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Advice for New Commuters

Old 09-26-07, 02:42 AM
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Originally Posted by SageSparks
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?
4 miles in 45 minutes is 6 miles an hour. Our cycle club rides for beginners averages 8 - 10 mph. I think that there is something else going on here.

Do you have a cycle computer? If you do what is your average speed? Maybe you are going fast enough but waiting for a lot of lights. Your average speed will tell us. If you don't have a cycle computer I'd suggest that you get one.
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Old 09-26-07, 07:39 AM
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I'm real slow too! 6 miles takes me about 40 mins on my best day. With the UN in chaos this week, it's taking me about an hour and then some.....

You may be slowed down by lights, traffic, poor road hazards, etc. There's no shame in that. My commute has mostly stop and go, so I can only go so fast before I start getting into dangerous situations (almost getting hit by cars, running over pedestrians, etc). The only time I made drastic gains in speed on my commute was when i switched from single speeds, heavy junk fished out of the garbage (three-speeds, old ten speeds and mountain bikes of very poor quality, etc.) and fixed gears to a lighter derailleur bike. I only have one climb (the Queensborough Bridge) but a lighter bike with good low gears has definitely shaved a few minutes off my commute.

However, if that Breezer is what I think it is, it's made for an upright poistion and casual comfortable riding. If your slowness is being caused by sitting upright and catching wind like a sail while your pedaling efficiency is limited (as will happen in an upright position), you may want to consider getting another bike. Other than that you can always get narrower tires and always pump 'em up to their max rated pressure listed on the sidewall (buy a decent floor pump with pressure gauge and check the tires often - at least once a week!!), and if you adopt a more aero position (get a longer stem or lower handlebars for a longer reach, combined with a narrower saddle) you should get a bit more speed out of your present steed. You could always try renting a hybrid or road bike to see if you are ready for something a bit faster and more aggressive. Make sure you try the rental in a setting that resembles your commute - what feels great on an open highway on a quiet Sunday morning is not always best in Monday morning rush hour traffic!!

In my book, commuting is about safety first, with performance way down on the list. I wouldn't worry about your speed. Your times won't qualify you for the Olympics, but they're nothing to be embarassed by. If you are getting to work alive and on time, that's all that counts!
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Old 09-27-07, 12:17 AM
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Originally Posted by SageSparks
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?
When I started riding, it took me 40 minutes to do 3.5 miles. A year and a half later, I can do the same mileage in 15-20 minutes. I'm still not particularly fast, but I have come a long way. My only secret is that I do it every day, rain or shine.
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Old 09-27-07, 09:08 AM
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In portland that is a lot of rain, I am guessing!

We're there next week, rented some bikes, so excited!! Btw, This is the only time we've flown somewhere and not rented a car......we wanna see how liveable it'd be without 4 wheels.....
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Old 09-27-07, 09:46 PM
  #355  
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I just started commuting on da regular but I do my 4miles back home from downtown SF in 20min. I'm sure there's some messengers who can do it in less.
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Old 09-27-07, 11:54 PM
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Another request for bike suggestions!

Hi all,

I've been commuting a 2-3 times a week for the last few months. My route is a little over 8 miles each way on pavement.
I'm currently riding a hybrid/comfort bike from Target, and would like to get something faster and lighter. I'm torn between fitness bikes like the Trek FX series and the Giant FCR series, and actual road bikes like the Fuji Newest series or the Fuji Touring bike.
I want a rack but I am not sure whether the straight handlebars or the drops would be better in the long run. I have occasional bouts of carpal tunnel-like symptoms, and I (and my back) am in my mid-40's.
The road I ride on follows a lake for part of the way, and can get quite windy, so an upright position can be a drawback.
I also go on longer rides on weekends, and would eventually like ride around the lake, which is a century on the right route.
As far as price goes, $800-900 is my high end.

Any suggestions?
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Old 09-28-07, 01:25 AM
  #357  
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I personally think that a bicycle with drop bars is a good choice for your wrist/hand nerve issues. Drop bars give you a variety of positions to put your hands in during the course of the commute. However your back may not like the more bent over position you'd have with a touring bike (but not as much as a road bike). Best advice is to go do some test rides and see what works for you!

