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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 05-21-13, 08:55 PM   #1
PatrickGSR94
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What if you were caught at work with no car?

The forecast yesterday said some rain this evening, but didn't look too bad. If I were a seasoned commuter I might have been at work today with the bike, but no car. But it turns out we got MASSIVE amounts of rain this afternoon, with flooding like I have never seen before in my life, not in this area anyway. It took 3x as long as usual to get home by car today. I rode home yesterday and back in this morning, so I had the car at the office. But what if my car was at home and I rode in this morning? I would have been totally stranded at work.

I don't care how seasoned you are I think it would be extremely dangerous to commute with tons of lightning and flooded roads all over the place, especially on a road bike with 25c tires. Has this ever happened to anyone else? What did you do?
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Old 05-21-13, 08:59 PM   #2
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It just happened a few weeks ago in Chicago. I rode through it morning and night. Water was up to my wheel hubs in some places.
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Old 05-21-13, 09:01 PM   #3
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I rode through a T-storm like that years ago; flooded a few streets along my route. I just used one of several alternates I learned (I HATE going the same route all the time). The FUN part, though, was one short section of street that I had no idea was flooded until I got TO it; since I could pretty well estimate the depth of the water there, I just rolled it. The water was inches above my ankles with each pedal stroke, and the hubs were just above the waterline.

No, riding through flooded waters is not an advisable thing to do -- but any road you can DRIVE, you can RIDE.
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Old 05-21-13, 09:06 PM   #4
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I have a high route that I take when there's a sudden deluge, and I study the radar carefully to time it to miss high winds and meso-cyclone formations if possible. I'm not convinced that it's necessarily safer in a car, other than getting drenched and wind-battered of course.
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Old 05-21-13, 09:27 PM   #5
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I rode through a T-storm like that years ago; flooded a few streets along my route. I just used one of several alternates I learned (I HATE going the same route all the time). The FUN part, though, was one short section of street that I had no idea was flooded until I got TO it; since I could pretty well estimate the depth of the water there, I just rolled it. The water was inches above my ankles with each pedal stroke, and the hubs were just above the waterline.

No, riding through flooded waters is not an advisable thing to do -- but any road you can DRIVE, you can RIDE.
It's a bit slower once the water gets over two feet, but you can ride it. Ask me how I know.

A couple inches of standing water tends to slow the motorists down quite a bit and I find that makes my ride more enjoyable.
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Old 05-21-13, 09:29 PM   #6
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Was the wind literally strong enough to blow pedestrians off their feet? Was the water too deep to drive a car through? If "no", then you can ride in the weather. Keep rain gear in your bag, or just get soaked and call it an adventure.

I commute year round, rain or shine, and in Portland it rains most of the year. I've never been unable to ride.

Lightning - the chances of getting hit by it are so low, it's not even a factor.
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Old 05-21-13, 09:44 PM   #7
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I've ridden in those conditions plenty in India .. we get a lot of rain there. Don't think I ever stopped for shelter. One thing though, rain water there isn't as cold as here so it isn't as tough as here. Winds aren't so fast either.
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Old 05-21-13, 09:44 PM   #8
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I ride in lightning sometimes but it freaks my wife out. All along my urban route are buildings much taller than me. If I was riding through open areas I would not do it. If there's lightning before I start I might wait, but if it starts once I'm out, I keep going.

I don't mind riding in rain. but I haven't encountered the kind of puddles or flooding you mentioned. I'd be worried about unexpectedly hitting a pothole I couldnt see and going down. I wouldn't ride through a puddle more than a couple of inches deep, and even that I would skirt if I could. I guess I just haven't been out in that kind of deluge.

A couple of years ago when we had a tornado near Toronto, there was a severe weather warning, and I realized I shouldn't go home yet, so I sat in my 11th floor office about 20 km from where it touched down, watching some of the most dramatic skyscapes and worst weather I had seen in Toronto and wondering if I should move away from the the windows. However after an hour there was blue sky and a beautiful sunset and I rode home with no trouble. except for lots of branches and a few tree limbs down.
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Old 05-21-13, 11:43 PM   #9
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Unless we're talking about snow, severe weather here is usually short lived. I've been commuting year round for about 8 years and I think in all that time I've hung out at the office to wait for a storm to blow over maybe 2 or 3 times. Flash floods usually impact specific areas and sections of streets that are easy for me to avoid.

