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Thinking about commuting regularly

Old 11-09-11, 10:18 AM
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hyegeek
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Thinking about commuting regularly

To commute via bike, I take a route that is 60/40 gravel/road that has a 300' climb, a 500' climb (with a 20% grade) and many smaller hills for 18.25 miles. I did this commute a few times last summer, but only about once a week. The ride takes me about 1 1/2 hours.

I have been wanting to do some longer rides (100 KM, 100 miles etc.) and to do that I'm going to need to spend more time on the bike. Given my priorities, getting that training in via the commute seems like my best option.

My thought is to work up to 5 days a week commuting along with one longer ride on the weekend and taking Sunday off. Anyone else doing this sort of gravel grinder for their commute? Any words of wisdom for me?

Seems like I will need a few things to pull this off. First; lights, racks and fenders (I'm looking at getting a new bike and getting it completely outfitted). Second; the right attitude ie. not racing myself each day (what I tend to do) and riding no matter the weather, snow and cold (below 40 f) is out, but wind and rain need be ridden in. Anything I've missed?

I'm in my late 40s and in pretty good shape (as of the last couple of years). I did do a 66 mile ride (with a 1000's climb in the middle) a couple of months ago, but it was clear I did not train enough for it.
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Old 11-09-11, 08:00 PM
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Sounds like you know what you need to do! The right attitude is paramount.

If I were in your shoes, I'd put off buying a whole new outfitted bike until I was doing the commute regularly, focusing instead on the lights and racks if they can fit the existing bike. Maybe skip the fenders and be a fair weather commuter while you're working up to it. YMMV.
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Old 11-09-11, 08:09 PM
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Fenders will be a necessity when I'm planning on starting, even if it is not raining, it takes many days for the gravel roads to dry up. I don't think racks would fit on my current bike, but I could get by with a backpack for a while.

While I'm thinking I will start the commuting in early spring (things are getting pretty cold and snowy now), the price on this bike is good now and probably won't last until spring as the stock, of last year's model, dwindle. So I'm thinking of pulling the trigger on it in the next few weeks.

If I do buy the new bike, I will certainly need to give the commuting a shot or start sleeping in the barn as my wife will not look too kindly on a wasted purchase.
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Old 11-09-11, 09:22 PM
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hyegeek, you have way more energy that me. My thought would be to move closer to my work.

But I wish you all the best with this plan! It does sound like a fun project....
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Old 11-09-11, 09:45 PM
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Hey there HyeGeek!

So what kinda bike are you thinking about?

- Slim
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Old 11-09-11, 09:50 PM
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I'm looking at a trek sawyer, but I'm not sure about the gearing on it. The LBS says they can modify it, but I need to talk to them some more. I like the idea of a 29er for the type of roads I will be doing.
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Old 11-09-11, 10:29 PM
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Originally Posted by hyegeek View Post
I'm looking at a trek sawyer, but I'm not sure about the gearing on it. The LBS says they can modify it, but I need to talk to them some more. I like the idea of a 29er for the type of roads I will be doing.

Gotta Luv that Sawyer! Sorta reminds me of the old cruisers, back in the day!

- Slim
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Old 11-09-11, 10:59 PM
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The reality is this is a tough commute. 18 miles + each way is a long commute under ideal circumstances (flat smooth pavement with no hills and great weather). Add the variables of gravel roads and some tough climbs and you've got a trek to and from work 5 days a week. Yes, of course, it can be done but it's a big challenge and it will occupy a ton of your time and energy. It's a big commitment and could be worth it if you want it for training purposes or you just want to dedicate that much of your time to this kind of riding. I had a similar commute a couple of summers ago and despite my best intentions couldn't manage it more than twice a week regularly. Weather and darkness were issues.

It's 3 hours of intense exercise per day and that means calories and fatigue. So you'll need to sleep a ton, eat a ton and if your work has much in the way physical or even mental energy demands it will be a challenge to keep that going on for an extended period.

