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  1. #1
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    Differences between Commuting and Utility Cycling

    I'd guess that for most people on this sub forum, commuting racks up most of the miles. So a good question might be, are there any real differences between bike commuting and the kind of utility cycling we do?

    One thing I am concerned about in running errands is that I'm constantly dealing with locking and unlocking my bike. I have to deal with all kinds of bizarre bike racks (or none at all) and also removing and putting back things like the water bottle, the frame pump, the bike computer, lights and blinkies, loads, the underseat bag, etc. etc. etc. This is a big nuisance especially when you try to accomplish four or five errands on a trip.

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    Senior Member kf5nd's Avatar
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    Have noticed that.

    If you're doing lots of utility cycling, you might want to have a helmet mounted light not bike mount, a blinkie on you, not on the bike, keep frame pump / tools / personal items in a backpack or fanny pack not in a bike bag.

    So when you get off the bike, you lock it and walk away. Your "stuff" is already on your body.

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    Senior Member mpop's Avatar
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    Well I am car free, but for now when I do errands I just walk* (errands usally involve shoping and the local grocery store is only a 5 minute walk away)

    So I would say maybe for the errands you could consider walking instead of biking that is what I do at this time. I know this is a biking forum and I am advicating walking I will go slap myself around a bit now to appease what ever biking god might be out there ;-)

    * this just means the bad news for me is that the local grocery store will be closing soon so I am going to have to learn how to do my grocery shopping on a bike or walk 30 minutes to the next closest one, I am tempted to just do the one hour of walking myself.
    Michael P. O'Connor
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  4. #4
    winter is comming BenyBen's Avatar
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    Saddle bags are awesome for that... lock your bike, pick up the saddle bags with all your stuff allready in there and off you go. Un-mounting lights and speedmeeter doesn't take very long. A backpack is also nice if you don't have a lot of stuff to carry back with you.

    With my utility bike, I also use a number-type lock so I never have to fetch the keys in my bag.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Platy
    are there any real differences between bike commuting and the kind of utility cycling we do?
    Now that this sub-forum is here, I don't lurk in the commuting forum as often as I once did. I commute to work only occasionally, so I never felt completely at home in that forum. However, I think I can identify one difference between utility cycling and commuting: I suspect the average commuter is much more concerned about travel time and speed than the average utility cyclist. After all, commuters commute to work and most workplaces expect employees to turn up at an appointed hour. Much of the logistics involved seem to be related to ensuring that the commuter arrives at work on time.

    Contrast that to my errands, which I usually take care of after work and on weekends: It doesn't really matter when I get to the store or library, as long as there's enough time for me to conduct business before they lock the doors. A commuter required to be at his or her desk at a certain hour probably doesn't enjoy the luxury of exploring new routes and getting sidetracked, which I do on a regular basis (except when I have perishables on the bike). On some days I must complete my errands in a finite amount of time, but I'm not under anywhere near the amount of pressure I imagine daily commuters face.

  6. #6
    killer goldfish svwagner's Avatar
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    commuting is utility cycling.

    and since my bike is so useful, i often run errands on the way to and from work, thereby eroding the difference between the commute and other kinds of utility cycling.

    it's a good point though...people do often spend rather a lot of time talking about arriving on time or whatever. i don't understand it myself, but i'm lucky enough to have a job that allows me to show up anytime before 9am and leave whenever I've worked a full day.

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    If you're running a lot of errends yes, better to have the blinky on *you*, and not too much pilferable stuff on the bike.

    Messengers have coped with this problem, messenger bags have a handy little strap to clip a blinky onto, and they typically carry what bike tools they carry in the bag, and the bike is pretty stripped down and less enticing to a thief.

    In an area where nice pannier bags may get stolen, there are always the hokey ol' wire pannier baskets, for your grocery-run pleasure. I think those would even make a Colnago theft-proof.

    Serious bikies often have a grocery-getter bike, a go-fast bike for fun riding, etc it's much cheaper to own a few bikes than even one car.

