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  1. #1
    newMember
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    Trying to commute full time... some questions

    Hi, never posted on the car-free forum before...

    I have bike commuted for long intervals my entire life. Most of the last 13 years has been car based, but I'm getting back into it. I currently live 14km from work and am riding full time now. I work 12 hour + shifts, days/nights which make for long days...

    Transit is available, but not great early in the AM on weekends.

    Some issues...

    1. I want to ride when the thermometer is below zero celsius. Problem is ice. I'm on a road bike.
    2. When developing a respiratory infection, I usually get sicker with exercise.
    3. I ride on a very busy highway with two long, unlit sections and several sections with very narrow shoulders. The region I live in has very bad drivers, many daily accidents. I've had many close-calls.

    We have 2 vehicles and want to sell one. Not having much luck. When either of the first two scenarios come up it's hard to not jump in the car and just drive.

    Any suggestions?

    We really want to be a 1-car family, for financial, health and environmental reasons.

    Thanks

    Brian
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  2. #2
    Wookie Fred chewybrian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brian.thornburn View Post
    ...I have bike commuted for long intervals my entire life...
    You already know the basics, then.

    Quote Originally Posted by brian.thornburn View Post
    1. I want to ride when the thermometer is below zero celsius. Problem is ice. I'm on a road bike.
    2. When developing a respiratory infection, I usually get sicker with exercise...
    Being in Florida, I'm no help on the ice issue (you can get studded tires, I guess). I get sick much less often when I work out regularly, so it's a chicken and egg thing, I guess.

    Quote Originally Posted by brian.thornburn View Post
    ...3. I ride on a very busy highway with two long, unlit sections and several sections with very narrow shoulders. The region I live in has very bad drivers, many daily accidents. I've had many close-calls...
    Good lights and reflectors, ankle bands and such. Also, try www.bikely.com or google earth, to look for alternate routes. You are talking about 9 miles. But, is there a way to go 11 or 12 miles and avoid the worst of it?

    Quote Originally Posted by brian.thornburn View Post
    ...We have 2 vehicles and want to sell one. Not having much luck. When either of the first two scenarios come up it's hard to not jump in the car and just drive...We really want to be a 1-car family, for financial, health and environmental reasons...
    Remember all the cash you will save by ditching the 2nd car. Even if you get stuck and have to call a cab or rent a car once in a while, you will probably still be way ahead.
    Campione Del Mondo Immaginario

  3. #3
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    Buy a good folding bicycle that can be taken on the transit system you say is available. On days you don't feel up to riding both ways you can maybe do the ride one way. On days when the weather changes to really bad conditions after you've already arrived at work you can just fold the bicycle and ride transit.

    Whichever bicycle you buy, be sure to check that studded tires will fit. Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires will fit inside most frames because they aren't knobby tires. I have some 20" studded Innova tires that won't fit inside the fork of my Dahon Smooth Hound. They did fit inside my recumbent bicycle frame with plenty of clearance.

    I can't comment about respiratory infections. I got a cold almost a month ago and I'm still coughing due to too much mucus. One way to help lessen the amount of mucus is to take plenty of digestive enzymes. Apparently colds cause more mucus to be created and the bodies normal enzyme production can't keep up. When I take plenty of extra enzymes throughout the day my mucus level drops and I cough much less. This is a good tip for anybody who gets a cold or flu. I came up with this solution on my own. I've never read about anyone else doing it. It works for me.
    Smallwheels

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  4. #4
    Senior Member coldfeet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post

    I can't comment about respiratory infections. I got a cold almost a month ago and I'm still coughing due to too much mucus. One way to help lessen the amount of mucus is to take plenty of digestive enzymes. Apparently colds cause more mucus to be created and the bodies normal enzyme production can't keep up. When I take plenty of extra enzymes throughout the day my mucus level drops and I cough much less. This is a good tip for anybody who gets a cold or flu. I came up with this solution on my own. I've never read about anyone else doing it. It works for me.
    How do you source the digestive enzymes? What supplements do you take?