Best of luck with it and keep us informed as to how it goes.
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Old 11-10-11, 07:29 AM
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I think you're spending too much time worrying about the bike to be honest. A commute that will take 3 hours of your day is pretty long, and planning to do it 5 days a week might be too big a goal to set for now. Think smaller!

It sounds like your real goal is to do a century. You don't need to be riding 5 days a week + one long weekend ride in order to build up to 100 miles. Riding 100 miles is more about pacing yourself and making sure your body is comfortable enough to be on the bike that long.

I like your idea of doing a long ride on Saturday (50 miles or more) and taking Sunday off. That makes Monday and Tuesday great commuting days. Take Wednesday off. Commute again on Thursday or Friday (whichever day you prefer). That's 4 days each week of riding. On a bad week take Monday or Tuesday off as well.

On the commuting days, push yourself a bit to build up some strength. Attack the hills in a taller gear than you'd normally use, etc. On the paved roads, get in the drops and maintain 20+ for a minute at a time (whatever speed is appropriate)

Good luck!
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Old 11-10-11, 07:36 AM
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Get the new bike and do IT...
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Old 11-10-11, 08:16 AM
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So much good advice in here already....

Sounds like you have thought this through quite a bit.

i did 42 miles in a single day recently, but i would not want to do that kind of mileage 5 days a week.

kudos to you if you can.
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Old 11-10-11, 08:19 AM
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...
Originally Posted by buzzman View Post
it will occupy a ton of your time and energy. It's a big commitment and could be worth it if you want it for training purposes or you just want to dedicate that much of your time to this kind of riding. I had a similar commute a couple of summers ago and despite my best intentions couldn't manage it more than twice a week regularly. Weather and darkness were issues.
Since training is a big part of the motivation, I actually see this as a time saver as I was trying to get longer rides in after work and that just did not leave time for the family.

Weather and darkness are my biggest concerns, but lights take care of darkness (at least somewhat) and I'm hoping attitude (and fenders) will deal with the weather.

Originally Posted by buzzman View Post
It's 3 hours of intense exercise per day and that means calories and fatigue. So you'll need to sleep a ton, eat a ton and if your work has much in the way physical or even mental energy demands it will be a challenge to keep that going on for an extended period.
Having done the ride several times, I know how much it can take out of me. Eating has been a bigger problem than getting sleep. One time last summer I foolishly did not bring the extra food I should have and had a very long hard ride home.
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Old 11-10-11, 08:28 AM
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Hi there HyeGeek!

I think that Trevor_Ash as given you some excellent advice.

I will also add that it's quite easy for us ego-possessing humans to over estimate our capabilities. On the other hand, we as individuals, should have a better idea as to which feats we are capable of accomplishing, and which we are not.

The only problem is that, some of us just plain suck at self-evaluation!

Happy Trails...

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Last edited by SlimRider; 11-10-11 at 09:34 AM.
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Old 11-10-11, 08:33 AM
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Originally Posted by trevor_ash View Post
and planning to do it 5 days a week might be too big a goal to set for now. Think smaller!
I know that I could not do 5 days a week now, so I am planning on working up to the 5 days a week. Other than that, I'm not sure how to think smaller and still get to my goal. Doing the commute once a week or so and trying to get other rides in did not give me the training I wanted so this seems like the next logical step.

Originally Posted by trevor_ash View Post
It sounds like your real goal is to do a century. You don't need to be riding 5 days a week + one long weekend ride in order to build up to 100 miles. Riding 100 miles is more about pacing yourself and making sure your body is comfortable enough to be on the bike that long.
By the time I did my metric century (or rather my 66 miler), I had the comfort issues pretty well solved. I simply ran out of energy since most of my training rides were in the 10 mile and under range. I did well until around 56 miles, after that is was just stubbornness that kept me from calling for help.

