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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 03-05-06, 02:09 PM
  #176  
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There hasn't been much action on this sticky, so I'll add some advice of my own:

Replace some critical parts BEFORE they go bad, especially on a high-mileage bike.

This morning I went to the grocery store and on the way back the freehub body on my rear hub went out (It has at least 15K miles on it) and when I pedaled my bike wouldn't go so I had "scoot" it home with my feet. Since it was only a mile and a half away I was just mearly amused but I was horrified when I realized I could have been 30 miles away out in the boonies if I took that bike on a ride with my cycling club, which I have done occasionally.
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Old 04-17-06, 06:06 PM
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I learned how to ride my bike in Bklyn, N.Y. where crossing the street is a game of chicken. Now that I live in Michigan I continue to take my chances. I have fat tires so I will jump on the sidewalk if the situation appears to be too dangerous. Now coming from Bklyn what is dangerous?
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Old 04-18-06, 06:09 AM
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Commuter tip: A classic/regular size Franklin planner fits perfectly in a one gallon size Ziplock freezer bag. This will keep your planner safe and dry on your commute.
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Old 04-18-06, 10:29 PM
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Many thanks from

a new commuter for all the useful information in this thread. The only thing I can add to it, from my limited experience so far, is that the garment pannier from Two Wheel Gear is truly superb, and that Lightman strobes cause cars to work their way around me cautiously at night as if I were a police cruiser or a UFO.

I started commuting a couple of months ago when I lost my free parking privileges at work. At first I thought it was a catastrophe, but now I wish it happened 10 years ago. The 5 miles from home to work disappear on a bike, and take no longer than they did to drive. I love that when I get in my car now, it has a "new car" smell because it's not been used in several days. I'm also biking now to do much of my shopping, and to another worksite 10 miles away.

I found I couldn't get comfortable on my old Trek aluminum-frame road bike, so I read a lot on the web and ended up ordering a Surly Cross-Check, with fenders, a triple chainring up front, and a Brooks leather seat that takes me back to my childhood in England. I love this bike--it eats up the bumps, and I'm learning to bunny-hop it over pot-holes. My other favorite piece of equipment is an Arkel pannier that converts instantly into a backpack. It fits a briefcase worth of papers and laptop, along with one's helmet, and slings over my shoulder on arrival at work, so I can carry the bike upstairs easily. A beautifully designed object.

My goal is to work up to commuting one time this summer to my farthest-flung worksite, 100 miles away in Hartford, Connecticut. Even in my short-triathlon days long ago, I never learned to ride 100 miles (swimming and running were my strengths, biking my weakness). So far, so good--a fifty mile ride felt good last month, and I'll try a longer one this month.

Anyway, greetings to all, and thanks for the info and inspiration,

NuCommuter
Cambridge, Mass.
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Old 04-20-06, 07:16 PM
  #180  
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Tip: Don't ignore creaks either on the bike or from yourself.

Aches' in the knees, hips, arms are a sign that the bike doesn't fit or posture needs to improve. Creaks and squeeks could be signal big problems like a crack in the crank.
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Old 04-22-06, 02:47 AM
  #181  
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Long Time Commuter

I've been bike commuting for over ten years now. And while Expereince doesn't make you smarter, it does give you opinions

Rambling post follows:

Bikes: I started out on a Sears Special ultra heavy MTB ripoff I "Borrowed from my father (giving him the excuse to buy a real bike) This was the bike I learned to ride on at 14. After learning the joy of not waiting for the bus, relying on rides and getting around to cool places like the library I managed to break the frame in two places (seperate events), so I upgraded to a Trek 800. 1 Week after buying it with my own money, before I even had a chance to add cool parts it was stolen from an out of sight side of a home while *Locked*. Right next to a little neices window, scary. Being broke I had to ride a rusted garage sale special for a year while i saved up the money for another Trek. Rode the Trek for 5 years before succumbing to various failures. Needing a bike to couumute to work I bought a $70 Toys R Us Special. Not counting tubes I did *Zero* maintence for 3 years. it finally gave up the ghost this winter, replaced it with another Target Special bike. My advice Get a good, cheap bike that you can afford to replace. Riding a name brand bike is like flashing cash at the register, eventually someone else will want it more.