  5. #5
    Senior Member Dean7's Avatar
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    First off: good for you, man. I know people who live 1 mile away from their work and still drive that 1 mile. It puts a smile on my face to see people like you who are going against some real adversity to bike in to work!

    1. I ride on ice on my road bike and basically just slide around a bit. It's kind of fun for me, but I live in Oregon so we get like 1 icy day per year and it's sort of a novelty. If it's going to be snowy for months out of the year a MTB would probably be nice. Or you could get a cross bike and commute on it year-round.
    2. I have no clue about this one. Sorry.
    3. Is there a way to avoid this highway? Cycling on highways is just going to be dangerous IMO and it's best to avoid if possible (as others have mentioned).

  6. #6
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brian.thornburn View Post
    Hi, never posted on the car-free forum before...
    Hi Brian! I hope you find the forum to be useful and interesting.


    Quote Originally Posted by brian.thornburn View Post
    1. I want to ride when the thermometer is below zero celsius. Problem is ice. I'm on a road bike.
    2. When developing a respiratory infection, I usually get sicker with exercise.
    3. I ride on a very busy highway with two long, unlit sections and several sections with very narrow shoulders. The region I live in has very bad drivers, many daily accidents. I've had many close-calls.
    My impression on #1 and #3 is that you're probably riding on the edge of the road or in the shoulder, rather than sharing the actual highway lane with the cars. If so, you're riding on a section that isn't being cleared by the plows. In fact, additionsl ice and snow is probably pushed into the road edges by the plows, as well as by the tires of the cars. This could also explain the many close calls you're having. Usually, cars will pass you with more room if you're actually in the traffic lane, rather than on the edge or in a narrow shoulder.

    One solution would be to take a traffic cycling course, or just ride with another cyclist who feels comfortable mixing it up with the other traffic, so that you'll be more comfortable with vehicular cycling when it's called for. A second solution would be to find an alternate route so that you can avoid the highway sections. Sometimes there are parallel streets that are slower and less busy. Explore on Google Maps, then get on your bike on a day off and hunt around for some better routes.

    As for #2, I've read a couple articles that said vigorous or extreme exercise can diminish the immune system, more so than mild or moderate exercise. If you're a real masher, you might want to slow down a bit on days when you're feeling under the weather.


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  7. #7
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Sounds like you really need to explore a Plan B for days when you are sick or the roads are too icy for your road bike (although there are ways around the latter... as I'm sure you are aware).

    Right now it's the car, but in future it could be transit.

    Before you sell your 2nd car, take some time to explore just how bad transit it on the weekend. I frequently hear people -- in many cities -- tell me how bad transit is. But many of them have never really checked out prices, routes and schedules. Also check out cabs and compare the cost of an occasional cab to the cost of insuring, parking and maintaining the 2nd vehicle.

    Many folks who bike commute and use their cars as backup aren't always aware of options. And there may be others in your case.

  8. #8
    Stealing Spokes since 82' Fizzaly's Avatar
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    You could always buy a MTB for the winter months, get a used one for cheap, im carfree and when im sick its either ride in or call a cab and well im cheap so i just tough it out, i get the respiratory problems every winter as well but i generally just ride through it. But like others have said sell the car and those times its too hard to ride take a cab, i know how you feel on the early a.m. transit the earliest bus here in boise will get me to work 25min late, which ive done a few times, a few weeks ago my dumb ass rode to work with a temp of 101f when i got to work i had no idea why i even bothered coming im

  9. #9
    nw commuter memnoch_proxy's Avatar
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    I'm on a Xtracycle with 700c wheels running Schwalbe Marathon Winters when it's icy. The safest way to ride on snow is to avoid the shoulder where refrozen slush resides. I typically end up on the white line because this is normally cleared off by traffic. Check the Winter Riding discussion for more tips.

    Respiratory: cold air will shrink mucous, so it might be a temporary relief; reduction of dairy in the diet often lowers mucous as well. Caffeine helps shrink mucous, too. The best thing is lots of sleep and a good diet (here's a summary of some tips I just found for avoiding colds, I follow similar philosophy).

