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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 10-10-07, 12:33 AM   #1
midschool22
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Help me become car free.

Hi all.

I just finished reading How To Live Well Without Owning A Car by Chris Balish. Right now, I'm on day two of a week long trial of being car free. So far so good. Everything I need is within a four mile radius of home. My only real concern is the upcoming winter. I have a one mile trip to work. At what point would I be in danger from being out in the elements? It can reach a high of zero with below zero double digit wind chills at night for the ride/walk home. Thoughts?
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Old 10-10-07, 12:43 AM   #2
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1 Mile???? You can survive just about any temps for 1 mile... even walking. Check out the Winter Cycling forum for good info on dealing with winter weather.
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Old 10-10-07, 01:07 AM   #3
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Your distances are pretty much the same as mine. And the winter temperatures you've mentioned are similar to the coldest winter temperatures I'll have to face. I don't have trouble getting around town without a car, even in winter. However, there will be some adjustments you'll make as you go car-free.

The cold isn't that big of a problem as long as you can dress for it. Check the winter cycling thread. Also go to a shop that sells outdoor gear and have them help you prepare for winter riding.

A potentially bigger problem will be balance and safety when you're riding on snowy or icy roads. I've found wide tires are a good idea. If you have a lot of ice, you can get studded tires.

It's a good idea to have a winter bike if you get snow and ice. The reason for this is the salt on the road can wreak havoc on a steel frame and the sand mixture is mean to your chain and drivetrain.

Also, make sure you're visible. Winter days are short and nights are long. You'll need a headlight, tail light and a reflective vest.

For the first year, give yourself permission to drive if necessary. Going car-free or car-light is a big adjustment and a huge learning curve, especially when it involves rough weather cycling. It's okay to go into it gradually.
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Old 10-10-07, 05:10 AM   #4
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I don't do anything special clothing-wise for my commutes of 1.5, 2, and 3.5 miles. Last year I wore Cannondale Windfront gloves, a rain jacket over a fleece, and regular work clothes (jeans, business shirt). The thing about riding is, if you get cold, just pedal harder. You warm up real quick!

I second the recommendation for studs. I never slipped, slid, skidded or even spun a wheel all winter. They can be spendy, but a lot less so than waking up in the hospital. Plus spinning all the extra weight made me so much faster come spring!

The one thing I didn't do was heavy grocery shopping when the roads were bad. Instead, I'd make several trips on a day when roads were good.

As for the drivetrain, I went through two chains and a cassette last winter. Snapped one chain in the middle of February. Not much you can do about it, except plan ahead, buy 'em cheap and have the spares in stock for when needed. Same thing goes for brake pads.

My winter bike last year was an 8-speed. At Nashbar, 8-speed cassettes are about $20 on sale and come with a chain. An extra 8-speed chain alone was $6.50 on sale. I'll be missing those prices this year since the new bike is a 10-speed.

I'm not so sure about the ease into it strategy. My nature dictates I have to be a sink or swim kinda guy. If I have an easy way out, I'll take it every time. Therefore, I make sure that the softer, easier way isn't available, and it turns out okay every time.

Finally, check out the Winter Cycling Forum. There's lots of advice there--sometimes conflicting. The point is that the same things aren't always right for everyone. But you'll get a range of advice and alternatives. By spring you'll know what works best for you.
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Old 10-10-07, 06:24 AM   #5
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Presumably you have appropriate winter clothing. Y'know, warm jacket, gloves, hat, boots... If you walk a mile in appropriate winter clothing, you should be fine. Even for someone who walks slowly, it's being outside for 20 minutes. If you tend to walk fast, 10-15. You may even find that for such a walk, your "normal" winter gear is too warm.

You can use most of the same gear on a bike. You'd probably want to add a wind and water resistant pants layer to your winter gear, but that's not horribly expensive. After you've got the pants, experiment. You know when you're comfortable and when you're not. We don't
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Old 10-10-07, 07:11 AM   #6
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1 mile? If you get a big snow or ice, strap on the snowshoes! Use knobbies or inverted tread for slush!
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Old 10-10-07, 08:57 AM   #7
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One mile is three or four minutes on the bike. Jeeze....even if you wore your jammies and slippers, how cold could you get?
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Old 10-10-07, 09:57 PM   #8
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My main problem in the winter,believe it or not,is OVER dressing.My commute's a little longer than yours so I have a good chance to get sweated up.With only going a mile it's probably not as crucial.But it's all about good boots,mitts(not gloves) and layers.How many layers to wear compared to the expected daily temps your going to face.My "cut-off point" is -30C/-21F(not counting the wind chill).You'll have to do some experimenting with clothing but you'll soon figure out what works and what doesn't.I'd say GO FOR IT.I've ridden the last 12 winters(in Canada)and love it.It's my favourite time of year for commuting.Technically challenging and if you dress properly you hardly sweat.
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Old 10-10-07, 11:11 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by midschool22 View Post
Hi all.

