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  1. #1
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    Advice needed from those commuting-or have considered it

    I've given a lot of thought to commuting, but probably will not for a several reasons. My job requires me to leave my office and travel to customer locations-many times on short notice. Their facilities can be 60-90 miles away so getting to their office on a bike while doable is not practical. I guess they just like to see my smiling face?? However there are still many days I'm in the office so I could probably work around that scheduling issue.

    While I have not looked at the statistics, it's pretty obvious to me that the people in the area I'm in are in too much of a hurry and way too distracted both in the mornings and evenings for me to feel safe enough to commute. We do not have bike lanes, and I'd need to be on the same roads folks are using in the mornings and afternoons. I guess I could leave a lot earlier-but around here there is a pretty wide band of time that folks are driving to and from work.

    Our local roads are becoming more congested and people's patience and willingness to give room is dwindling. The infrastructure is already way to small for our needs. Plus the neighbors kids are now driving.....

    I've always been careful about the roads I ride, time of day etc and am thinking to try and commute would greatly increase the chances of an unsafe event. It might be a reaction to one of our locals getting struck and killed while commuting-will continue to think about it.

    Thoughts from those who commute?
    Ride your Ride!!

  2. #2
    Flying Under the Radar X-LinkedRider's Avatar
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    For me, commuting biggest variable is always the roads you ride on. Around here, some of the roads are perfect for bike commuting and others are suicide. I will say for the most part it is easy to get around down here on a bike. But I will only ride to clients that are within 15 miles and if I know I have a place to change real quick. If the roads are unsafe, I would not even consider it.

    Commuting more than 30 miles each way is ludicrous in my opinion only because you are stopping for such a large period of time and then restarting. Your muscles have too much time to get cold and not enough time to rebuild. This could make the ride home ridiculous for anybody despite their shape.

    Having the right safety equipment and storage helps plenty as well. I tend to use my pannier bag/s if it is real hot or they are farther away than 5 miles. Inside of 5 and on cooler days I don't mind just throwing on the Laptop/Backpack Case and riding the short few miles with it on my back. The lighting is very important as, you tend find yourself get caught off guard with leaving work on time a fair amount. Riding home in the dark without lights is NO GOOD.

    I am a youngster at almost 30, but plenty of guys I ride with and that commute around here are well into their 50's, 60's and even 2 guys that I know are in their 70's. They both ride over 10 miles each way for their commute.
    12' SuperiorLite SL Pro w/ Sram Rival | 10' SuperiorLite SL Club w/ Sram Force | 06' Giant FCR (Dropbar) w/ Shimano 5700 | 10' GT Avalanche 3.0 Disc

  3. #3
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    Get some good lights, ride defensively and as though people haven't seen you. Then give it a go. I ride on busy roads, but make sure I am safe by taking the lane when required, using a mirror and good lights.

    There is danger in everything we do, commuting on a bike for me is no more dangerous than taking the bus (in fact I feel far more safe on my bike!).

    The only way to find out if it'll work for you is to try it a few times.

  4. #4
    tsl
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    If you want to commute, but need the car at work, put the bike on the rack and drive the bike to work on Monday. Leave the car at work during the week and bicycle commute, then drive the bike home on the car Friday. Problem solved.

    There are two things to consider about congested roads. First, do you want to part of the problem or part of the solution?

    Second, the greater the congestion, the slower the traffic. Slower traffic makes for safer mixing of cars and bikes. This is why I love cycling in the city. The odds are evened. Google estimates 29 minutes to drive the route I cycle to work in 22 to 25 minutes. EDIT: And that's actual clock time, not cyclometer "ride time".

    Daven's suggestion about lights is well taken. I run my DiNotte lights day and night. If "lights on for safety" during the day works for tractor-trailers, then it's good enough for little ol' me too. Plus, all my upper-body commuting wear--jacket, shirts, jerseys--are hi-viz. I have enough of each that waiting to do laundry on the weekend isn't a problem.

    ANOTHER EDIT:

    Routing is another thing to consider as well. No one says you have to ride the same route you'd drive. Now that the weather's broken, I can take the long way to work on the MUP, or use residential streets that run parallel to the main routes. (They're not as well-plowed in the snow.) I have another route that cuts through the cemetery, 50 yards of sidewalk, and then through the University campus to a ped bridge across the river. There's a wealth of choices.

    I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, after 11 years car-free and bicycle commuting for the past four, but the new Google maps for bikes showed me a route I'd never thought of. In one section, it recommended a very, very narrow one-way street that runs parallel to the road I had been using. Better still, it lines me up in much better position for the bridge across the river. All these years and I'd never considered it.
    Last edited by tsl; 03-21-10 at 10:32 AM.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  5. #5
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Now that the weather is better I have restarted my bike commuting. Although my ride is short and safe - mostly on a MUP which I gt on 2 blocks from my house and off right at the main gate outside my office, I found that if I tried to make it a high speed endurance ride I would not bike commute. The time I spend on the bike to work is spent mentally preparing for the day, and that could be listening to the birds or enjoying the sun before I box myself up. During the ride home I usually feel like a little kid, happy to be out of the box and enjoying the outdoors.

    So if your commute is going to be stressful - bike commuting will probably not be a long term thing, if you can find a way to make it fun and safe then it will be.
    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
    If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

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    I think that the key issue is practicality -- does it make more sense for you to ride to work or drive to work? If driving is more convenient or more comfortable, then you probably should just continue doing it. Life is too short to waste riding a bike when you are unconfortable.

    As tsl points out, congestion can be a cyclist's best friend. Life is also too short to waste sitting in a car that is moving at less than a walking pace.
    Perhaps if traffic keeps growing in your area, the time for cycling will come.

    Why not give it a try and decide whether or not cycling to work is for you?

