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The Short, Simple, Commute Club

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The Short, Simple, Commute Club

Old 05-27-09, 07:05 AM
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chipcom 
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The Short, Simple, Commute Club

I've been commuting by bike for over 30 years. Over the past decade or so the majority of my commutes have been 15-45 miles in each direction and I've used road/touring/xcross/long bikes to ride them, usually dressed in cycling specific clothing while either hauling or staging my work clothes, food, toiletries, etc.

While on the one hand I enjoyed these long commutes because of the time I got to spend on my bike(s) each day, on the other hand it cost me in time for maintenance, logistics, cleaning-up, etc. and took away from time I could spend doing other things at home and with my loved ones. Since finding BF a few years ago, it also cost me lots of money as I discovered all this new gear, clothing and such that I had never really been 'in' to before. (Hey, I like to experiment with new stuff...and I finally could see what was available and afford to try it - so sue me! )

Back in November I finally found a job that was close to home again, like it was in the old days when I was either in the military or living in a small town. My place of work is only 4 miles away...more rolling than one would find in most cities, but close nonetheless. Despite being so close to home, I've still been riding the same bikes and wearing all my cycling specific clothing for the commute, changing at work/home. Thing is, I never used to have to do that...I used to ride in the same clothes/uniform I worked in, in the same shoes/boots I worked in. WTF?

So I decided to change all that and try to go back to my simpler days of bike commuting. I've got a new commuter bike on the way and I am adjusting both my gear and my wardrobe accordingly - and I'll detail it all (or ask questions) in posts to come.

The purpose of this thread is for people like me, who either have ,or want to have, a short, simpler commute, to share ideas and experiences. Hopefully we can make it a sticky - I think a lot more people who live closer to their places of employment would commute to/from work if they knew they could do so without dressing like the stereotypical 'spandex superhero' and could find relatively inexpensive bikes more suited to the purpose than your typical racing/sport/fitness bikes. So please, post your own experiences, bike/gear/clothing choices and questions, etc. and help make this thread a resource for the new, short, simple, commuters.
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Old 05-27-09, 07:26 AM
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I ride an old walmart bike to school typically; it's 4 miles away.

I just put lights on, put on a backpack, ride, take lights off, lock, enter school.
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Old 05-27-09, 07:50 AM
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It's called being a "Fred" I have a 6 mile one way commute, I always dress in my work clothes with a clean shirt in my backpack. I do wear SPD sandals from Keen. I have a spare pair of shoes at work. I also purchased a fan so I could have some forced air cooling when I arrive at work. A clean towel every week and I'm all set.

My commuter bike weighs 47lbs with the lights and basket, adds to the Fred workout. I see the spandex crowd on my route, they never wave, I guess they don't think I'm serious. My neighbor has a ~1 mile commute, he always wears spandex, I guess he's serious
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Old 05-27-09, 08:08 AM
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I've been doing the same 16 mile commute for 12 years 4 seasons.
Wouldn't mind doing it in six miles or less.
Been scouting different neighborhoods where I would like to live.
Found one and keep watching the real estate section,hoping.
A perfect world, I would like a 25 mile empty path to get a decent work out.
Allmost 53 and I'll probably have to settle for an e-bike 6 years from now.
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Old 05-27-09, 08:29 AM
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I have a 8 mile RT commute. I have a locker, shower and can park my bike in my office. Life is good. About 15 years ago, when I was working in IT, I used to ride in my work clothes (slacks, white shirt, tie). I was just waiting for someone to yell at me assuming, based on my dress, that I belonged to a certain religious community. My response was to call them a copulating, posterior orifice and watch a confused look spread across his face. I'm still waiting, but I no longer commute in work clothes.
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Old 05-27-09, 08:31 AM
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I'm a simple man but not a simple commuter. I look forward to continuing my BF education ... Good thread idea!
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Old 05-27-09, 08:36 AM
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My wife has doggedly been pursuing her commute, 1 mile less than mine (as the crow flies, we have different am/pm/lunchtime errands), in her work clothes. She was finally on the verge of breaking me, (my work clothes are far less nice than hers, and only barely dressier than my riding clothes which are not bike-specific, just less sweat/roadgrime/grease tolerant), making the final break (I stopped showering at work long ago) and just riding in work clothes, when she started vocalizing about possibly changing at work after all. So that's keeping me in my riding/sweating clothes for the time being, esp. w/ the warm season coming up. (I guess the *final* break would be platform pedals)

