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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 07-14-08, 09:23 PM   #1
supercycle62
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My first commute to work in Vancouver BC!

Hi folks,

I am new here but not new to bicycle commuting. I rode a bike to work and back for 20 years back home in Ontario Canada but I recently moved to the west coast (Vancouver) and started a new job today and rode my brand new Raleigh "Gator" MTB to work and home for the very first time. My commute is only 30 minutes so it's perfect for me. It feels great to get good exercise, fresh air and save money at the same time. This will also be the first winter commuting I will be doing since they don't get snow here (lot's of rain) and I'm really looking forward to being able to ride my bike 12 months of the year. Where I am originally from in Ontario you can ride usually from April until November...then the freezing temperatures and snow starts.

As for the bike. It's great for what I am using it for. I plan on getting slicks for it and fenders and a rack for the back as I don't ride in dirt and only will be using this bike to get around town since it's my only transportation. Eventually I would like to get another more commuter "friendly" bike but this one was all I could afford at $179 and like I said...I wouldn't ever take it in the mountains. Even with the front shocks it offers a pretty nice stable and comfortable ride.

Anyhow...it was a beautiful morning ride at about 59 degrees going in and in the 70's coming home and sunshine all this week.

This is a cool forum and I just discovered it. I look forward to reading the helpful and interesting posts and contributing when I can.
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Old 07-14-08, 09:31 PM   #2
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Hey there,

I love Vancouver! I`ll be moving out to Victoria September 2009 and I can hardly wait (13.5 months to go!).

Welcome to the forum and yes there is a wealth of info here as well as some really interesting posts.
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Old 07-14-08, 11:33 PM   #3
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Thanks for the kind welcome, I have no doubt you will enjoy living in Victoria. I have yet to visit there but I have heard it's a beautiful place to live.

You are correct that there is a wealth of good info on this forum. I am glad I stumbled upon it here on the web. In the past I have always owned older bikes. The bike I had been using daily before I moved was an old 1970's Supercycle ten speed that had been converted to a commuter bike with old english touring style handle bars, (not drop bars) fenders, rear carrying rack and a nice padded comfy seat. I paid $30 used for it last spring and rode it all last summer and this spring before I came out west and it was a great old bike. I tried to find something similar here in Vancouver but wasn't able to find one I liked so I decided I'd just get a new inexpensive mountain bike instead. Maybe in the fall I will look for a "vintage" style bike that will allow me a more upright riding position as I have never been a huge fan of the riding position that mountain bikes allow. For now the mountain bike is getting me from point A to B with relative ease and I am starting to get used to the non-padded seat. I know that part of my next pay cheque is going towards slick tires, fenders and a rear rack.

One great thing about Vancouver is that there are so many bike shops with a good selection of bikes, accessories and very knowledgable staff. I think my home town (Ottawa) had like maybe 3 good shops. Most "bike shops" in Ottawa stop dealing in bicycles and riding gear in the fall and sell ski equipment since not many people ride in the dead of winter. In fact there are very few real "bike shops" back home. I find Vancouver to be very bike friendly.

Like I said if you are a cyclist of any kind...you will enjoy living out here.

Cheers!
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Old 07-15-08, 07:07 AM   #4
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Cycling is good here thats for sure. At least compared to the rest of Canada our weather is the most cycle friendly. We also have drivers who are fairly tolerant/used to cyclists on the road.

Then we got the Tour de Delta and Tour de Gastown if you ever learn how to pedal really really fast
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Old 07-15-08, 08:38 AM   #5
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Riding in Vancouver is quite good. No gravel! I didn't ride there for very long, but I do recall that electric city buses can accelerate and stop very quickly. Victoria is great, my Mom lives just north of it. One thing about Victoria - it's very polite. I was walking along one of the touristy streets with my wife, and a young, fresh-faced suburban lad walks up to us from an adjacent park and enthusiastically declared, "Hi! Did you want any marijuana? I have several excellent varieties to choose from!". We smiled and said no thanks. The dealer said, "No problem! Enjoy your stay in Victoria! Make sure you check out the harbour - it's beautiful!" Nicest dealer evar.
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Old 07-15-08, 01:29 PM   #6
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Welcome to commuting in Vancouver. If you are going to commute through the winter, I highly recommend a good water proof jacket and pants - make sure they breathe 'cause you will warm up. I'd also recommend some good tires for the winter - although it doesn't snow much here, up around the top of the hill (think anywhere from Granville to Boundary along 37th) it will get a lot of black ice. I got studded tires last winter and they were life savers. I met a few commuters who had broken collar bones on the ice, so be careful if you don't get studs.

