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Late night commuting

Old 09-08-05, 09:44 PM
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Late night commuting

I started bike commuting to work (about 7 miles) this summer (with much help from reading this forum) and have been absolutely loving it. The school year has started up and my schedule changed. I am now either leaving or arriving at work at 11 oclock at night. I have looked at some threads on night riding, and I feel ok, if not great, about the dark. (I am brightly lit up, so are the cars, there are not as many cars.) I feel pretty safe when I am riding, but if there were any mechanical mishaps, even just a flat, I would feel like I would be in a really precarious situation. I can't decide on what side to err. I don't want to let fear rule my life, but I'm not crazy about acting more naive or something than I am, either. I really don't want to depend on my car anymore. I am busy, and its one of the only times I am able to ride that far. I can't decide if I am crazy for trying it or wimpy for making a big deal out of it. What do y'all think? I would especially love to hear from other women dealing with these sort of calculated risks.
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Old 09-08-05, 10:48 PM
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The trick to any commuter is being prepared. Carry an extra tube and a pump or Co2 inflator(that's what I use) and the flat tire issue is solved. I finally read that your a woman.. carry bear spray. I actualy have it on my handlebars as I type and I'm a 6'2" 259 pound guy. My theory is that after I tell one of the *******s that screams/spits at me to **** off he's gonna pull over and escalate the situation... at which point I'm going to spray him and everyone in his outfit with a full magnum can of Counter Assault. Now I'm sure I will never actaully have to do this but it's all about the feeling of security. Bright lights and a defensive riding style go a long way also.
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Old 09-08-05, 10:54 PM
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I am a lone rider (woman) who is out in the wilds of eastern WA state for 50+ milers routinely. I ride prepared--extra tube, tire, tools, cell phone (tho most often am out of range), and since I have developed a bee sting allergy, and Epi-pen. I will be commuting at night soon, too, and have decided to invest in some illuminite clothing. Other commuters here wear it, and it glows....

As far as safety, I am lucky (or not!) and ride a trail to an from work. I have never ridden it at night, so it is with some trepidation that I will be riding this fall. Bear spray sounds like a grand idea.

So I will be following this thread with interest......can anyone recommend a good, lightweight lite set?
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Old 09-08-05, 11:20 PM
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I would stick a little flashlight, (mini-mag) in your bag.

Maybe a "AAA" size..small enough for you to bite it while you change a tube? etc...?
 
Old 09-09-05, 01:31 AM
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I was bombing down El Camino Real at about 10 tonight, less traffic, and not bad. But if I rode at night a lot I'd want an even better light on the front, because you have to see all the annoying junk on the road, the little potholes and pinecones and car parts etc you dodge all the time and don't think that much about .... until you can't see 'em and hit 'em. My light works well enough for occasional night rides, though.
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Old 09-09-05, 01:31 AM
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Oh, good light lights, try Cateye, you can always mount two of them on, the handlebar mount ones with 5 white LEDs in there. $25 or so ea. at the bike shop.
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Old 09-09-05, 08:21 AM
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Are there any late-night businesses on the route? Do you have a cell phone? Is there anyone else at home at that hour? Could you have a plan in place where, if you had a problem, you could walk the bike to some place, lock it for the night, and call for an "extraction?"

At this link:
https://www.ledtronics.com
they sell reflective vests with flashing LED's embedded. I have one and it is great. I got caught once in the middle of a road, at night, with a lighting failure (lots of honking there). Now I have two levels of redundancy; the main head/tail light on the bike, red flashers on the backpack and a white flasher on the handlebars, and the blinking vest. I am a thing of beaty.

Last time I had a flat the LBS put in an extra-heavy-duty inner tube, whatever that might mean. Are there things one could do to minimize the chance of a flat tire? I myself don't know, but I would imagine that would be in the area of thicker tubes, liners in the tires, thicker tires, maybe even solid tires. Or, maybe you could do like they do in the military where they replace those aircraft carrier cables after every 100 uses; you could replace your tires and tubes every fall whether they need it or not (that would be a bit expensive and wasteful, of course, but they will wear out anyway at some point).