(ps chip I don't think a 'new commuter' has any effect on your global simplicity unless other bikes head out when it moves in, I'll be happy to help you downsize and take that big dummy off your hands)
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Old 05-27-09, 08:59 AM
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Hey, chipcom, great idea for a thread. Iím an old, short, simple commuter.

Our cycling backgrounds sound very similar, though Iíve been at it a bit longer. Hell, I have socks that are older than 30 years (none of which, to the best of my knowledge, have been engaged in any illicit ďpuppetĒ activity, though). But I digress.

Like you, Iíve had some longer commutes in the past, through a mix of rural/suburban/urban landscape, using a full-on road bike, and dressing the part. My current commute is about the same distance as yours, primarily suburban. In my advanced state of decrepitude, I like to keep things simple. I put on my business casual office clothes, roll up my cuffs, and go.

My foul weather bike is a single-speed/coaster brake beach cruiser, modified with a 72Ē gear, higher pressure but still wide tires, full-coverage fenders, toe clips so thereís no need to mess around with changing shoes, and drop bars. On nicer days, Iíll ride the Surly Steamroller-based fixed gear, also equipped with toe clips. I have one moderate climb, so Iím not significantly handicapped with only one gear. My headlight is a Fenix flashlight fastened to my helmet (which I stuff in the backpack for the return trip on hot afternoons), and I wear a belt-mounted red-flashing blinkie facing behind. No need to move bike-mounted lights around when I change bicycles. My backpack is just large enough to hold my lunch and whatever outerwear I shed for the trip home. Iím currently not using my eyeglass-mounted mirror, and donít seem to miss it much. No bike paths/lanes on my current route Ė I ride VC with a bit of courtesy thrown in.

Cheers.
 
Old 05-27-09, 09:25 AM
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I've gotten used to wearing cycling gear whenever I go out for a ride if I'm commuting, exercising, running errands or whatever. I was really stumped over the weekend when I went to ride to a friends house to feed her cat while the friend was out of town. The trip was about a mile, and it perplexed me for a minute while I realized I really didn't need to change clothes to make the trip. It reminded me of when we just hopped on our bikes and rode somewhere when we were kids without thinking of changing clothes, because we never had to change our clothes when we did something fun.

I think you're on to something interesting Chip, keep us informed on how things work out.
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Old 05-27-09, 09:31 AM
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I use to ride the 1.5 miles into work in my work clothes...until I started wearing through the thighs of my pants (Big & Tall store size pants can get expensive to replace every couple months).
I also got tired of being semi damp all day at work (this IS Texas).

So now I ride with the bike shorts under regular shorts or sweats (trying not tho scare the children) and change into nice dry clothes at work. Changing back for the ride home, I have the option to extend my route by up to 20 miles and be more comfortable in the more activity specific clothing.

Riding slow and easy on the way in defenitely helps keep the sweat factor lower.
The fan blowing at the desk/counter is a "must have" in any case.
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Old 05-27-09, 09:38 AM
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I've been using these quick drying nylon briefs under baggy shorts, they breath well, don't chafe and solve the problem of what do I do if I forget my underwear. Comfier than they sound too.
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Old 05-27-09, 09:53 AM
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My commute is about 5 miles (a little shorter than that right since a handy construction detour cuts out some backtracking), and it's straight down a fairly busy street in Salt Lake City. (2100 South for those familiar with SLC). There's about 800 stop lights between my house and my office, and they're always red. Even with all of the red light waiting I can make to the office in about 20 minutes. It's about 25 minutes to go home though since I have go up all of the fun morning downhills, and fight with more traffic.