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    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lilHinault
    Serious bikies often... <whatever>
    Potential Pomposity Alert! Recommend a definition of "serious" in this context or rephrase.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    I have the same problem as the OP, and no real solution. I recently opened a thread on another forum entitled "Looking For a Light Lock." I thought the thread would be about locking up lights, and of course he really meant a lightweight lock for his bike! I was disappointed, because it would be convenient to find lockable lights. I just throw my lights in my backpack when I go in a store or whatever, but it would be great to find one that could be kept on the bike all the time.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody
    ...a thread on another forum entitled "Looking For a Light Lock." I thought the thread would be about locking up lights...
    LOL!!

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    Senior Member pedex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Platy
    I'd guess that for most people on this sub forum, commuting racks up most of the miles. So a good question might be, are there any real differences between bike commuting and the kind of utility cycling we do?

    One thing I am concerned about in running errands is that I'm constantly dealing with locking and unlocking my bike. I have to deal with all kinds of bizarre bike racks (or none at all) and also removing and putting back things like the water bottle, the frame pump, the bike computer, lights and blinkies, loads, the underseat bag, etc. etc. etc. This is a big nuisance especially when you try to accomplish four or five errands on a trip.

    Im both, im a messenger by trade, so basically im a commuter/utility rider all the time.When it comes to errands its not much different than what I do for a living really.First step after acquiring the proper equipment is mostly just experience and learning what you can do and get away with and what you cant.Im not gonna sugarcoat this, I see this same attitude on this board and others about locking up bikes, hey its a bike, its a freakin tool to do a job, rule number one, do not get sentimental over it, do not be afraid to lock it up somewhere, proper rack or not.Dont expect sympathy from the world at large over the deal either, whether or not your biking experience is a good one is about as far down the priority list as it gets, just the way it is here in the US.

    As far as on the bike items, a rear blinky light is pretty safe to leave on the bike, a removable headlight is probably the best idea for that.After that, practicality wise and safety wise, get a messenger bag, even if it makes you feel like a posenger, get one anyway, it eliminates alot of hassles.You can carry spares and tools and still have lots of room for other stuff.Do not get bent out of shape if some stores ask you to check at it the door, just give it to them and move on, it isnt personal.Get used to a certain amount of descrimination, face it, a bike only car free life these days makes you a serious minority and curiosity at the same time, some find it cool, some dont, it goes with the territory.

    You may at some point want to get rid of a few things, a bike computer isnt needed, neither is an underseat pouch or bag.Frame pump?get a cheapo mini pump, they work just fine.Tools, get a 15mm wrench for axle nuts and carry the minimum you need otherwise, no sense in carrying more than you need.As far as the actual bike goes, I can tell you from experience, simple is always better, single speed or fixed gears are used by guys like me for very very good reasons.They dont break much, they handle mass abuse and lack of maintenance, and when the weather turns to sheot they still work, trust me, when its 5 degrees outside and snowing/icing and your bike's been outside locked up for hours, if its a geared bike, it wont be after that, it will be a singlespeed whether you like it or not.Road salt, harsh weather, and lots of miles are tough on bikes and riders, and as far as Ive found, bike makers do not cater to people that do this, in other words, your not gonna find a bike ready for this as is at a bike store, you can get pretty close, but not likely to find what you really need.Get something as close as you can, add fenders and anything else you need.Personally on the bike mounted items should be minimal, its safer that way.Remove all decals from the bike, dont use quick releases, get a decent U-lock, stay away from shiny bling type stuff.Youcan have a bike with killer components that doesnt look it, thieves dont know phil wood from huffy.

    Last but not least, if carrying stuff on your back/shoulder is foreign to you, dont worry the initial pains go away pretty quick, takes awhile for your body to get used to constant mileage and carrying stuff, everyone goes thru it, youd be suprised what you can stuff in a messenger bag and still ride just fine.I guarantee you will feel silly and awkward for awhile, all rookies go thru it, ive seen some rookie messengers do some funny stuff, been there myself.Commuting/utility riding has a bit of a learning curve just like anythign else.

    hope this helps
    peace

  12. #12
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    chocula, you made a good point about the logistics of commuting being largely about arriving at work on time. With errand running one is often more concerned about accomplishing several different kinds of tasks in a day with good efficiency. My personal experience is that combining trips cleverly is very important for people who rely on non-car transportation modes.

    pedex, thanks for some insight that I was sadly lacking. I had been thinking that utility cycling was most closely related to commuting. You pointed out that some of the errand running elements are similar to messenger cycling issues. (Posenger? LOL!!)

