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  1. #1
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    Thinking about frequent bimodal commute

    So for those who remember me, I've been doing a once-weekly, summer-only commute for the past 3 summers. In the AM I bike 1 mile, take a train to work, bike 3 miles downhill to work. Then in the PM have a great 32 mile 2+ hour commute home.

    During the rest of the year, I drive 4 days a week (26 miles each way) and take the train + bus 1 day a week.

    I've been trying to think of a way to at least do a bimodal commute and take the walking & bus out of the way for the once-weekly train, and possibly take the train more often. However,

    1 - it is dark out (lights would help, but I'm not feeling very safe on these suburban dark roads as I am in the relatively bright city center at home).
    2 - the return to the train is only 3 miles but includes a 1/2 mile 400+ foot climb. Difficult and sweaty and I don't really want to have to change clothes to commute home. I'm sure I would improve with time but it's still a good climb.
    3 - My bike (Giant Cypress DX) is large, and it's a bit of a pain always asking people to leave the bicycle/handicap seat on the train. Maybe a folding bike would help.
    4 - my pants always seem to get dirty no matter much much I clean the chain and pedals.

    Any advice to get over my negatives and get out there on a least a weekly basis?

  2. #2
    Infamous Member chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JugglerDave
    1 - it is dark out (lights would help, but I'm not feeling very safe on these suburban dark roads as I am in the relatively bright city center at home).
    2 - the return to the train is only 3 miles but includes a 1/2 mile 400+ foot climb. Difficult and sweaty and I don't really want to have to change clothes to commute home. I'm sure I would improve with time but it's still a good climb.
    3 - My bike (Giant Cypress DX) is large, and it's a bit of a pain always asking people to leave the bicycle/handicap seat on the train. Maybe a folding bike would help.
    4 - my pants always seem to get dirty no matter much much I clean the chain and pedals.

    Any advice to get over my negatives and get out there on a least a weekly basis?
    1. Get some decent lights and blinkies and get over it - I actually like riding at night better than during daylight.

    2. Doesn't sound like too bad of a climb, gear down and spin easy...you ain't in a race.

    3. Maybe

    4. Fenders and clean the excess oil off your chain.
    "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

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by JugglerDave
    So for those who remember me, I've been doing a once-weekly, summer-only commute for the past 3 summers. In the AM I bike 1 mile, take a train to work, bike 3 miles downhill to work. Then in the PM have a great 32 mile 2+ hour commute home.
    I have a friend who does the bike+train thing because he doesn't own a car. 50 mile commute one-way. Rides his bike a couple of miles to the commuter rail station in town, 40-odd miles on the train, then six miles or so from the station to the office. Lately, to prep for centuries and brevets, he's taken to riding the 50 miles home on Friday nights.

    But he likes taking the train because it gives him time to catch up on stuff that he wouldn't be able to do if he had a car and drove to work. It's probably helpful to focus on the positives of train transport to get you to want to take the train more often. Gas savings, wear and tear on your car, chance to catch up on reading, etc.

    I've been trying to think of a way to at least do a bimodal commute and take the walking & bus out of the way for the once-weekly train, and possibly take the train more often. However,

    1 - it is dark out (lights would help, but I'm not feeling very safe on these suburban dark roads as I am in the relatively bright city center at home).
    my commute is 14 miles one way and half of that is on suburban dark roads. It's really not that bad. Just be visible (bright clothing, good lights) and you'll be fine. Keep in mind that while you may think that reduced traffic density might cause drivers to be "surprised" when they see you; it actually works to your advantage, since fewer cars on the road means that drivers can pay more attention to you.
    2 - the return to the train is only 3 miles but includes a 1/2 mile 400+ foot climb. Difficult and sweaty and I don't really want to have to change clothes to commute home. I'm sure I would improve with time but it's still a good climb.
    it does improve with time, and it won't improve if you keep on being intimidated by it. Also learn to love your gears. Spinning up the hill won't generate as much sweat as mashing your way to the top.
    3 - My bike (Giant Cypress DX) is large, and it's a bit of a pain always asking people to leave the bicycle/handicap seat on the train.
    would it be possible to jump on at an earlier stop, and possibly beat the rush? regardless, you shouldn't feel guilty or frustrated with asking people to give up the seat, that's like saying that someone in crutches should feel guilty asking passengers to move; or that a fellow in a wheelchair is obliged to find a narrower chair that won't inconvenience their fellow passengers.
    4 - my pants always seem to get dirty no matter much much I clean the chain and pedals.
    reflective ankle straps. makes you visible and keeps your pants leg from being eaten up and smeared by your drivetrain.