    Paul

  7. #7
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    As I've said here before, I commute 20 miles round trip, year round, in all kinds of weather. I don't commute every day -- last year I commuted 130 days; I skip days when I need the car for something, have a super tight schedule or other commitments, or when I just feel I need a break.

    My commute is fairly safe -- part of the route is on a path, the rest is on roads that have a fair amount of bike traffic on them so I feel that any driver on his/her commuting route knows that they are likely to encounter cyclists. I ride at dark, and have a super-bright headlights and tail lights. Still, there have been (I think) at least 4 bike commuter deaths in Seattle in the past two years that I can remember.

    I have noticed that I am having many fewer close calls now than when I first started commuting 3 years ago. Unless you believe drivers are getting safer (I don't), I think this means that even though I've always thought I was careful I must be building up more skills in staying out of trouble and staying visible (though I nearly got taken out by a right hook just 3 or 4 weeks ago).

    I consider commuting now a core part of my work schedule and exercise schedule. I'd really miss it a lot if I couldn't do it, and if I ever had to change where I live I'd take commuting routes into consideration when choosing a home.

  8. #8
    Life is good RonH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jppe View Post
    While I have not looked at the statistics, it's pretty obvious to me that the people in the area I'm in are in too much of a hurry and way too distracted both in the mornings and evenings for me to feel safe enough to commute. We do not have bike lanes, and I'd need to be on the same roads folks are using in the mornings and afternoons. I guess I could leave a lot earlier-but around here there is a pretty wide band of time that folks are driving to and from work.

    Our local roads are becoming more congested and people's patience and willingness to give room is dwindling. The infrastructure is already way to small for our needs. Plus the neighbors kids are now driving.....
    Sounds a lot like Atlanta. I'm retired so don't commute any more, but when I was working the traffic never bothered me. I had more problems with the crappy streets (potholes, broken asphalt, etc) and the crap in the streets (nails, broken glass, etc).
    When I first started commuting the ride was 14 miles one way. When that job dried up my commute to the new job was close to 9 miles one way.
    Usually the commute route will not be the same route you drive. Stay off the main roads as much as possible. Its safer and you'll often make better time.
    Take the lane when required, be visible, and be predictable.
    Take a Bike Ed class and it will help a lot.
    The folks in the Commuting forum have loads of advice and encouragement.
    My bikes: 2001 Litespeed Tuscany---2015 Cannondale Supersix EVO carbon

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  9. #9
    Wheezing Geezer Bud Bent's Avatar
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    I'm in a better mood the whole day at work on the days that I ride my bike to work than I am on the days that I drive.
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    They told me it's ok to post mileage over in the commuting forum, so you'll probably find me there these days.

  10. #10
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RonH View Post
    I had more problems with the crappy streets (potholes, broken asphalt, etc) and the crap in the streets (nails, broken glass, etc)..
    I have some bad pavement on my commute, too -- and in the dark, the rain, and the rainy dark it can be hard to pick a smooth path through the streets. I want to keep my head up, looking at cars, not down looking at the pavement.

    For that reason, I've always been more comfortable commuting on bikes with fatter tires. My first commuter bike had 23c tires, and I quickly changed that for a Trek 520 touring bike with 32c tires. I currently commute on a custom-made commuter bike with 32c tires. I feel like I can roll over anything with those fat tires, which allows me to keep my head up when I'm in traffic.
    Last edited by BengeBoy; 03-22-10 at 11:57 AM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    Lots of good advice given thus far. I would echo the need to select your route carefully even if it adds miles (but in your case, that's probably not much of an issue.) Being conspicuous is the order of the day, being just visible is simply not enough. If you really want to try it you may have to be creative. There have been periods where I would drive in on Monday with three days of clothes to be left at the office, then commute by bike on Tues., Wed, & Thurs. and drive in on Friday. Not ideal, but at least I got three days in. I've also driven the car part way (over high speed roads), parked and cycled the last "X" number of miles. This too was less than ideal, but still better than not at all. I've also done the deal where I drove the car into work, left it there because of a planned meeting some distance from the office the next day. I then cycled home that night and back to work the next morning, drove to my meeting, went back to the office and took the car and bike home. At least I got half a commute in on those days. The point is that where there is a will there is a way.

    I'd also like to address the recreation ride versus the commute. They do require different mind sets and skills. If you've been selecting you rides for recreational purposes and now are going to commute in higher traffic areas, it will take some time to adjust. However, all the "rules of the road" that you probably already know will help. Rolling stops are a probably not in your best interest; hand signals are powerful indicators making your actions more predictable; learning to take you proper place in the lane/line at traffic lights might take some getting used to, but as you claim your space, you tend to get more respect. I also tend to agree with TSL, lights are on for me day or night (part of want to be conspicuous).
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  12. #12
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    If your schedule is extremely tight and you wish to get some bike riding time in anyway you can, you could consider a folding bike to keep in the car. You could ride on your lunch hour or during breaks. You could even try commuting and leaving your car parked at work as someone else suggested.

  13. #13
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jppe View Post
    Thoughts from those who commute?
    Dip your toe in gently.

    Ride the route you would do on a Saturday to understand all the shortcuts you might be able to take advantage of, and to get a feel for the roads and the time.

    Relax, commuting is not a training ride. As long as you are rolling forward, you're doing good.

    Some parts of the ride will probably be great, and a few sections might be a little scary. At first, you can always get off and walk the bike through the scary sections.

    You can use the statistics to psyche yourself out. Or ignore them and go for first-hand knowledge. There are those of us who have been commuting for decades and are still around to tell about it.

    You might even check into a local Road 1 course from a local LCI, it might address any street worries you might have.

    Tell us how it goes.
    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

  14. #14
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    I take it one 1/4 mile stretch at a time.

    (26 miles round trip)
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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