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  1. #1
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    Short Commute, how much gear do I need?

    Compared to a lot of folks on this forum, I have a short commute. Its just about 3.5 miles each way. The most challenging aspect of my daily commute is the weather. I really don't have appropriate clothes or shoes for bad weather.

    I've been reading on forums about all the types of layers for winter cycling and I'm trying to figure out what works best as an underlayer (or overlayer) to normal clothes. I want to be able to peel off a few top layers and sit at my desk (casual office environment). No shower at the office, i would not be able to change when I get there.

    Also, how many sets of these clothes do I need? Do they need to be washed after every use? My ride isn't very intense and I'm not trying to spend too much money, but I also don't want to stink.

    Any input appreciated.

  2. #2
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    assuming relatively little interference from traffic, you're only talking about a 15 or 20-minute ride. Take a patch kit or spare tube (or both), tire levers and a pump for sure--I don't go anywhere without those. Throw in a multitool in case something comes loose, but I don't think I've used mine in five or six years (I check the bike over quickly a couple of times a week). You don't specify what you mean by "weather," so it's hard to give specific recommendations. When I lived in California, I used to think 50 degrees was too cold to ride. Here in Reno, I'm often out in the 20s. Just dress in layers and peel as you need to, though in such a short ride you're not likely to overheat. Down to 25-30 degrees, I'm comfortable with a light base layer, even a long-sleeved T shirt sometimes, a windproof shell and whatever the temperature dictates in the middle, from nothing to heavy fleece or wool. Plus gloves, if it's colder than 45 or so.
    We don't get much rain here, so riding in it is a treat. Temps in the rain aren't going to be very low, so all you need is something to keep the water off. If you get a lot of it, fenders are a HUGE help.
    As long as you shower daily and change your work clothing, smell isn't likely to be a factor. The sweat you generate through exercise has virtually no odor when its fresh. I rode 13 miles to work in street clothes 75-100 days a year for 15 years, and friends (good friends, who'd tell me the truth) said I didn't stink at all. If you overdo the outer garments so you soak your office clothes, I guess that could create problems.
    A paper-towel pitwipe in the restroom is helpful, too. Grab a handful, wet half of them at the sink, then duck into the stall, wipe and dry and flush everything down the toilet. A dab of deodorant finishes the job.

  3. #3
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    I would suggest two things:

    1) get some heavy-duty tires, I like Schwalbe Marathon Plus (for this "commuting" use). They are heavy and slow, but will not slow you down as much as a flat tire would.

    2) get an e-bike motor kit, the Bionx is nice if you can afford it. The best way to get to work not stinky is to not pedal very hard on the way in--and your first goal here is transportation, not exercise. On the ride home you can leave the motor off and get as much of a workout as you want.

    ~

  4. #4
    Kid A TurbineBlade's Avatar
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    I really don't have appropriate clothes or shoes for bad weather.
    Do you really think this, or did you come to this conclusion by reading Bicycling magazine and listening to the people at your LBS?

    I ride all year on a steel bike and regular clothing. Including cotton t-shirts, long sleeve ones, a sweatshirt, twill and jogging/athletic pants, tennis shoes, .....and on colder days a cheap fleece vest, a skull cap, and a pair of gloves. People might tell you you're crazy, but just keep in mind that MANY cyclists who recommend and "swear by" cycling specific clothing hang their bike in the garage from November through April.

    You probably already have a lot of stuff that would work fine -- the only trick is to under dress to avoid sweating. That's really it.

    For 3.5 miles I'd invest in fenders (if your bike can mount 'em), a rack and panniers (or a basket), some lights if you ride in the dark, and a good quality frame pump. Those are more valuable to me than special clothes, but that's just my take.
    Cyclist, angler and aquarist

  5. #5
    Fred-ish rogerstg's Avatar
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    3.5 miles? You don't need anything special except a leg strap or something to keep your pants out of your chain. Use whatever you'd use to walk there. No need to worry about bringing tools or maint. supplies either; you're basically always within 10 minutes walking distance from home or work. Fenders are a good idea for wet roads, however.

