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Old 02-26-08, 08:48 AM   #1
spurdy
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Your opinion on a scary commute

Ok, I am hoping to put this to the experts here and get your opinion on how realistic this commute is. I'm really trying to get myself into riding into Fort Hood. Here's what I'm looking at for my ride into work:

Two lane (one each way)Texas Country Road
Gravel and rock shoulders on each side
50 MPH limit
8 miles one way
Fairly steep hills in the way
Will have to set out in the dark (PT is early)
A decent amount of traffic on each way
One of the things that is worrying me, but at the same time makes me want to bike in, is all of the standing traffic lately. The cars are getting backed up for about a mile. While this is usually a good thing, in this case it may push me into the gravel for a decent amount of time. I'm also going to have to do the 8 miles before doing PT in the morning. While I know this will be tough the first few weeks since I'm new to biking, it should get easier so I'm not too worried.
What do you all think? Is this a reasonable commute, or is this something you would avoid. It's my only way into work, so it's either this or cage it. Thanks!
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Old 02-26-08, 09:18 AM   #2
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Get some very good lighting - front and back - and give it a try. Myself, I think I'm MORE visible from behind at night with my bright blinkie. I like having a mirror on my glasses as well to see who's coming up.
8 miles is pretty easy, and the hills won't be nearly as steep after a few weeks.

If you're riding past primarily military traffic - well, for all they know you're a full Colonel riding in, and it might be a bad idea to jack with you.

Give it a try.

Hey, I'm riding through your area on March 9th and 10th, overnighting somewhere in Copperas Cove. We're picking up a couple of soldiers to ride with us to San Antonio and Corpus Christi.

Check out the "Soldier Ride" link in my signature and come out and ride with us awhile.
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Old 02-26-08, 09:29 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by spurdy View Post
Ok, I am hoping to put this to the experts here and get your opinion on how realistic this commute is. I'm really trying to get myself into riding into Fort Hood. Here's what I'm looking at for my ride into work:

Two lane (one each way)Texas Country Road
Gravel and rock shoulders on each side
50 MPH limit
8 miles one way
Fairly steep hills in the way
Will have to set out in the dark (PT is early)
A decent amount of traffic on each way
One of the things that is worrying me, but at the same time makes me want to bike in, is all of the standing traffic lately. The cars are getting backed up for about a mile. While this is usually a good thing, in this case it may push me into the gravel for a decent amount of time. I'm also going to have to do the 8 miles before doing PT in the morning. While I know this will be tough the first few weeks since I'm new to biking, it should get easier so I'm not too worried.
What do you all think? Is this a reasonable commute, or is this something you would avoid. It's my only way into work, so it's either this or cage it. Thanks!
I'd try it--if you're well lit I don't think the 50 mph will be that bad. Cars will give you room and country roads are nice to ride on. The problem is that the cars will be in your way when you approach the gate. You'll need fairly wide tires--I'd go with at least 38's but you might be better off with 1.5" wide slicks--puncture proof tires to ride on the berm for that mile near your gate. I've got Schwalbe Marathon Plus 1.75" and they would be fine for that. Your speed when riding that will be reduced, but you'll be going faster than the cars.

I ride into a government lab daily and have to show my badge. They search cars daily (albeit sporadically), but I get quickly waved through on my bike. You'll save a bit of time then.
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Old 02-26-08, 09:31 AM   #4
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Also buy a hi-viz vest and some reflective tape for you and your bike. Hold your line and don't let yourself be squeezed into the gravel.

Expensive option: If you can some sort of camera (helmet camera or similar) can be used to prevent a you said/they said situation.
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Old 02-26-08, 09:32 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by truman View Post
If you're riding past primarily military traffic - well, for all they know you're a full Colonel riding in, and it might be a bad idea to jack with you.

That's a fact. I find that I have zero problems with military traffic when I'm on the base, but kids will be kids when we clear the base gates. Once we get away from the base... the kids in their loud Hondas buzz me just like everyone else... *sigh*
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Old 02-26-08, 09:33 AM   #6
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If you think you're going to get pushed to the gravel shoulder often (or go there voluntarily to pass standing traffic), you might take that into consideration when outfitting your bike. Maybe you will want something that runs towards the wider end for tires, and possibly a front suspension if you like them.

That said, I grew up riding a regular, old Schwinn on gravel roads. No suspension, and nothing special in the tire department, either (although they were not skinny, racing tires), so as long as the bike is sturdy, you should be fine.
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Old 02-26-08, 09:57 AM   #7
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I'd try it--if you're well lit I don't think the 50 mph will be that bad. Cars will give you room and country roads are nice to ride on.
Depends on the road. The absolute worst road I've ever ridden on in my whole life was a country road. Very narrow (two buses going opposite directions would have trouble passing each other), zero shoulder, ~50 mph speed limit (exceeded as a rule, of course), and an endless stream of cars in both directions (i.e. no safe passing opportunities). I spent about 3 miles on that road and am glad to have escaped alive.