Don't forget the annual tune-up to make sure the shifter is adjusted. If those little screws are not in the right place, then when you shift onto the smallest sprockets the chain will pop off. I would think that flats or problems with the shifting would be the most likely mechanical problems, so preventive maintenance in those areas would reduce the chance of any breakdowns.

I personally feel perfectly safe riding at night, with respect to traffic. As far as personal safety in the event of a breakdown, as a male in a safe neighborhood I am unqualified to have an opinion. I could just walk the bike to a convenience store, chain it to a street lamp, walk home, and pick the bike up the next day.
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Old 09-09-05, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Walkafire
I would stick a little flashlight, (mini-mag) in your bag.

Maybe a "AAA" size..small enough for you to bite it while you change a tube? etc...?
Biting a mini light sounds fine until you have to do it. Better is an LED headlamp in your tool pack (check favorite camping store for choices), best may be something like the Cateye EL-400 https://www.cateye.com/en/products/vi...d=7&subCatId=2 which can be strapped to your handlebars, handheld, or strapped to your helmet and serve as a secondary be-seen headlamp or as hands-free emergency lighting.

Heavy-duty tires, puncture strips, tubes to reduce the chance of flats. Everyone has their favorites, I like the Specialized Armadillo Nimbus. Disadvtange is if I do have to fix a flat, the sidewalls are very stiff so changing the tire difficult.
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Old 09-09-05, 09:17 AM
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I just got back from the first late night commute! The funny thing one, my boss was there covering for the person who usually works the shift before me. I could have come in earlier and avoided the late hour riding altogether. Hmm, the headlamp is a really good idea, I hadn't thought about the whole not being able to see the flat or mishap. I was just thinking that while I was changing it I would be standing by the side of the freeway. Which is related to why there are no late night businesses in the middle, although I did notice that the lumber yard had a night security person, protecting all the wood from the anarchists, I suppose. I don't know how helpful that would be although I would probably try it if there was a scary person after me. I carry a cell phone, too. The vests are trippy and probably a good idea.. I got some personal defense spray last night, although it sat uselessly in my bag. Mounting it to the handlbars sounds a lot more helpful. This was the first significant night riding I had done, and I noticed that my front light was all wrong, not helpful to avoiding debris at all. My light is a cateye opticube with the 5 lights (leds?). I was actually hoping it would be brighter, but I was nominally visible anyway with light reflective clothing and blinking red things on my back and around my ankle. I was wearing a pearl izumi bright yellow jacket, but I guess that the only visible parts were the tiny reflective lines. Maybe i would have been better off with a vest. Oh well, it kept the wind and mist off me, at any rate. I ride pretty defensively anyway. Thanks all!
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Old 09-09-05, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by treehugger
My light is a cateye opticube with the 5 lights (leds?). I was actually hoping it would be brighter, but I was nominally visible anyway with light reflective clothing and blinking red things on my back and around my ankle.
I leave the house most days at 2 am, get to work just before 3 (unless I'm unusually tired). I keep a pretty good pace up, and I've found the led lights just don't work for me...I need to see the road, clearly, not just be seen by cars, so I spent $100 or so on a NiteRider light, which has a battery that attatches to the frame. Totally worth the price and extra pound or so on the bike.
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Old 09-09-05, 01:19 PM
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Everyone seems so concerned about mechnical situations at night so here's my plan. I strap my back-up light to my helmet and leave it there during the week. I'll usually turn it on in blinkie mode but more than anything I value its backup role, and, as light to deal with mechnical problems. It points where I look, after all. In another thread I got the idea to strap my camping headlight to the helmet too, which I might start to do, or I may simply toss it in my backpack as a back-up to the back-up.

FYI, my my primary lights, which I and some others picked-up from Performance for a little over $100 with the ubiquitous 20% off coupons and "Team Performance" (buyer's club) points. Best bang for the buck, IMO.