    If you don't have a trailer, you might consider one, even for going to work.
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  10. #10
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fizzaly View Post
    You could always buy a MTB for the winter months, get a used one for cheap, im carfree and when im sick its either ride in or call a cab and well im cheap so i just tough it out, i get the respiratory problems every winter as well but i generally just ride through it. But like others have said sell the car and those times its too hard to ride take a cab, i know how you feel on the early a.m. transit the earliest bus here in boise will get me to work 25min late, which ive done a few times, a few weeks ago my dumb ass rode to work with a temp of 101f when i got to work i had no idea why i even bothered coming im
    For me, if I'm sick, I'll go ahead and ride, but more slowly, unless a fever is involved. If you're running a fever, you're no good to anyone anyway, and probably infectious, so you might as well do yourself and others a favor by staying home.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  11. #11
    newMember
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    Thanks for the advice folks. I work in healthcare and I know my limits and won't go to work if I'm really sick. I was just wondering how others have found this affecting their winter commute, and whether it leads to calling in sick more often. You've provided some good insight into this.

    As for the route, I know my area extremely well, as I not only train in my area but also drive for my job. I choose the more risky route as opposed to the safer ones because I find a 30-35 min commmute each way + gearing up/down and showering on top of a 12hr + shift makes for a long enough day. Where I may be considering a route change is in the event of weather making the primary route just too hazardous.

    I'll clarify the weather scenario. I grew up in Eastern Canada where heavy snow is a reality every winter. Roads were well salted so I was always riding in slush and skinny slicks on 700c wheels worked just fine. Here on the west coast we get less than 2 weeks of sub zero temps each year and even less heavy snow days. This year we just had 3 days of sub zero ( dry) weather, followed by 2 days of heavy snow followed by rain, complete melting and then freezing again. This is typical.
    It doesn't matter whether you have knobby tires or bald ones if you're riding on compact ice or black ice. I already bailed twice.

    I hope to get a cross bike and have two sets of wheels, one with off road tires and one with slicks. It will be set up with fenders, panniers and good lighting. This is dependent on selling the car!

    Are there studded snow tires that will fit on a standard road frame? What about a cross frame?

    Thanks for sharing!

    Brian
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  12. #12
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brian.thornburn View Post
    Thanks for the advice folks. I work in healthcare and I know my limits and won't go to work if I'm really sick. I was just wondering how others have found this affecting their winter commute, and whether it leads to calling in sick more often. You've provided some good insight into this.

    As for the route, I know my area extremely well, as I not only train in my area but also drive for my job. I choose the more risky route as opposed to the safer ones because I find a 30-35 min commmute each way + gearing up/down and showering on top of a 12hr + shift makes for a long enough day. Where I may be considering a route change is in the event of weather making the primary route just too hazardous.

    I'll clarify the weather scenario. I grew up in Eastern Canada where heavy snow is a reality every winter. Roads were well salted so I was always riding in slush and skinny slicks on 700c wheels worked just fine. Here on the west coast we get less than 2 weeks of sub zero temps each year and even less heavy snow days. This year we just had 3 days of sub zero ( dry) weather, followed by 2 days of heavy snow followed by rain, complete melting and then freezing again. This is typical.
    It doesn't matter whether you have knobby tires or bald ones if you're riding on compact ice or black ice. I already bailed twice.

    I hope to get a cross bike and have two sets of wheels, one with off road tires and one with slicks. It will be set up with fenders, panniers and good lighting. This is dependent on selling the car!

    Are there studded snow tires that will fit on a standard road frame? What about a cross frame?

    Thanks for sharing!

    Brian
    About the tires...road frame maybe, cross frame most likely. Cross bikes are designed with more wheel clearance because of the conditions they are used under, so a studded tire should fit. Road frames are typically made differently with tighter clearances, the only way I to tell for sure is choose the bike and check it out.