I commute in my regular clothes, but I've been thinking about picking up some decent bike shorts to wear under my clothes to keep my boys out of the way. The nylon briefs sound like a good idea, too. I've had those in the past for running, but ran my way right through them.

Some days I ride to downtown SLC for lunch, which is about 12 miles R/T on a MUP from here. I can make that in about 20 minutes, which gives me just enough time to fool around in a bike shop or eat something off a street vendor cart. It's really more about riding my bike than eating lunch though.
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Old 05-27-09, 10:18 AM
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My trip to school is 5.6 miles roundtrip. It's a nice distance because I can go to school and back at least 2 times every day in under an hour. Plenty of exercise, and since it's only 2.8 miles at a time, I don't need fancy gear and enjoy a mostly sweatless ride.
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Old 05-27-09, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by High Roller View Post
Hey, chipcom, great idea for a thread. I’m an old, short, simple commuter.

Our cycling backgrounds sound very similar, though I’ve been at it a bit longer. Hell, I have socks that are older than 30 years (none of which, to the best of my knowledge, have been engaged in any illicit “puppet” activity, though). But I digress.

Like you, I’ve had some longer commutes in the past, through a mix of rural/suburban/urban landscape, using a full-on road bike, and dressing the part. My current commute is about the same distance as yours, primarily suburban. In my advanced state of decrepitude, I like to keep things simple. I put on my business casual office clothes, roll up my cuffs, and go.

My foul weather bike is a single-speed/coaster brake beach cruiser, modified with a 72” gear, higher pressure but still wide tires, full-coverage fenders, toe clips so there’s no need to mess around with changing shoes, and drop bars. On nicer days, I’ll ride the Surly Steamroller-based fixed gear, also equipped with toe clips. I have one moderate climb, so I’m not significantly handicapped with only one gear. My headlight is a Fenix flashlight fastened to my helmet (which I stuff in the backpack for the return trip on hot afternoons), and I wear a belt-mounted red-flashing blinkie facing behind. No need to move bike-mounted lights around when I change bicycles. My backpack is just large enough to hold my lunch and whatever outerwear I shed for the trip home. I’m currently not using my eyeglass-mounted mirror, and don’t seem to miss it much. No bike paths/lanes on my current route – I ride VC with a bit of courtesy thrown in.

Cheers.
If you got socks dating to 1972...change them, please.

I have plenty of bikes, but I am not interested in using different bikes for different weather conditions anymore, I want one bike for all seasons, all conditions...the holy grail as it were. (of course I still reserve the right to take any bike that suits my mood at the time. )

The bike I just ordered will hopefully serve my purposes...it's a 2009 Raleigh Superbe Roadster.



Key features include:
  • upright riding position with classic swept-back albatross type bars
  • 8 speed Internal Geared hub
  • fenders (might replace if I don't like the stock)
  • Chainguard (may add a full upper chain guard too)
  • rear rack mounts (I have a rack for it already)
  • disc brakes (didn't have these on our old three speeds and cruisers!)

It also comes with a dynamo hub, so I'll probably wire both a headlight and rack-mounted taillight and use my current battery-powered lights in addition, when needed. The tires are cool as they are, and it looks to have enough clearance to take my 700x35 studded Klondikes in the winter if needed. I'll most likely add a handlebar bag...or maybe even a basket!

There were other bikes that were close...the Swobo Baxter was real tempting, as was the Giant Transcend EX and Electra Amsterdam 8....but all had little things I didn't like and in the end, the fact that this bike is the resurrection of a true classic is what made up my mind.

NOTE: this bike is still way more expensive than any decent base commuter should be, so part of what I'd like to do in this thread is to hunt down and highlight similar bikes that are much less expensive.
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Old 05-27-09, 10:36 AM
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Clothing: Target is your friend, cotton is not.

