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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 04-13-08, 11:42 AM   #1
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Commuter culture, commuter gear - do I have it wrong?

Im an old guy (50) who just took up bike commuting. I just completed my third week. I learned to bike through a snow storm, to feel what it is like to have your facial skin pelted by sleet in 30mph wind, to almost get hit by a woman in mini-van talking on the cell phone with kids in baby seats in the back, and how to dress properly, cool down properly.

So ... I have a few questions.

1) I live in a bike friendly town, I see dozens of commuters each day ... I make eye contact, give a friendly acknowledgement when they pass, say "hey" when we are at stop lights ... but they all are in their own world, seemingly angry or defensive. Is it because Im on a common Trek hybrid and they all have fancy road bikes? Or because Im using a milk crate lashed to my rack, maybe its because I wear a yellow caution vest and have my red-tail light on, or that I have fenders? Am I a total dork squad member or are commuters just in their own world?

2) Watery eyes. In the morning when its still 20 degree my eyes get all watery from the cold wind. Are there special glasses or goggles I should get.

3) Riding in the sleet/rain during a big blow was really painful against my face .. ouch. Whats the best way, to protect your face, without getting all sweaty, during ugly weather.

4) Im using my sailing gear to keep dry right now. If I stick with this I might get some more appropriate biking gear. Its working fine for now though .. except for the head ... I have a standard Giro helmet ... and my head is getting soaked in the rain. A hood didnt work. Is there anything I should look at to keep my noggin dry?

Thanks ...

Bill
Madison, Wisconsin
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Old 04-13-08, 11:56 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wisc-sailor View Post
Im an old guy (50) who just took up bike commuting. I just completed my third week. I learned to bike through a snow storm, to feel what it is like to have your facial skin pelted by sleet in 30mph wind, to almost get hit by a woman in mini-van talking on the cell phone with kids in baby seats in the back, and how to dress properly, cool down properly.

So ... I have a few questions.

1) I live in a bike friendly town, I see dozens of commuters each day ... I make eye contact, give a friendly acknowledgement when they pass, say "hey" when we are at stop lights ... but they all are in their own world, seemingly angry or defensive. Is it because Im on a common Trek hybrid and they all have fancy road bikes? Or because Im using a milk crate lashed to my rack, maybe its because I wear a yellow caution vest and have my red-tail light on, or that I have fenders? Am I a total dork squad member or are commuters just in their own world?

2) Watery eyes. In the morning when its still 20 degree my eyes get all watery from the cold wind. Are there special glasses or goggles I should get.

3) Riding in the sleet/rain during a big blow was really painful against my face .. ouch. Whats the best way, to protect your face, without getting all sweaty, during ugly weather.

4) Im using my sailing gear to keep dry right now. If I stick with this I might get some more appropriate biking gear. Its working fine for now though .. except for the head ... I have a standard Giro helmet ... and my head is getting soaked in the rain. A hood didnt work. Is there anything I should look at to keep my noggin dry?

Thanks ...

Bill
Madison, Wisconsin
First of all you make me feel like a wuss for not riding yet. In my defense I run all winter. Second post a pic of your ride sometime, BFer's tend to apprecitate all bikes, espically with milk crates. Third I rant all the time about cell phones, I got hit jogging last with by some bimbo with a cell phone.

Last not all of us on road bikes are jerks, in fact i was thinking about that recently while watching a bunch of people chat at the Y. When i work out I dont talk much. I say hi to people I know or have ran with or something but that is about it except on the way in or out. I dont chat much when I run, I really do focus. on a road bike I have to focus on traffic and minimal inperfections on the road that may cause a flat if I hit them. Road bikes dont seem to do well if the rider doesnt pay attention. It is fun but you must focus. You think the road bike crowd is rude where you live try the road bike forum on BF, those guys are real jerks
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Old 04-13-08, 12:06 PM   #3
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1) Every one of the reasons you listed, and many more. I've seen a few threads dedicated to the topic in the past few weeks. Mostly in The road forum, I think.

2) Sunglasses?

3) Not sure. Maybe a lightweight paintball mask?

4) Waterproof helmet covers are available.
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Old 04-13-08, 12:37 PM   #4
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50 is not old. Now convince your body of that fact.

1) Overdone topic. Search for wave or something along those lines.
2) Wrap around glasses or goggles. I use the former and ride down to 5F with said glasses.
3) I have used a ski mask with a skull cap in conditions similar to that. I still get a bit wet from the weather and sweat but it is better than nothing.
4) LG or J&G helmet cover
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Old 04-13-08, 12:52 PM   #5
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Welcome to a great way to keep fit. 54 myself and been bike commuting for the last 15'ish years.

