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  1. #1
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    Advice for New Commuters

    What kind of bike works best for commuting? How should I equip it (including lighting)? What should I carry with me? What should I wear? How should I wash up at work? Have I missed any important questions?

    These are the questions we see most frequently from new commuters. Before starting a new thread, take a look through here to see if it answers your questions. Feel free to add additional questions and, more importantly, to put in your two cents.
    Last edited by Daily Commute; 02-26-05 at 05:06 PM.

  2. #2
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    My Commute

    I ride 5-8 miles each way. The 5 mile route is city streets. The 8 mile route is mostly bike path. I sometimes do a combination of paths and streets. I commute year round, including through cold and snow.

    What kind of bike?

    It depends on what kind of riding you do. Mountain bikes with wide tires will do better on bad pavement conditions. Road bikes with dropped handlebars will give you more speed. Hybrids will let you sit more upright, which is good or bad, depending on whether you are uncomfortable with dropped bars or whether you are annoyed by the decreased efficiency. A lot of commuters like cyclocross bikes (me included, I ride a Surly Cross Check). They are shaped mostly like road bikes, but they can take fatter tires, and they generally can accomodate racks and fenders.

    Tires

    I think the ideal width for a commuter tire is 28 or 32, but people disagree on this. Wider tires give you a more comfortable ride and can handle potholes better; narrower tires give you more speed. It's all a trade off and you just have to decide what's important to you. Most would agree that knobbies are a bad idea unless your commute is mostly on dirt trails. Knobbies are less stable on pavement (because less rubber has contact with the road) and they increase drag.

    Equipment and What to Carry

    I carry more than some, but here's my list:

    Equipment (I put an "*" by the most important things, I put a "+" by the things a multi-tool can replace):
    Fenders*
    Rack
    Saddlebags
    HID headlight
    Halogen headlight (for backup)*
    LED helmet mounted light (mainly for repairs)
    2 LED blinkies*
    waterbottle*
    pump (with a nozzle on a flexible hose, minipumps can damage your stem, but some people believe they work just fine)*
    An extra spoke for front and rear
    In seat bag:
    Spare tube*
    Pressure guage
    Patch kit*
    Tire levers*
    Screwdrivers+
    8 and 10mm wrenches+
    Second, small, 10mm cresent wrench (for brakes)
    Spare chain link
    Chain tool+
    Spoke wrench+
    Metric allen wrench set+
    $20 cash
    Bus fare
    Health insurance card*
    Energy bar*
    Spare AAA batteries for LED's*
    Electrical tape wrapped around wrench
    Zip ties

    Tools v. Multi-tool

    I bought individual tools instead of a multitool because I wanted to have top quality tools for work at home, as well as on the road. A good multitool would replace a lot of what I carry, but it didn't make it into my initial budget. You should be able to tighten or loosen pretty much every bolt or screw on your bike. So if you don't get the multiple little tools, I'd strongly recommend a good multi-tool. (After I started this thread, I got a multi-tool, and removed some of the other stuff from my seat bag.)

    At-home supplies

    Keep at least two tubes (so that you still have a spare when you use your spare). Also think about getting the kind of things most likely to break or wear out--a chain, derailleur and brake cables, and a tire. That way you don't have to depend on the LBS being open when you get home at 6:30 having used one of your spare tubes on the way home.

    Saddlebags

    In my saddlebags, I carry my wallet, work clothes, and lunch (I keep shoes at the office). I don't carry a lock because I keep my bike in a closet at work. If I have an unfixable problem to or from work, I can put my bike on the bus. In the winter, I also stick an emergency blanket in the saddlebags.

    Supplies at Work

    At work, I keep energy drink mix, a spare tube, and drip lube. Sometimes I need the sugar boost to get home at the end of the day. Sometimes my chain has an annoying squeek I don't want to hear on the way home. The tube is so that I can replace my spare if I use it on the way in.

    Storage at Work

    I'm lucky. My employer lets me take my bike into the building and store it in a closet. If you are equally as lucky, be very careful not to lose the privilege. Never enter a crowded elavator, dry off your bike as much as possible when it's wet and keep newspapers around so that you can put them under a wet bike, don't leave a mess any place, and, most importantly, treat the building staff with the utmost courtesy all the time.