I just finished reading How To Live Well Without Owning A Car by Chris Balish. Right now, I'm on day two of a week long trial of being car free. So far so good. Everything I need is within a four mile radius of home. My only real concern is the upcoming winter. I have a one mile trip to work. At what point would I be in danger from being out in the elements? It can reach a high of zero with below zero double digit wind chills at night for the ride/walk home. Thoughts?
I think you're well-positioned to go totally carfree right now. A one-mile commute is a fantasy for most people. Even if it totally sucks outside, you can walk to work in less than 1/2 an hour. And with most of the goods and services you need within four miles, heck, I'd permanently ditch the car today. You honestly don't need one.
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Old 10-11-07, 12:11 AM   #10
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Another thing to consider is whether you can bring your bike inside work.I'm fortunate that I can always put my bike by the loading dock.Gives it a chance to dry off.If you leave it outside for the day,at sub freezing temps,you may have a bicycle shaped icecube by quitting time.

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Old 10-11-07, 12:30 AM   #11
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Help me become car free.
OK, give me your car!
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Old 10-12-07, 08:09 PM   #12
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Only a mile from work? Wear the right clothes and you will be O.K. I would love to live one mile away from work. If it is too cold to ride your bike it is too cold to drive. By the time you get the car cleaned off and warmed up you could have ridden your bike to work. I say ride the bike to work!!!
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Old 10-12-07, 08:17 PM   #13
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Walk. I bike most of the year and I take the bus or subway when there's ice. The subway is 0.8 miles from my house. It's no big deal. If there's deep, fresh snow to slog through, I view it as a workout opportunity. Just dress properly.
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Old 10-12-07, 08:22 PM   #14
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That's what cars do to this country... people think of a mile-long walk or bike as undoable in winter. Geez... When I was a little kid I walked a mile to school even when it was -35 Celsius out there.
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Old 10-13-07, 12:01 PM   #15
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snow got me started on ultra car lite (it's still in my name. the partner drives).
Last winter I discovered Yaktrax for walking. They simply rock.
I was slow to get on a cycle (look at some of my posts in recumbents)
but with feet, buses and light rail, i've actually had quite an easy time.
I also had a tendency to over dress. I'd love a jacket with low vents.
but, cheap snow boots and a down coat (from my pre-vegan-intended days) and a few layers kept me toasty.
Get a great hat. and gloves, and the rest is simple.
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Old 10-13-07, 04:57 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by midschool22 View Post
Hi all.

I just finished reading How To Live Well Without Owning A Car by Chris Balish. Right now, I'm on day two of a week long trial of being car free. So far so good. Everything I need is within a four mile radius of home. My only real concern is the upcoming winter. I have a one mile trip to work. At what point would I be in danger from being out in the elements? It can reach a high of zero with below zero double digit wind chills at night for the ride/walk home. Thoughts?
No problem. Windchill isn't real cold. Just dress accordingly. I use standard polartech and ski clothing and I'm good to twenty below zero f. After that it gets trickier, but even then it's still possible.
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Old 10-14-07, 01:14 PM   #17
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That's what cars do to this country... people think of a mile-long walk or bike as undoable in winter. Geez... When I was a little kid I walked a mile to school even when it was -35 Celsius out there.
Me too....and it was uphill both ways!
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Old 10-14-07, 01:17 PM   #18
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Another thing to consider is whether you can bring your bike inside work.I'm fortunate that I can always put my bike by the loading dock.Gives it a chance to dry off.If you leave it outside for the day,at sub freezing temps,you may have a bicycle shaped icecube by quitting time.
Yeah, it'll look like an icecube or a white fuzzball, but it'll still get you home. I've parked outdoors through 5 winters now, no problems.
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