Touring bikes make great commuters, plenty of braze-ons for fender and rack mounting, their geometry normally gives you more of an upright position than a standard road bike and the frames are normally sturdy, stable and steel.
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Old 10-01-07, 09:47 AM
  #358  
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Originally Posted by Moogie
Hi all,

I've been commuting a 2-3 times a week for the last few months. My route is a little over 8 miles each way on pavement.
I'm currently riding a hybrid/comfort bike from Target, and would like to get something faster and lighter. I'm torn between fitness bikes like the Trek FX series and the Giant FCR series, and actual road bikes like the Fuji Newest series or the Fuji Touring bike.
I want a rack but I am not sure whether the straight handlebars or the drops would be better in the long run. I have occasional bouts of carpal tunnel-like symptoms, and I (and my back) am in my mid-40's.
The road I ride on follows a lake for part of the way, and can get quite windy, so an upright position can be a drawback.
I also go on longer rides on weekends, and would eventually like ride around the lake, which is a century on the right route.
As far as price goes, $800-900 is my high end.

Any suggestions?
Drop bars are great for commuting providing your reach to the brakes is not too far forward or low. If you like brakes on the tops, get cyclocross auxillary levers installed (in addition to the regular drop bar levers), or you could use a flat bar with bar ends.

I am 43 and developed similar back and hand issues when I hit 40. I found for a short commute bar ends were sufficient. As long as you can switch your hand positions as needed, and don't need to get very low out of the wind, you don't really need drops. But whatever bar you pick, try and get a good fit from the best shop in your area. Your stem height and extension are crucial; set your seat height properly first and then get the right stem to put you in an optimal position. Of course, you will first need to get a frame with a good top tube length. I would make notes of your current bike's measurements and use them as a guide for your new bike (If your current top tube feels too long, go shorter, etc.).

and fwiw, I grudgingly went to a rack and trunk this year...not nearly as stylish as a messenger bag or as convenient when locking up, but my upper body aches and pains nearly vanished completely ......I'm sold.

The fitness bikes you mentioned and the touring bikes suggested should definitely have eyelets for a rack; most road bikes under $1000 should as well. There are always clamps and other solutions to fitting racks to bikes without proper braze-ons but these can get shaky. Your best bet is to look for a bike with the eyelets brazed on at appropriate mounting points for the type of rack you want and remember a longer wheel base with long chainstays and more relaxed steering will give you more room for racks and make handling and balancing the extra weight easier. Typically bikes oriented towards performance will lack these qualities, so there's always a compromise involved.
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Old 10-05-07, 03:21 AM
  #359  
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I commute in an urban area and I find that I don't like to take a pump with me. If I get a flat tire, I can walk the bike to the nearest gas station for air, which is never more than a few blocks away. I don't like to leave gear on the bike, and this saves me from needing to carry the pump around. My headlight is a very, very bright tactical flashlight that I attach with a velcro bike mount, and I take it with me as well. A swiss army knife in my pocket covers most repairs, and I keep a spare tube and a hex key set with me as well, either in my backpack, or attached to the bike.

That way I know that I won't come back to my parked bike after class and find out that all of my tools, pump, and light have been stripped. Unless you can park a bike inside during a commute, I would recommend making sure that everything on the bike can come with you.
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Old 10-07-07, 04:36 PM
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I ride a moutain bike that I have hybridized. I use regular moutain handlebars fitted with aero-bars and bar-ends that give me several riding positions. I find riding on the aero-bars the most comfortable. I replaced the knobby tires with 1 3/8 road tires. I also carry a rack trunk and a pannier. Most of the time I leave everything on the bike when I go in a store or something like that. If I'm worried about my stuff (lights,computer,pump etc.)then I take the time to take all of that stuff off and put it in my pannier and take it with me. As far as speed, don't worry about how fast you can go. The more you ride the better you'll get. I do an 8 mile commute one-way in 35 mins which is fine with me. I just enjoy being out in the fresh air and not cooped up in a car in traffic.
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Old 10-10-07, 07:32 PM
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keeping gear dry

I use "Outdoor Research" waterproof stuff sacs. I originally bought them for kayaking, but they work great to keep water off my clothes that are in my really old, really NOT waterproof backpack. They are also handy for backpacking.
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Old 10-16-07, 01:24 PM
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Hey, I am brand new to this board and also to commuting! I am looking forward to getting my exercise in and reducing stress on myself and the planet by ditching the car. My commute is about 8.5 miles one way. I have a very nice Trek bike that my mom gave me (she used to ride it in road races but now prefers to ride tandem with her boyfriend). The bike is hooked up with a front and rear light, and this weekend I bought a helmet and my mom's bf put a rack and panniers on it (he is a bike mechanic).