    Sunscreen

    You will be spending a lot of time outside, so consider using sunscreen. I only wear it on the trip home spring-fall because 1) the sun's not high on my morning commute; and 2) it makes me stink and I can't shower it off at work.

    Lighting

    If you will be regularly commuting at night, get the best lighting you can afford. At a minimum, you need a headlight and a rear blinkie. I'd say a 10w halogen is the minimum brightness for night commuting. I used a 6w halogen for awhile, and the best I could say is that it was barely adequate. But a 6w halogen is better than no light, and is better than an LED. An LED is significantly better than nothing. A reflective vest will also significantly increase your visibility. I eventually got an HID, which I loved, until the lamp stopped working 18 months after I bought it. Cygolite wanted $100-$200 just to fix it. When considering an HID, ask the company about the cost of replacing the bulb and ballast. I'm looking for a more affordable HID with more affordable replacement parts.

    A reflective vest will make you a lot more visible. I like the ones construction workers wear, like this one:

    They call them "ANSI Class II." I bought my vest at Home Depot or Lowes. You can buy reflective shirts like the ones construction workers wear at alertshirt.com. (I'm sure there are other good sources, but this is where I go.)

    If you only rarely ride at night, I'd suggest a rear blinkie, a front LED, extra batteries, and a reflective vest. The next step would be to upgrade to a system with a 10w (or so) halogen. I also see that there are some high-powered LED's in the market, but I haven't tried any of those.

    Back-up Plan

    There will come a time when you can't ride for whatever reason. It might be illness or an injury, or your bike may need a repair you can't do immediately. So have a back-up plan. For me, it's the bus.

    Insurance

    You probably will never cause any damage to anyone, but even a scratch can cost hundreds to fix. A dent can cost thousands. There are also freak stories of cyclists sending pedestrians to the hospital. Since your auto insurance policy probably won't cover you, consider checking out a homeowners or renters policy. They typically include liability coverage. Ask the agent whether it would cover damage you cause to others while riding.

    Repairs/Other Reading

    Get a bike repair manual. I bought a copy of "Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance." I checked a few different books out from the library before settling on the Zinn book. I chose that one because it is complete without being too complete, and it has a great list of tools you should have broken down by the level of complexity of the repairs you want to attempt.

    Park Tools also has very good and very complete repair/maintenance information at their site.

    You may be doing a lot of repairs, and it's quicker and cheaper to do them yourself. When you have a problem that you can't fix, go to the LBS, ask which tools and parts you need, and buy them there. A good LBS will be happy to give you repair advice along with its products (and to help you if the repairs don't work out as planned). I'm a total klutz, so it can't be that hard.

    If you want to read about riding (some do, some don't), I like "The Art of Urban Cycling: Lessons from the Street" by Robert Hurst. He has both common sense and a great sense of humor. Also, go to the library and check out a few books near the Hurst book. There are varied perspectives on how to ride in traffic. You'll be a better rider if you read different authors with different perspectives.

    Here's a thread giving the opinions of various people about how much routine maintenance is needed. But I agree with 77Univega, two keys are keeping your chain lubed and your tire pressure correct. They will make your ride smoother and decrease the number of flat tires your get.

    I've been logging the edits since Mar. 25, 2006:
    Mar. 25, 2006, added back-up plan information
    Mar. 31, 2006, added information about repairing HID light
    Apr. 10, 2006, changed format of these notes
    May 5, 2006, added link to thread with positive comments about minipumps
    June 15, 2006, added section on bike storage at work
    June 16, 2006, added suggestion to carry extra spokes
    July 9, 2006, added insurance section
    Oct. 28, 2006, minor edits
    Mar. 30, 2008, added reference to safety vests and shirts and other minor edits
    Last edited by Daily Commute; 03-30-08 at 04:37 AM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Everybody's situation is so different. What would be ideal for 6 miles in a major city would likely not be appropriate for 20 miles of farmeland, and vice versa. Even in the same situation, different people will choose different valid solutions.

