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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 04-21-14, 05:37 PM   #26
spare_wheel
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Yeah, I probably didn't do a good job of falling, but that's one skill I hope I don't have too many opportunities to practice.
it's a very good skill to develop. find a soft grassy area, wear some old clothes, and practice for half an hour.
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Old 04-21-14, 08:31 PM   #27
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Funny some of you mention falling skills... Whenever I've crashed, I've tried to keep my face away from anything, because my helmet can handle the rest. Developing those reactive skills can take training (or a few close calls) for sure. I ride a lot in lanes with traffic, so one thing always on my mind is to stay in a straight line if i do go down so i'm not run over. Also something i've practiced is jumping off in case i need a quick exit. Did this on grass last summer & surprise surprise few months ago driver in my neighborhood was going 55-60 (25 mph zone) on the wrong side of the street & i jumped off while pulling the bike out of the way. I ended up on the curb, driver ended up with points on license.

What's that saying, luck favors the prepared?

Also, no matter how good your reflexes are, you should try to be well rested if you're road riding, because fatigue slows everything from neuron response to muscle contraction and lessens situational awareness.

Sometimes it takes one bad crash to wise you up, but hopefully better driver education, better infrastructure upkeep, and taking proper care of ones self & ones vehicle can minimize those chances to begin with.

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Old 04-21-14, 09:11 PM   #28
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Right now I'm using platform pedals with no foot retention. I asked a question about how to get faster at acceleration from a dead stop a week or so ago and got some good advice. As a result of that discussion, one of the changes I've been considering is switching to MKS Lambda pedals with Powergrips.
At the risk of seeming to be trolling, as this is a much rehashed topic, I find retention pedals don't work well with my commuting style. I have to stop at lots of lights, and I typically pull over and put my foot on the curb, or on the pavement, so when I have spd pedals, I'm always clicking in and out, or starting off with one foot on the wrong side of the pedal (so that cuts into any hypothetical acceleration benefit), and arriving at my destination in inconvenient shoes.

Also, when learning to use retention systems, you may fall again!

Maybe the power grips will work for you, and I guess you can use any shoes, and of course each person has to decide for themself what they like. But note that people can feel passionately about this topic and some may oversell the benefits of retention pedals.

You can also improve your acceleration by choosing a lower gear and developing a higher cadence.

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Old 04-21-14, 09:32 PM   #29
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Maybe the power grips will work for you, and I guess you can use any shoes, and of course each person has to decide for themself what they like. But note that people can feel passionately about this topic and some may oversell the benefits of retention pedals.
As silly as this sounds, i use crocs bistro, as they have anti-slip outsoles. A side benefit is they keep me from falling on my bum off the bike too (came in VERY handy this past winter)! They also don't really wear out (soles do wear after a while), have fabric parts that can tear or catch things, and are pretty comfy.

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Old 04-22-14, 07:20 AM   #30
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+1 on the Powergrips. I have them on some MKS touring pedals and use them with clunky Rockport street shoes. They are relatively easy to get out of quickly.

On my Kruisframe I have the Zefal half toe clips and while they keep my clunky Rockports located well and are very easy to get out of, they are not as effective as the Powergrips when pedaling hard.

On the downside, either will ruin a set of Prada pumps pretty quickly.
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Old 04-22-14, 09:04 AM   #31
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I need to go that slowly here. I should get out there and take a picture to show everyone. These tracks are *really* rough. Like I said above, it's almost like going over low curbs. Even though the tracks are so awful, I prefer this route because it keeps me off of two major arteries (five and seven lane roads).
I know it's really, really, really counterintuitive but speed does help. Your momentum is higher which carries you through better. At slower speeds, you wheel will hit something and deflect off to the right or left more easily. We have cattle guards out here in the west that are very similar. If you try to go over them on a bike at slow speed, they will pound you and your wheel is likely to fall into the gaps. At speed, you fly over them, just hitting the tops and your wheel won't deflect into them. Railroad tracks should be handled similarly.


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Yeah, I probably didn't do a good job of falling, but that's one skill I hope I don't have too many opportunities to practice.
It's a skill you don't want to practice but one that you really need to practice. I never needed to do the "falling the park" thing because mountain biking offers all kinds of opportunities to practice falling. Perhaps you can find a gym or rec center that has a judo or martial arts program. They teach you how to fall in a controlled environment.

On the plus side, mountain biking also offers lots of opportunities to learn how not to fall. I highly suggest to anyone who wants to improve their bicycle handling skills, that they do at least a little mountain biking. You'll learn more in an afternoon of mountain biking about how to handle a bike than you will in years of road riding.
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Old 04-22-14, 09:34 AM   #32
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it's a very good skill to develop. find a soft grassy area, wear some old clothes, and practice for half an hour.
Try riding on loose sand...you'll learn how to fall really quickly, and it won't hurt that much. Unless you're riding a fat bike, of course.
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Old 04-22-14, 09:39 AM   #33
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Also don't slow down to walking speed to cross tracks. Cross them at right angles but get it over with! There is a maxim in mountain biking: "Momentum is your friend." Momentum will carry you over obstacles before the bike has a chance to get knocked off its line of travel. Get over the tracks at a right angle with a reasonable amount of speed.
I was thinking the same thing, once you've aligned yourself at 90deg to the tracks, I'd take it at speed (with no turning until completely across). If it is one set of tracks with good traction between them, I might even suggest bunny hop, at least the front tire.
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Old 04-22-14, 10:07 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Giant Doofus View Post
I need to go that slowly here. I should get out there and take a picture to show everyone. These tracks are *really* rough. Like I said above, it's almost like going over low curbs. Even though the tracks are so awful, I prefer this route because it keeps me off of two major arteries (five and seven lane roads).
Those don't sound too different from 2 of the sets of tracks I cross. Between the bumps, loose gravel, pedestrians and not being able to cross them at a right angle it's impossible to carry much speed across them safely.
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Old 04-22-14, 10:16 AM   #35
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I suspect, given that your rear wheel slide out, I suspect that you weren't crossing the tracks perpendicularly as you should have. You may have been trying to hurry that last track and get back to the right so you turned your bike while the wheel was still on the tracks. Don't try to maneuver the bike before you clear the tracks.