Undies: Target has nice seamless polypro boxer-briefs that cost much less than my current wool boxers...I bought a couple pair and really like them so far.

Summer Shirts: Again, Target has some poly golf shirts...which meet my company's dress code requirements. Color choice isn't the greatest though.

Socks: I will always be a wool guy, but I'm gonna need some summer weight crews.

Pants: My cotton khakis and Chinos will probably do, but I wanna look into some wool and 'adventure' khakis.

Shoes: does anyone make a slip-on loafer that doesn't look dorky? Meh, I look like a dork anyway.
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"Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey
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Old 05-27-09, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Jtgyk View Post
I use to ride the 1.5 miles into work in my work clothes...until I started wearing through the thighs of my pants (Big & Tall store size pants can get expensive to replace every couple months).
I also got tired of being semi damp all day at work (this IS Texas).

So now I ride with the bike shorts under regular shorts or sweats (trying not tho scare the children) and change into nice dry clothes at work. Changing back for the ride home, I have the option to extend my route by up to 20 miles and be more comfortable in the more activity specific clothing.

Riding slow and easy on the way in defenitely helps keep the sweat factor lower.
The fan blowing at the desk/counter is a "must have" in any case.
When I lived in NM and I rode 3 miles into work, I did it in my work clothes and never had to worry about changing. Taking a shower in the morning before I left and not hammering were the key. If I wanted a workout, I could do it after work.

It's the same now. I thought I'd want to just go from work on long 20-50 mile rides, but it turns out that I have to stop home to drop off my clothes, and sometimes get the wife, anyway...so I can just change clothes and bikes while there.
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"Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey
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Old 05-27-09, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by kris247 View Post
I commute in my regular clothes, but I've been thinking about picking up some decent bike shorts to wear under my clothes to keep my boys out of the way. The nylon briefs sound like a good idea, too. I've had those in the past for running, but ran my way right through them.
Target has Champion polypro (Dryfit I think they call it) boxer briefs that have no seams and fit sung enough to keep everyone in their place.
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"Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey
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Old 05-27-09, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
...[*]8 speed Internal Geared hub
It also comes with a dynamo hub....
Mr IGH approves. As for cheaper, you're getting a lot for the money (IMHO). The hubs aren't cheap when you start building from parts. And remember, baskets are only for cool folks
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Old 05-27-09, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by chipcom View Post

The bike I just ordered will hopefully serve my purposes...it's a 2009 Raleigh Superbe Roadster.
I've got a fairly short commute most days, too. I just got a 2009 Raleigh Roadster a couple of weeks ago. I LOVE it!!!! I would have loved to get the Superbe, but couldn't justify the extra cost. As it is, I think I went out on a limb, given the shakiness of my current job and all the uncertainty right now. But it sure is fun to ride! I even started riding home for lunch just so I could ride it more. Sure, lunch at home is great, but the ride in the middle of the day is a great stress reliever. I hope you like your new bike.
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Old 05-27-09, 10:59 AM
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chipcom.....

really good idea here, use the proper tools and only make it as complicated as need be.

There are a lot of variables (NYC in Aug is way different than san Jose in Aug so what works for me may not work for every one but:

I have a five mile each way commute right now, and my special cycling gear is: gloves, clipless shoes, a helmet, and strap to wrap around my right pant leg.

I wear my work clothes, typically Polo shirt, Khaki pants (fridays jeans and the loudest hawaiian shirt I can sneak by the fashion police at home).

I carry my laptop, work shoes and often my sons backpack

I am out of shape and am only avergingn 12 - 14 mph...but with this short of a commute it really doesn't mak a big difference

For me 5 to 7 miles is about the max I would use this set up for, beyond that I would go cycle shorts and use my road bike.