    I don't really see how I could make any recommendations beyond, "this works for me, where I live, on my route." Maybe if we all presented what we do as case studies it would help?

    Paul

  4. #4
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    Fair enough. The point of the thread is to answer the questions that Newbies almost always ask. No one person's opinion is gospel.
    Last edited by Daily Commute; 03-03-05 at 09:18 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member FLBandit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulH
    Everybody's situation is so different. What would be ideal for 6 miles in a major city would likely not be appropriate for 20 miles of farmeland, and vice versa. Even in the same situation, different people will choose different valid solutions.

    I don't really see how I could make any recommendations beyond, "this works for me, where I live, on my route." Maybe if we all presented what we do as case studies it would help?

    Paul
    That's actually what I was looking for when I saw this thread. I'm looking to commute this summer when my wife (a teacher) is out for the summer and I don't have to take the kids to school. In Florida it rains alot in the summer so I was interested in what others ride in similar conditions. As I upgrade my roadbike I was thinking of building a commuter with some of the parts I take off. Anyway, just wondering what others ride.

    BTW, I got caught in the rain the other night and now appreciate why fenders are important!
    I wanna ride!
    '90ish Giant Perigee

  6. #6
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    Some say that disc brakes do better in wet conditions, but I haven't tried them. Look for a good, waterproof messenger bag or saddlebags. My Jandd Hurricane saddlebags have a great raincover, although a little water will slip in in a complete downpour. Other than that, everything stays dry.

  7. #7
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    Advice/opinions:
    - If your office is cold leave a sweater in your cube rather than bring it back and forth. That goes for anything else.
    - Those hideous neon yellow jackets seem to really increase your visibility. In fact, I suspect that if you wear one, the old "Officer, I just didn't see him" excuse won't hold up.
    - I like my Jandd grocery bag panier. Not having to fuss with zippers is nice and I can put stuff in or take it out while I'm riding (to some extent).
    - At least while it's not too hot, since I don't go terribly far and I don't work with the public, I find wearing my work clothes instead of riding clothes makes me more likely to ride more often.
    - A recumbent is very comfortable and makes commuting a joy. If it doesn't bother you to be a little different give one a try. Just imagine--no wrist pain, no neck pain, no crushed sensitive areas. They're all so different there's one for everybody.
    ~Diane
    Recumbents: Lightning Thunderbolt, '06 Catrike Pocket. Upright: Trek Mountain Bike.
    8.5 mile commute. I like bike lanes.

  8. #8
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    "Those hideous neon yellow jackets seem to really increase your visibility. In fact, I suspect that if you wear one, the old "Officer, I just didn't see him" excuse won't hold up."

    These vests (jacket) will SAVE YOUR LIFE ,MATE, BELIEVE IT.

    Look in the phone book or shop the web for "Safety Vest" to find a bright lime green
    safety vest like police and road crews wear. Ain't no damn blinky light ever better than
    this simple vest for visiblity while on the road.

    ALL of the folk's who ride to work (10) where I live now wear these vest and ALL find that
    cars go way out around them now with no more close shaves as before. Look "geeky"
    well, maybe but ya see I got this thing about pain I'd like to avoid.

    A safety vest will turn out to be one of the best and cheapest investments you'll ever
    make if you bike commute to work ( or anywhere else for that matter). Ride safe,mate.

  9. #9
    Proshpero jnbacon's Avatar
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    Bike:
    Keep in mind your goals. If this is a commute-only bike, get something that can meet all your commute needs. If the bike is for more than commuting (mountain biking? road riding?), make sure it will can meet your commuting needs as well. Can it accomodate fenders and a rack, i.e. does it have the braze-ons? Is there space on the handlebar for lights? Will you be comfortable for the X number of miles you have on your commute? I also use a cyclocross bike, set up as a commuter with a rack and panniers, to be able to run wider tires on a sturdy but road-geometry frame. A touring frame could also meet these needs, and would leave plenty of room for panniers.