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    Quote Originally Posted by pedex
    Im both, im a messenger by trade, so basically im a commuter/utility rider all the time.When it comes to errands its not much different than what I do for a living really.First step after acquiring the proper equipment is mostly just experience and learning what you can do and get away with and what you cant.Im not gonna sugarcoat this, I see this same attitude on this board and others about locking up bikes, hey its a bike, its a freakin tool to do a job, rule number one, do not get sentimental over it, do not be afraid to lock it up somewhere, proper rack or not.Dont expect sympathy from the world at large over the deal either, whether or not your biking experience is a good one is about as far down the priority list as it gets, just the way it is here in the US.

    As far as on the bike items, a rear blinky light is pretty safe to leave on the bike, a removable headlight is probably the best idea for that.After that, practicality wise and safety wise, get a messenger bag, even if it makes you feel like a posenger, get one anyway, it eliminates alot of hassles.You can carry spares and tools and still have lots of room for other stuff.Do not get bent out of shape if some stores ask you to check at it the door, just give it to them and move on, it isnt personal.Get used to a certain amount of descrimination, face it, a bike only car free life these days makes you a serious minority and curiosity at the same time, some find it cool, some dont, it goes with the territory.

    You may at some point want to get rid of a few things, a bike computer isnt needed, neither is an underseat pouch or bag.Frame pump?get a cheapo mini pump, they work just fine.Tools, get a 15mm wrench for axle nuts and carry the minimum you need otherwise, no sense in carrying more than you need.As far as the actual bike goes, I can tell you from experience, simple is always better, single speed or fixed gears are used by guys like me for very very good reasons.They dont break much, they handle mass abuse and lack of maintenance, and when the weather turns to sheot they still work, trust me, when its 5 degrees outside and snowing/icing and your bike's been outside locked up for hours, if its a geared bike, it wont be after that, it will be a singlespeed whether you like it or not.Road salt, harsh weather, and lots of miles are tough on bikes and riders, and as far as Ive found, bike makers do not cater to people that do this, in other words, your not gonna find a bike ready for this as is at a bike store, you can get pretty close, but not likely to find what you really need.Get something as close as you can, add fenders and anything else you need.Personally on the bike mounted items should be minimal, its safer that way.Remove all decals from the bike, dont use quick releases, get a decent U-lock, stay away from shiny bling type stuff.Youcan have a bike with killer components that doesnt look it, thieves dont know phil wood from huffy.

    Last but not least, if carrying stuff on your back/shoulder is foreign to you, dont worry the initial pains go away pretty quick, takes awhile for your body to get used to constant mileage and carrying stuff, everyone goes thru it, youd be suprised what you can stuff in a messenger bag and still ride just fine.I guarantee you will feel silly and awkward for awhile, all rookies go thru it, ive seen some rookie messengers do some funny stuff, been there myself.Commuting/utility riding has a bit of a learning curve just like anythign else.

    hope this helps
    peace
    Got to go with the man. He reflected my thoughts almost exactly on simplifying a bike that is used for utility cycling. And I think utility covers everything other than riding specifically for fitness training. And, yes, it include touring in my book.

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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
    Potential Pomposity Alert! Recommend a definition of "serious" in this context or rephrase.
    You passed that danger level a long time ago, Stanley. Give it a break with your innane oneupsmanship over good people contributing worthwhile commentary to a discussion.

