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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

Advice for New Commuters

Old 06-07-07, 01:48 AM
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Originally Posted by accain
Hi everyone! I discovered this forum today and am so excited.

I'm doing research on commuting to work. A few weeks ago, I bought an Electra Townie 21 to get around my neighborhood, pick up groceries, and get some exercise. Since then, I've fallen in love with biking and would love to begin commuting to work.

My commute would be 8.5 miles both ways. I live in Orlando, Florida, so the ground is pretty flat.

Do you guys think my Townie would be a good commuter or should I look into getting something else? I'm a 5'9" female weighing about 140 pounds. I bought the Townie to replace a cheapo mountain bike that made me ache every time I rode it. The Townie suits me much better because I don't have to hunch over.

Any advice or recommendations will be greatly appreciated!

Thanks,

Allison
Its going to get expensive really fast. The upright position is nice but in a month your lower back will suffer. Start thinking road bike; there is a reason why you dont see people doing 1000's of miles a year on city bikes: comfort
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Old 06-17-07, 03:54 PM
  #327  
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Hi guys, I'm new here.

I tried a ~9 mile commute from the local transit station to my workplace. It's not as tiring as I thought. I used a MTB for a week and half before it was stolen. I am now thinking of getting a Montague folder that I can take on the train ( the train forbids transport of bikes in rush hour even though the train I take is like 50% empty ).

But reading this thread, I see there is a lot of advice against MTB for commuting? Is it the added resistance of the wider tires?
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Old 06-17-07, 03:59 PM
  #328  
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Originally Posted by Apex Carver
Hi guys, I'm new here.

I tried a ~9 mile commute from the local transit station to my workplace. It's not as tiring as I thought. I used a MTB for a week and half before it was stolen. I am now thinking of getting a Montague folder that I can take on the train ( the train forbids transport of bikes in rush hour even though the train I take is like 50% empty ).

But reading this thread, I see there is a lot of advice against MTB for commuting? Is it the added resistance of the wider tires?
That and MTBs usually have a heavier frame. I commuted for several weeks on a MTB when I first started commuting. After I switched to a lighter bike with narrow, high pressure slicks my commute time dropped by about 15 minutes.
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Old 06-17-07, 04:22 PM
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What's the average weight of a road bike? Is it a lot less?

And does it matter on a relatively short commute like mine?

( Sorry about all the questions, I really need answers before I get a new bike )

Edit : Also, I really need a folder, since I would be using the bike on the far end of the train ride, and the schedule prohibits bikes in rush hour.
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Old 06-17-07, 04:43 PM
  #330  
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I don't know much about road bikes (or folders). My commuter is a vintage Puch Mistral road bike frame, but with 26" X 1.5" tires and flat handlebars. From what I've read on these forums, road bikes are a lot faster with the light frame and the really skinny, hard road tires. But for me it's not really about speed or super high performance. It's more about freedom and utility.

My commute is about only 8 miles but with a 400 ft. change in elevation. On my heavy mountain bike with big knobby tires it took over an hour in the up hill direction. That's down to about 50 minutes now and with a lot less effort. All the other commuters that work here (all 4 or 5 of them) ride mountain bikes or hybrids (MTB frame with smaller slick tires).

The main drawback of using a road bike for commuting is it's hard to carry your stuff on them. They usually don't have the eyelets on the dropouts for mounting a rack. You have to use a back pack or messenger bag. Or I guess you get a clamp on seat post rack.
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Old 06-17-07, 05:48 PM
  #331  
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Same here, I'm not looking for extreme speed, just utility, and not having to make too much effort.

I'm looking at the Dahon Matrix as well, does anyone here have any experiences that he/she can share? It looks it more like a hybrid than a MTB.
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Old 06-17-07, 10:26 PM
  #332  
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Originally Posted by Apex Carver
the added resistance of the wider tires
For me the wide tires are much better, because their negotiate an uneven road better.
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Old 06-25-07, 08:09 AM
  #333  
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Originally Posted by Treespeed
I absolutely hate it when some moron tells me I have to walk my bike over the simplest of obstacles. Most days its more likely I'll fall while walking as opposed to riding.
I agree! the only time I walk is over this one curb that is on a angle and makes me slip.
I jump over 1ft gaps on my mountain bike!
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Old 06-28-07, 01:12 PM
  #334  
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I commute 18 miles into work and another 18 miles home. I'm fortunate that my commute is pretty rural. I'm fairly new to the commuting world, but I absolutely love it. Biking to me equals freedom. Its a feeling that those non-commuters will never understand until they get off of their butts and give a try.

