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  1. #1
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    starting to commute in winter

    Hello! I'm new to the forum and have a question. I normally bus to work - 4 km, almost one km being a very steep hill. However, bus pass prices are increasing by a huge amount in January and it's going to be a big stress on my budget. I have a mountain bike and am considering starting to commute to work, but I'm afraid that the west coast weather (constant rain and about 0-5 Celsius) and that steep hill will turn me off. Does anyone have any tips for starting a commute like this in the winter? The hill scares me enough in warm weather, let alone in pouring rain and cold!

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Mmm hm! agent pombero's Avatar
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    I commute year round in the PNW and it is fine. The #1 key is proper gear.

    1) Merino wool. Yes, it is expensive but if properly taken care of will last you 10+ years. Merino wool wicks moisture away from your body. There is no better fabric that can keep you warm than merino. Get merino leggings and a few base layers, socks, etc.

    2) Full fenders for your MTB

    3) Showers Pass jacket

    4) Gloves

    5) No matter how cold it gets in the PNW don't put 5+ layers on, you'll regret it. If you are using merino you will only need 2 + your rain jacket.

    6) The more you ride the easier that hills becomes. You don't have to race up that hill. Take your time, breathe, and you can get up there with minimal sweating.

  3. #3
    Senior Member MNBikeCommuter's Avatar
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    You've got a mountain bike so you should have some decent low gearing. Spin the pedals at 90-100 rpm rather than pushing hard, and there should be a gear that gets you up that hill without killing yourself or your knees.

  4. #4
    Senior Member chriskmurray's Avatar
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    The hill will suck for a bit but soon enough it won't be something you even think twice about.

    Staying comfortable is all about good gear. Fenders help a lot, good rain pants/jacket can also do wonders.

  5. #5
    Senior Member david58's Avatar
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    PNW winter commuting can be just fine - I have come to enjoy the ride in the wet weather and the cold. I just don't do wind and rain together, or freezing fog. Otherwise, it's just fine.
    2011 BMC SR02; 2010 Fuji Cross Comp; n+1 on hold today, due to college tuition and a wedding. Some day, some where, over the rainbow, I will get that 29er....

  6. #6
    Mmm hm! agent pombero's Avatar
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    If you're serious about commuting by bicycle don't settle for cheap gear. Cheap gear = high cost overall. Buy the best you can afford up front and have the peace of mind your gear will last a very long time if taken care of.

  7. #7
    lowlife bottom feeder BassNotBass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chriskmurray View Post
    ... Staying comfortable is all about good gear. Fenders help a lot, good rain pants/jacket can also do wonders.
    +1. The size of the hill doesn't change according to weather. What matters is one's mindset and whether you've adddressed the conditions you'll be riding in. I know plenty of capable riders who let weather put a limit on their abilities.
    I plan on living forever... so far so good.

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    The distance is 4km (less than 3 miles). At that distance, you don't need any special clothing and you don't need to spend lots of money to get started. Keep your speed down so you dont sweat. Use your gears, esp the low ones, so you are pedalling at about 80rpm but with low pedalling force. You just wind yourself up a hill.
    Fit some full-length fenders to your bike to keep the dirty roadsplash off your clothes. A 5C, you can wear breathable waterproof overpants in heavy rain.
    Get some lights, some bright jackets, a windproof one and a waterproof one.

    For my short rides around town in similar conditions, I usually wear casual hiking style pants in polyester cotton. I have worn cotton T shirts but synthetic wicking ones are more comfortable and expensive Merino ones are the very best. You can pick up polyester T shirts for a couple of dollars.
    Between the base layer and the waterproof or windproof shell, it doesn't matter too much what you wear. I like polycotton polonecks and wool sweaters.
    Use a waterproof light hiking boot or show with wool socks.

    If you are relying on cycling to get you to work, invest in some quality tyres with good puncture protection (eg Schwalbe Marathon). You have get super protection tyres like Marathon Plus, they are more expensive but you can ditch your puncture repair kit.
    The repair kit should be a spare innertube, tyre levers and any wrench you need. I rarely take a repair kit for journeys under 3 miles.