  4. #4
    34x25 FTW! oboeguy's Avatar
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    I did a bike-train-bike commute once for a summer job. Best commute I ever had, too, but then I didn't mind changing clothes to ride the last 7-8 hilly miles to work (and back, of course). FYI, I currently have a folder and love it. If I had the same job again I'd probably mix and match bikes, though I expect I'd ride the folder the most for the space-on-train issue (though I rarely had a problem) and because it's much better setup for commuting right now than the old Lemond road bike.
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  5. #5
    Because I thought I could ks1g's Avatar
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    1 - lots of good threads in this forum on lights.
    2 - (a) as other posters suggested, spin and you will get better with time and practice; (b) if your rear derailluer will hack it, install a really big (32 tooth) rear cog; (c) is there a longer but less steep alternate route?
    3 - Good time of the year to shop for a lighter bike or a 20" or 26" folder. People ride centuries on these so it should be OK for your commute. Check the folders forum for ideas - I recall there are a number of people there doing multimode commutes.
    4- ditto fenders and ankle straps.

  6. #6
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    A folder is a good idea, they are all a balance/compromise between rideability, foldability and portability
    See folder forum and folder website

    You can get extra low gears on a folder using a Schlumf drive

    You can replace dirty chain oil with a dry lube such as wax.

    Can you leave your work clothes at home and commute in more casual gear? This doesnt have to be cycling lycra, just polycotton pants and a winter jacket rather than suit and tie. If you have to wear work clothes, consider a wicking T shirt. Merino wool T would not get smelly and is great for office wear.

  7. #7
    No Rocket Surgeon eubi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JugglerDave
    1 - it is dark out (lights would help, but I'm not feeling very safe on these suburban dark roads as I am in the relatively bright city center at home).
    2 - the return to the train is only 3 miles but includes a 1/2 mile 400+ foot climb. Difficult and sweaty and I don't really want to have to change clothes to commute home. I'm sure I would improve with time but it's still a good climb.
    3 - My bike (Giant Cypress DX) is large, and it's a bit of a pain always asking people to leave the bicycle/handicap seat on the train. Maybe a folding bike would help.
    4 - my pants always seem to get dirty no matter much much I clean the chain and pedals.
    Any advice to get over my negatives and get out there on a least a weekly basis?
    1. Good advice on this already

    2. My end of the day commuting climb is also about 400', but it stairsteps over 3 miles. Still a sweaty ride in the summer for this old guy. Call me OC, but I always change into cycling clothes before cycling.

    3. I use my folder whenever I use a train. Then I can just keep it with me and sit anywhere. Otherwise, you have to get over being shy and politely ask for able-bodied people to move if they are blocking the bike facilities on the train. This practice varies from line to line, so be sure you know what the rules are. For the Metrolink in the LA area, the conductor can actually throw you and your bike off the train if they need passenger space and your bike is taking up a seat. However, this has never happended to me, nor have I ever seen it happen.

