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  1. #1
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    Just Starting Out

    Well, I've decided to try and make my bicycle my main method of transportation to work. I've been riding a road bike for the past few years and decided to turn my old Gary Fisher hard tail mountain bike into a commuter.

    I put a rack on yesterday and ordered panniers, multi-tool, spare tubs and a couple of other essentials to keep with me at all times.

    My commute is about 4 miles each way and the first 3 miles on the way in is on quiet residential streets and a lightly traveled MUP. The last mile is on a busy streatch of road with endless driveways for businesses and a speed limit of 45MPH. The street portion is still a bit intimidating for me and I have been using the sidewalk most mornings and evenings. I'm comfortable on the street on my road bike, but not when commuting. I think the slower speeds and higher traffic volume are the main differences.

    If I find that I enjoy the commuting and keep with it even in the rain and when it gets colder, I may eventually get a different bike for this. I'm not real comofortable on the mountain bike and I already have days where I would like to go for longer rides after work and right now if I want to do that I have to stop at the house and grab my road bike.

    Thanks for all the great info in this section of the board!

    JT

  2. #2
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Definitely don't ride a bike you're not comfortable on. And don't ide in traffic conditions where you don't feel comfortable. is there an experienced street cyclist you could ride with a couple times to pick up some experience? Or look into the Effective Cycling classes offered by a lot of bike advocacy groups.

    Sidewalk riding can be more dangerous than riding in the street, particularly if there are a lot of driveways and cross streets. WHAM! they'll get you from behind or from the side. Read the sticky on the subject in the Advocacy & Safety subforum and decide for yourself.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  3. #3
    domestique squeakywheel's Avatar
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    Sounds like you have things under control. If you are going to ride on the sidewalk, you should go slower than you would on the road. People tend to pull out over the sidewalk first, then look left to see if any traffic is coming. You'll have alot of close calls if you are riding on the sidewalk at any speed.

    In Minnesota, we are supposed to ride on the right edge of the road. Cars are supposed to leave 3 feet clearance when passing us. If I'm not getting my 3 feet, I'll ride farther out in the road to make the cars need the other lane to pass.

    I'm not allergic to the sidewalk. Sometimes it is the safest way. Just act like a pedestrian, though, if you're there. Go slow. Be defensive and look for trouble when you get to driveways. Walk in the crosswalks.

    The longer I ride in the city streets, the less I use the sidewalk.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody
    Definitely don't ride a bike you're not comfortable on. And don't ide in traffic conditions where you don't feel comfortable. is there an experienced street cyclist you could ride with a couple times to pick up some experience? Or look into the Effective Cycling classes offered by a lot of bike advocacy groups.

    Sidewalk riding can be more dangerous than riding in the street, particularly if there are a lot of driveways and cross streets. WHAM! they'll get you from behind or from the side. Read the sticky on the subject in the Advocacy & Safety subforum and decide for yourself.
    I've been riding on the roads with my road bike for a few years so normally I don't have an issue out there. The difference being when I'm out on my road bike vs. commuting is that I am not out during rush hour times so there is less traffic. Also, when I am riding my road bike I am able to go about 25 MPH on busy streets so I feel less vulnerable than when I am cruising on my MTB trying not to get too sweaty.

    I actually stayed in the street the entire ride home tonight and felt pretty good. I think the difference between riding 15 - 18 MPH on my MTB vs. 22 - 26 on my road bike when the cars are passing at 45 MPH is more in my head than an actual safety issue. I'm pretty comfortable holding my line and making sure I keep myself in a good position with cars.

    I am also going to scope out a new route tomorrow that may allow me to avoid the main road. I'm just not sure if I can get all the way through to my office building by going the back way.

  5. #5
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    Congrats! I just did my first commute today, also on an old (1997, pre-Trek I think) Fisher hard tail (Tassajara). I haven't gotten all crazy and changed out the tires or put on panniers, though. My ride sounds about the same as yours distance wise, but I'm in residential neighborhoods mostly, crossing three major arteries (four lane+turn lane) on the way. I planned the route specifically to avoid high-traffic surfaces. Good luck re-routing your commute, I hope that works out for you. Luckily, drivers around here seem pretty good about sharing the lane. The USPS drivers, though...horrible bastanavichs in my limited experience.

    Good luck!!

  6. #6
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    Probably in about 3 weeks that 4 mile commute is going to feel way too short. When that happens, maybe you can find a way around that congested busy street. A nice looong way.