  9. #9
    ♋ ☮♂ ☭ ☯ -=(8)=-'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by agent pombero View Post
    If you're serious about commuting by bicycle don't settle for cheap gear. Cheap gear = high cost overall. Buy the best you can afford up front and have the peace of mind your gear will last a very long time if taken care of.
    Quote Originally Posted by BassNotBass View Post
    +1. The size of the hill doesn't change according to weather. What matters is one's mindset and whether you've adddressed the conditions you'll be riding in. I know plenty of capable riders who let weather put a limit on their abilities.
    Quote Originally Posted by chriskmurray View Post
    The hill will suck for a bit but soon enough it won't be something you even think twice about.

    Staying comfortable is all about good gear. Fenders help a lot, good rain pants/jacket can also do wonders.

    Cant really add to this stuff !

    ITs all mindset. If you are used to warm, dry, motorized conveyance to get to work, it is a little bit of a shock to even grasp purposely heading out in the cold and wet, but once you do it for a while, it becomes the same as what you did before, only different . . .
    Makes total sense, huh ?
    Really though . . . hills, what might seem to be bad weather conditions . . .
    It's more mental than money if you stick with it. Make it through the "why am I doing this period", and it becomes a lifestyle you wonder why you didn't discover earlier.

    Spend money on a good rainsuit, lights and mirror. Flat-proof tires are like an insurance policy. Yeah, 100.00 seems like a lot for tires, but get a flat at 7:00 am in the rain, and all the sudden they seem like a better investment than what you thought previously. The importance of bike minutiae is over rated. Single speed, roadbike, mountain bike, whatever, none of that matters. A seasoned commuter knows Jedi mindtrix conquer all
    Have fun be safe !

    .::EDIT::. --------> Walk the hill if necessary. There is no law that states getting off the bike is a punishable offense
    Last edited by -=(8)=-; 12-16-12 at 04:48 AM.

  10. #10
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    I too have a hill to start my morning commute, gets the blood flowing and makes the rest of the ride eaiser. The ride home sure is nice -flying down that hill at the end of the day.

  11. #11
    Senior Member TuckamoreDew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spb123 View Post
    Hello! I'm new to the forum and have a question. I normally bus to work - 4 km, almost one km being a very steep hill. However, bus pass prices are increasing by a huge amount in January and it's going to be a big stress on my budget. I have a mountain bike and am considering starting to commute to work, but I'm afraid that the west coast weather (constant rain and about 0-5 Celsius) and that steep hill will turn me off. Does anyone have any tips for starting a commute like this in the winter? The hill scares me enough in warm weather, let alone in pouring rain and cold!

    Thanks!
    Since you say you're considering cycling because of the budget stress of the bus pass increase, I'm going to assume that you don't have a lot of money to throw around on expensive clothing and gear. And in my opinion, you likely don't need it anyway: 4km isn't that far and 0Celsius ain't that bad. You should be able to get by without special equipment. Your bike should work just fine and you probably already have clothing that will get you through the winter. Most people already own clothing appropriate to the environment they live in. If you need more, I'd suggest frequenting secondhand stores. You should be able to find the basics there immediately and with patience some real gems might turn up. Today I scored some high end Gore-Tex clothing for insanely cheap.

    If you can free up some cash I'd prioritize getting some bike lights (if you don't already have any) and some basic rain gear (if you don't already have it) and some sort of gloves and ear covering hat (if you don't already have them). Dress in layers. After a few commutes you will start to get a feel for how much you should be wearing. Add or subtract layers as necessary. Fenders will make your ride more comfortable if you can afford them. Where are you? Is there a local bike co-op in your area? Those are a real boon for finding cheap bike equipment.

    The good equipment costs and does improve the comfort of the commute but it is not necessary. When I started bike commuting I didn't have a lot of cash but I got by just fine. Over the years I have gradually upgraded my equipment and if you stick with it you might do the same. For now, it will mostly be about mental attitude. Give it a try and see what happens.

    Best of luck, and keep us updated.

  12. #12
    Senior Member TuckamoreDew's Avatar
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    One further thought. 0Celsius and rain can make for an icy commute, something that takes a little practice and preparation. For now, you might want to take the bus on days like that.

  13. #13
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    you'll spend more on bike gear so don't let money be your motivation.
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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