Originally Posted by trevor_ash View Post
I like your idea of doing a long ride on Saturday (50 miles or more) and taking Sunday off. That makes Monday and Tuesday great commuting days. Take Wednesday off. Commute again on Thursday or Friday (whichever day you prefer). That's 4 days each week of riding. On a bad week take Monday or Tuesday off as well.
To begin with, I'm planning on Monday, Friday. Then Switch to Monday, Wednesday, Friday and then just skipping Wednesday until I can do all 5. By starting as soon as it warms up, I'm hoping to be at 5 days a week by the beginning of May, but I am flexible.

Originally Posted by trevor_ash View Post
On the commuting days, push yourself a bit to build up some strength. Attack the hills in a taller gear than you'd normally use, etc. On the paved roads, get in the drops and maintain 20+ for a minute at a time (whatever speed is appropriate)
I do try for speed on the paved roads, but I have backed off of higher gears on the hills as my knees won't take it. I am working on keeping my cadence higher, which for me is around 80.
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Old 11-10-11, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by SlimRider View Post
I will also add that it's quite easy for us ego-possessing humans to over estimate our capabilities. On the other hand, we as individuals, should have a better idea as which feats we are capable of accomplishing, and which we are not.

The only problem is that, some of us just plain suck at self-evaluation!
A very good point. I'm not sure how I can know if I've over reached other than trying it. I do know that in the last two years, things that I would have laughed at someone suggesting, I'm now doing with ease. The first time I considered my 66 mile ride, it was a one way 33 mile ride to that bump on the horizon. By the time I did it, it was there and back.
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Old 11-10-11, 09:05 AM
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If you have a safe place to lock your bike and to park, I'd strongly consider commuting 1 way every day for awhile. Drive in, ride home, ride in, drive home, etc.
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Old 11-10-11, 09:24 AM
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It sounds like you know what your getting yourself into which puts you many steps past where most commuters start. On top of that you have fairly good fitness. If the bike you want is at a good price right now pick it up and go for it. What bike is it by the way? I don’t think a rack is necessary but quality lights and fenders are needed in my opinion. My daily commute is ~16mi each way with ~4 miles of gravel trail (if I take that route). I use my commuting as training for road/cyclocross racing as well as randonneuring events. Get plenty of base miles in and itll do wonders for longer events.
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Old 11-10-11, 09:35 AM
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I'm looking at the Trek Sawyer. As far as racks go, when I have commuted in the past, I'd leave my laptop etc. at work the day before or I'd have someone else coming to town drop it off. Upping the number of trips will mean I need to bring it (and some other stuff) in regularity. I can do a day pack, but by mid summer, I'm thinking I will really need the racks.

What do you bring on your commute and how do you bring it?
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Old 12-03-11, 09:33 PM
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Well I went and did it. I bought the new bike and picked it up today (and rode it the 22 miles home). It looks like it will do the job very well for the commute and with the money already spent, I'm definitely committed do doing the commute.

I still need to figure out when I will be starting and building up to 5 days a week, but I do plan on getting some commuting in whenever the temperature is good enough. Today's 30 was a bit too cool for the 22 miles at least as far as my toes were concerned. The rest of me did fine with the layers I chose.
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Old 12-03-11, 09:48 PM
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Good for you. Let us know when you get that first five-straight days in. That's going to be great.
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Old 12-03-11, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by SamChevre View Post
If you have a safe place to lock your bike and to park, I'd strongly consider commuting 1 way every day for awhile. Drive in, ride home, ride in, drive home, etc.
+1

Completely agree with this.

Regarding cold weather, if you are willing to invest in the right clothing, cycling in the cold can be quite enjoyable. Feet are the biggest challenge. I use toe covers down to about 30F, shoe covers down to about 15F and boots with platform pedals below that. Below around -5F I'll add in chemical toe warmers. This is all assuming its dry. If its 35F and raining you must keep your feet dry. Fenders and water proof shoe covers or boots make are mandatory.