Best of luck with your night riding!
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Old 09-09-05, 03:11 PM
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I commute home at similarly late hours. I work in and ride through a fairly bad neighborhood (the ghetto to some). Some basic tips for the late ride home: Stick to main and busy roads. Light up with multiple front and rear lights and reflective bits--especially shoes as they're moving in a unique manner. KEEP MOVING. Though I'm equipped for most brakdowns I will ride a rim until I find a spot of MY choice. KEEP MOVING. A moving target on a main street is not a good target for most hoodlums. KEEP MOVING--quickly. Did I mention you should keep moving?
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Old 09-09-05, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by ks1g
Biting a mini light sounds fine until you have to do it. Better is an LED headlamp in your tool pack (check favorite camping store for choices), best may be something like the Cateye EL-400 https://www.cateye.com/en/products/vi...d=7&subCatId=2 which can be strapped to your handlebars, handheld, or strapped to your helmet and serve as a secondary be-seen headlamp or as hands-free emergency lighting.

Heavy-duty tires, puncture strips, tubes to reduce the chance of flats. Everyone has their favorites, I like the Specialized Armadillo Nimbus. Disadvtange is if I do have to fix a flat, the sidewalls are very stiff so changing the tire difficult.
it was just meant to be as a little light to get your wheel off, then you can use your Main Lights to do your tube changing...etc....

And YES I have done it
 
Old 09-09-05, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Walkafire
I would stick a little flashlight, (mini-mag) in your bag.

Maybe a "AAA" size..small enough for you to bite it while you change a tube? etc...?
AAA maglights were great, 10 years ago. Now, LED lights have far surpassed them. I have 3 real, honest-to-goodness Mag-Lite brand AAA lights that anyone can HAVE. You can buy LED lights that are brighter, smaller, cheaper, more reliable, and the batteries last longer.

Target has a decent selection. So does Wal*Mart. The larger, 3AAA one from Wal*Mart with a Luxeon light is as bright as my 3D Maglight, and the batteries cost 1/10th as much and they last longer. The only plus of the Maglight is that it's better for beating chasing dogs with.
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Old 09-09-05, 10:11 PM
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Am I not getting my message through????

Its just for the quick fix in the dark... to remove a wheel.. then place it in front of your main light system...

We all know lighter (weight) is better on a bike...
 
Old 09-10-05, 08:24 PM
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My sister used to ride in Humboldt Co. (Laytonville area) day and night. She says she never had problems with humans, even though some get a little paranoid at harvest time, maybe.

There are bears and cougars, no?
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Old 09-10-05, 08:33 PM
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The actual ride at night..With enough lights and reflective gear. I am ok with But, I don't like riding in the fog in the day , let alone night.. W/o fog, I am ok..
Suggested gear..A bright light so that you can see grates/etc. an extra light just in case...and finally...Once I got a flat at night It was pitch dark..The extra light I had was not satisfactory for changing a flat..I tried holding the light in my mouth towards the tire. that is a pain.
My suggestion..Have a "Princeton Tec. LED light with a strap to wrap around your head..With that needed light for changing a flat is not a problem.
My one night flat was so difficult , I gave up and hitched. Never again, I hope.
.One downside of night riding..No matter what lighting system you have. Can you see the broken glass. Brightness makes me more comfortable with that problem.
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Old 09-10-05, 09:58 PM
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I too have just started commuting at night (I teach and class ends at 9). I have to bike through city of St.louis - through about 2 miles of bad part of town (campus is in bad part of town). I carry cell phone and I call my partner before I leave campus - we know how long it takes so if I am not home in the appropriate range of time - I will be looked for. I also carry pepper spray on handlebars and am very (possibly insanely) lit up by lights, helmet light, blinky lights, reflective vest etc. I decided I did not want fear to keep me from biking. So far, I have not been the only cyclist along my route. I actually feel safer biking than waiting for the bus at that time of night.
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Old 09-11-05, 12:47 AM
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Ffarrell...I feel the same way about cities..I do my best to refuse to fall prey to fear...I would enjoy my hockey, attend concerts in big cities..I am a city friendly person and will not abandon them..So many almost refuse to enter a city limit if the city is bigger than 100.000...Cities should be our epicenter of our civilization...They only thing that would stop me from bike commutting in a city , is if traffic was too dangerous and no shoulders.
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Old 09-11-05, 01:28 AM
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Originally Posted by treehugger
I started bike commuting to work (about 7 miles) this summer (with much help from reading this forum) and have been absolutely loving it. The school year has started up and my schedule changed. I am now either leaving or arriving at work at 11 oclock at night. I have looked at some threads on night riding, and I feel ok, if not great, about the dark. (I am brightly lit up, so are the cars, there are not as many cars.) I feel pretty safe when I am riding, but if there were any mechanical mishaps, even just a flat, I would feel like I would be in a really precarious situation. I can't decide on what side to err. I don't want to let fear rule my life, but I'm not crazy about acting more naive or something than I am, either. I really don't want to depend on my car anymore. I am busy, and its one of the only times I am able to ride that far. I can't decide if I am crazy for trying it or wimpy for making a big deal out of it. What do y'all think? I would especially love to hear from other women dealing with these sort of calculated risks.
Pick a route that feels comfortable to you and not seedy (where possible). A road with a lot of night life, pedestrians etc. may be more to watch out for, but more people around in case of emergency. The route I take during daylight is not the same route I'd return at nighttime - I choose roads to avoid an area which I wouldn't say is unsafe but feels vaguely uncomfortable.

