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Thread: Canal Commute

  1. #1
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    Canal Commute

    Hi all,

    Excellent forum by the way:

    Can i first say that i am a complete newbie to commuting by bike and i have a question that hopefully some of you could answer. There are two possible routes that i can take to work:

    1) 3.5 miles on a busy 3 lane road with many intersections and roundabouts. As i havent really ridden a bike since i was at school (i'm now 27!) i feel that i lack a little confidence especially when riding in traffic.

    2) 3.5 miles along a pretty beaten up gravel towpath which obviously cuts out the traffic problem.

    My question (finally!) is, can my new bike (a raleigh hybrid with semi slick tyres) cope with the second commute or am i going to have a daily problem with flats etc?

    any comments would be welcome

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    Senior Member Caspar_s's Avatar
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    You shouldn't have a problem with new tires - just try avoiding any glass. Also take a spare tire (and learn how to change before you get the flat) in case.

    Depending on the traffic on the towpath, the roads might be quicker. I like riding on paths as long as there aren't too many joggers, rollerbladers, people walking across the whole path, dog owners with their extension leashes across the path etc.

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    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    Yes, heavier, Schwalbe type tires, on the path until you have gotten comfortable with traffic in a few months. Then use the roads more, it will save time. Consider a longer route that is quieter. IUt is something to check out on weekends.
    This space open

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    tsl
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    I'm old enough to remember when they took out all the "traffic circles" (as they were called then) because they were considered the most dangerous type of intersection. Forty years later and rechristened "roundabouts", they're considered the safest. <shakes head>

    If you take the roundabout route, our bicycling club is strongly advising that riders "take the lane" since the roundabouts round about here aren't safe for cyclists to share the lane.

    As for canal paths, it depends on how rough is rough. The gravel sections of the Eirie Canal path around here are, IMHO, pretty good. Others disagree with me. There are occassional patches of loose gravel or drainage issues, but overall, it's not a bad ride, if sometimes dusty. (Clean and relube your chain after riding in dusty gravel.) Actucally, goose s**t is the biggest hazard. Not because of the riding, but because of the cleaning afterwards. Yuck!

    My hybrid has 32mm tires which don't mind gravel at all. If yours is similarly equipped, it shouldn't be a problem, although the gravel requires a little more pedaling effort.

    Personally, while I have no fear of riding in traffic, (a healthy dose of respect, but no fear), and I prefer riding on asphalt, when given a choice such as yours, I take the path, simply because it's the more enjoyable ride.

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    45 miles/week Eggplant Jeff's Avatar
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    The tires will be no problem. Just the other day I rode on a gravel path (mostly fairly smooth but there are some pretty rough patches) with 28's. It was a little bumpy but the tires are fine.

    I think Caspar probably means bring a spare tube not a spare tire. It is not uncommon to get a flat and many people find replacing the tube is a faster/more reliable roadside repair (you can always bring the flat one with you and patch it at home). However it is quite rare that you hit something so damaging that your tire is unusuable. Even if the tire gets a decent gash in it, you can usually "boot" it (reinforce it from the inside) with a piece of paper or whatever (dollar bill works great) and that'll get you home.

    For road riding, I strongly recommend taking the lane for ANY intersection (including roundabouts), because intersections are the most dangerous parts of a road (where do most accidents occur?). There's a lot more going on with people turning, traffic signals, etc. and being solidly in the correct lane for where you're going (I.E. the turn lane if you're turning, the straight lane if you're going straight) is safest, drivers will see you there and you won't be doing anything unexpected.

    You may get honked at, but unless the road is posted "no bicycles" you have as much right to it as car drivers do. Many of them just don't know that. Honking is actually kind of a good sign, it means they saw you . They may be pissed, but they aren't going to accidentally run you over.

    I'd suggest trying both routes and taking the one you like better. If the road is a little too intimidating right now there's nothing that says you can't take the towpath for a while then switch to the road whenver you feel confident.
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    thanks for the advice guys. i will give both routes a test very soon.

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    Yabba-Dabba-Doo! AlmostTrick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by danielspaniel
    1) 3.5 miles on a busy 3 lane road with many intersections and roundabouts.
    While pavement does provide a faster ride, don't forget you'll be spending more time stopped at intersections/lights. It's entirely possible that riding a little slower, but nonstop on the trail would be just as quick or quicker than the street.
    Have Bike, Will Travel

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    Third World Layabout crtreedude's Avatar
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    One piece of advise from someone who rides on ROCK (size of your fist - sometimes larger) is if a section is bad - get up a bit on your feet and save the part of you that sits - don't be glued to your seat. After a while, you will find yourself powering through the bad sections, totally on your feet. Attack a bad section, don't try to go through it slow.