That said, winter riding isn't for everyone (especially at 18 miles), but if you catch the commuting bug you might find you want to give it a go. See the winter forum here for more.

Paul
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Old 12-03-11, 10:25 PM
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I'm using booties now and the toes do OK to the mid 30s. While I will not rule out some winter commuting, I don't think it is where I'm going to start.

Fenders, a light and a new attitude have already extended my bike riding season, so I have no doubt that I will be doing many things that I never thought I'd be willing to do.
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Old 12-03-11, 10:36 PM
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By all means go for it. Prior to commuting my mornings and early evenings were filled with what I call "slow moving frustration". Since making the change to full time commuting 5 years ago my mornings are filled with peace & serenity while evenings now allow me to decompress from the workday. If the weather is too crappy I just work from home.
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Old 12-03-11, 11:47 PM
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Originally Posted by hyegeek View Post
To commute via bike, I take a route that is 60/40 gravel/road that has a 300' climb, a 500' climb (with a 20% grade) and many smaller hills for 18.25 miles. I did this commute a few times last summer, but only about once a week. The ride takes me about 1 1/2 hours.

I have been wanting to do some longer rides (100 KM, 100 miles etc.) and to do that I'm going to need to spend more time on the bike. Given my priorities, getting that training in via the commute seems like my best option.

My thought is to work up to 5 days a week commuting along with one longer ride on the weekend and taking Sunday off. Anyone else doing this sort of gravel grinder for their commute? Any words of wisdom for me?
I'm in my late 40s and in pretty good shape (as of the last couple of years). I did do a 66 mile ride (with a 1000's climb in the middle) a couple of months ago, but it was clear I did not train enough for it.
Apart from getting comfort issues dialed in which don't show up after the first few hours quality (intensity) has at least as much to do with preparation as quantity. I rode my first century in 5:45 when my usual ride was an hour at lunch three days a week (about 20 miles with the office park roadie group comprised mostly of grey-haired masters racers, although being wiser now I'd have done better using that time for 12-20 minute threshold intervals) with a long weekend ride that might hit 40 miles and followed that up with a 440 mile week long tour from Grand Junction, CO to Golden, CO with 30,000 feet of climbing in the middle which felt great.

You need easy enough rest (days/weeks/months) to recover so that your hard days can be tough enough to produce adaptations.

Otherwise you end up both slow and tired.

Strength has very little to do with it - we evolved to be cursorial hunters that (relatively) slowly chased faster prey animals (deer, antelope, etc.) until they keeled over from exhaustion which is about endurance and not short bursts of strength.

If you ride with a power meter and look at torque data you find that the pedal forces are extremely low. Examining a ride where my average whilst pedaling was just past my lactate threshold power I note an average force tangential to the cranks during that time of about 140 Newtons or 31.5 pounds versus a 300 pound leg press which just isn't interesting.
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Old 12-04-11, 12:27 AM
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Originally Posted by trevor_ash View Post
I think you're spending too much time worrying about the bike to be honest. A commute that will take 3 hours of your day is pretty long, and planning to do it 5 days a week might be too big a goal to set for now. Think smaller!

It sounds like your real goal is to do a century. You don't need to be riding 5 days a week + one long weekend ride in order to build up to 100 miles. Riding 100 miles is more about pacing yourself and making sure your body is comfortable enough to be on the bike that long.

I like your idea of doing a long ride on Saturday (50 miles or more) and taking Sunday off. That makes Monday and Tuesday great commuting days. Take Wednesday off. Commute again on Thursday or Friday (whichever day you prefer). That's 4 days each week of riding. On a bad week take Monday or Tuesday off as well.

On the commuting days, push yourself a bit to build up some strength. Attack the hills in a taller gear than you'd normally use, etc. On the paved roads, get in the drops and maintain 20+ for a minute at a time (whatever speed is appropriate)

Good luck!
+1 Trevor totally nailed it. Really good advice, spot on I think.
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