" ($40) pair for a year now and they're still going strong. I wash them by hand about twice a week and in the machine about once a week.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  18. #18
    dangerous with tools halfbiked's Avatar
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    I gear up for my 6 mile ride. Favorite cycling-specific gear: Winter 'gauntlets' by Lake, fluorescent yellow wind-shirt/jacket, surly wool jersey. Though I don't wear that jersey these days, I have other wool long-sleeved stuff that's more appropriate for the cold temps.

  19. #19
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    I ride almost the same, 8.2 miles each way. I used to commute a short distance back (years ago) out of necisity and not having a car. But that was on a mountain bike, and I just cruised (thinking back I think it was mostly during the fall too...by winter time that year I had a car) so then I just wore my work clothes.

    Last summer I mainly wore running clothes. Partly because being a roadie is new to me (used to ride mountian bikes on single track in the mountians on weekends exlusivly and all that emplies) and party because I didn't want the comments from people I work with. That worked out pretty well but did involve an extensive underwear collecting (one for each ride, in and back, and one for work) we have showers at work so getting unsweaty was not a big problem

    Then winter came. I tried wearing ski gear with a leg strap (to keep the pants out of the chainring) when the weather got cold this winter, but it wasn't working out for me, i was constantly sweating, and then unzipping things, only to freeze, and I think I got sick because of that. Then a die hard commuter in my building recomended the Pearl Izumi Vagabond jacket (cuz the sleaves zip off and it becomes a vest) that basically cracked the seal, even with a cotton long-jon shirt underneith (doesn't wick very well :-) I could tell a big difference. I started talking to my wife about what I would need to buy to "go rodie" as I called it, and about that time Christmas came along and I got the whole shabang, Pearl Izumi winter tights, booties, Pearl gloves, nice bicycle style Nike fleice pullover, under helmet hat, neck warmer that works as a face warmer too, and THEN...I was sitting pretty, rides in were awsome, never even feel the cold any more. I do however wear a pair of loose fitting shorts over my tights so as not to "display" anything

    I'm over the "Rodie clothes will make me fill silly part" but still care what my co-workers think of me. (Mainly I don't want to be sitting in a meeting with someone who's thinking of the shape of my tightly clad buttocks and package and laughing to themselves.) So givin my new found "clothes made for cycling freakin rock" attitude I'm going to be buying some lycra shorts (as I'm thinking now it will do a great job of holding things where I want them to be) before it gets hot, and wear them under a pair of looser shorts to avoid giving people intimate impressions of my more private parts. I may stick with my wicking running shirts (looser fitting) mainly cuz jerzys are pretty freakin pricey.

    I think just like everyone else has said "wear what's comfortable" cover up with other clothes if work demands it, but lycra seems to be the choice of many and since that's what you've already got...might as well go with it.

  20. #20
    Senior Member SteelCommuter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marqueemoon
    My commute is 7 miles each way with a fair bit of climbing. The only time I get really geared up is when it rains. Otherwise, I pretty much ride in the clothes I'm going to work in. I keep extra shoes at work so I can ride clipless though.
    I have pretty much the exact same kind of commute, lots of small hills and one big one. I always wear street clothes, but I'm allowed to wear jeans with a nice shirt. I do think it's a bit funny to have to use specialized clothing every time one hops on a bike, although when conditions (rain, snow) dictate I will wear my hiking/mountaineering layers. I do try to bring a shirt to ride in and then change after wiping myself with a wet cloth in the restroom, but nothing cycling specific. Just a few different wool SS and LS shirts that, if I run late and can't change, don't telegraph my scent all around the place And if the weather is hot, I'll pack a light pair of shorts to change into for the riding. I don't know, I've never felt like wearing bike shorts for riding, even long rides. I do use one of those velcro ankle straps on my right leg.

    On my commuting bike I use a Brooks, and I never feel like wearing extra padding. Do some of you bike-short folks use a saddle that is only really comfortable with special shorts? Just a Q, I'm curious.

    I suppose if I had to really suit it up, I would have entirely different sets of clothes, although most of my riding clothes comes from hiking outfitters, not bike shops.

  21. #21
    Senior Member zoridog's Avatar
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    I have a very hilly commute about the same distance as you travel. I sweat alot so I always wear bike clothes. I'm sweating for 10 minutes after I get in the building so I need to change. At my age, I feel silly wearing a bright yellow jersey so I wear a tee shirt made of breathable material.

    Your cyclocross bike sounds ideal.
    I miss bicycle commuting.

  22. #22
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rule
    My commute is much like yours, about 9 miles each way, easier in than back. But I also tack in a bit of climbing or training time on the way home.

    I generally always ride in the gear that makes sense for me, and don't spend any particular time thinking about what anybody else thinks. For my commute these days that is baggies over tights with layers of Pearl Izumi tops in the mornings, and just the baggies and a long sleave jersey for the ride home. I ride fast and vc, mostly on designated bike route roads which around here means a bit wider but no bike lanes. Over time I have found that the more that I look like I have my act together on the bike, the more positive response and cooperation I get from traffic. When I look like a ****, I get treated like a ****. That has consistently been the way that it works on my commute, even in terms of interacting with the peds and locals along my route. So I do try to dress more like a cyclist than not. Folks around here have seen enough cyclists to know the difference when they see one. For whatever reason, it seems to let folks know that I can hold my own. When it comes time to keep my speed up, the cycling gear really helps too. But yeah, I am not really interested in getting all geared up like I am going our for a time trial. That wouldn't really work for me either.

    I never really have thought too much about what folks at work are going to think. We have about a third of our workforce who commute without the use of a car. Some walk or use mass transit, but a bunch ride their bikes. When my coworkers do let me know what they think...which doesn't come up much but happens every now and then...they really don't think much at all what I am wearing or what I am riding. They mostly just encourage me to stick with it.

    If they do comment about what I am wearing and riding, they typically will say something like, "Yeah, you look fast." It gets back to what I have found with the traffic around here. If I look fast and capable of sharing the road, most of the folks along my route are really good to share it with me. When I have headed out in cut-off and a t-shirt, I get more in the way of honks, close passes and folks trying to beat me to turns and intersections.

    Hits the nail right on the head for me... especially the part regarding what drivers think. If I wear cut offs and ride a fat tire bike, I get a lot more honks than if I wear a kit and ride my drop bar "fast bike" (only about 2MPH difference, really).

    The kit says I am serious about this and that seems to be the way that motorists see it. I have had motorists compliment me when I wear the kit: "nice bike." I have only gotten negative comments from motorists when dressed otherwise.

    But beyond the commute (9 miles each way), I otherwise wear what is comfortable for the ride. A fast 20 mile ride gets a kit. A slow 'round-the-park 20 mile ride with my wife; walking shorts and a loose sweatshirt.

    A run to home depot: whatever I am wearing to do the project.

  23. #23
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    Wear what you want, that simple.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  24. #24
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    Wear whats comfiest - shorts. You will also have to wear bike shoes unless you change the pedals to platforms. There is no need to limit the length ofyour ride home.

  25. #25
    Seņor Wences jwbnyc's Avatar
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    I resisted wearing bike specific gear for my commute (30 Miles roundtrip) for quite a while, but when it's 90 - 100 Degrees F out, well, getting kitted up makes the most sense.

    If the poseur look bothers you, try going with MTB type stuff.

    In the Winter, I skip the chamois, and use wicking street type (nothing fancy) wear under Windstopper.

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