    Rack and Panniers
    I've seen three general methods for carrying gear mentioned here: rack and panniers/trunk, backpack, and messenger bag. The main advantage of panniers/trunk is the gear is on the bike, not on you, and it can't pull you off balance. The disadvantage seems to be that it has to be taken on and off, and requires fitting a rack to your bike. Some people like the extra space panniers provide, while other like the aerodynamics of the trunk. Backpacks don't require any attachment, and are useful for other things. But they cover your entire back, which can make you hot, and if you have a lot of stuff, can make you unstable. They also add a number of extra pounds on your back, which can be uncomfortable. Messenger bags sling across one shoulder, and have some of the advantages/disadvantages of backpacks. I find them to be less disruptive of my balance than backpacks, though, and come with pockets for my bike stuff.
    I use panniers and a messenger bag to carry a laptop. In my panniers, I put my work clothes (I leave shoes at work) on one side, and my lunch and water on the side. I also carry my wallet, keys, cell in a one pannier pocket, and my bike repair stuff and Kryponite chain-and-circle-lock in another pocket.

    Repair Kit:
    Two spare tubes
    Patch kit (redundant, but it's happened!)
    Tire levers
    Pump
    Multitool
    15mm wrench
    Money for the bus
    Back up batteries

    Lighting:
    Get a lot of light up front and back. Steady and blinking in back, and something that will help you see as well as be seen up front. There are lots of systems out there, and many past discussions here on the board regarding HID vs. halogen vs. LED, rechargable vs. battery, brand vs. brand. Make use of the search feature on the boards to learn more. Good lighting isn't cheap, though sales always help, but ignoring lighting may make you less likely to bike, as you won't feel as safe as you could, and it will make you less safe.
    I use a two light (12 watt/20 watt) headlight, relying mainly on the 12 watt for regular weather early morning commutes, and both for dark nights and rain. It is a rechargable system. I use the Cateye LD-1000 on the back, set for half solid, half blink. I don't have a back up for my front lights, but I should.

    Routine:
    I pack the night before, getting everything in the panniers and making/packing my lunch.
    In the morning, I shower, eat breakfast, put the lunch in the panniers, put the panniers on the bike, and set up the lighting. I leave early, between 5:30 and 6:30, which helps to beat traffic and give me some cool down time before work. I don't shower at work in the winter, but do in the summer, and the extra time comes in handy. I wear light, polypro clothes, not necessarily bike specific, but light (and layered for warmth in winter) so that I don't overheat. At work, if I don't shower, I wash my face and give myself time for the sweat to dry. Then I change. After work, I try to wash my cycling clothes regularly, so as to be too stinky when I have to do something after work in my cycling clothes. Mainly, I try to stick to a routine that works for me, as I find it helps eliminate the chance for me to find excuses to not bike in.

  10. #10
    Caffeinated. Camel's Avatar
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    I wear one of those bright yellow jackets, as well as have extra reflective "stuff"-leg bands, gloves, & on my pannier [see pic]. If its too hot for a jacket, I'll usually be wearing an "obnoxiously colored" cycling jersey. When I commute on one of my bikes without a rack (no pannier) I have extra reflective stuff on my bacpack [see pic].

    I carry extra clothes in my pack/pannier (eg raingear+gloves+hat), and my tools, pump, patch kit, spare tube and tire levers.

    Work clothes ("scrubs"), I also have extra clean sets at work. Small towel, hairbrush (or kept at work).

    I try to keep a stock of extra snacks handy (cliff bars/snickers etc) which I'll switch out (eat) to keep "fresh"-handy for nasty days when I'm tired riding into a headwind.

    Cell phone, wallet, work ID.

    Work stuff (Technical manuals, paperwork etc)-I try to have duplicate texts at work, so I don't have to lug them around when I'm on call and need to review procedures.

    Lunch-a few sandwiches, snacks, fruit.

  11. #11
    One Tough Cookie. Black Bud's Avatar
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    My two cents:

    I prefer to use flat (or 1" MAX riser) bars for a commute bike; the controls are beneath your hands--where they should be! Brifters work, bar-end-controls are OK, but these are normally used on drop bars ONLY (I see few--if any--bullhorn/cowhorn bars in use-even by messengers!). By being forced to stay somewhat "heads up" in traffic, especially in urbanized areas (where most bike commuters live and work) could very well be a life saver!! Any lost "efficiency" really makes no real difference for most bike commuters. (It also allows one to wear, in winter, the much warmer and more potentially protective), full-face helmet!!) (If you have small hands, like I do, road bike controls, especially the brake levers, can be difficult to reach--no good in an emergency, of which there are plenty!!)