    4. If you really don't want to change, try these to keep you pants clean:

    http://www.backcountry.com/store/MHW...AFC=CJDataFeed

    I have no stake in this place, it's just the first example I found.
    Fewer Cars, more handlebars!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom
    1. Get some decent lights and blinkies and get over it - I actually like riding at night better than during daylight.
    +1. Venturing into the darkness of unlit suburban streets takes some getting used to, but night riding there is probably safer than in the city. Instead of blending into a cacophony of vehicle, commercial and other lighting on a city street, an appropriately lit and blinkied bike stands out from a half-mile away or more on a dark suburban road. There's nothing you can do about the nut case who WANTS to buzz you, and there's always the drunks to consider, but those are more numerous on the crowded streets.

  9. #9
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    Thanks to all the replies & helpful advice. A few comments on the comments:

    "get over it" / "being shy" to asking people out of the way on the train. It's not about shyness, it's about Philly 'tude. I have no problems asking (and I do during the summer) but getting evil looks every time is just tiresome. And my current bike is large enough that I sometimes have to ask 2 people to get out of the way. A folder solves this problem.

    Folding bike w/ Fenders. I like this approach, I can then take the Amtrak train (and ONLY allows folders) which is 25 minutes rather than the SEPTA (commuter) train which is 45-50.

    Blinkies / Lights: of course.

    A less-steep hill? The one alternate route is a very crowded 4-lane state hwy with no shoulders. I'd rather do the short, 2-lane road with the steep hill.

    Changing clothes? No thanks, One rationale for the train+bike commute (rather than walk-train-bus) is to save some time. Biking + Amtrak can be done in 1:05 hr door to door. walk-train-bus is 90 minutes.

    Ankle straps: Got 'em, use 'em. Somehow in the course of my travels, mounting, loading/unloading the bike I always still manage to get a smear of dirt or grease on my pants somehow.

    Night biking: I love it too, but so far have only gone in the city where I feel safe. It's not pitch-black, I can see very well, and traffic is light everywhere after rush hour.

    I might get a Dahon, Downtube, or Brompton folder and try it out. I'm not sure how I'll carry my helmet, messanger bag, folder bag, but I'm sure it's doable.

  10. #10
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JugglerDave
    1 - it is dark out (lights would help, but I'm not feeling very safe on these suburban dark roads as I am in the relatively bright city center at home).
    Bike lights are actually a lot more effective in the dark where they don't have to compete for attention with tons of headlights, taillights, street lamps etc. The darker it is around, the more your lights stand out. Have some good bright lights and run some in steady modes and some in flashing to attract attention.

    Quote Originally Posted by JugglerDave
    2 - the return to the train is only 3 miles but includes a 1/2 mile 400+ foot climb. Difficult and sweaty and I don't really want to have to change clothes to commute home. I'm sure I would improve with time but it's still a good climb.
    Well, at least it's on the way home, not on the way back, so getting sweaty doesn't have such great repercussions. So I guess.. get sweaty in your regular clothes and put them in the laundry bin at home. Or walk up the hill if you want. Or take rest breaks if you need. There really isn't an effortless way to climb a tough hill on a bike.

    3 - My bike (Giant Cypress DX) is large, and it's a bit of a pain always asking people to leave the bicycle/handicap seat on the train. Maybe a folding bike would help.
    I love dirty looks personally; I gotta otherwise going out with my boyfriend would be rather difficult (we're an unusual couple to say the least). So if there was a dedicated bicycle seat, I would certainly get people to vacate it for me, and would go so far as to call up the train conductor/attendant whatever if they refused. But that's me. If you're more comfortable with a folder, go ahead with a folder. Your ride isn't really that long as I understand, so it's not crucial to have a highest-performance bike. You could probably also take your folder into your office/workplace with you eliminating worries about theft.

    4 - my pants always seem to get dirty no matter much much I clean the chain and pedals.
    Cleaning it doesn't do the trick. You gotta get the pants out of chain's way. There are plenty of remedies for that:

    - install a chainguard
    - or roll up paint legs
    - or wrap velcroed reflective ankle bands around your ankles
    - or just use rubber bands
    - or tuck pant legs into socks
    - or those "butterfly" paper clips (clip to the right side of your right paint leg

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