  6. #6
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    3.5 miles is on the boundary of going tool-free and taking my repair kit. How long would it take to switch the inner-tube vs how long to push the bike.
    I would fit a super puncture-resistant tyre like Marathon Plus. Keep a puncture kit at home and at work.

    On the bike you need fenders, lights. If you want to carry heavy shopping take a rack and pannier. You could use a backpack for lighter loads.
    I use casual , easy care, polycotton pants. Bike-clips will prevent them flapping around.
    Merino wool T shirts dont smell and can be worn several days without washing. You can use a cotton T shirt if you want.
    For midlayer I use a casual shirt and woollen jumper, just normal stuff.
    You need a decent jacket that can resist the worst winter weather. I have a mult-activity softshell style rather than cycle-specific.
    Carry some waterproof pants for really wet days.

  7. #7
    "Per Ardua ad Surly" nelson249's Avatar
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    For 3.5 miles I wouldn't bother with a lot of special equipment. To deal with the shoe issue I would wear regular shoes and maybe get some cheap weather proof shoe covers and put an additional mudflap on your front fender. In regard to jackets etc I usually wear a good windproof shell (with ventilation) a fleecy layer (if it gets much below 40) and a wicking sport shirt. None of this stuff (save the shoe covers) is cycling specific and I have picked up most of it at a department store or a work wear place.
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    Yeah, what TurbineBlade said about clothing. I should have mentioned that--most of my winter "cycling" clothes are the same things I wear to work in the yard, hang out at Dreamer's (local coffee place) or whatever. If I had to go ride right now (18 degrees outside), I'd wear probably 30 bucks' worth of stuff in addition to my shoes. You can find fleece at thrift stores for less than $5 (I paid $2.99 for a Patagonia vest the other day; it's $80-plus in the catalog). Microfiber pants and pullovers (polyester that looks like nylon or silk, not the fleecy stuff) are quite windproof and somewhat water resistant. I bought a merino wool polo-style shirt for a few bucks at a local thrift shop, and except for the shape of the collar, I can't tell a difference between it and my $90 Rivendell cycling jersey.
    You don't HAVE to do this on the cheap, but if you have to, you can.

    Quote Originally Posted by TurbineBlade View Post
    Do you really think this, or did you come to this conclusion by reading Bicycling magazine and listening to the people at your LBS?

    I ride all year on a steel bike and regular clothing. Including cotton t-shirts, long sleeve ones, a sweatshirt, twill and jogging/athletic pants, tennis shoes, .....and on colder days a cheap fleece vest, a skull cap, and a pair of gloves. People might tell you you're crazy, but just keep in mind that MANY cyclists who recommend and "swear by" cycling specific clothing hang their bike in the garage from November through April.

    You probably already have a lot of stuff that would work fine -- the only trick is to under dress to avoid sweating. That's really it.

    For 3.5 miles I'd invest in fenders (if your bike can mount 'em), a rack and panniers (or a basket), some lights if you ride in the dark, and a good quality frame pump. Those are more valuable to me than special clothes, but that's just my take.

  9. #9
    Kid A TurbineBlade's Avatar
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    3.5 miles? You don't need anything special except a leg strap or something to keep your pants out of your chain.
    Oh yeah, a leg strap! Good call. I have like 6 of them because I keep getting free ones at local rides and new shops, etc.

    Yeah, what TurbineBlade said about clothing.
    Seriously? Great. Usually when people see the word "cotton" their brain immediately recoils and neurons fire in a series to recall them reading something from the REI website about "how to dress for hiking" or something -- where it says COTTON KILLS. Then they repeat this ad nauseum without ever really trying anything out on the road themselves.

    It's not a 3-day ride through Greenland for most bike commuters. Death from exposure is not a huge worry for me anyway. Comfort is never an issue, as I don't sweat from underdressing.
    Cyclist, angler and aquarist

  10. #10
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    Cotton can kill...well not the cotton itself, but if you are sweating severely in freezing weather (let's say -10C) and you stop moving for a period of time (to change a flat tire), you are very likely to become hypothermic. If you don't have to stop, you're fine, just remember that cotton does not insulate when wet (that means sweaty too).
    On short commutes with light physical exertion this shouldn't be a problem though.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Monster Pete's Avatar
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    Fenders are a must, full coverage if possible. It's not so much the rain that falls down that gets you soaked, it's the water on the road that sprays up. Lights are essential if you're going to be riding after dark, and also help in rain or poor visibility, not so much so you can see, but so car drivers can see you.