Mostly torrential rain isn't much of a problem, - even with my 23c tires. In fact I can remember one evening a few years ago walking past a bunch of my coworkers to head out into a downpour. They drive and were waiting inside the door because it's a 4 block walk to the parking ramp. I was riding and had rain gear.

50+ mph winds or worse would keep me off the bike. Frequent and close lightning strikes can make me a little nervous and bad hail might cause me to pause under a bridge for a bit.

Weather aside, there might be other circumstances that would keep you from riding home and it's not a bad idea to have an alternate plan whether that's public transportation, a taxi, or bumming a ride from somebody else.
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Old 05-21-13, 11:55 PM   #10
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Ask someone at work to drive you home?
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Old 05-22-13, 12:06 AM   #11
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Check local programs. San Mateo county in California has a program where you can call a cab if you need to go home for an emergency (only works if the employer participates in the program, and mine does). So if I was commuting by bike, and needed to go home suddenly, I can call a cab and expense it. May not work in bad weather cases, but a useful backup to have anyway.
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Old 05-22-13, 12:13 AM   #12
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This will probably offend some car-free people or perhaps those that are extra green...

But,,, I have an extra car that pretty much stays at the office, I use it if the weather is really bad or I need to go somewhere where I can't reasonably bike in time. Usually just leave the bike in my office, then ride it the next day.
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Old 05-22-13, 03:33 AM   #13
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Here in South Florida we get some outrageous rains at times. The worst part is not riding the bike, but keeping rain drops from impeling your eyes. I have clear wrap around glasses and a thin (Columbia fishing) hat I wear under the helmet for this occasions. I just purchased some spd sandals for this also. One more thing I do different from regular commuting days is to wear a single ear plug on my left ear. Keeps dirty water sprayed by traffic, going inside my ear. I also take the high ground (side walk) and slow down. Turn on all your lights and keep an eye for traffic. If its gets bad (one time) I pull to the side and waited out. That's what I do. Double O
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Old 05-22-13, 05:00 AM   #14
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One of the cliche post-flood photographs is "cyclist riding through floodwater", usually past stranded cars.
The major danger is dislodged drain covers.
The flood water is probably doing no favours to the hub and bottom bracket bearings.

The only conditions which keep me off the bike are extreme winds and sometimes heavy fog. We get maybe one big storm a year and I can't remember the last "pea-souper" fog it was so many years ago.

There is a variant of the "bugout bag" so favoured of survivalists, called the "get home bag" containing everything you need to get you the 20miles or more back home when your car can't make it. Occasionally, someone reminds these folks that a bicycle turns a 20+ mile journey into "just getting home".
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Old 05-22-13, 05:22 AM   #15
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I had this happen a couple of times. I was able to get home faster than if I would have driven thanks to otherwise inaccessible alleys, adjacent parking lots, and some sidewalks that were higher than the street in areas where water was coming up through the storm drains and sewer systems. That said, I have left slightly early or stayed later to avoid thunderstorms.
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Old 05-22-13, 05:37 AM   #16
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I rode through a T-storm like that years ago

No, riding through flooded waters is not an advisable thing to do -- but any road you can DRIVE, you can RIDE.
Riding in the rain is fine. Riding a bike in a thunderstorm, not such a good idea. In a car, you're basically inside a Faraday cage and that will protect you. Riding exposed on a metal object in a thunderstorm? Not nearly as clever.
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Old 05-22-13, 07:34 AM   #17
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i've been stranded at work without a car for 13 straight years now (car-free).

fortunately i have a fairly easy train commute that can substitute for the bicycle.

if i ride my bike into work in the morning and a savage storm blows through the area for the evening commute, i'll typically just wait it out a bit, but if i'm impatient or have a prior obligation that i must get home for, i can just haul my bike on the train and ride it home.
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Old 05-22-13, 07:36 AM   #18
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I keep a rain jacket with me. They fold up small, no problems
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Old 05-22-13, 07:37 AM   #19
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Here in South Florida we get some outrageous rains at times. The worst part is not riding the bike, but keeping rain drops from impeling your eyes. ...
One of my bad experiences during a commute was a day after a long, hot, fast ride with a few friends. Needless to say I was sweating profusely during that ride. Of course a lot of the sweat had been soaked up by my helmet pads.