Tips: Pacific brand big box bikes seem to be the best. They're too heavy, made with inferior components and built in China by slave labor but they get me to work *every day*. Only the most desperate want to steal them. My defense, looking cheap. I tie shopping bags on the seatpost, Zip ties "holding" parts on, never wash it, and love nicks and scratches (soemtimes ducttape helps too). Require vee brakes, "spider" cranks (the one that attaches in more than one place) and a front quick release (for those kind souls who might pick you up on a rainy day). If at all possible buy it in the box and put it together yourself. Target will *Not* let you do this. Avoid all suspension, if nothing else is available, get front suspension *Only.*

For reference Pacific makes:
-Pacific
-Murray, their "low end" worst components.
-Mongoose
-Schwinn, their "high end," you may even get a threadless stem
-Some others I forget. They will say Pacific Cycles on the box or frame sticker.
*Avoid* Magna like the deadly plauge it is.

Carried equipment: I am lucky enough to live in the SF Bay Area. so even cold ain't cold and hot doesn't last forever. Rains always come right as I leave for work. That said, I always carry a hunter orange jacket, often worn. everything else I carry in a freebie shoulder pack (that looks it).
I bring road maps of the local area, a super cheap orange plastic poncho, a medium duty yellow poncho, a liter of water, a cup, a *big* wrench (bolt on rear hub), spare AA batts, a handful of zip ties, some Tylonal, can opener (for canned lunches), Fork, hex wrenches, tire levers, lighter. When I get paid a spare tube goes into the bag. One day I'll also have one of those mini pumps and a space blanket maybe even an energy bar. Non-bike related I have my uniform shirt, Lunch, a couple of pens, a book and some tissue. Everything (except the water, cup, jacket, shirt, and wrench) Goes into ziploc bags and sealed with masking tape. It sounds like a lot but except for the shirt and lunch I could carry it all in a sarfari jacket. I use a pocket flashlight on the rare occasion I have to ride in the dark, a multitool for the remainder of my tools. I've lost 2 lights to the "Twist" attack, Don't have the space or cash for a nifty rechargable/generator powered.

Some of my bike stuff doesn't sound like bike stuff, It's "earthquake repellent." Pursuant to Murphys Law, disaster strikes when you're least prepared so by carring a kit I protect the Bay Area from earthquakes. Well, at least I'll be ready. If I worked around the corner from home I wouldn't bother but the shortest bike/foot route puts me 15 miles and a *Tall* hill from home. If I'm working late (remember Murphy) I'll be more likely to stay out till dawn and then try for it. Warnings about appearing prepared in a diaster noted and planned for.

It seems most bicyclists are more self reliant than the masses. Are you prepared fro your local diasters?

RGB.
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Old 04-24-06, 04:09 PM
  #182  
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I commute 13 miles one way for work, I always carry extra tube, patches, cell phone. That is until today, got up at 4:30 A.M. this morning and headed out, got about eight miles out and got a flat, no big deal I figure except I forgot I rode my other bike the day before and left all my gear on that bike. Had a nice five mile walk into work. Live and learn.
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Old 05-02-06, 02:39 PM
  #183  
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Thanks for the info; Laptop Pannier?

Hi, all:

I'm new to commuting and to this forum. I live in Arlington, MA, just over the border from Cambridge and am very close to the Minuteman Bike path. The first day I picked up my bike from the shop, a 7-year-old kid slammed into me, bending my front rim. His father, who was with him at the time, got into an argument with me about whose fault it was and rode off in a huff, refusing to give me his contact information.

From this experience, I guess that you just need to be extra careful of kids and people not paying attention on the bike path, especially on the weekends. I'd love to hear tips from anyone else who commutes into the city via the Minuteman Trail.

Also, I'm still looking for the perfect pannier to carry my laptop in. I have a great one that folds out to carry a full bag of groceries but would like a second one specifically for the laptop.
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Old 05-02-06, 09:47 PM
  #184  
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Originally Posted by okelle
Hi, all:

I'm new to commuting and to this forum. I live in Arlington, MA, just over the border from Cambridge and am very close to the Minuteman Bike path. The first day I picked up my bike from the shop, a 7-year-old kid slammed into me, bending my front rim. His father, who was with him at the time, got into an argument with me about whose fault it was and rode off in a huff, refusing to give me his contact information.