My bikes is my utility commuter...... English 3 speed inspired. It is upgright and as simple as you can go without going igh (thumshifter 1/9 gearing) (When I use it for quick errands I don't bother with spd shoes or gloves )

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Old 05-27-09, 11:17 AM
  #21  
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I lived in San Jose for five years, and would bike commute to the Cisco campus from downtown. I loved that commute, even if I ate it hard once going over the VTA rails on 1st Street and San Carlos. (Fortunately the train was still half a block behind me!)

When I moved to Willow Glen my job site moved to Los Gatos, and I always wanted to bike commute along the Los Gatos trail from our townhouse to LG, but some miscreant stole my bike. I could never afford to replace it, but I would run the trail nearly every day, and even ran home from the office a few times.

Sometimes I really miss SanHo. Perfect pancake-flat bike commuting town. Decent bike lanes, good public transit, and except for a few weeks in December when it pours for days on end, the weather is always good.

I like your bike setup, too. I'm currently commuting on a 2005 Specialized Rockhopper. I've added PlanetBike SpeedEZ fenders, Nashbar LDT rack, and a Nashbar Daytrekker panniers. I'm thinking about getting some bigger panniers though, these lil guys just don't cut it for anything but the most frugal grocery trips.
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Old 05-27-09, 11:27 AM
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I have a 1.8 mile commute in the morning that I do at 5:30 so traffic isn't an issue. In the afternoon I use a combination of an old railway spur path, a warehouse parking lot and then a quiet street. It's only a mile that way, and I avoid the busy street that my morning route becomes.

I ride in work clothes (cargo pants or shorts, t shirt, work boots and a jacket if necessary) and I have a rain suit if I need it. My commute bike is a cheap 18 speed MTB that weighs about 36 lbs with fenders, lights, lock and pump. I don't get nearly enough riding that way, so when I get home if I want to ride further I get my 2009 GT Outpost.
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Old 05-27-09, 11:32 AM
  #23  
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This is my sort of thread. I ride 4.5 miles each way, through relatively flat city streets. My bike is almost identical to squirtdad's (a 2008 Raleigh One Way with some swap-outs) but set up as a single speed. I generally ride in my office attire, including shoes. I started out riding clipless, but for 4.5 miles with lots of traffic lights, I find regular MKS touring pedals with no clips to be preferable, especially when stopping in stores on my way home. My bike-specific attire consists of a helmet and one ankle strap.

In addition to the simple pedals, other things I've found work well for a short commute that might not be so great for longer rides are:
upright, swept-back handle bars--I use a set from Velo Orange
the single speed gearing--obviously, your terrain may vary
a basket on front--makes it easy to peel off a sweater and throw it in the basket at lights
a coffee cup rig on my handle bars I made using a Nitto cage and handle bar clamp, also from Velo Orange, mug is an Oxo Good Grips mug.
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Old 05-27-09, 11:35 AM
  #24  
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Chipcom, roger that on the socks.

The Breezer Uptown 8 would seem to satisfy most of your criteria, except maybe the disc brakes. A bit spendy, though, @ $1,099 at one of our local LBSs.
 
Old 05-27-09, 11:43 AM
  #25  
jdmitch
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Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
Socks: I will always be a wool guy, but I'm gonna need some summer weight crews.

Pants: My cotton khakis and Chinos will probably do, but I wanna look into some wool and 'adventure' khakis.

Shoes: does anyone make a slip-on loafer that doesn't look dorky? Meh, I look like a dork anyway.
Socks: Smartwool Makes really lightweight wool socks, Keen's Sox are great in that they are fitted and the lite / ultralite are very lite, however Injinji Outdoor are freaking amazing...

Pants: Rail Riders Backcountry Khakis are my current faves

Shoes: Keen probably has something you'd like. I'm actually doing 5-6 miles wearing my Rockport / Adidas dress shoes (laces tucked in and my RR roled to knicker length)

I probably don't have to tell you how awesome Merino shirts / polos are... their expensive but if you watch for sales...
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Originally Posted by KitN View Post
You don't need to dress up like a spandex super hero to ride your bike.
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