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First Days of Car-Free Livin'

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First Days of Car-Free Livin'

Old 06-13-12, 01:58 PM
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humboldt'sroads
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First Days of Car-Free Livin'

This last Monday marked the first day in nearly fifteen years (since I was of driving age) that I am officially 100% car-free!

Since moving to the Bay Area I found myself paying to insure, register, and park a car that I no longer use so I parted ways with it once and for all. I switched my auto insurance over to renter's insurance to cover my two bikes. Funds from the car sale will go to student loans, and to stock up on the various necessities I'll need to switch from a bike enthusiast that rides for fun and fitness, to a 100% riding for transportation lifestyle.

I've been bike commuting on and off for the last year (only about 7 miles round), but I'm realizing that when a car is no longer an option, there are many additional needs. Eventually, I'd like a more commuter-friendly ride (CX or touring bike with racks, canti brakes, etc.) but for the time being, my 1986 Maruishi RX-7 is the in-city bike.

My first realization - a bike and work-appropriate wardrobe is more of a necessity than a luxury.

My second realization - waterproof gear is definitely a necessity. Windbreaker easy, but waterproof yet breathable pants could be more of a challenge.

My third realization - I need a much bigger bag! Ordered a Seagull Black Bag size large that should handle everything from my commuter gear to weekend trips out of town.

So far it's been pretty liberating, but I want to be well prepared as to not change cycling from a passion to a thing of dread. For all you other car-free folks out there - do you get along alright without a rack/basket laden bike? I'm also afraid of my large Seagull bag being gross overkill for carrying a shirt to work each day. Do many of you find it better to ride in work gear, carry a change of shirt daily, or stock up your office with a week's worth of work shirts? Mine are actually pretty casual - I draw the line at only needing a collar of some sort!

What else is needed for hauling/getting around that I may be overlooking? Any and all advice for a car-free newb is greatly appreciated!
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Old 06-13-12, 02:18 PM
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Some cities are easier than others. When I lived in San Francisco I didn't own a car. I rode my bike, took the bus/BART, had friends with cars, & occasionally took cabs for those errands which sometimes required a car...like taking my 90 lb boxer to the vet. I've tried car-free in Seattle, but to be honest, it sucked. Public transportation in this city is abysmal. I did bicycle/motorcycle/zipcar for a number of years, which was better. I have an old, beat up Honda with not that many miles on it, now. It sits parked, most of the time, but it's handy for hauling clay around & the occasional trip out of town.

Depending on where you live in Oakland you should be able to do car-free fairly well.
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Old 06-13-12, 02:20 PM
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I'm really glad you posted this. I'm hoping to one day be car free, but that day is a long time in the future (my commute is an hour by car, luckily I don't plan to work here forever). Can't wait to read the advice!
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Old 06-13-12, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by humboldt'sroads View Post
My third realization - I need a much bigger bag! Ordered a Seagull Black Bag size large that should handle everything from my commuter gear to weekend trips out of town.

So far it's been pretty liberating, but I want to be well prepared as to not change cycling from a passion to a thing of dread. For all you other car-free folks out there - do you get along alright without a rack/basket laden bike? I'm also afraid of my large Seagull bag being gross overkill for carrying a shirt to work each day. Do many of you find it better to ride in work gear, carry a change of shirt daily, or stock up your office with a week's worth of work shirts? Mine are actually pretty casual - I draw the line at only needing a collar of some sort!
A lot of this is just about what you're ok with. Given your relatively short commute, it's also about whether you'll be doing a lot of utility or longer-distance riding in addition to commuting. When I started commuting every day I used a huge messenger bag - and sometimes still do, depending on my mood and which bike I ride. I got geared up with racks, bags and baskets pretty quickly, as picking up my CSA share or grocery shopping for a week or two with the mess bag got pretty old very quickly for me - others do fine with just that or a backpack.

When you say weekend trips out of town, do you mean on your bike? I have ridden with a loaded messenger bag for up to about 80 miles at a pop, and while I would do it if necessary, I would not go out of my way to do that again - on this one I doubt that there are many who disagree.