Have a backup plan in case of mechanical problems. Change a flat in a busy well-lit area (if possible). Or skip making the fix if you can find an alternate way home - taxi, transit, calling a friend etc. I had a flat at night on a road that I didn't feel uncomfortable walking on but felt kinda weird stopping to change a flat on. But luckily it was when I was fairly close to home (30 minute walk?) so I decided just to walk the gimpy bike home.
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Old 09-11-05, 09:52 AM
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Yeah carry a patch kit, and make sure you can fully change your tire with the tools you carry before you depend on it, being stranded in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night missing a crucial tool would suck (gross understatment).
In addition to being an obsessed cyclist I'm also and avid outdoorsperson and I'm in love with headlamps. I picked up one of the new Nite Hawk headlamps for camping and for use night riding. This headlmap kick's ass, it run's on a single LED type thing (it's actually some new development called an emmiter) but is really powerful. Mine has two light settings. One with a range of 12 meters and another with a range of 120 meters. On the low setting you get around 100 hours of light off 4 AA's and on the high setting you get 10-15 hour's of light.
I've gone bombing down bike trails that go down a river valley near my house at top speed with the headlamp and had MORE than enough light on the high setting.
The headlamp can run on recharables which I will buy and use for urban commuting once I run down the batteries that are in it right now (which might take a while). It's a pretty cool headlamp cause the head also rotates side to side. it is possible to remove and re-arange the straps. which I will do in the winter so I can take the battery pack off and stick it into my jacket to get better life (stop batteries from freezing). Oh yeah and when night riding I stick my rear flasher on the back of my headlamp. Combined with my helmet mirror my set up look's seriouse. I'll take a picture, later...
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Old 09-11-05, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by cyclezealot
Ffarrell...I feel the same way about cities..I do my best to refuse to fall prey to fear...I would enjoy my hockey, attend concerts in big cities..I am a city friendly person and will not abandon them..So many almost refuse to enter a city limit if the city is bigger than 100.000...Cities should be our epicenter of our civilization...They only thing that would stop me from bike commutting in a city , is if traffic was too dangerous and no shoulders.

good post - i agree 100%. in my personal experience with myself and friends i've seen more car breaks ins in the 'burbs and the office park where i work as opposed to my downtown neighborhood. i'd rather be walking or biking near benign homeless folks or peirced goth punks as opposed to bored suburban high school kids any day. of course this is in denver, which has a more gentrified downtown than other cities, but still have some sketchy areas.

most of my out of state vacations are to big cities: chicago, mexico city, and going to buenos aires this fall - in colorado there's enough small towns and beautiful country in a day's drive i prefer visiting other big cities for long vacations.

on a related note - our weekly alternative paper had a long story about rezoning a part of colfax for stricter rules, which is considered the "bad street" by Denver standards. some interesting pros and cons

https://www.westword.com/Issues/curre...s/feature.html
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Old 09-11-05, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Roody
My sister used to ride in Humboldt Co. (Laytonville area) day and night. She says she never had problems with humans, even though some get a little paranoid at harvest time, maybe.