My bike is a early to mid 80s Miyata one ten, (talk about bottom line). Hey, the price was right. I pack my backpack with two days worth of a change of clothes. This way I am only hauling it half of the time. At work, I have a pack of unscented baby wipes, deodorant, and cologne. The downside to a backpack - your back will sweat and sweat and sweat.

I'm sorry I really don't have any advise, other than, make sure you are as visible as a christmas tree going down the road, be as predictable as you can be with your movements, and wear a helmet.
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Old 07-05-07, 08:19 PM
  #335  
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Originally Posted by Apex Carver
Hi guys, I'm new here.

I tried a ~9 mile commute from the local transit station to my workplace. It's not as tiring as I thought. I used a MTB for a week and half before it was stolen. I am now thinking of getting a Montague folder that I can take on the train ( the train forbids transport of bikes in rush hour even though the train I take is like 50% empty ).
The new Dahon Cadenza would suit you fine. Its lighter than the Montague and it uses standard parts, so its upgradable if needed. Its geared for the streets.
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Old 07-05-07, 08:33 PM
  #336  
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I'd also consider a lwb recumbent as there's no more comfortable bike than this! Add a power-assist and you'll want to commute more often. Seriously!

Good luck with your choice!

Robbie
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Old 07-06-07, 05:11 AM
  #337  
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My 2 Cents...If you're on poor/nonexistent pavement you need the wider tires such as on an MTB. If you have good pavement and/or are in hilly terrain, or fairly regularly have windy conditions, you'd be better served by a lighter road type bike with the skinnier tires. The best all around commuter (in my opinion) is a touring bike set up with fenders and racks. Ideally I would suggest you should try to find a good quality used touring bike. A good 5 year old bike might only cost you ~ $200 or so. New, prices start around $500minimum.
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Old 07-19-07, 09:47 AM
  #338  
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Tip: Road Rage prevention. Don’t take guff from drivers.

If there’s no fog line, watch for approaching cars, and then signal them to pass when it’s safe. Usually works.

If he won't pass, use your camera phone or camera. Keep it handy and watch that rear view mirror. When the car starts slowing, pull out the camera and start aiming (practice that). Usually that is enough signal to the driver to keep moving. To be sure, take a side view snapshot, and of course the license plate.

If he’s stupid enough to try something, you’ve got proof. In the old days, we just caught up with them at a light, kicked in the driver's door and took off.
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Old 07-23-07, 10:13 AM
  #339  
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Greetings all
Haven't read through all 14 pages yet
so pardon if any of this is redundant.

I am no athelete or sports/bike enthusiast
just a 42 y.o. male with a sedentary job.
Although I am not overweight, I am
switching to cycle commuting for
economy, health and environment.
I have enjoyed my commuting experiences
thus far. Just started in June and am curious to see
how far into the Midwestern winter I can go.

Like JDCII above
my commute is mostly rural
14 miles one way over flat indifferently paved roads.
The last 3 miles is a small college town
with fairly intense traffic during the usual commute hours.
Otherwise it's cattle, corn and soy beans with the occassional dog.
No hills really on the way in
but on the way home
the first 3 miles take 20 minutes
with my Trek 820 with road tires.
Fighting the wind occurs more than I expected.

Got a freecycled japanese road bike of
unknown vintage and when I get new tires
on it, will begin to practice with it to see
which I prefer.
That said, those Dutch utility bikes
in Saint Augustine are calling me...

Soon my 7:30 a.m. commute will
switch to an 11:00 p.m. commute.
Have a light for the helmet
battery powered headlight on the bars
LED tail light
LED arm band with reflector
International Orange mesh vest with
green reflective tape front and rear
and going to put conspicuity tape on the frame
and swap out the tires for reflective ones
like what's on the Breezer bikes

So, point is
I'll soon find out which I prefer
road bike vs. mountain
but would like to hear folks thoughts
on the suitability of the European style
utility bikes for a commute of this nature
(mostly rural at night) Kogswell,
altered Eastman https://www.yellowjersey.org/east03.html
Dutchbike or something like these,
an English style Roadster, a French Porteur
etc.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 07-23-07, 10:41 AM
  #340  
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The PA DOT Bicycle Drivers Manual has some great advice for riding in trafic.
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Old 07-23-07, 09:27 PM
  #341  
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Originally Posted by Big Ron
My 2 Cents...If you're on poor/nonexistent pavement you need the wider tires such as on an MTB. If you have good pavement and/or are in hilly terrain, or fairly regularly have windy conditions, you'd be better served by a lighter road type bike with the skinnier tires. The best all around commuter (in my opinion) is a touring bike set up with fenders and racks. Ideally I would suggest you should try to find a good quality used touring bike. A good 5 year old bike might only cost you ~ $200 or so. New, prices start around $500minimum.
This might sound like a dumb question, but is there a tire that has the best of both worlds? I'm going to start commuting to work next month (I'm a teacher enjoying the last few weeks of summer right now), and I'm thinking of either upgrading my old department store MTB or buying a new bike. My commute is less than a mile, and all on hard, level, paved surfaces. I'm in the Chicago area and will have to bike in all sorts of weather - rain, wind, snow, ice, and maybe even some sunshine! I'm wondering which kind of bike will work best for me, a MTB or comfort bike with wide tires, or a hybrid with narrower tires - or is there a tire size that's light and fast but also good for all weather? I've looked in a couple bike shops, and so far my favorite bike is the Trek Soho, which has 700x32cc tires and a proud price tag.