    I also give my vote for panniers and/or a rack trunk to carry the load.

    Get a good, rechargable battery head (and tail) light setup if you ever expect to be riding after dark!! Any type of pedal is OK most of the year; BMX pin-tread platforms , rattrap, or quill pedals (the latter two fitted with Power Grips or toe clips) in the winter (these, in cold and ice are normally both warmer (no place for the cold to get in at the sole) and safer (you cant "freeze" your shoe into the pedals; I've heard it can happen with clipless pedals). If you wish to use bike shoes, get touring style bike shoes with a "waffle" type tread, or the similar style walkable shoe used by spin class denziens; you will walk more than you think!!

    Second the idea of a yellow/ safety orange/ lime green vest or jacket (or a combo of these!). If you change at work or need an "overpant" (foul weather and/or dusty road use), stick with these, or other, obnoxious colored versions! Don't give the "motoring primates" (as Chris L would say) any excuse for
    NOT seeing you!!

    Use any frame type you wish as long as it can accomodate the type and width of tires you want to use, and can handle the stuff you need to carry. Get tires with Kevlar (aramid) flat protection and, if your roads are overloaded with flat producers, thorn-resistant tubes as well, to minimize the need for repairing flats. You want to minimize the chances of having to repair a flat in stormy or cold weather--or in a "sketchy" area of town! Slicks are best in the warmer weather, or if the roads are clear (and the weather forecast doesn't predict winter precip. before you are safely home) in winter;in winter try cyclocross tires (700c wheeled bikes, knobbies (559 MTB wheels or 20" BMX (used on some folding bikes)) or studded tires (700c or 559 (26" MTB)) wheels. BTW, what tires you choose, in winter, depends on the conditions, especially in colder climates; use another bike or extra wheelset(s) in the winter.

    Carry a small, compact, tool kit, a spare tube or two in the needed size(s), and a pump or CO2 inflator.
    Also cab/bus fare or a cell phone (to call for a ride) if all else fails.





    Remember, you ARE A VEHICLE! Follow traffic law--and DRIVE (RIDE) DEFENSIVELY!!
    A bad day on the bike is better than a good day at work!!

    My discussion board, another resource for the "utility" and commuter cyclist: "Two Wheeled Commuter: The Everyday Cyclist"

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daily Commute
    Some say that disc brakes do better in wet conditions.
    I don't want to steer the thread off topic, but I just came in from wet weather and must sing the praises of disc brakes. I was entering a street today from a steep parking garage ramp that spills you out directly onto a failrly busy three-lane one way street when I thanked the heavens for disc brakes. Just sharing, I don't want to give anybody the impression they must have disc brakes. Commute on whatever you can get your hands on. I'm in the habit of using my old English-style three speed with a coaster brake for my usual work and school commutes (each under 5 miles one way).

  13. #13
    Life is good RonH's Avatar
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    All the advice so far has been great. Now I'll add my 2 cents.

    My commute is ~9 miles one way.
    My old commuter was an aluminum frame road bike with a Delta seatpost mounted rack and panniers. It was ok but not the best. My new commuter is a steel frame cyclocross bike. The frame material and geometry provide a more enjoyable ride on the crappy streets of Atlanta. The frame has all the braze-ons for "properly" mounting a rear rack.

    I never was able to convince myself that it was worth the extra cost to buy waterproof panniers (yes, I'm cheap - sometimes) so never ride to work if its raining. If its raining on the ride home that's ok. I don't mind getting home with wet clothes but arriving at work with soaked clothes isn't my idea of a fun day. Just in case I keep an extra pair of socks, slip-over shirt, pants, and sneakers in my desk. We dress casually where I work. Shorts in the summer.