I've noticed that the really colorful guys on serious road bikes often tend to not wave back or say hi to us regular commuters. But then there's this bearded "Fred" that I've tried to nod or say Hi to that I see going the other way a lot and he's off in his own world and studiously avoids even making eye contact with me any more. Not sure why but his bike is rather odd so he may be an urban hermit or something. But most folks are quite friendly and nod or say "mornin'" back to me and there's a couple of riders that I'll pace and chat with along the way. It's quite common for me to share a few comments with riders at stop lights as well.

Wrap around safety glasses to stop the sleet would work and won't cut out the light like sunglasses would on dark and stormy days but won't protect your cheeks. We only get that sort of nonsense a couple of days a year so I've never bothered to look into options that it sounds like you need. I don't bother with glasses. I find that the brim of my helmet works decently to shield my eyes from the rain if I tilt the helmet down enough that I'm just peeking out under the edge.

I've not worried too much about the wet hair deal. I find I'm riding hard enough that only on the coldest days do I wish I had something to keep the rain out of my helmet. Mostly I think those covers are just to keep the worst of it off anyway. If it really bothers you then perhaps wear a swimmer's cap under your helmet?

My ears are the big issue for me. If they get cold for long it's instant headache for most of the day. So I wear a fleece headband that the local shops have just for cycling. It still lets air flow so I can hear what's going on but is warm enough. Another head band I found has fleece ear pieces with nylon outer to act as a wind proof layer. I only use that on the very coldest days since the nylon cover over the ears really affects my hearing. I can still hear stuff but I can't tell where it's coming from and it's muffled.
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Old 04-13-08, 01:18 PM   #6
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!) I don't expect people to wave or say high when driving my car, why should I expect it while riding my bike?
2) Ski goggles are a good idea.
3) Just get used to it. The sensation should be familiar from sailing.
3) I wear an LL Bean Stowaway hooded raincoat. The hood goes under my helmet.

Paul
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Old 04-13-08, 02:16 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wisc-sailor View Post
1) I live in a bike friendly town, I see dozens of commuters each day ... I make eye contact, give a friendly acknowledgement when they pass, say "hey" when we are at stop lights ... but they all are in their own world, seemingly angry or defensive. Is it because Im on a common Trek hybrid and they all have fancy road bikes? Or because Im using a milk crate lashed to my rack, maybe its because I wear a yellow caution vest and have my red-tail light on, or that I have fenders? Am I a total dork squad member or are commuters just in their own world?
You may just be too sensitive. Some people will reciprocate, some won't, and if you try to push the issue, you will make them uncomfortable. Since you are in a bike friendly town, it is possible that they are afraid you are some kind of crusader who is out to change the world. In all honesty, some of my least favorite places to ride are bike friendly. I find that the population tends to be more polarized, people sometimes assume I'm one of those militant yahoos just because I'm out in everything (and then think I'm cool or that I suck because of that). I prefer to ride where no one gives a damn about how I get around.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wisc-sailor View Post
2) Watery eyes. In the morning when its still 20 degree my eyes get all watery from the cold wind. Are there special glasses or goggles I should get.
You need vented glasses. Most glasses are not vented and will fog up, so get the right thing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wisc-sailor View Post
3) Riding in the sleet/rain during a big blow was really painful against my face .. ouch. Whats the best way, to protect your face, without getting all sweaty, during ugly weather.
Helmet with a visor. Tilt your head down and your face will be in the wind shadow cut by the visor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wisc-sailor View Post
4) Im using my sailing gear to keep dry right now. If I stick with this I might get some more appropriate biking gear. Its working fine for now though .. except for the head ... I have a standard Giro helmet ... and my head is getting soaked in the rain. A hood didnt work. Is there anything I should look at to keep my noggin dry?
Trying to dry is a waste of time. If you're going to be out in the wet, you need to come to terms with that and learn how to stay warm when wet. I wear a balaclava over my head, neoprene tights and booties, and a lightweight shell with layered jersies beneath.

BTW, 50 is not old. That's still prime cycling age.
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Old 04-13-08, 04:35 PM   #8
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I wear ski goggles in the winter and have some big wide safety glasses for the summer, or wraparound sunglasses on sunny days in the summer. I don't care what I look like any more, being 58 and beyond almost all embarrassment.