I really appriciate all the great tips on this thread. I've learned a lot and feel like I'm going to be very prepared when I start.

Jigs
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Old 07-23-07, 10:46 PM
  #342  
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As for your bike dilemma, how much do you want to spend and do you plan on any other uses?

With a short commute as yours, any bike will do the job. the cheapest option would be to keep your mountain bike and do the following:
– Install relatively narrow high pressure slicks (something like 26" x 1.4 or 1.6", high pressure, and little or no thread) for about 9 months per year.
– For Winter, either install back your knobbies or get Nokian Hakkapellitta tires (studded tires; expensive).
– Install a rack and lights.

As for getting a new bike, you could aim towards a hybrid or a touring bike, which the provision they accept 700x37 tires for winter. But that would typically be if you want to ride your bike more often and under what conditions.
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Old 07-25-07, 10:29 AM
  #343  
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Originally Posted by Michel Gagnon
As for your bike dilemma, how much do you want to spend and do you plan on any other uses?

With a short commute as yours, any bike will do the job. the cheapest option would be to keep your mountain bike and do the following:
Install relatively narrow high pressure slicks (something like 26" x 1.4 or 1.6", high pressure, and little or no thread) for about 9 months per year.
For Winter, either install back your knobbies or get Nokian Hakkapellitta tires (studded tires; expensive).
Install a rack and lights.

As for getting a new bike, you could aim towards a hybrid or a touring bike, which the provision they accept 700x37 tires for winter. But that would typically be if you want to ride your bike more often and under what conditions.
Thanks Michel,

I've already installed a rack on my current bike. If I end up keeping it, I'll add lights and then look at new tires. I also need a new saddle because the one on it is killing my bottom. While my daily commute is short, I'm also using the bike for some longer trips to the library, post office, swimming pool, lake, etc. And we've been exploring some nearby bike paths (hard surface). I really think I'll be happier and enjoying riding with a better bike. I'm seriously considering the Gary Fisher Cronus <https://www.fisherbikes.com/bikes/bike_detail.asp?bike=Cronus> as a good step up without spending a ton. Still have a few weeks to continue reading these forms and do research, try some test rides and what-not.

Thanks for the input.

Jigs
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Old 07-27-07, 03:03 PM
  #344  
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I also bought a hybrid. Now I wish I'd bought a road bike. I've never ridden a road bike, so I didn't think I'd miss out on the extra speed and agility that I've heard road bikes have. Wrong. My hybrid (Trek 7500) seems sluggish, (even compared to my roommate's MTB, which I still don't understand). I've only had it a few months and I'm already thinking about selling it.
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Old 08-07-07, 05:21 AM
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Hi, sorry I haven't read the whole of this thread but I wasn't sure if the following had been mentioned:

Reflective stickers:
A car's headlights reflecting off just one of these 1'' reflective strips is easily more visible than any of the lights on my bike. I stick lots of these on all sides of the tubes so that the bike is visible from all angles and more importantly, because they follow the shape of the bike, it's really clear to other road users from along way away that I am on a bike, so they can plan how to deal with me well in advance. And don't stop with the bike, a couple on your helmet lets motorists at the back of a traffic queue see you at the front. Also, I’d recommend sticking some of these on the underside of your bike, although they will get muddy and may seem stupid, one day you may be lying on your back in the middle of a busy intersection, seeing stars and very grateful for these.

Pedals:
I reckon you should get pedals made of metal with some ugly grippy teeth and wear shoes that grip them well. You will occasionally skin your skins on these when pushing the bike, but if your foot slips off the pedal (rain, mud and oil from road gets on your shoes) when you're accelerating hard you will fall off and Sod’s law says that it will be in the direction of traffic.
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Old 08-08-07, 08:00 AM
  #346  
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Originally Posted by Jigsaw
This might sound like a dumb question, but is there a tire that has the best of both worlds? My commute is less than a mile, and all on hard, level, paved surfaces. I'm in the Chicago area and will have to bike in all sorts of weather - rain, wind, snow, ice, and maybe even some sunshine! I'm
Jigs
For a 1mile commute, most any bike will do even a stunt bike. Your bike is probably OK for starters.