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  13. #13
    Senior Member crazybikerchick's Avatar
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    For me, I find with a respiratory infection, which are rare when biking, I actually feel better when riding the bike, but I have to really slow down (so instead of exercise its a very leisurely pace). As for ice, the days that are bad for the bike are pretty bad for driving too. I try to avoid black ice (as it usually is visible as shinier surface, but no good if the black ice is under powder) but riding over a small patch if you don't brake or accelerate or turn you should be ok.

    As for the unlit roads, Dinotte headlights are really bright and can help you see the road.

    Some suggestions for trying to live with one car:
    - where does your partner work? On the days where you feel its best to drive can you either carpool, get dropped off/picked up, take the car and they take transit, get driven to a convenient transit stop etc. Its going to be less convenient but if the times you need to drive the second car are rare its worth the inconvenience for the savings of going down to one car
    - you say transit is "not great" but is it still existent? another option when the weather is bad is you can say get up earlier if you need to if you can get on it, or if there are bike racks bus+bike so the bike part is more easily manageable if you are sick

  14. #14
    newMember
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    Car pooling not an option because of hours of work, shiftwork, daycare etc.

    Having looked at the studded tires (can't believe I've never seen 700c ones before!) It looks a lot more doable. Selling the car will become a greater priority when things get less busy.

    All of our transit buses here have front racks for 2 bikes. Our light rail transit allows bikes on board at all times except when it's really crowded.

    Another hurdle to getting rid of the car is that I have another job that is much further away. I hope to leave it and get hired closer to home at another location. All in all it is definitely doable. Thanks for the suggestions and encouragement.

    Brian
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    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brian.thornburn View Post
    Some issues...

    1. I want to ride when the thermometer is below zero celsius. Problem is ice. I'm on a road bike.
    2. When developing a respiratory infection, I usually get sicker with exercise.
    3. I ride on a very busy highway with two long, unlit sections and several sections with very narrow shoulders. The region I live in has very bad drivers, many daily accidents. I've had many close-calls.
    I'm near Penticton and I ride year-round. Here are a few of my thoughts about your questions.

    1. The ice is worst when the temperature is right around the freezing point. It's a lot less slippery when the temperature drops a few degrees. In Vancouver, you're not likely to get the cooler temperatures we get in the Okanagan, but the salt trucks will be out fairly quickly. I'd also suggest getting to the winter cycling forum for more suggestions. For the days when it snows or ices and the roads are getting the salt and sand treatment, you'd be wise to have a cheap bike for transportation. The stuff on the roads is mean to bikes and especially drivetrains.

    2. Sorry. I've got nothing on this one. What does your doctor say?

    3. Look for an alternate route if at all possible. The roads that are best for cars are not always best for bikes. Also, because you're riding in winter, you're dealing with less light than in summer. And the days will often be quite overcast. You need a good lighting and visibility system. This is not an option. I'm using a bright headlight and two flashing rear blinkies. When I use a backpack, I have a reflective triangle on it, for added visibility. Otherwise, I use a highway worker safety vest. The vest is available at Canadian Tire for something like $25 The blinkies will run you anywhere between $10 and $20 each. Check your local bike shop or Mountain Equipment Co-op. The headlight will cost you at least $100 and possibly more than twice that amount, but it's money well spent. Go for something bright, even if it seems like overkill. You need to see and be seen.
    Life is good.

  16. #16
    newMember
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    Sold the car, bought the bike. We're now a one car (van) family and I have a new Kona Jake the Snake :-)
    Setting it up with fenders and rack to use my neglected panniers.

    Question: what do you do to prevent rust on the drivetrain when you get home from a rainy commute? Hosing it down and drying everything by hand is laborious every day. It rains here day after day after day....

    Thanks

    Brian
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  17. #17
    On a Mission from God FunkyStickman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brian.thornburn View Post
    Sold the car, bought the bike. We're now a one car (van) family and I have a new Kona Jake the Snake :-)
    Setting it up with fenders and rack to use my neglected panniers.
    AWESOME!! Good for you! Just had to say that.