From this experience, I guess that you just need to be extra careful of kids and people not paying attention on the bike path, especially on the weekends. I'd love to hear tips from anyone else who commutes into the city via the Minuteman Trail.

Also, I'm still looking for the perfect pannier to carry my laptop in. I have a great one that folds out to carry a full bag of groceries but would like a second one specifically for the laptop.
Okelle,

I ride the MDC/Paul Dudley White Path in Boston pretty much every day and often work on weekends so I use it then, too. I've ridden the Minuteman countless times as well.

My wife uses the bike path into Boston less frequently than I do and it was informative seeing her have to adjust to the busy path last weekend. Lots of kids and parents and people who just plain stop and stand in the middle of the path straddling their bikes or holding their dog on a leash as though no other people existed except those in the small sphere of their own self centered reality. Though I admit to huge frustration at times myself, her discomfort grew into an absolute rage by the time she exited the path in Cambridge. My advice to her was:

#1 Accept the reality that there are a ton of bozos on the bike path and all of them are looking to take you down.

#2 Ride with your head up and your plane of vision well ahead of where you are riding. A lot of riders drop their gaze to the ground about 20' in front of the bike, which makes every obstacle on the path a really big surprise. Look almost to the horizon while taking in everything around you in your immediate vicinity.

#3 Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate unexpected maneuvers by those around you especially children and be consistent, steady and predictable in your riding.

#4. Warn others of your approach with a bell, horn or your voice. A bell is great. It's for the most part a friendly sound though the impatience of some cyclists has almost worn out the bell- it's become for some the sound of antagonism just as "on your left" has almost become a joke phrase. so use these warnings sparingly.

#5 and probably one of the hardest for me sometimes- Slow down. yeah, bite the bullet and slow it down when it gets busy.

#6 and if you get really frustrated take to the roads. the drivers will eventually make the bike path seem like a friendly place, albeit still dangerous, and you might decide to head back to it or you'll love riding the road and never go back.
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Old 05-03-06, 03:46 AM
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Great bit of kit to get for nights

www.higlow.co.nz

got one for myself,
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Old 05-03-06, 01:38 PM
  #186  
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Getting ready to start...

Great thread! I just found this forum after deciding to ride my bike to work. Have been taking the bus for over a year but realize I'm getting no exercise while doing that and my desk job is killing my metabolism. Have been fixing up my trusty hybrid that has made the TOSRV ride a few times (over 15 years ago though!).

I'm anxious and excited to get started and have been soaking up all the advice and information I can find on the web and library. Very interesting viewpoints regarding 'effective' & 'vehicular' cycling.

Have mapped out my new route that is mostly on 4-lane low speed roads through residential areas. It will be about 10 miles each way.

I have to wear a dress shirt and tie so that is going to be my biggest hassle, I suppose.

Anyway, I appreciate everyone's tips and suggestions!
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Old 05-08-06, 08:09 PM
  #187  
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Tip: Just cause I've been riding for awhile, doesn't mean I know everything.

I say thank you to the many newbies who have open minds and a fresh approach. It's "taught me a thing or two".
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Old 05-09-06, 12:08 PM
  #188  
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A new tip I just invented this week:

If you have the luxury of a shower at work, pack a hand towel to dry off. Unless you have really long hair, this does the job and packs so much smaller/lighter. The poly camp towels don't seem to work well for me.
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Old 05-09-06, 04:33 PM
  #189  
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thanks for the advice everyone. my first bike commute starts monday. after spending a couple hours reading the above, I have made a priority buy list (limited by resources) for the start next week as per what I can interpret for my route. and a protracted routine.

taking an effective cycling class from the atlanta bike campaign and spending hours doing other research (i have a stack about an inch thick to paw through - for starters) has also helped cement the needful changes to make my transportation choice more smooth.

my dad loaned me the 1996 arrette gt to get me going (I will buy my own if necessary and if I am able to sell my roadster - any takers? J/K) on a 10 mile/one way residential street commute in buckhead and chattahoochee area atlanta. a really gorgeous landscape.