I have been trying to map out the best route because I can't ride the same way I drive, the traffic is too insane. I am not used to riding in the city, I usually only ride my bike to the gym which is a mile or two from my house, through the neighborhood. So I have a route mapped out with the help of another guy at work who rides in, and I'm going to take a test run on Saturday. I hope to ride to work Monday for the first time!

I have my own office so I have places to store clothing. There is also a shower at my work in case I get too sweaty. I'm looking forward to this, I just need to get over my fear of getting hit by a car, or slamming into something. Ha. Wish me luck.
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Old 10-16-07, 01:49 PM
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Welcome to commuting! The fear of getting hit by a car is a good one to keep!

As a new rider, judging how the amount of time requird to change lanes or turn is a big challenge in rush hour traffic. I'd suggest taking the bike with you and riding at lunch time or a time when there's lighter traffic. Let the car's 'help you' by wearing reflectant clothing or adding reflectant to the bike. If the driver can see you, that'll give you an additional edge.
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Old 10-16-07, 11:42 PM
  #364  
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Originally Posted by Amber_
Hey, I am brand new to this board and also to commuting! I am looking forward to getting my exercise in and reducing stress on myself and the planet by ditching the car. My commute is about 8.5 miles one way. I have a very nice Trek bike that my mom gave me (she used to ride it in road races but now prefers to ride tandem with her boyfriend). The bike is hooked up with a front and rear light, and this weekend I bought a helmet and my mom's bf put a rack and panniers on it (he is a bike mechanic).

I have been trying to map out the best route because I can't ride the same way I drive, the traffic is too insane. I am not used to riding in the city, I usually only ride my bike to the gym which is a mile or two from my house, through the neighborhood. So I have a route mapped out with the help of another guy at work who rides in, and I'm going to take a test run on Saturday. I hope to ride to work Monday for the first time!

I have my own office so I have places to store clothing. There is also a shower at my work in case I get too sweaty. I'm looking forward to this, I just need to get over my fear of getting hit by a car, or slamming into something. Ha. Wish me luck.
Always try to change a bit your route. I've made many useful discoveries this way.

When it is raining, better still use the car. Do not ditch it completely.

Commute to the office when the weather is fine, when the forecast is OK. And the traffic is lighter.

If you keep commuting from time to time, and make it a part of your life routine for years to come, you will still be making for the environment 1000 times more than an average person, who usually does nothing.
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Old 10-18-07, 01:23 PM
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Adding to Max's tips

Tip: Observe subtle traffic changes, esp if you haven't ridden that same route in several months. Traffic volumes change, side street construction may re-route traffic onto your commute route. Those drivers may not know how to watch for you.
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Old 10-18-07, 04:56 PM
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In September I started back to school a couple days a week, and I am getting there by bicycle. I used to go everywhere on my bike, but that changed when I got married. for those who think they go to slow, you will get faster! Just keep at it. I am in my forties, and overweight, so I am MUCH slower than when I was in my twenties and very fit. It is a blow to the ego, but it's better than drowning your shame in doughnuts and not biking. I have sever tendinitis and carpal tunnel in both hands. Currently I am going to physical therapy twice a week for it. The bike I am using, an old Giant Yukon mountain bike, has the straight bars with bar ends, and they are painful. I just got delivery of a NOS 2006 Schwinn Super Sport DBX. A sort of relaxed geometry road bike with disc brakes. Hoping to get it tuned up and ready to go this weekend. I use a rack and currently, I can fit all my gear in one large pannier. I'm hoping the road bike will make me a little faster and more comfortable.

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Old 10-24-07, 09:08 AM
  #367  
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Okay I've looked through this thread for advice on stopping. When I have my seat high enough to be comfortable, I have to lean way over to put my foot down. I feel like I'm taking up as much space as a small car. Am I missing something?
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Old 10-24-07, 09:17 PM
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Hipster: When I come to a stop, I usually end up straddling the top tube of the bike. I can then stand comfortably on both feet, and with the rear brake on even lean back against the seat a bit if I want to. I leave one pedal up, so when I start again I stand on that pedal and end up back on the seat and moving forward.
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Old 10-24-07, 11:03 PM
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Originally Posted by hipster_doofus
Okay I've looked through this thread for advice on stopping. When I have my seat high enough to be comfortable, I have to lean way over to put my foot down. I feel like I'm taking up as much space as a small car. Am I missing something?
Any hipster worth his or her salt would at least attempt sloppy trackstand, winding back and worth across the lane before finally blowing the light.