On my commute the next day it began to pour and the salt from the previous days ride that was still in the helmet pads started washing into my eyes. OUCH. I spent the last mile alternating which eye I would keep closed.

Anyway, back to the topic. We can argue about which conditions are safe to ride in and which aren't. What it comes down to is how likely it is on a given day that you won't be able to ride home for whatever reason and planning accordingly. Then there's the unexpected and you have to be able to manage that whether riding or driving. What if your car won't start or you get into accident? My guess is that you'd find a way home.
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Old 05-22-13, 07:41 AM   #20
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I like to ride during a thunderstorm, I may be crazy but I like it. I think the risk of being struck by lightning is less than the risk of being hit by a car anyway.
Yesterday morning it was pouring rain when I left home but I took the bike anyway.

The only thing that keep me from riding my bike is when there's too much snow on the road in winter.
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Old 05-22-13, 07:42 AM   #21
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Most of the time I just ride home. The "bad" storms I wait for a while. Here, the worst weather seems to be in the front or beginning part of the storm. Just wait 15-30 min and it's just a little rain. Not sure about other places.
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Old 05-22-13, 07:44 AM   #22
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The forecast yesterday said some rain this evening, but didn't look too bad. If I were a seasoned commuter I might have been at work today with the bike, but no car. But it turns out we got MASSIVE amounts of rain this afternoon, with flooding like I have never seen before in my life, not in this area anyway. It took 3x as long as usual to get home by car today. I rode home yesterday and back in this morning, so I had the car at the office. But what if my car was at home and I rode in this morning? I would have been totally stranded at work.

I don't care how seasoned you are I think it would be extremely dangerous to commute with tons of lightning and flooded roads all over the place, especially on a road bike with 25c tires. Has this ever happened to anyone else? What did you do?
I've cycled through roads that were flooded to knee depth, where the hubs and bottom bracket were underwater. That was on a cross bike with 700x32 tyres. So far I haven't taken my 700x25 tyres over anything worse than a four-foot long patch of gravel about three inches deep.

Flooded roads aren't much fun but unless the water is fast flowing they're probably passable. The time I encountered the knee-deep water was when I did my first ever 100km brevet. If you're talking the kind of thunderstorm that sees a bit of lightning in the sky and some claps of thunder you'll most likely be OK. If you're talking the kind of storm that involves lightning hitting the ground, tornadoes and the like then obviously more care is required.

Ultimately if you're at work and your car is at home you either figure a way to get yourself home, or you find someone else to take you home (even if that means a cab), or you sleep under your desk and get to work nice and early the following morning. In other words you work something out and deal with it.
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Old 05-22-13, 07:49 AM   #23
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75% of weather-related crashes are due to wet pavement, and 24% of all vehicle crashes are weather related (per Fed Hwy Admin figures http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/weather/q1_roadimpact.htm) so wet pavement alone accounts for 18% of all crashes. Add in wind, fog, timid drivers and reckless drivers. That's why I'm not sure that it's really safer on the road in a car than on the side or path on a bike. True you're more vulnerable to lightning but the odds are comparatively remote, about 50 deaths per year total from lightning compared to over 7,000 deaths due to weather related accidents. So it's logical to worry more about the traffic during severe weather than the weather itself, and getting further away from the traffic on a bike could overall be safer.
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Old 05-22-13, 07:58 AM   #24
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I like to ride during a thunderstorm, I may be crazy but I like it. I think the risk of being struck by lightning is less than the risk of being hit by a car anyway.
Are you out in the open, or dwarfed by surrounding structures?
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Old 05-22-13, 08:01 AM   #25
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Lightning statistics are deceptive. Lightning strikes on people are extremely rare, but that's because because most people stay indoors. If you only looked at the rate of lightning strikes on people who were actually out in the storm, it would be a little less rare.
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