    My old commuter had SPD pedals (Shimano M-535) which I thought were pretty good for making a fast getaway in traffic. My new commuter has Egg Beater pedals. I rate the SPDs at about an 8 and the Egg Beaters get a 9.5.

    I like the drop handlebars on my cyclocross commuter. They're just like my weekend road bike. I'm not comfortable on a mountain bike.

    My old road bike commuter had caliper brakes and when I had to stop in a hurry, especially on wet roads (remember the panniers and rack add a lot of extra weight) it got kinda scary. My new commuter has cantilever brakes and stopping is much more predictable.

    My old commuter would not accomodate fenders, other than SKS RaceBlades. They were held on with zip ties and would sometimes shift sideways and rub the tire. My new commuter has lots of clearance for regular bolt-on type fenders. I haven't installed any yet, but.....

    I have always liked lots of lights. I want to be seen. I have the reflector that came with the bike and the reflectors in the spokes. Looks kinda dorky but its something else for motorists to see in the dark.
    I have two blinkies on the back of the rack and two more that I can clip to my panniers for side-mounted running lights if its raining or foggy.

    I have two NiteRider headlights and a 3-LED flashing white light.
    http://home.mindspring.com/~rhorne/Jamis%20004.jpg
    I have lots of reflective tape on the frame for added visibility.
    http://home.mindspring.com/~rhorne/Jamis%20015.jpg

    I always wear a hi-viz yellow-green windbreaker or vest. In the warmer months I wear bright yellow or hi-viz jerseys.

    I carry everything I need in my panniers - clothes, wallet, lunch, snacks, work papers, money (coins) for phone calls (no cell phone), cable lock, PowerGel (just in case), spare batteries for the blinkies, band-aid, etc. In my seat pack are the usual bike tools, spare tube, and patch kit. I have a mini-pump attached to the seat tube.

    If it "might" rain for the ride home I have rain pants and jacket and shoe covers. In the warmer months I ditch the rain pants and shoe covers.

    Hope this helps. Did I cover everything?
    My bikes --> 2001 Litespeed Tuscany---2013 Cannondale CAAD 10 2 (5) "Racing Edition"

    Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use. ~ Charles Schultz

  14. #14
    cut my gas use in half Jessica's Avatar
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    Pick your route by what is good for you and the bike. An extra mile or two is worth it if you have more comfort or less hassle.

    Don't run over things. You know, glass, manhole covers, piles of leaves, unknown items. You will have fewer flats. I chose my route for roads that are cleaner, and have fewer flats that way.

    Wear a helmet.

    wear a helmet.

    wear a helmet.

    Take lights even if you think you will never be riding in the dark. blinkies (red taillights) and LED headlamps can be gotten cheaply, and may save your bacon.

    Reflective vest, fenders and a rack are the other minimum for me, I hate dirty water up my back, and my gear would make me sweat if it is on my backpack. And I want to be SEEN.

    If you have any questions that are not answered in these posts, try the search feature of the forum... it is pretty easy, and very helpful.

    ride on!!
    Last edited by Jessica; 02-27-05 at 10:30 AM. Reason: I forgot this item:vest
    And I am sure there are other choices I haven't thought of, yet...

  15. #15
    scofflaw
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    My commute is short and in the city but hilly therefore sweaty. I shower before I leave
    home, but keep unscented baby wipes and anti-perspirant in my desk. I don't have
    a shower at work. I prefer to commute in bike gear then change.

  16. #16
    Life is good RonH's Avatar
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    I forgot to mention tires.
    All my bikes have kevlar belted tires. I average ~1500 miles between flats on my road bike (700x23 Continental Grand Prix 3000). My old commuter had Vittoria Rubino Pro 700x25. Never had a flat in well over 1000 miles. My new commuter (Dec 2004) hasn't had a flat yet, even though the streets of Atlanta are crappy and full of potholes and trash. The tires are Panaracer Pasela TourGuard 700x32.
    My bikes --> 2001 Litespeed Tuscany---2013 Cannondale CAAD 10 2 (5) "Racing Edition"

    Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use. ~ Charles Schultz

  17. #17
    Easily distracted...
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    In all the gear lists, I haven't seen anyone mention a Thermos. My two-cuper keeps my coffee hot for hours, fits nicely in the side pocket of my pannier, and lets me stop for a cup in the park on the way to work or school. Plus I don't have to shell out $4.50 at the coffee chain or drink out of the week-old pot at work. One of my best investments, considering that I found it in closet.
    Safe, efficient, and comfortable transportation.