For face protection in the rain, I used to have the Bell helmet that came with the flip-up eye shield, but I got rid of it (30 years old) and miss it. I am looking for an idea for a replacement. One idea has come to mind, but it would cost $75+ to try it and I don't have that much money to totally waste. The idea would be one of those helmets that is a bit more rounded and comes down farther in the back--I think they are used for snowboarding. Add to that...one of those face shields used by riot police. In good weather I would look like el dorko supremo, but I think that if anyone saw me wearing it in pouring rain they would compliment me on my ingenuity. But if I bought the thing and then found out it would not attach to the bike helmet, I would be out $50.

So if anyone has an idea for face protection, I also would be interested in hearing it.
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Old 04-13-08, 04:52 PM   #9
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Im an old guy (50)
Hey, make up your mind: are you an old guy or are you 50? Don't start with throwing contradictions at us.

Congrats on starting your bike commuting!

Quote:
1) I live in a bike friendly town, I see dozens of commuters each day ... I make eye contact, give a friendly acknowledgement when they pass, say "hey" when we are at stop lights ... but they all are in their own world, seemingly angry or defensive. Is it because Im on a common Trek hybrid and they all have fancy road bikes? Or because Im using a milk crate lashed to my rack, maybe its because I wear a yellow caution vest and have my red-tail light on, or that I have fenders? Am I a total dork squad member or are commuters just in their own world?
This is an issue that gets discussed quite regularly on BF. There is definitely some snobbery on the part of people with fancier equipment, but commuters tend to be more like you: hybrid or mountain bike, milk crate or panniers, lit up like a Christmas tree. In other words, we're Freds and Wilmas and proud of it. But when there are so many of us out there, I feel that waving at everyone becomes a bit too much. It's different out in the boonies when you might see a lonely traveller every once in a while, but if you're, say, walking along a busy downtown street, you don't wave at every stranger - you'd be waving non-stop! I find it similar with bike commuting.

Quote:
2) Watery eyes. In the morning when its still 20 degree my eyes get all watery from the cold wind. Are there special glasses or goggles I should get.

3) Riding in the sleet/rain during a big blow was really painful against my face .. ouch. Whats the best way, to protect your face, without getting all sweaty, during ugly weather.
Couldn't say about these ones. I just expose my face to the elements and cope with watery eyes and sleet on my face. The latter is almost pleasant - makes me feel alive. Anyway, hopefully you won't have to worry about this for a while since spring is here!

Quote:
4) Im using my sailing gear to keep dry right now. If I stick with this I might get some more appropriate biking gear. Its working fine for now though .. except for the head ... I have a standard Giro helmet ... and my head is getting soaked in the rain. A hood didnt work. Is there anything I should look at to keep my noggin dry?
First of all, if some clothes you already own are working fine there is no need to waste money some special clothes labeled "bike" clothes.
As for the head, there are waterproof helmet covers.
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Old 04-13-08, 06:02 PM   #10
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But when there are so many of us out there, I feel that waving at everyone becomes a bit too much. It's different out in the boonies when you might see a lonely traveller every once in a while, but if you're, say, walking along a busy downtown street, you don't wave at every stranger - you'd be waving non-stop! I find it similar with bike commuting.
I think that's really about it. Plus, bike commuting, and maybe race training, are about the "least fun" anyone can have on a bike (even though it's much more fun than commuting by car ).
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Old 04-13-08, 06:12 PM   #11
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I think that's really about it. Plus, bike commuting, and maybe race training, are about the "least fun" anyone can have on a bike (even though it's much more fun than commuting by car ).
And more fun than commuting by, ugg, public transportation
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Old 04-13-08, 07:11 PM   #12
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Im an old guy (50) who just took up bike commuting. I just completed my third week.
I'm not that far behind you and I don't feel old. My commuting by bike just started last December and I'm still learning all the time.