Just kidding. Don;t worry about taking up space. Trust me, even leaning far to one side a person on a bike does not take up that much room. Plus so what if you do? Also I agree with the person above. You may just want to get off the saddle. Much more comfortable when waiting for a long light.
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Old 10-29-07, 08:13 PM
  #370  
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Originally Posted by Amber_
Hey, I am brand new to this board and also to commuting! I am looking forward to getting my exercise in and reducing stress on myself and the planet by ditching the car. My commute is about 8.5 miles one way. I have a very nice Trek bike that my mom gave me (she used to ride it in road races but now prefers to ride tandem with her boyfriend). The bike is hooked up with a front and rear light, and this weekend I bought a helmet and my mom's bf put a rack and panniers on it (he is a bike mechanic).

I have been trying to map out the best route because I can't ride the same way I drive, the traffic is too insane. I am not used to riding in the city, I usually only ride my bike to the gym which is a mile or two from my house, through the neighborhood. So I have a route mapped out with the help of another guy at work who rides in, and I'm going to take a test run on Saturday. I hope to ride to work Monday for the first time!

I have my own office so I have places to store clothing. There is also a shower at my work in case I get too sweaty. I'm looking forward to this, I just need to get over my fear of getting hit by a car, or slamming into something. Ha. Wish me luck.

Hey Amber,

Good luck in your commuting,

Cheers,

Keiron
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Old 11-04-07, 05:51 PM
  #371  
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Well, I got my new bike a few weeks ago. I was deciding between a fitness bike and a touring bike. I ended up getting a road bike -- a Fuji Newest 1.0. I am really liking it. There's a hill toward the end of my commute home that used to seem so hard -- I don't even notice it anymore.

The lack of shocks and harder tires aggravated my wrist problems for a bit, but I got better gloves and started paying attention to how I was gripping the handlebars, and it's not too bad. Nothing that can't be blamed on working on a computer all day, anyway.

After all was said and done, the bike was a little more than I'd intended to pay, but my DH said he wanted me to have the bike I wanted, so I had to get it. And he doesn't really ride much at all!
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Old 11-04-07, 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by hipster_doofus
Okay I've looked through this thread for advice on stopping. When I have my seat high enough to be comfortable, I have to lean way over to put my foot down. I feel like I'm taking up as much space as a small car. Am I missing something?
When my saddle in proper position leaning is just out of question - it's too far, and would end up being an uncontrolled fall. I get my butt off the saddle and put my foot on the ground. I wouldn't care about taking up space, bu leaning way over is cumbersome, awkward, and possibly dangerous. Why is it that so many people want to keep their bum glued to the saddle?
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Old 11-08-07, 10:35 PM
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First post on this forum...

I skimmed through this thread and it's been very informative so far!

So, I recently started commuting to work again by bike after a gap of about 7 years. And then I lived in the UK when things were rather different (everyone's on the other side of the road for a start!). So I feel like i'm starting all over again.

Where I live, Southern California, drivers really aren't used to cyclists at all and it shows in the way they drive. And I've even been heckled by a driver who kept shouting at me to 'get in the bike lane'. Which I couldn't do because I was turning left and was therefore in the left turn lane.

Because I'm out of practice, I've occasionally found myself making really stupid mistakes. Like on the way home from work tonight I was trying to merge into the left turn lane but no one was letting me in. I was rapidly running out of space to merge so I just pushed my way into the turn lane right in front of a car that wasn't even aware that I was there. It was a fairly stupid and dangerous thing to do. By that point, I probably should have just returned to the bike lane and crossed the street on foot. But I panicked and didn't.

Anyway, I think I'm rapidly developing a phobia of left-turn lanes!

EDIT: I guess I should have asked: does anyone have any advice for merging into lanes with cars in them? Are there specific things to watch out for? Should I try to merge very early? That sort of thing

Last edited by Skagra; 11-09-07 at 12:24 AM.
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Old 11-14-07, 05:19 PM
  #374  
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well i just started as well, i know what you mean about being in UK...i lived there for two years. You always get harrassed by people, just ignore them...the first day i started commuting i almost got in a fight with two kids on riding on my part of the lane. Sorry i couldn't give advice for merging i was blessed with sidewalks all the way to work.
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Old 11-15-07, 05:47 AM
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commuting rocks and im glad alot of people are starting to do so. my advice - know your route! study the safest way to get to your destination. know your bike - know how to change a flat at the very least and carry the tools to do so. LIGHTS - its dark out now, get some good lights. rain gear - goretex is your friend. other then that, obey the traffic laws and save dough on gas!!!!
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