  18. #18
    One Tough Cookie. Black Bud's Avatar
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    V-brakes or disc brakes seem to be the most reliable all-weather stoppers (and I ride all year!) I have found.
    Disc brakes have some advantages, including being cleaner (no brake pad residue) and easier to maintain, once theyr'e broken in. (V-brakes (direct-pull cantis) tend to need their pads replaced frequently in the sloppier weather of winter or during an extended rainy spell.) Discs also modulate well. Mechanicals (cable operated) discs are fine--you don't need to splurge on hydraulics (unless you already have a bike with them on already.).

    However, if you do choose to go with discs, be careful! Jamming on the brakes can easily result in a major skid (I have had it happen to me--I thought I was going down that time!! And I rarely fall over!! ) This is especially true with one of what I call the "ultralight" hybrids, such as my Sirrus Sport Disc--probably because of the more lightly-built road-bike-like design. (Discs were originally on MTB's, remember?) Discs are very responsive to the rider's input and pavement is not exactly a "grabby" surface!! V-brakes are not as likely to "grab" to the point of skidding, especially if the pads are set a bit "wide" from the rim--both styles require just a bit of practice to use well.

    My lighting system consists, at this time, of a NightRider dual halogen headlight and whatever taillight(s) the bike in use has!! (I'm slowly replacing these with the NightRider taillights--they are expensive!
    ) I carry my lights at all times just in case the weather turns bad or I'm out later than I planned.

    As for "avoid the road trash", it is always a good idea. But, you can't always go around the mess, especially in heavy traffic--if you even see it!! (Especially after dark on a rainy night.) That's the reason for "flat-proofing" actually ( "making-as-resistant-to-flats-as-you-can" ) your tires.

    Also consider a rear-view mirror. Sport riders don't like them (and they are unneeded off-road), but they
    are another potential life saver in commuter traffic because you can use the mirror to monitor traffic behind you so you can concentrate your attention where it's most needed at any moment. The mirror
    DOES NOT SUBSTITUTE FOR TURNING YOUR HEAD to look when something IS coming up behind you, however--you need to do both!!

    If you do fall over, your hands will thank you if you are wearing gloves--I prefer the full-fingered variety, even in summer. Get a style of glove designed for cross-country mountain bikers if you get full-fingered gloves; I don't find them too hot to wear. Insulated gloves for winter are a must. Protective glasses are also a good idea if you can find a way to keep them from fogging (I haven't yet!!).
    A bad day on the bike is better than a good day at work!!

    My discussion board, another resource for the "utility" and commuter cyclist: "Two Wheeled Commuter: The Everyday Cyclist"

  19. #19
    Enjoy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jessica

    Wear a helmet.
    wear a helmet.
    wear a helmet.
    Adding to Jessica's comment. It's good to spend some time looking at your helmet. If your head is warm enough or cool enough it make the ride so much easier.

    Does it fit on your head properly? Also set your helmet up for riding conditions/seasons. i.e., if it's freezing block the vents and use a helmet liner. Fast down hill conditions or ice? Downhill helmet....For colder weather you may need a helmet with more coverage, summer, a lighter helmet.

    If possible, add reflective stickers or blinkies.
    Last edited by vrkelley; 02-27-05 at 07:49 PM.

  20. #20
    Year-round cyclist
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    Brakes

    With rim brakes, either cantis or v-brakes are very good. Cantis are a bit more finnicky to adjust properly so they are easy to apply, but once they are set properly, they are great. But the most important item is brake pads. Right now, Kool Stop Salmon pads seem the best all-weather pads. They perform well in rain or snow and have a good reputation for being fairly gentle on the rim.


    Lights

    No question that you need them. A generator-based system, especially based on a good generator or dynohub and a headlight that has built-in overvoltage protection, has its merits. Light is well directed on the road (all 3 W or 6 W of it, so 3 W is actually as effective as a 10 W MR-11 spotlight), no need to think about recharging, and batteries never die.