    Congrats on starting the commute!
    ~Diane
    Recumbents: Lightning Thunderbolt, '06 Catrike Pocket. Upright: Trek Mountain Bike.
    8.5 mile commute. I like bike lanes.

  7. #7
    Very Senior Member MikeR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jtm1631
    The street portion is still a bit intimidating for me and I have been using the sidewalk most mornings and evenings. I'm comfortable on the street on my road bike, but not when commuting. I think the slower speeds and higher traffic volume are the main differences.
    I recommend that you take the 'Effective Cycling' course if you can. The course is sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists. You can get info here: http://www.bikeleague.org/

    I thought the course would not teach me anything new, but I was amazed at how much it improved my ability to safely ride in traffic.
    It's better to cycle through life than to drive by it.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by jtm1631
    I am also going to scope out a new route tomorrow that may allow me to avoid the main road. I'm just not sure if I can get all the way through to my office building by going the back way.
    Excellent idea. You need to know your commute anyway in case you have to detour. Also I like to have a normal route (usually choosen to avoid autos) and an "Ohh $hit" route for when I'm an hour late.

    My experience has been that for a bike there is always a secondary route with less traffic and less speed. Cut through parks, alleys, or greenspace if you need to. With a four mile commute you can afford to go a mile (or more ) out of your way to find a nicer route.

  9. #9
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    In my opinion, the most helpful two concepts to keep in mind regarding riding in traffic are visibility and predictability. Sidewalks and wrong way riding both fail on both counts. In my experience, if you give drivers plenty of opportunity to see you (and therefore react to you), and you appear to be acting predictably and with full awareness of your surroundings (especially them), most of them won't mind dealing with you for a few seconds. Especially the closer you can match their speed.

    Don't be afraid to ride a little into the lane if it's narrow. You probably already know that the more out of the lane you are, the more they think you're out of the way and not their concern. If you are in the lane, they need to think about you, and they will, and not necessarily as negatively as you might think. You are just another slow moving vehicle.

    Hope this helps. And congrats on starting the commute!

  10. #10
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    Well the new route I tried today turned out to be a fire lane with large warning signs to vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. Not really an option for my route.

    I'll keep exploring and try to find some alternatives. Unfortunately my office sits on a highway so trying to get to a residential area will always include getting over the highway and the entrance and exit ramps and than coming back across the highway to get back home.

    Time to keep exploring.

    One more thing about this mornings commute. I work in a two story office building on the second floor. I come in through a side entrance and carry my bike up a back stairwell. When I get to the second floor I walk by the back door to one other office and than 20 feet down the hallway to the front door of my company's offices. Keep in mind I am in regular shorts and a t-shirt and this building is a somewhat run down suburban office building.

    This morning and elderly lady was standing at the door to the other company and looks at me and says "oh, a biker" She than says "actually, I don't think you're allowed to bring that thing in here!" I just looked at her and said "actually, I think I can." I wanted to say something more, but I figure no need to stir the pot and piss her off. Hopefully she will forget about it and not call the building management company and make a big deal about it. I will be asking our controller for a copy of our lease so I can read through it if need be.

    JT
    Last edited by jtm1631; 07-07-06 at 09:32 AM.

  11. #11
    Bike Junkie aadhils's Avatar
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    Get a fixed gear with road geometry. For the distance, its perfect...

  12. #12
    Senior Member capejohn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jtm1631
    This morning and elderly lady was standing at the door to the other company and looks at me and says "oh, a biker" She than says "actually, I don't think you're allowed to bring that thing in here!"
    THAT THING???? Tell her capejohn says she is an idiot. After a few rides you will become more comfortable in traffic. Soon you will be a regular sight to many drivers and you will also learn to take your lane, wait your turn and all the other techniques necessary for city riding. It will be fun, safe and the normal thing to do. There are times that I drive to work and feel like I'm doing something illegal.

    Enjoy your commuting.
    Bike riding New England gentleman.

  13. #13
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by capejohn
    THAT THING???? Tell her capejohn says she is an idiot.
    Yeah, that'll teach her!
    "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

  14. #14
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    It doesn't sound like a bad commute overall. And you can always get a bike map if there's one out there, then get to exploring!

    I had to ride for two weeks before I found a route I could stomach- persistence pays off, so hang in there!

    Koffee

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