Finally, get some lights for the winter. Either get some good ones, or many cheap ones (I have 3 PB superflashes on the back, a Princeton Tec switchback on the handlebars and a cheap blinky on my helmet, but that may be overkill =).
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Old 07-15-08, 08:19 PM   #7
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it's very polite. I was walking along one of the touristy streets with my wife, and a young, fresh-faced suburban lad walks up to us from an adjacent park and enthusiastically declared, "Hi! Did you want any marijuana? I have several excellent varieties to choose from!". We smiled and said no thanks. The dealer said, "No problem! Enjoy your stay in Victoria! Make sure you check out the harbour - it's beautiful!" Nicest dealer evar.
LOL thats classic
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Old 07-15-08, 08:51 PM   #8
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Welcome to the Fold Supercycle. It's funny to see that username since that's the old brandname used by Crappy Tire. Is there a link there?

Get your self down and join MEC if you haven't already. Then buy some Ritchey Tom Slicks and a few of the tubes you need and mount dem puppies up on your ride. Get a floor pump at the same time. It's the only way to fly when this is your only transpo. Fenders are there as well as racks, panniers and all the rest of the stuff. No point in worrying about lights just yet unless you plan on being out late. A seat bag is also a great way to hold your spare tube and tire levers as well as a folding allen set. And they've got a lot of other nice stuff as well.

For the rain I also suggest the most highly breathable stuff you can find. Sadly the best option I've used isn't sold there any more. It's lycra pants with a nylon shell "windproof" front. The lycra keeps me nicely warm in the coolest weather we get here while the nylon front sheds the rain and cold from the wind chill. Some water repellant spray works wonders at making the front water resistant for a couple of years and then I repeat the application. Similarly for the jacket. I used the micropore wind proof jacket rather than the serious rain jacket just so it would breathe better. Again it proved itself to be highly water resistant for the first couple of years and since then I spray it with water repellant every second year. Both the jacket and pants have got a good 10 years on them now and there's still a lot of life in them.

The velcro up the rear rain booties made from the nylon work EXCELLENT! But then I use clipless pedals. With platform pedals you may wear out the bottom straps sooner.

And no, I'm not a shill for MEC. It's just that they sell stuff that works so I buy it and find myself getting all enthusiastic.

Plan on the bus and skytrain for the two or three weeks of ice we get. Our ice is so close to the freezing point that it's hard but also slippery. It's not something to ride on. The good news is that if you are in an area where you ride on the normal roads rather than paths or side streets the main routes clear very fast. You may only need to bus or S'train for 6 to 12 days in total.
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Old 07-15-08, 09:08 PM   #9
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I moved from Toronto to Vancouver back in 1989. Life for me here so much better that I get to ride/commute everyday - rain or shine. I left the snow back in Toronto.

Yup! Like you I love bike commuting. Without a doubt the commute is the HIGHLIGHT of my day. What car commuter can say that?

Definitely fenders and a rack help the year-round commute. Outside of summer, I will carry a goretex jacket rolled up in my rear rack bag - so I never have to be concerned about potential rain in the cooler months.

You'll find that the rain is never heavy in Vancouver compared to Toronto. For all the rain we have - it is almost always just "showers", which is much easier to cope with on a bike.

Cheers
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Old 07-15-08, 11:55 PM   #10
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Thanks to all for the tips about winter riding here. I will definately get lights, warm clothes and tires for the ice.
Todays ride was again very nice as the weather here has been warm and sunny and I think it's going to stay like that for the rest of the week. Since I have to work tomorrow evening I will not be riding in to work and home at night since I don't have proper lights yet. I'd also like to give myself a break now and then. I think I am going to invest in more comfortable seat. The seat I have now is not as great as I first thought. Anyone have any suggestions on a nice padded seat?

Cheers!
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Old 07-16-08, 12:07 AM   #11
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Welcome to the Fold Supercycle. It's funny to see that username since that's the old brandname used by Crappy Tire. Is there a link there?

Get your self down and join MEC if you haven't already.
Yes...my last bike back home was an old Supercycle and since I am Canadian I figured my fellow countrymen would get the connection.

Now...pardon my ignorance but what is "MEC"?

Thanks again for the helpful info about the winter ice conditions. I will certainly keep it in mind.
I'm from Ottawa...I know all about snow...heh heh..
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Old 07-16-08, 06:54 AM   #12
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Now...pardon my ignorance but what is "MEC"?
Mountain Equipment Co-Op

www.mec.ca
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Old 07-16-08, 05:45 PM   #13
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Welcome Supercycle62,

I left Ontario 5 years ago, and took up bike commuting here in Vancouver, year round. When I first arrived, I was working on a contract, so all I had was a bike. I actually bought second hand at a shop called 'Our Community Bikes' at Main and 17th; there's another one on comercial drive.

If you're going to ride a lot - and count on your bike for transport, I'd suggest that you get familiar with them. Basically, it's an open shop where you can rent time on a bike stand, borrow tools, and do your own repairs and maintenance yourself. When they're not helping newbies, the staff at the shops harvest used parts from old bikes that are donated to the shop, and use these parts to build up a few 'cheap and cheerful' bikes for re-sale.

I spent my first 4 years here commuting on a 1980's vintage 12-speed, with downtube shifters, converted to a flat-bar. It originally cost me $75. Last year, when I completed 5000 kms commuting, I retired the 'beater' and bought a disc-braked bike with drop bars - better for the rainy weather.