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    Senior Member pedex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Platy
    chocula, you made a good point about the logistics of commuting being largely about arriving at work on time. With errand running one is often more concerned about accomplishing several different kinds of tasks in a day with good efficiency. My personal experience is that combining trips cleverly is very important for people who rely on non-car transportation modes.

    pedex, thanks for some insight that I was sadly lacking. I had been thinking that utility cycling was most closely related to commuting. You pointed out that some of the errand running elements are similar to messenger cycling issues. (Posenger? LOL!!)
    Well, a long with what I do for my clients I also integrate errands for my personal life as well.For example, I like to get dvd's from the library a few times/wk, those fit in my bag with customers freight just fine, and when I get the chance I go in the library and return the discs.Same with groceries or anything else I need to do.I have shown up at a clients office with groceries in my bag too, it happens sometimes, being "on call" all the time sometimes means doing my stuff along with others at the same time, you learn to juggle things.You get very adept at locking up and knowing exactly what you can do and where, and what you can haul.Ive gotten to the point now where I can glance at a box and know if it will fit in my bag.Early this morning for example I had a client ask me if I could haul 50lbs of documents to another law firm, one glance at the box and I said sure,no problem.Being a messenger is like running errands for a living basically, just by bike instead of car.Its also like commuting, I have to deal with that too, not uncommon with my 16 square mile delivery area to have to ride 20mins one way to do something, only difference is my commute doesnt end till the day is over, my office is the whole downtown and surrounding areas.It isnt rocket science thats for sure, mostly hard work and brute force quite honestly.

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    I agree with most of whats been said here about the differences from pure commuting.I work from home and have the ability to walk nearby for most utility purposes so like to think of my cycling style as more transportational than utilitarian which to me connotates something a little too spartan or non-recreational for my liking.

    The common element in all my cycling is I am going somewhere be it the beach,everglades,mall,weekend camping,multiday tour ,etc.And further my goal(always accomplished it seems)is to have fun and as such I never wear a watch or have a bike computer .I will take care of most utility functions on the way back and for those I have a duffel and one of those fishing waist packs(for the pockets)bungied to the rear rack.I will wear a daypack with attached blinkie if stopping often which the pump can also fit in.On longer rides the daypack is usually bungied to the rear with the blinkie still attached.

    I use a helmet mounted led for a headlight (mostly for visibility).It is one of the backpacker types that I wrap the elastic band through the helmet holes many times and then fasten the strap at back to attach.In stores, I simply lock the bike and helmet together and the light is attached securely enough noone attempts(or at least is able) to remove it even in questionable places where people have gone thought the fishing pack pockets (where as a result I keep nothing of value).The bike is an early 80's touring bike in need of a repaint and new bar tape and as such a thin lock is enough to deter any would be thief of opportunity.

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    I-Like-To-Bike: "Serious" means someone who's riding to work, riding to school, a messenger like pedex (my hero!) someone who's into bikes, cares about bikes, rescues cool old bikes from the dumpster and keeps 'em, trades 'em, passes 'em on, this covers lots of people - you know how people who are into it at all will often accumilate bikes.

    I've got a SS which will become a fix soon, am looking at getting an all-around bike for daily errends and load-carrying, and then when I have more of a training base will look at getting a go-fast roadie bike. Some people will ride on the road but have a MTB too, or their old BMX they couldn't bear to part with, or they bike they set up for their GF to ride and kept even when she lost interest.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I have some hanging on pedex's every word to do here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lilHinault
    I-Like-To-Bike: "Serious" means someone who's riding to work, riding to school, a messenger like pedex (my hero!) someone who's into bikes, cares about bikes, rescues cool old bikes from the dumpster and keeps 'em, trades 'em, passes 'em on, this covers lots of people - you know how people who are into it at all will often accumilate bikes.
    See, now you've done it. You should have taken the hint earlier. You've set yourself up for an ILTB post about your attitude and how arrogant and ignorant you are in suggesting that anyone who does less than what you say isn't "serious". It's all pedantic semantics, but ILTB thrives on it here and elsewhere.

  19. #19
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    All I can say is that so far ILTB has been gentle with us compared to the animosity we run into from people who Don't-Like-To-Bike. If we can make it through the ILTB charm school we'll all be real suave diplomats.