    I normally just wear an ordinary raincoat in wet weather. If the facilities are there it would be good to take a spare set of dry clothes to wear when you get there if it's very wet. Your feet will also get wet, so any shoes that keep the water out are good.

    Other than that, you can get by with your normal clothing, underdressing slightly for the temperature as you will probably be warmer cycling than walking.

  12. #12
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I wear rain gear over what ever I have on .
    Last winter I got a Neon green parka with lots of reflective stripes.
    polar fleece pants are a good insulating layer. Rubber insulated boots
    and Flat platform pedals.

    A cycling cape covers your hands too, though not so great for windy days.

    but Snow stays on the outside of less water proof gloves just fine.

  13. #13
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    At 3.5 miles I would wear what I usually wear in the same winter conditions.
    I think I would start simple and add items as I encountered a need for said items.
    Personally, if I had a 3.5 mile commute I would run it but that is me.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Monster Pete's Avatar
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    That's a point, I've taken to wearing a pair of old leather gloves on my commute recently. Not only do they offer a bit of hand protection in a fall (if you come off, instinctively you're going to put a hand out) but keep most of the cold wind off your hands.

  15. #15
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    thanks for the replies everyone.
    First thing I did when I bought my commuting bike was get full fenders, then a multi-tool, spare tubes, patch kit with levers, blinky light, bike computer (no real reason, just a toy I guess), and a rack.

    As far as that gear goes I'll be fine. I've been commuting through winter for a few years and have picked up a few useful clothing items. A neck gaiter is really essential when it drops to the 15-30 degree range, which is common in this area. Maybe its just me but I find it at the very least highly irritating to breathe deeply in very cold weather.

    I have been riding around with my old feather filled coat (bad for stopping the wind) and a few fleece underlayers. To be honest, I never thought cycling specific clothing was very important even when my commute was longer, but I didn't have to look or smell great where I was going. I did tend to sweat under all those layers and I'd prefer not to.

    My main concern at this point is protecting my extremities. My fingers tend to get really cold without wind protection, so I'd like to get some kind of windproof gloves (lobsterclaws look kinda silly IMO), and windproof waterproof boots. For my legs, a pair of thermals is usually fine under my pants but I'd like to be able to protect my ankles from water/snow.

    Lastly, my eyes really get dried out against the wind. I have a thin head and I always look silly in sunglasses. Are ski goggles over the top? Do any of you actually ride through harsh winters?

  16. #16
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    Ski goggles work well. Clear lenses or some sort of interchangeable lens system are a good thing if you are riding in the dark.
    I ride through winters and commuted in fairly cold temps.

  17. #17
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    3.5 mile commute is great...

    Wear your regular clothes and add what you need to be comfortable. FWIW I am cold natured and wear silk long johns at temps around 40*F, when we hit the 20's I am in full thermals. A wind shell goes a long ways towards improving comfort.

    I had a 7 mile commute for several years and rode in my street clothes. In the winter months I wear a lot of wool layers that can be easily shed. I don't find cotton to be an issue, but I live in the deep south.

    For your eyes try an inexpensive set of wrap around safety glasses, they are readily available in clear, tint, smoke and yellow. Try Lowes or Home Depot. Ski goggles aren't necessarily over the top. I used to wear them when riding in snow storms.

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  18. #18
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    You're doing good phillycommuter. Meh, I'd leave the patching kit home and just take spare tubes. I tried repairing a tube on the road and it was very difficult. You have to roll to an illuminated area. The breeze won't let your fingers or lips feel for the air leak and traffic sounds, forget it!
    Spare tubes, tire tools, air pump, blinkies and batteries. Hardware stores usually have the best prices on batteries. DO make sure your tools are the correct meaasurements for your bike. At least one small adjustable wrench.
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