You'll probably find (as I did) that commuting in the rainy months means that all kinds of gunk and grit gets caught up in your drivetrain. Be sure to get some generous mud-flaps for your front fender, so that your front tire doesn't coat your chain in crud. Also, despite what someone suggested to shop at MEC, stay away from MEC's "wet lube" chain lube. It absorbs dirt, and turns into a hard, waxy cement that is nearly impossible to clean!
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Old 12-27-10, 02:57 AM   #14
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Hand signals are in your manuals, do riders use them on regular basis?
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Old 12-27-10, 05:58 AM   #15
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Hand signals are in your manuals, do riders use them on regular basis?
yes and no. It's hard trade off. It's great to signal but the cars here seem to ignore you anyways, or they just don't understand what hand signals are anymore.
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Old 12-27-10, 03:19 PM   #16
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Love that story about the Victoria pot dealer... hilarious! I'm originally from Vancouver, but I moved to London, Ontario from Duncan, BC (about an hour's drive north of Victoria) back in 1986. At that time I was a teenager riding BMX bikes, and since we lived in a more rural area I didn't do much commuting.

I second the recommendation to join MEC; I've purchased quite a few accessories from them and came close to buying one of their bikes earlier this year. I settled on a Norco (a Vancouver-based company) instead, but MEC has some darn nice bikes.

One suggestion I would make is to invest in a second wheelset with studded tires for those occasional west coast winter days when the mercury dips below freezing. That way you can truly be a 4-season commuter. Oh... and you'll need some rain gear, and some fenders (MEC is a good source for that, too).
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Old 12-21-13, 08:36 AM   #17
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I don`t know if this thread is still followed, but I am an Ottawa cyclist myself on the verge of probably moving to Vancouver this summer and wonder whether the cycling (mostly commuting) experience there, is really that superior to here. I`d say it`s probably my number one criteria so any local insight is much appreciated.
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Old 12-21-13, 10:08 AM   #18
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I haven't ridden in Ottawa but I've visited in the winter and I would say it's certainly easier to ride year-round in Vancouver. There's usually a handful of days each year where it's not possible to ride but other than that it's not too difficult to ride all year. You'll need some tolerance for wet roads and rain but at least when it's raining it's usually warm. I've had 3 days this year where it hasn't been possible to ride due to snow or ice.
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Old 12-21-13, 10:24 AM   #19
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So far I've had four missed commutes due to weather this year. Two for ice/snow, two for wind. It's a good place for year round commuting to be sure.
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Old 12-24-13, 01:54 PM   #20
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No missed commutes yet this year, even with last week's mild dump of snow. And this is on a fixie with 23mm tires. But then I've been riding in Vancouver for the last 40+ years, commuting by bike for just about all of them, and I've seen much worse. The few times you decide to leave the bike at home and take transit, you'll often find that transit is not operating, either!

I set off in the morning, usually around 6:30, from about 1/3 of the way up Burnaby Mtn, and head downtown. They never clean the MUPs in Burnaby, but they're rideable on the first day of snow because it's always soft and easy to maneuver in. You just have to watch it on days 2 and 3 (by day 4 it's usually gone as the temps warm up and it starts raining), especially if it warms up and refreezes. The snow will turn to ice, or it gets packed down into ice by cars driving over it. The icy clumps will throw out your steering. Quite often you'll be riding over a thin layer of snow, and your front wheel will get deflected, and you'll be slipping the front wheel a bit. The bike is still controllable as long as the front wheel slide doesn't last too long.

Riding in snow will make you one heck of a bike handler!

The main roads are usually well maintained, and the closer you get to downtown, the better the roads become. I have noticed that on certain routes, like the Central Valley Greenway (CVG) and the Adanac, they have actually started running a small snowplow close to downtown! Be careful on the plowed parts, though; they do become slippery/icy. One of my crashes was on a plowed section.

The only thing easterners (and those from the prairies) need to realize is that West Coast snow is wet, so it tends to be quite slippery, so you do have to watch your speed. Sometimes you'll find yourself sliding down hills with the rear wheel totally locked up and the bike accelerating! Don't be afraid to walk your bike up or down the tricky sections. I often have to walk the fixie up the steeper climbs. And if you do crash in the snow, make sure all the loose parts (pump, seat bag) are recovered. I once lost a nice frame pump because I hand't noticed that it had fallen off and got buried in the snowbank!

Luis
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Old 12-27-13, 11:41 PM   #21
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I'm glad I ran across this thread! I am considering UBC as a transfer school for either next year or the year after, and I was curious about the cycling there.

Only hang-up is cost. We'll see.
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Old 12-28-13, 09:29 AM   #22
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I miss being in the Vancouver region. I used to pedal EVERYWHERE. Even in the winter when it was peeing down rain. The sea wall around Stanley Park and False Creek was one of my favorite rides.
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