Rather than upgrading the bike right now it might be good to consider the weather factor first. As long as your bike doesn't have racing slicks and has good braking power it's probably OK for the one mile commute.

For starters, you may want to work on clothing...arriving dry...and places to hang wet clothing so you'll be dry for the return ride. For example, wet shoes and socks are no fun because they may not dry in time for the return trip.
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Old 08-08-07, 08:05 AM
  #347  
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Tip: To remove old reflectant and prep the frame/rims for new reflectant, use that citris orange stuff. The LBS said it's safe even on carbon frames. If your frame is carbon, double check to make sure gunk is safe.

The old reflecant is a night mare to remove esp. that European stuff. The 3M is easier. Once it starts looking junky, (after a bout 2 yrs), I remove it and start over.

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Old 09-25-07, 09:15 PM
  #348  
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Originally Posted by Apex Carver
What's the average weight of a road bike? Is it a lot less?

And does it matter on a relatively short commute like mine?

( Sorry about all the questions, I really need answers before I get a new bike )

Edit : Also, I really need a folder, since I would be using the bike on the far end of the train ride, and the schedule prohibits bikes in rush hour.
Bottom line - if u need a folder to make the commute happen, get one

I hear there are excellent light weight folders available now, so I would recommend splurging on a good one. Remember the axiom for bikes - Light, strong, cheap - most bikes will be any one or two of those but good luck finding one that is all three.

In the end if you spend just enough for a decent bike you will be rewarded with a better ride, and more pleasant feedback. Last time I checked good light folders were around the $1000 mark - but I could be wrong....

fwiw, road bikes on average are usually in the range of 20 lbs - pro bikes like the ones ridden in the Tour de France are closer to 15 lbs, the average crappy old 10 spds you see rusting away everywhere are probably 30+. A decent Aluminum frame road bike (about $750 new) should weigh in around 25 pounds max.

MTbs are rarely below 25 lbs, unless you are looking at very expensive pro bikes - and even then, suspension adds a lot of weight.

But it is the rider position and tires that also affect the ride. I commute in a city setting so a mtb is best for many of us here. I only go 6 miles each way, mostly stop and go for lights. I raise the seat and lower the handlebars to get a more road bike-like position, and I changed the gearing for a faster ride. Also, my mtb is a decent model (about 25 lbs) with no shocks and very narrow tires (1"). But if I had a longer commute along highways, I'd use an old road bike with drop bars.

It sounds like you should get a light folder for commuting and make sure you get it at a good local shop that will fit you well and set the bike up properly. Stick with it and you can always buy a new or used road or mtb later as needed.
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Old 09-25-07, 09:24 PM
  #349  
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Originally Posted by careya123
I also bought a hybrid. Now I wish I'd bought a road bike. I've never ridden a road bike, so I didn't think I'd miss out on the extra speed and agility that I've heard road bikes have. Wrong. My hybrid (Trek 7500) seems sluggish, (even compared to my roommate's MTB, which I still don't understand). I've only had it a few months and I'm already thinking about selling it.
Have you thought about tweaking the hybrid? It may never be as fast as a road bike but you can squeeze more zip by changing to nice narrow high pressure road tires (your rims may be too wide for 23s, but 25s should work). You could add bar ends and a longer stem to get more aero, or swap out to a drop bar. If the cost of all this gets to the point where you could have bought a new road bike, you should just sell it but if you have soime parts laying around and/or do most of the work yourself, a modded hybrid can be really nice for commuting.

As for the sluggishness, I think most hybrids are designed for riders who will not be riding too aggressively. The geometry tends to favor a moderate to slow pace and reliable handling at low speeds. Personally I find this a plus while commuting. I have an old 80s road bike I set up as a hybrid (replaced drop bars with flats and bar ends) and it is certainly zippier than my mtb on commutes,,,,,,but I occaionally take on long weekend rides in the country and it pales in comparison to my modern road bike (very sluggish, especially on hills). So, like most hybrids it's a jack of all trades, master of none. As long as you appreciate their versatility and not try to push them too far into real road racing or offroad territories, they are well suited to commuting.
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Old 09-26-07, 12:57 AM
  #350  
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This thread has been enormously helpful! I've been biking to and from work (almost exactly 4 miles each way) for the past month now and I have a question that fits generally into the "am I normal?" category, though I'm a bit embarrassed to ask. It takes me about 45 minutes to get from home to work on my Breezer Freedom, no heavy gear -- just a small bag. I know these bikes are notoriously slow, but I don't see any mention of *anyone* being this slow, well, anywhere. Ever. Am I just incredibly weak and out of shape or might there be something I can do to improve the stock configuration on the bike for a bit more speed?
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