    [Edited for grammar.]
    Last edited by Platy; 06-30-05 at 01:31 AM.

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    Maybe his name could be I-Like-To-B1tch hehe

    And I'm an arrogent, ignorant, posinger pining to join the pedex posse!

  21. #21
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan
    See, now you've done it. You should have taken the hint earlier. You've set yourself up for an ILTB post about your attitude and how arrogant and ignorant you are in suggesting that anyone who does less than what you say isn't "serious". It's all pedantic semantics, but ILTB thrives on it here and elsewhere.
    Yes Rowan, you are Correct, LIL Racer has set himself up as an arrogant cycling elitist if indeed he is serious about his definitions. And it is not pedantic semantics, it is practical advice on effective advocacy, Cycling advocates need to avoid smug, elitist attitudes/language alluding to the superior virtue (cycling and otherwise) of the brotherhood of cyclists who fit his profile of "serious" (or "real" or "true") cycling/cyclists.

    When the red flag of "serious cycling" is raised by cycling advocates, whether by "High Mileage Road Cylists" with the high mileage on their odometers run up on weekend training rides, or cyclists claiming superior moral virtue because of their choice in lifestyles, it is almost always done to put other cyclists down and is usually tied to angling for special consideration for those who share the so-called Serious cyclist's profile.

    I do like to "*****" at a circle of self appointed experts who smugly believe they are God's gift to the world of cycling and insist on calling their exclusionary ideas/proposals, "bicycling advocacy". It is immaterial to me if their sense of "seriousness" (AKA: superior virtue/wisdom) emanates from their choice in cycling equipment, cycling technique, average speed, total miles, or percentage of miles traveled only by bicycle - when such "serious cyclists" preach outside of their choir and speak of "WE believe this" or "WE want that" they likely misrepresent the advocacy views of everyone else not in the selected slice of the "serious cyclist" clan.
    Last edited by I-Like-To-Bike; 06-30-05 at 07:41 AM.

  22. #22
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lilHinault
    Maybe his name could be I-Like-To-B1tch hehe

    And I'm an arrogent, ignorant, posinger pining to join the pedex posse!
    And I assume you are serious.

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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
    Yes Rowan, you are Correct, LIL Racer has set himself up as an arrogant cycling elitist if indeed he is serious about his definitions. And it is not pedantic semantics, it is practical advice on effective advocacy, Cycling advocates need to avoid smug, elitist attitudes/language alluding to the superior virtue (cycling and otherwise) of the brotherhood of cyclists who fit his profile of "serious" (or "real" or "true") cycling/cyclists.

    When the red flag of "serious cycling" is raised by cycling advocates, whether by "High Mileage Road Cylists" with the high mileage on their odometers run up on weekend training rides, or cyclists claiming superior moral virtue because of their choice in lifestyles, it is almost always done to put other cyclists down and is usually tied to angling for special consideration for those who share the so-called Serious cyclist's profile.

    I do like to "*****" at a circle of self appointed experts who smugly believe they are God's gift to the world of cycling and insist on calling their exclusionary ideas/proposals, "bicycling advocacy". It is immaterial to me if their sense of "seriousness" (AKA: superior virtue/wisdom) emanates from their choice in cycling equipment, cycling technique, average speed, total miles, or percentage of miles traveled only by bicycle - when such "serious cyclists" preach outside of their choir and speak of "WE believe this" or "WE want that" they likely misrepresent the advocacy views of everyone else not in the selected slice of the "serious cyclist" clan.
    The trouble is Stanley, when you express your desire to argue effective advoacy, make sure you get your simple facts right. The he is a she. If you can't get the fundamentals right, no amount of pontificating on the veracity of a person's claims to be a serious cyclist or not, is going to help your cause.

  24. #24
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    Jeebuz, people, stop the snarking. If you want to be all nasty to each other, go check out the fixie or the roadie forums. Play nice, dammit!
    Higher ground for the apocalypse!

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    It's OK lala, it happens on every forum ILTB/Stanley Batt posts to. Goes with the territory. It's fun for a while, then gets boring, then people turn their attention elsewhere.

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