There are bears and cougars, no?
I live in a more human filled area than Laytonville, far more people than bears or cougars. I live and go to school in Arcata, a small college town I would not hesitate to ride around in. I work in Eureka, a city with accompianying sketchy areas, one of which I happen to work in. Between these two places is a bay, around which there is no super happy bike route.
There are 1 ways around the bay, neither of which have any businesses open at night. There is a freeway, which I feel fine riding on during the day, although it is not the most relaxing ride. That particular area of it has a somewhat recent 50 mph speed limit, usually a decent sized shoulder with lots of debris. At night it is a bizzare ride, between rushes of cars very surprised by my existance and the occasional stretches with zero cars when it feels really isolated in both a beautiful and creepy way.
There is a few-mile-longer route around the bay, (which I also would not hesitate to use during the day), that has houses, crossroads, a smaller shoulder, and a 55 mph speed limit. It goes through an area that is slightly sketch, although this character is exagerated here, and has more people about during the night. I have never seen people walking, hitching or hanging on the freeway in the middle of the night except right by town, but I do see them on the pennisula route. More people equals, in the harshest view of human existance, more potential attackers and more potential wittnesses.
I haven't taken this route at night yet mostly because they have comparable risks, so I take the shorter route. Although, there are at least roads filled with houses I could change a flat on instead of the side of the freeway. Maybe I should try it.
Anyhow those are my only two options by bike, there are no good or safe routes. I have had a decent, although not great, light set up. I have been carrying a cell phone and defense spray on my handlbars. I despise cell phones and am not such a fan of chemical weapons either. So, after commuting by bike for a little bit I have confirmed two feelings of mine. 1.) I really like commuting by bike, a whole lot, I want to continue this habit in my life as long and as often as possible 2.) I don't feel safe riding in the middle of the night, especially on a regular basis. Thus, I am going to try to change my schedule, which I probably should have friggin done in the first place. I didn't even like getting to work at 11 pm when I was driving.
I think I will continue to ride to work until I accomplish this though, (especially since I am riding my first metric century this upcoming weekend, don't want to stop riding so much right now). Am glad I tried it, I actually feel tougher or more confident or something because of it, (grins sheepishly). And thanks to everyone for all these great tips.
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Old 09-11-05, 12:02 PM
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It sounds like you have a pretty good handle on the issues now. Riding at night is probably an acquired taste, and the more you do it, the more comfortable and secure you will feel. It sounds like changing your work schedule is probably a good idea, all else being equal.

My impression is that you are currently into increasing both your physical fitness and your sense of "mastery" in the world? Have you considered a basic self-defense course? This might help accomplish both goals, fitness and self-confidence. These classes are also a lot of fun, and often awaken interest in more advanced martial arts training.

I love riding at night in my inner city area, but would be more reluctant in a rural or poorly lit suburban area, But that's just me and what I'm accustomed to. I do recognize that night riding is riskier in almost any area. I have worked 1500 - 2330 for many years and I love it, but obviously this is a minority opinion. I have enough seniority at the hospital to work days, but I doubt if I ever will. I love having my mornings free for long bike rides, and I have learned to love the commute home late at night.
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Old 09-11-05, 01:03 PM
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aadhils
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I just did a 30 mile commute yesterday on Mission Blvd. from Hayward to Milpitas, CA. It was'nt bad, but had stretches of road without street lamps. Well they had lamps, but they were'nt turned on.

I've had more negative incident's commuting in broad daylight than at night. I guess my red rear blinkie makes drivers more cautious...
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