Since I don't encounter other riders during my commutes, I can't comment on their states of mind, but I'll at least weigh in on the other subjects:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wisc-sailor View Post
2) Watery eyes. In the morning when its still 20 degree my eyes get all watery from the cold wind. Are there special glasses or goggles I should get.
My regular eyeglasses are all I have ever used, even in temperatures down below zero. I know for sure that my ski goggles are no good, since they fog too easily, but I ride hard. Others may have less trouble with them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wisc-sailor View Post
3) Riding in the sleet/rain during a big blow was really painful against my face .. ouch. Whats the best way, to protect your face, without getting all sweaty, during ugly weather.
My favorite piece of winter gear is my Seirus fleece-lined face mask. I wear it pretty much any time the temperatures are below 45 degrees and it's great protection against wind and sleet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wisc-sailor View Post
4) ... my head is getting soaked in the rain. A hood didnt work. Is there anything I should look at to keep my noggin dry?
I have no good answer. My helmet has snaps to attach a rain cover, but it prevents cooling, so I'm just as wet from sweating inside the helmet then. If the temperatures are 50 or above, it's okay to get wet. I don't enjoy the rain when it's colder.
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Old 04-13-08, 07:28 PM   #13
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A skull cap worn under the helmet is a good solution, because you are not covering the air vents you still have cooling, they will also keep you reasonably dry. I have the Bonehead Hat from Polaris, it will also keep your ears nice and warm on those cold mornings.

I pass one bloke every night on my way to work. We never speak but we do raise a hand in greeting, he is in full hard-core kit, and his bike is a full suspension Marin that must have cost him a fortune... but there is no snobbishness in him because he will still acknowledge me on my sub 200 Raleigh.

Edited to add...

Quote:
2) Watery eyes. In the morning when its still 20 degree my eyes get all watery from the cold wind. Are there special glasses or goggles I should get.
Yep, there are a lot of specs and goggles you can buy to stop streaming eyes, I suffer from watering eyes even on the warmest days. But don't be fooled into paying a fortune. You may see some hi end specs that are guaranteed not to mist, be super light, be held firmly in place, look ultra trendy and have wonderfull polychromatic lenses that will either enhance night vision (amber), or reduce UV... and will be expected to pay around 100 ($197 US) for... but you are paying for labels.

But if you are savvy you can find specs with the same features from Workplace Safety Stores for around 10 ($20 US)... and in some cases you would be hard pressed to tell the difference... safety specs can be very fashionable looking.

http://www.arco.co.uk/products/3C3300/121175/

Last edited by Cadfael; 04-13-08 at 07:48 PM.
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Old 04-13-08, 07:30 PM   #14
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plastic grocery bag works great to keep your head dry and warm under your helmet. But you will sweat.
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Old 04-13-08, 07:40 PM   #15
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a good rule of thumb is

if they are wearing spandex - don't wave
if the aren't - wave

Folks go on and on about how spandex is more comfortable, but by sheer amount of spandex folks that don't wave, I have to believe otherwise

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Old 04-13-08, 07:50 PM   #16
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The wave thing gets brought up over and over. We don't (and I'm sure this applies to you too) wave to everyone we pass when we're driving or walking. We wave when we're in a novel situation and think we have something in common with the other person. So you're new to bike commuting and it's fresh and exciting. You're thinking "Wow, I'm bike commuting - this is great! Oh look there's another bike commuter! Hey, look at me! I'm a commuter too! Hey, we're both bike commuters!" Meanwhile the other guy has maybe ridden 1000 times in the past 10 years - it's nothing new or different for him, it's just another day. He's thinking "Whatever."
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Old 04-13-08, 07:58 PM   #17
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The wave thing gets brought up over and over. We don't wave to everyone we pass when we're driving or walking. We wave when we're in a novel situation and think we have something in common with the other person. So you're new to bike commuting and it's fresh and exciting. You're thinking "Wow, I'm bike commuting - this is great! Oh look there's another bike commuter! Hey, look at me! I'm a commuter too! Hey, we're both bike commuters!" Meanwhile the other guy has maybe ridden 1000 times in the past 10years - it's nothing new or different for him, it's just another day. He's thinking "Whatever."
I hike quite a bit, I have been out in the middle of nowhere up some fell in the Lake District and passed someone... I always say hello, or rather give them a traditional Lancashire greeting... 'OW DO!'. Quite few will reply, but a a good number just ignore me and keep their head down and plod on. But the moot point is, I will still give a word... it is their problem they are miserable gits... not mine.

It cost nothing to be friendly. But, okay I admit cycling is different, and I think most times it is down to keeping your eyes on the road and cars rather than ignorance. Mind you, in the UK we are a very friendly bunch!
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Old 04-13-08, 08:08 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Wisc-sailor View Post
1) I live in a bike friendly town, I see dozens of commuters each day ... I make eye contact, give a friendly acknowledgement when they pass, say "hey" when we are at stop lights ... but they all are in their own world, seemingly angry or defensive. Is it because Im on a common Trek hybrid and they all have fancy road bikes? Or because Im using a milk crate lashed to my rack, maybe its because I wear a yellow caution vest and have my red-tail light on, or that I have fenders? Am I a total dork squad member or are commuters just in their own world?
NOT this again!!