Also don't slow down to walking speed to cross tracks. Cross them at right angles but get it over with! There is a maxim in mountain biking: "Momentum is your friend." Momentum will carry you over obstacles before the bike has a chance to get knocked off its line of travel. Get over the tracks at a right angle with a reasonable amount of speed.
...snip...
I've seen a rider crash on the tracks because he turned in the last few feet to hit the rails at 90 degrees. But he was still leaning into the turn as he crossed the rail. I don't try to be exactly 90 degrees, but I'm careful to be centered and balanced on the bike. I'm standing and carrying enough speed to get over the tracks without pedaling.
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Old 04-22-14, 04:54 PM   #36
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I have a slightly interesting story about learning to fall from a bike.

When I was about 7 y/o, my dad decided to teach me to ride. Naturally, he bought me a junior ten-speed that was so big that I couldn’t straddle the top tube, even on tip-toes. This was back when kids got one pair of new sneakers a year, bought oversized so that our feet would still sort of fit at the end of the year. He walked me and my over-large bike up a winding asphalt path to the top of a grassy hill in a local park, where he turned the bike to face downhill, placed me on the saddle, and instructed me to follow the path until it was about to end, then steer onto the grass and JUMP OFF. Then he pushed the bike down the path and I went with it. That afternoon, parkgoers got to see a small boy flying down the path – my dad hadn’t bothered to point out what the brake levers did – then veering off and finally bike and boy tumbling to a stop in a cloud of grass and dirt. Over and over. By the end of the day I knew how to fall. Eventually I learned to ride as well.

I don’t recommend this technique of child-rearing. But I never have been injured, beyond a little blood and bruising, in crashes whether from bikes, skateboards, skis, or snowboards, so I suppose he knew what he was doing.

Anyway, you will probably never fall on this bit of track again. All the advice given – cross at right angle, not leaned over, off the saddle, with some speed – is sound. Be especially cautious if the tracks are damp. I can’t speak to the utility of trackstanding, but why not.

In Portland we have some streetcar tracks, and riders who are inattentive or ill-trained go crashing down frequently. There are a lot of complaints about it. Other riders don’t crash and don't complain. You’ll be one of the latter.
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Old 04-22-14, 05:28 PM   #37
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I have a slightly interesting story about learning to fall from a bike.

That afternoon, parkgoers got to see a small boy flying down the path – my dad hadn’t bothered to point out what the brake levers did – then veering off and finally bike and boy tumbling to a stop in a cloud of grass and dirt. Over and over. By the end of the day I knew how to fall. Eventually I learned to ride as well.
I love this story. When I was a kid I had a three-speed kick back Schwinn with a coaster brake. It was a girl's frame, and I never saw the point of using either the gears or the brake. I always just jumped off when i was ready to stop. Easy to do with no top tube.
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Old 04-23-14, 10:41 PM   #38
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Sorry to hear about your fall, glad you are okay. Four railroad tracks in a row seems unfortunate, though I can understand wanting to avoid higher traffic areas.

I would check to see if your wheels are true. Whenever I crash, I invariably wind up with bruises, road rash and wheels that are out of true. I've never practiced crashing, but seem to average a fall about once every few years. I would inspect any light weight aluminum or carbon parts.

I recently switched from an old mountain bike for commuting to a road bike and I noticed that I felt less confident at railroad crossings. I agree with cyccommute - I think it helps to go faster over railroad crossings. I also agree that mountain biking may help you build skills/confidence with this. With my mountain bike, the tires were too wide to get caught in the tracks, but my road bike wheel could easily wind up lodged in between the tracks if not crossed carefully. Still, I cross fairly fast. I actually take a short fire road on my commute (used to be a railway line) and cross some railroad tracks in the dirt on my carbon fiber road bike - I still go over them pretty quickly. I always stand, keep my weight back and cross perpendicular to the tracks. I use spd pedals on a loose setting. I actually think spd pedals are much safer and easier to use that straps/power grips/etc. I'm not sure how much learning to track stand will help you, but I often wish I could bunny hop. I'm terrible at bunny hopping.

You might also want to consider commuting on a mountain bike. Using slicks vs. regular mountain bike tires only saved me about two minutes on my bike commute (total of 45 minutes, one way). Switching to a road bike saved me about five minutes. I used to commute on an old (but light) mountain bike with an old suspension fork which was mostly locked out, and I enjoyed the "bombproof" feeling I had while commuting, especially in more urban sections of my route.

Lately, I've found that I'm a bit "desensitized" on the commute since I ride it so often. I'm not paying as much attention to the road as I should because I have done the commute so many times. This is especially true on the ride home. I'm trying to be better about having a snack and a little coffee or tea about a half hour before I leave work.
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Old 04-24-14, 06:30 PM   #39
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I teach riding to kids and adults, and I do teach people to fall. We go on the grass and do a "stage fall," where we fall on our ankles, then our knees, hips, elbows, then shoulders. I did this to help my students get over fear. I didn't know I'd benefit from it, but I've fallen thrice in the past few months, and it came in handy. I fell just as I had rehearsed, without any thought. As a result, I didn't get hurt. I recommend it now. I'm not sure I'm ready to rehearse an end-o, though..
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