For clothes, that I can both work and ride in (in most weather), I have a few Swobo and Ibex merino wool polo shirts (takes care of your collar needs) and another merino button down whose maker I forget - they can be pretty pricey but I've picked most of them up either on eBay, Geartrade.com, or discount sites like Sierra Trading Post or bonktown. Water resistant pants I have spent some good money on from Outlier - and I'd say they've been worth every penny. Here in Chicago, I can get around in the same clothes I work in unless it's below 50 or above 85, and as long as it's not raining very hard - I do keep extra clothes in my office just in case, though.

If you don't want to go the route of adding a ton of hardware to this bike, but want to try something to get a load off of your back, you can always get a transverse saddlebag - Carradice bags are extremely well made, come with pretty huge capacities, and are available for affordable prices from many UK websites like http://wiggle.co.uk.

Congrats on going car-free - save up a few months of those insurance payments and reward yourself with the touring or CX bike you want!
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Old 06-13-12, 02:58 PM
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Threecar - thanks for the advice. Yeah, I think I'd like to pick up something with rack and fender capabilities by this fall/winter. My weekend trips are usually bike->train->bike excursions to Sacramento to see friends and family, so my rides with a load are pretty short on either end. My girlfriend has a car for when we go camping, backpacking, road trips, etc. Good call on the Merino button downs - I've ordered a couple merino first-layers that could be worn to ride in, or wear under work shirts. Also have a pair of Swrve commuter jeans on the way as well. My goal is just to keep the joys outweighing the hassles!
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Old 06-13-12, 03:07 PM
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Enjoy the fantastic lifestyle choice you've made! I've been LCF for about four years, and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made.

The most important thing for me is to have two rideable bikes at any given time. That way, you'll never be without a ride in case something breaks down the night before. I've never been one to use public transit unless I have to, so it's always nice having a backup ride.
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Old 06-13-12, 03:43 PM
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I run with 2 bikes. One with racks and baskets, the other just lights, computer, and tools for fixing a flat. If I want to go somewhere 'unsafe' to park I'll take the heavier commuter. Its cheaper and not very pretty. Its also VERY practical. Dragged 40kg of vegetables from the market back with it yesterday. I ride the other bike which is much more high spec when I want to do a long weekend ride, or I know the places I can park are well secured inside.

I always carry my work clothes in a medium backpack along with the things I need for my lessons that day. Being a travelling English teacher makes bicycle commuting a very good choice. I wear cycle shorts and a Jersey when riding for comfort and get changed when I get to work. If it rains I just get wet. I have a complete change of clothes and a towel with me so its no big issue.
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Old 06-13-12, 10:53 PM
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i'm mostly car free. i have a 2k€ Audi that sits on the street and get used once per month.

i actively refuse to live anywhere that requires a car or doesn't have great public transport.
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Old 06-14-12, 02:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Scheherezade View Post
Enjoy the fantastic lifestyle choice you've made! I've been LCF for about four years, and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made.

The most important thing for me is to have two rideable bikes at any given time. That way, you'll never be without a ride in case something breaks down the night before. I've never been one to use public transit unless I have to, so it's always nice having a backup ride.
Essential advice! I've got 4. A CX 2x9 'main' commuter, hybrid 3x6 back-up, 3x7 mtb w/street tires and a fg w/fenders and seatpost rack. Carry my clothes for week on Mondays and lunch everyday. 2 Niterider Mi-Newt cordless 150s w/interchangable hb mounts. All bikes have bags, blinkies, frame pumps, tubes, headband lights, tire levers, multi tools, etc.

I change completely upon arrival at work. Never commute in one's work clothes or work in one's commuting clothes. Keep antiseptic spray, deo, toothbrush/paste, 3 'n 1 oil and work shoes on hand. Always carry a rain jacket. Pants if the forecast calls for rain. Neoprene booties are the best for wet weather. Helmet cover and a basebal cap or golf visor will keep downpour off one's goggles. FENDERS! A must for year 'round commuting. Have fun and congratulations on going car-free.
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Old 06-14-12, 07:37 AM
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I own 2 cars for my biz but I may drive once a month.