Whether I'd ride the OP's commute would depend on various factors, one of which is how wide the road is. Parallel to the road I described above there is another similar road, but each lane is a couple of feet wider and what a difference that makes! The OP is saying that he'll have to go into the gravel to pass stopped cars, so it's probably not a very wide road at all. However, cars usually drive in the centre of the lane, so it's possible that there is room to pass a cyclist if they move to the left of the lane.

Also, how bad is the gravel? In a situation like this, I might consider staying on gravel for most of the ride and treating it as a commute on an MTB trail or so. This almost eliminates traffic concerns, but one has to wonder about how much tougher that's going to be (especially up the hill), and how that will affect the PT. It will be tough at first, but I think someone in good shape should get used to this commute fairly quickly. Spin in higher cadence (75-90 rpm rather than 50-60) and don't push yourself too hard - and you should be ok. And of course make sure your bike fits you: 8 miles on an ill-fitting or improperly adjusted bike is pure torture.
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Old 02-26-08, 10:13 AM   #8
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You really don't want to want to skimp on the stuff that's gonna make you visible to that way early morning off base traffic coming in. Get good head lights and blinkies and I suggest a helmet light as well. People seem to pay a lot more attention to you if you can move a light in their direction just by looking at them. Make sure you have a high vis vest and reflective ankle straps (moving stuff attracts more attention) as well.

If you are military, (you didn't give any specifics but since you do PT I'm making assumptions) tell your Top , platoon Sgt., and your Lt. what you're up to also. They might have suggestions, help out or at least start thinking you more hard corp then they thought.

I went to Ft. Hood once when I was on leave from the 24th Infantry (Mech.) before going to Germany but that was like in 1981 so I can't be more help. I do know that Ft. Stewart had a lot of tank and track "roads" that aren't marked on normal maps but were real extensive. Maybe your Top or Lt. can pull out the topo map and find an alternate for you.
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Old 02-26-08, 10:19 AM   #9
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If possible, try the route first in daylight.
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Old 02-26-08, 10:40 AM   #10
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I ride a lot of rural roads on my commute, and the commute is dark both morning and night through much of the year (right now it gets light half way through my ride in, but is dark all the way home).

I have a VERY bright rear blinky light: http://store.dinottelighting.com/sha...t=products.asp
Expensive compared to many bike products, but about the same price as replacing the lens on the taillight for my car.

Cars cannot force you into the gravel, you can ride into the gravel if you are riding too far over to the right. Take a position on the road which is safe for you.
I find that I am given more grief by drivers the further to the right that I ride. Make it clear to them that they will have to slow down and move over to pass you, if you take a position on the road which is too far to the right, the message that you are giving to drivers who are coming up from behind is that they can maintain their speed and line, and that you do not have a right to be on the road. Do not timid.
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Old 02-26-08, 10:50 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Tex_Arcana View Post
I do know that Ft. Stewart had a lot of tank and track "roads" that aren't marked on normal maps but were real extensive. Maybe your Top or Lt. can pull out the topo map and find an alternate for you.
THAT's some pretty good advice - alternate routing. I took the tank trails to sneak onto Camp LeJeune the back way a few times before I finally got a base sticker on my motorcycle. Gotta be careful though - once, I wound up riding right past a fire crew fighting a couple of acres of burning pine forest - that was pretty surreal. I probably coulda been ambushed by crazy reservists, as well.
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Old 02-26-08, 12:25 PM   #12
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I agree that you should ride on the road what you may else want to keep in mind is that just because you are on a bike doesn't mean you have the right to cut people off in line to get through the gate. Riding in a car or a bike you are a vehicle and you don't have the right to cut in line.

Sorry to seem rude but I ride to and from Fort Carson which has a really active biking community and we all wait in line. I can't explain how frustrating it is on days I drive to get cut off.

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Old 02-26-08, 12:35 PM   #13
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Sorry to seem rude but I ride to and from Fort Carson which has a really active biking community and we all wait in line. I can't explain how frustrating it is on days I drive to get cut off.

N.
Apparently you don't ALL wait in line then...
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Old 02-26-08, 12:38 PM   #14
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What?
No "Grow a pair" comments yet?
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Old 02-26-08, 12:42 PM   #15
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First, as others have said, as visible as you can! Hi-viz florescent jersey or jacket, multiple lights, reflectors, reflective tape, reflective ankle straps, the whole works! Hi-vis is bike commuting cool!

Secondly, I would handle the traffic as follows:
  • Cars moving faster than you: Stake your space on the road 1-3' from the usable edge.
  • Cars stopped: It sounds radical, but have you thought about passing them on the left? After all, that is the normal behavior for cars. Might be a little scary to contemplate if there is significant and fast opposing traffic, but otherwise, you might give it a try. Also consider how many left and right turnouts there are on the road in case a motorist is contemplating pulling out of the line to turn around. Still, in that situation he (or she) is more likely to first look over his left shoulder for passing traffic than his right.
  • Roughly the same speed: In this situation, I just take the entire lane and hold my place. If the traffic starts moving faster, you can always drift over to 1-3' from the side again.