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    you're not talking very long distances here, the difference in pavement will likely not add or subtract much time to your commute. Keep your tires properly inflated to avoid pinch flats. You can do both commutes, keep things interesting.

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    Senior Member capejohn's Avatar
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    I ride on a rotary every morning. Not a problem merging into traffic. I do take my lane early and hold it till my exit. If the road is wide enough, my personal preference is to use it. A tow path is nice also. With your bike you have the option of both. Enjoy. Soon I'll be saying. "Hooked another one".
    Bike riding New England gentleman.

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    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    I think you'll have more trouble with flats on the pavement than on gravel! All the glass scattered around left from car accidents and drunk kids breaking bear bottles on the pavement, all the general metal crap that tends to accumulate on heavily-trafficked roads - all of that is more likely to damage your tire than some gravel, I think. Just keep your tires properly inflated.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlmostTrick
    While pavement does provide a faster ride, don't forget you'll be spending more time stopped at intersections/lights. It's entirely possible that riding a little slower, but nonstop on the trail would be just as quick or quicker than the street.
    +1. I find that in rush hour taking back streets is actually faster on the bike than going on major arteries. Cause major arteries are clogged, but all those little streets most motorists don't even know about. I find that these days I prefer to take arterials on the way to work (I start work early and hit the road just before the real rush hour), but to retreat to little streets when coming back in the afternoon. Despite an abundance of stop signs, I find little streets to often be faster since there is much less traffic there. And on a gravel path you will presumably have very little traffic of any sort (bike or ped) and, one hopes, no traffic jams, no intersections, no stop signs, no red lights...

    There are some paths that do run along major roads, however, and have lots of intersections. I generally try to avoid those. They combine the worst aspects of the road and the pathway.

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    Commuter First newbojeff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by capejohn
    I ride on a rotary every morning. Not a problem merging into traffic. I do take my lane early and hold it till my exit. If the road is wide enough, my personal preference is to use it. A tow path is nice also. With your bike you have the option of both. Enjoy. Soon I'll be saying. "Hooked another one".
    1+. tsl, let's be clear, they are "rotaries." What are these "roundabouts" and "traffic circles" of which you speak?

    They can be challenging, but fun. I have a rotary that I go through both ways on my ride and use a couple of different strategies (if you don't have to ride through rotaries, read no further).

    To work, there are usually 2 lines of cars waiting to enter the rotary, I go less than 90 degrees of the way around, it is uphill, and I pass one exiting road. For this, because I'm going slowly, I usually filter up on the right, make sure no one (either those in the rotary or entering) are taking the immediate right, and try to move into the rotary to the right of entering traffic.

    The way home is more fun. Downhill, I go about 270 degrees around, and have to pass 2 other exiting roads. On the entry, I make sure I am well within the right line of traffic and am signaling "left" hard and frequenlty looking over my left shoulder, so that even cars that would passing on my left know to stay back. I usually keep up the "left" signal well into the rotary, before switching to signaling "right," to make sure that entering cars know I'm exiting. I usually enter the rotary going about 10 to 15 MPH. If I don't have to wait for traffic within the rotary, I usually come out of the rotary going 25 MPH.

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    And you drink soda pop too.

    Have a coke.

  14. #14
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by newbojeff
    1+. tsl, let's be clear, they are "rotaries." What are these "roundabouts" and "traffic circles" of which you speak?
    From the NYSDOT Roundabout Information page at http://www.dot.state.ny.us/roundabouts/round.html:

    ...what are roundabouts, how roundabouts differ from traffic circles and rotaries, how to properly use a roundabout...
    I'm just goin' with the flow...

    Quote Originally Posted by misterj
    And you drink soda pop too.

    Have a coke.
    Nah. Gave up coke a while ago. I enjoy a Coke every now and again.

  15. #15
    Commuter First newbojeff's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=tsl]From the NYSDOT Roundabout Information page at http://www.dot.state.ny.us/roundabouts/round.html:

    Yeah, but it's mistitled. Should be "Rotary Information Page."

    I looked for a similar page from the Mass Dept. of Transportation and RMV. No luck. But we don't need it because each Bay Stater has his or her own personal set of traffic laws.

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