Just concentrate on riding your bicycle, and don't worry about what everyone else is doing.
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Old 04-13-08, 08:32 PM   #19
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At first I didn't wave because I was still learning how to balance and was afraid I'd topple over if I did take one hand off my handlebars. But I always smiled and said hello, or if I was out of breath, nod smile and wheeze cheerfully. Some people won't bother to give you the time of day, but that'll happen walking down the street, or driving for that matter.

I wear wrap around glasses most of the year, when I do ride in the winter I wear ski goggles. I throw on a neoprene face mask for the really miserable days. It really completes the look...

I sweat in my helmet regardless of the number of ventilation slits in it, so I don't bother with a cover. But saying that, my ears get really cold really fast and even hurt inside when it is miserable outside. I bought a ski helmet with an attached liner and ear covers. Very comfy very warm. An added bonus is the strap on the back that'll hold my goggles. With my winter helmet and goggles on, a friend called me "Goggles Pizano".
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Old 04-13-08, 09:46 PM   #20
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Meanwhile the other guy has maybe ridden 1000 times in the past 10 years - it's nothing new or different for him, it's just another day. He's thinking "Whatever."[/QUOTE]

... you 100% got it. You know what ... I'm seeing stuff for the first time ... and I gotta tell you, its a lot of fun to see where I once was - and where I am now and seeing all the connections. In a small way - its like being a kid again.

Bill
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Old 04-13-08, 09:53 PM   #21
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First off, congrats on your commute!

1- Me: Commuter, necesity biking, occasional recreational. Neighbor: Road bike, fitness freak. I asked my neighbor about the 'attitude,' and he said its not about snobishness, its about breaking rhythm; cadence, breath, and speed. Whatever- seems snobby to me! Who cares what your bike looks like or how its outfitted- your not in junior high, so appearances don't matter (unless you're cruzing for chicks on your commuter, then maybe ditch the milk crate !).

2- I made it until -10 degrees with only simple safety glasses- Uvex: I was in a hurry one night (I leave for work at 8pm), and couldn't find my Oakley's, and figured out they did quite well. They have become my commuting glasses. No need to buy anything expensive.

3,4- A simple, yet versitile balaclava is what I use; once again, good for -10 degrees, and fairly waterproof. Stretchy enough to cover your whole face, or any variation you can come up with. It keeps my head dry, ears warm, and makes my son say, "You look like you're going underwater!" (he's three- amused at anything).
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Old 04-13-08, 09:59 PM   #22
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I think that's really about it. Plus, bike commuting, and maybe race training, are about the "least fun" anyone can have on a bike.
LEAST FUN??? For me it's about the most fun. I love planning out my route, and totalling up my distance ridden, and the riding itself, taking in the sights and smells and sounds of the city, and the feeling of accomplishment as I arrive at my destination, and the warm fuzzy thought of a relaxing shower and a delicious supper as I'm riding home at the end of the day... Much more fun than pointless loops in some park or waking up on Sunday at an ungodly hour to drive to a country road and pedal around with a bunch of lycra-clad poseurs.
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Old 04-13-08, 10:00 PM   #23
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"Wow, I'm bike commuting - this is great! Oh look there's another bike commuter! Hey, look at me! I'm a commuter too! Hey, we're both bike commuters!" Meanwhile the other guy has maybe ridden 1000 times in the past 10 years - it's nothing new or different for him, it's just another day. He's thinking "Whatever."
Well put.
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Old 04-13-08, 10:10 PM   #24
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, I will still give a word... it is their problem they are miserable gits... not mine.
Well put
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Old 04-13-08, 10:15 PM   #25
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LEAST FUN??? For me it's about the most fun. I love planning out my route, and totalling up my distance ridden, and the riding itself, taking in the sights and smells and sounds of the city, and the feeling of accomplishment as I arrive at my destination, and the warm fuzzy thought of a relaxing shower and a delicious supper as I'm riding home at the end of the day... Much more fun than pointless loops in some park or waking up on Sunday at an ungodly hour to drive to a country road and pedal around with a bunch of lycra-clad poseurs.
You catch my drift, though, right? I mean, commuting to work probably means another dull day at the office fixing computer code for the big Y2K crunch (well, ten years ago, anyway ) or some other daily grind. And by "training", I mean riding by the numbers, checking your watts/hr or whatever and not just taking in the sights & sounds (and sometimes using loops in a park, too).

But yeah, commuting FROM work is definitely nicer.
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