Thirdly, vigilance! I really think that motorists treat cyclists better when they can see that the cyclist knows what he or she is doing, which is part self-confidence and part awareness of what is going on at all times.
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Old 02-26-08, 12:51 PM   #16
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I agree that you should ride on the road what you may else want to keep in mind is that just because you are on a bike doesn't mean you have the right to cut people off in line to get through the gate. Riding in a car or a bike you are a vehicle and you don't have the right to cut in line.

Sorry to seem rude but I ride to and from Fort Carson which has a really active biking community and we all wait in line. I can't explain how frustrating it is on days I drive to get cut off.

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Huh? They passed him just because they were in a car and could go faster. It works both ways, imo. Furthermore, I don't think he'd be violating any law.
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Old 02-26-08, 01:40 PM   #17
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I would try a couple test runs at least part of the way first to get comfortable with the roads. I wouldn't try it without knowing how long it would take. Also if you have to do any riding in the gravel shoulder, be prepared for debris caused flats which could delay you getting there on time.

Personally, I'm not comfortable on a 2 lane road where people are going 50+ miles per hour.
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Old 02-26-08, 04:16 PM   #18
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Thanks for the info

Thanks for all of the advice. I definitely need more lights.

Tex Arcana- I am the LT, so I did the smart thing and grabbed a good Topo map of the base and talked to some trusted NCO's (I love the NCO CORPS FYI!), and found what looks to be a great biking road. All hard ball, and no car traffic! Now all that is left is to ride it sometime during the day to time the route.

It looks like this will be the best way to go, takes me out of my way but gets me off the 50 MPH road. The more I looked at my original route, the more pros and cons I found. I do think most people are right in that military traffic would be a bit more considerate, I was just worried for those guys just waking up 1/2 through their trip on base.

I think as I get more confident in biking, more routes will open up.

Bad Human has a point about the queue for the gate. It was something I was wondering about as well. What would be the proper etiquette? If it's only 4 or 5 cars, then no big deal. What about when there's 20 or 30 lined up? Do you stay in line then, even though everyone is going to blow by you? I'd probably say yes since I think I deserve to be treated like a car, so should act like one, but I don't know.

JohnBrooking Thanks for that advice, hadn't thought about passing on the left before, but it does make sense. I'll def think about that.
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Old 02-26-08, 05:18 PM   #19
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Find another way. 50MPH road with one lane each way is not good.
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Old 02-26-08, 06:29 PM   #20
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I would be inclined to agree with idcruiserman. However, I would prepare myself the best way possible and give it a few tries. If at any moment I felt the risk to reward ratio was not stacked in my favor I would call it. There are plenty of ways to get a ride in besides commuting.
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Old 02-26-08, 07:13 PM   #21
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Bad Human has a point about the queue for the gate. It was something I was wondering about as well. What would be the proper etiquette? If it's only 4 or 5 cars, then no big deal. What about when there's 20 or 30 lined up? Do you stay in line then, even though everyone is going to blow by you?
Is there a procedure for handling pedestrians? As a cyclist, you can become a pedestrian in a matter of a split second. And turn into a cyclist again as soon as it's convenient.

Or is such a thing as a "pedestrian" unheard of in your part of the world?
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Old 02-27-08, 09:27 AM   #22
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Lt.'s that listen to NCO's are a good thing. NCO's worth listening to are a good thing. Both are pretty rare.
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Old 02-27-08, 11:04 AM   #23
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scary commutes

Hello,

I would say that for every 8 mile commute on busy roads there is a 12 mile route on not so busy roads and trails. The problem when you start commuting is knowing these routes. Google earth, bikely.com or other sites of this nature can be very helpful for figuring this out. I have a commute that is 15 miles if i use the type of state highway road you are talking about. there is even quiet a nice berm. But i live in colder climes than you and this route is considered closed in winter conditions (this is part of the rules set up for myself to be safe). i do use that "easy" and "busy" route in the summer, to get home quick. but i avoid the route in the am and pretty much 6 to 7 months of the year entirely. It might seem like using the busy road is a time saver, but i find the added stress and hassle to be not worth. Besides it is just a few more miles of pedaling and that's what we all want to be doing.

It is also nice to have several routes when you commute all the time.

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Old 02-27-08, 12:03 PM   #24
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LT, if the cars are moving (at the gate) stay in the que...if they stop...pass 'em! I've ridden on rural roads in San Antonio around Lackland and the Medina Annex...never had a problem with civilians or military drivers. Granted, this was a few years ago...
Anyway, the que is for cars as far as I am concerned...but, your mileage may vary - and after all, Ft. Hood is an Army base!! :-)
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Old 02-27-08, 07:06 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spurdy
It's my only way into work, so it's either this or cage it.
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Tex Arcana- I am the LT, so I did the smart thing and grabbed a good Topo map of the base and talked to some trusted NCO's (I love the NCO CORPS FYI!), and found what looks to be a great biking road. All hard ball, and no car traffic!
It's interesting that so many threads like this progress in this very fashion. The OP starts out by stating that one or two major roads are "his only way to work", and then a little exploration reveals a lot more possibilities. One really does acquire a different mindset when one starts thinking bike.
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