    Quote Originally Posted by brian.thornburn View Post
    Question: what do you do to prevent rust on the drivetrain when you get home from a rainy commute? Hosing it down and drying everything by hand is laborious every day. It rains here day after day after day....

    Thanks

    Brian
    I'm very hard on my bike, I don't hose it, I just wipe it down (if that) and replace the chain as needed, maybe once a year. Not sure how salt would affect that... not really an expert on snow and winter.

  18. #18
    newMember
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    Thanks for the kind words. Another thread in mechanics is touching on this topic right now - just wiping the chain dry and lubing it sounds feasible. Rinsing after a rainy ride not so important. And a wet lube.

    Brian
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  19. #19
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    Brian, My only experiance riding on winter streets (snow, ice, sand, salt) was as a teen in Connecticut. No real need to maintain the drivetrain until the weather will be clear for a few days. Then we used hot water to rinse the drivetrain. The hot water dissolves the salts and after drying just lubed everything.

    Brad

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by brian.thornburn View Post
    Question: what do you do to prevent rust on the drivetrain when you get home from a rainy commute? Hosing it down and drying everything by hand is laborious every day. It rains here day after day after day....
    Great Brian.

    I live in CA now, where I don't have to worry near as much about maintenance, but I moved here from Maine where I was a year-round bike commuter, and so I do have a bit of experience.

    My routine in Maine was to ride the bike in to work, - my commute there was 14 miles or rolling hills, so I was usually pretty hot and sweaty when I got to work. I would spend 5 minutes or so wiping down the bike, while cooling off. In the winter this often consisted of rinsing down the bike and getting snow, ice and slush off of it by squirting it with a water bottle filled with warm water. In the summer, it was usually just wiping down with a rag. I did no maintenence/cleaning when getting home in the evening - just put the bike in the garage to sit until the next morning. In the winter I would lube the drivetrain with 'wet lube' on the weekend, and I found that I never had rust issues, despite riding on salted roads.

    My guess is that in Vancouver they don't use a lot of salt on the roads, in which case my guess would be that just rinsing the bike off daily and doing a weekly lube will be plenty to keep your bike clean and reliable. I did find that chains tended to wear faster in the winter, and more often than not, I did a chain replacement in the spring.

    Mark

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    Those were all really good points - I was wondering the same thing about taking care of my fixed gear bikes during the rain. It is a lot of upkeep but definitely worth not dealing with a car most days.

    Last edited by Dampier; 03-24-11 at 12:50 PM.

  22. #22
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Rain should not be a problem for most bikes and components. I sometimes leave mine out in the rain a couple hours after riding to rinse it off. (self-cleaning feature, found on most bikes.)

    Road salt and sand will chew up the drive train. Expect to buy a new chain every spring, and a new BB every 2-3 years. Inspect your hubs, rims, and brake pads regularly also.


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  23. #23
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    I have found that if I leave my bike wet overnight, in the morning there's rust on the chain and casette cogs. That's any time of year. So my plan is to hand wipe the chain once home and apply a bit of wet lube before heading in for the night. I like the idea of warm water in the bottle - beats getting out the hose. I'll use that when there's salt around.

    Thanks

    Brian
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    2010 Kona Jake the Snake 105 build
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  24. #24
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Stainless steel chain?

    I usually use wet lube on my chains (oil more than likely) I also have fenders and chain guards that help keep things clean.

    Aaron
    Webshots is bailing out, if you find any of my posts with corrupt picture files and want to see them corrected please let me know. :(

    ISO: A late 1980's Giant Iguana MTB frameset (or complete bike) 23" Red with yellow graphics.

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  25. #25
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coldfeet View Post
    How do you source the digestive enzymes? What supplements do you take?
    Digestive enzymes are available at any health food store. Sometimes they are even available in conventional stores where the vitamins are located. Don't get just papaya because it only works on digesting fruits. Get one with amylase, protease, lactase, and a couple other ...ayse's. It should be able to work on protein as well as sugars.
    Smallwheels

    Take my stuff, please. I have way too much. My current goal is to have all of my possessions fit onto a large bicycle trailer. Really.

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