I use my Messenger bag when I need carry small items. If you are carfree, get this baby and you are set.

http://www.burley.com/home/bur/page_416/travoy.html
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Old 06-14-12, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by BikinPotter View Post
Some cities are easier than others. When I lived in San Francisco I didn't own a car. I rode my bike, took the bus/BART, had friends with cars, & occasionally took cabs for those errands which sometimes required a car...like taking my 90 lb boxer to the vet. I've tried car-free in Seattle, but to be honest, it sucked. Public transportation in this city is abysmal. I did bicycle/motorcycle/zipcar for a number of years, which was better. I have an old, beat up Honda with not that many miles on it, now. It sits parked, most of the time, but it's handy for hauling clay around & the occasional trip out of town.

Depending on where you live in Oakland you should be able to do car-free fairly well.
Car-free in seattle is pretty easy actually. I've lived in SF as well, and I do not find it any more difficult here, in fact it is almost better with the wonderful ferry system we have. Easy to get out of the city for a nice rural ride or camping trip.
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Old 06-14-12, 07:53 PM
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Originally Posted by zoltani View Post
Car-free in seattle is pretty easy actually.
It's nice that you've found it to be easy. How long have you been car free?
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Old 06-15-12, 12:31 AM
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It's easier to be car free in an urban area where you have easy access to Zip cars and relatively inexpensive public transportation. But it's still not easy! I don't think I could transport my cats to the vet on a bike. I know plenty of co-workers who don't own a car. You have to be really motivated to live car free. Congrats!
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Old 06-15-12, 03:20 AM
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Originally Posted by zoltani View Post
Car-free in seattle is pretty easy actually. I've lived in SF as well, and I do not find it any more difficult here, in fact it is almost better with the wonderful ferry system we have. Easy to get out of the city for a nice rural ride or camping trip.
They charge you for the ferry ride with the bike?
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Old 06-15-12, 03:34 AM
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I don't think I could transport my cats to the vet on a bike
I could fit a cat cage in the basket/kid seat on the back of my commuter. Just secure it down with some bunji cords and it would be all good. Now carrying a 6 year old and a baby at the same time while still managing to ride at any decent pace... now that is a bit of a challenge.
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Old 06-15-12, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by krobinson103 View Post
I could fit a cat cage in the basket/kid seat on the back of my commuter. Just secure it down with some bunji cords and it would be all good. Now carrying a 6 year old and a baby at the same time while still managing to ride at any decent pace... now that is a bit of a challenge.
I've thought about getting one of these for taking my cat to the vet:
http://www.drsfostersmith.com/produc...8&pcatid=19228
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Old 06-15-12, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by kookaburra1701 View Post
I've thought about getting one of these for taking my cat to the vet:
http://www.drsfostersmith.com/produc...8&pcatid=19228
I wonder if that will hold my 70lbs greyhound. LOL
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Old 06-15-12, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by ckaspar View Post
I wonder if that will hold my 70lbs greyhound. LOL
Tie a track lure to the back of the bike and let him chase along!
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Old 06-15-12, 10:11 AM
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He would stand there looking like an idiot thinking, "Man, I am retired from that crap. I'm gonna go lie down. I'll be on the couch if you need me."
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Old 06-15-12, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by BikinPotter View Post
It's nice that you've found it to be easy. How long have you been car free?
I sold my car at the end of 2006, so that will be 6 years this december. Wow, i hadn't realized it's been so long. It starts to become so normal that you don't realize that it is difficult. I love seattle, it's a beautiful place to live and ride.
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Old 06-15-12, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by chefisaac View Post
They charge you for the ferry ride with the bike?
Yes of course they do! You pay the passenger rate and an extra dollar for your bike. The bonus is that you never have to wait for the ferry if there is a long line, just jump right to the front
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Old 06-15-12, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by ckaspar View Post
I wonder if that will hold my 70lbs greyhound. LOL

You joke, but I met a guy near big sur that was touring with his 80-lb dog. With his camping gear he had well over 100-lbs that we was carrying on the bike. If he can ride around the country like that surely you can make it across town!
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Old 06-15-12, 10:59 AM
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Could try that I suppose.

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Old 06-15-12, 11:02 AM
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burn calories not gas is cool
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Old 06-15-12, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by windhchaser View Post
burn calories not gas is cool
Yeah, i guess that is cool and all, but for me it is more of a money savings and ease of living type thing.
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