    Autonomy is a limitation of all battery systems, and it is even a problem in Winter. I find one of the nicest benefits of a dynohub is that I can ride without worrying about having an empty battery in the middle of nowhere.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  21. #21
    INP
    INP is offline
    Back In The Saddle
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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Bud
    Protective glasses are also a good idea if you can find a way to keep them from fogging (I haven't yet!!).
    Five possible options (none of which I have tried on cycling glasses, BTW):

    1.) Glasses anti-fog spray, available at eye-care specialists, drug stores, etc
    2.) Spray a bit of ammonia, wipe off
    3.) Paintball goggle anti fog - I'm not sure if it's really any different from 1.), but it works decent on plastic lenses
    4.) Dive mask anti fog

    The fifth is the cheapest, if not a bit rude; divers will hork onto the lenses, rub, and give a rinse (or in the case of cycle goggles, I imagine a gentle wipe). It works quite well - I know some divers who swear by it over any artificial means.
    Duc in Altum!

  22. #22
    I am not a car Map tester's Avatar
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    Panniers
    A cheap solution to protect the contents of your panniers is to use trash compactor bags inside your panniers. I use a pair of Nashbar ATB panniers that are only water resistant, and the compactor bags keep everything nice and dry.

    Helmet
    I concur: Wear a helmet. I use a bandana under my helmet most of the year unless it is cold enough for a balaclava. It keeps my helmet from getting helmet stink. I change it every few days, more in the summer. If you are riding in a cold rain, use clear packing tape to cover the vents in the helmet--your head will be much warmer!
    "Bad facts make bad laws." FZ

  23. #23
    Senior Member nick burns's Avatar
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    One of the best pieces of advice I can think of for new commuters is learn basic bicycle mechanics. Learn how your bike works. Carrying a tool kit won't help you much if you don't know what to do with it.

    Also, keeping a spare change of clothes at work is a good idea. Nothing like the feeling when you get to work & realize you've forgotten your pants!

    What kind of bike you use, clothing, choice of lighting, tires, etc. are all personal choices. What works for one person won't for another. Half the fun of getting into commuting is discovering what works for you & what doesn't.

  24. #24
    Senior Member
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    The Lazy Commuter:
    Cycling is not just for fit and energetic people. Lazy people can enjoy cycle commuting too, and you can do much to fit cycling into a Lazy Lifestyle:
    Sometimes you just wont feel like doing a repair to your bike. A lot of emergency maintenance can be put off to the weekend if you have a spare wheel hanging around (complete with tube and tyre).
    I run 2 chains, one in cleaning solvent, one on the bike. If the chain gets very dirty I just swap (using a power link). I dont have to start cleaning chains mid-week.
    Keep some spares at home and/or work: Cables, brake blocks, extra tubes. You dont have to carry them, but when they need changing you dont have to hunt around for a bike shop.
    Use a track pump for regular inflating. Use a mini pump (or CO2) for emergencies.
    Have a Plan-B: know your bus routes/metro/taxi numbers.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    There are many things that can be carried on a commute. There are three things you cannot do without:

    1) You have to carry both an extra tube and a patch kit, along with a good, frame mounted pump which can get up to the required air pressure. Doesn't matter what type of bike/tires/tubes you use, you *will* get flats.

    2) If you carry anything with you and you have a road bike or hybrid, you will probably break a spoke. This is particularly true if you use panniers. So carry a spoke wrench. Don't worry too much about carrying extra spokes; you can usually true a wheel up enough to ride with a spoke missing if you have a spoke wrench.

    3) Carry some cash. This will get you a ride if something unmanagible happens.

    A good multi-tool, with some allen wrenches is also handy. Zip tyes are good as well for a jury-rigged road repair.

    The above is what I started with, and is enough to get you started.

    BR
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
    "If you’re new enough [to racing] that you would ask such question, then i would hazard a guess that if you just made up a workout that sounded hard to do, and did it, you’d probably get faster." --the tiniest sprinter

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