i am a female, who works in a business casual environment at a low-key semi urban facility that refuses to allow me my bike indoors. so i cover her with a tarp outside if it rains.

i noticed a lot of posters seem to be male, and do not deal with extra prep time for makeup or hair. i am low maintenance at work, but i still like to look nice and fresh. so here's what i have got:

when you come home: 1. take a shower and hang bike garments to dry
2. unpack panniers
3. check bike for wear and adjust accordingly

before you go to bed: 1. check weather and sunrise - pack/leave appropriately
2. pack work clothes and shoes
3. pack makeup supplies
4. make lunch for next day

---------------------------------

when you wake up: 1. wash face and brush teeth
2. dress in bike garments and load panniers and pack lunch
3. fill water bottle and ride out

when you get to work: 1. secure bike outside and cover with plastic, if necessary
2. wipe dry with baby wipes (no showers), apply lotion/deoderant
3. get dressed and proceed to sink for face/hair
4. clip up hair and execute toilette for face then apply makeup
5. unclip hair and blow dry and style as normal

i already have a bike (see above), rear and front fenders, rear rack, panniers, reflective lights on spokes, rear red blinkie, front light, cable and lock, full tire repair kit, sunscreen, bug juice, first aid kit, helmet, glasses appropriate to the time i will ride (dusk and dawn, so they are yellow), gloves, & shoes. i also have a padded crotch insert for days when i can wear regular street clothes but i am too sensitive.

i love carbs and front load to keep my energy charged. i also drink water instead of coffee, my alert factor comes from the bike ride. i eat oatmeal, chocolate, cliff bars, odwalla juices, peanut butter, bananas, wheat breads, tuna, v8, and dates, figs, and peanuts as well as pasta to pack in energy.

nancy clark's sports nutrition guidebook has been an excellent resource for foods.

i keep a full set of dishes at work and dish wipes, which is economic and environmentally friendlier than disposable items. i keep my food/dishes in a stowaway compartment, perishables in the fridge.

that's about all i can think of for now. oh, and i shop for everything online. i do not spend time at stores any more. i buy local where and when i can, i love my local bike shop (they have an web site too).

this post is long enough. i am open to your advice if you have some. thanks.

Last edited by Nyrome; 05-10-06 at 12:52 PM.
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Old 05-09-06, 05:41 PM
  #190  
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Lotsa good stuff here for a n00b like me. But the best single piece of advice I found anywhere has been:

Own the lane.

I forgot that one this morning and was nearly sideswiped by a minivan. Closer shave than Gillette. That particular street is busy and narrow with not enough room to share the lane if there's oncoming traffic. I dunno how or why I forgot, but I was too far right. Had I been just a foot to the left, (and I'll take two in the future, thankyouverymuch) she couldn't have gotten past me.

Wish I'd bookmarked the article or forum post with that advice so I could share it here...
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Old 05-10-06, 11:12 AM
  #191  
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Welcome, Nyrome

Hey, Nyrome:

Like you, I am female and new to bike commuting. I live in the Boston area, though, where standards for hair and makeup don't appear to be as stringent as they are in the Atlanta, GA area (I base this impression on a conversation I had with a northern transplant to Atlanta at a wedding recently). I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with the whole hair/makeup/looking professional after riding in situation. Right now, I'm making do with wearing pants on the days that I bike in.

The big issue for me is how to deal with rain. For the time being, I just take my car if it is cold and rainy. I figure that I'll need to get a rain suit and rain covers for my pannier if I want to ride in the rain. Any suggestions on how people deal with rain during a commute would be most welcome.

> i noticed a lot of posters seem to be male, and do not deal with extra prep time for makeup or hair. i am >low maintenance at work, but i still like to look nice and fresh.

Best,

Okelle
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Old 05-11-06, 06:29 PM
  #192  
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Originally Posted by okelle
The big issue for me is how to deal with rain. For the time being, I just take my car if it is cold and rainy. I figure that I'll need to get a rain suit and rain covers for my pannier if I want to ride in the rain. Any suggestions on how people deal with rain during a commute would be most welcome.
My first suggestion, if you haven't already discovered this, is braking in the rain or on wet roads is not the same as on dry roads.
If you have side pull or cantilever brakes, the pads and rims get wet and stay wet. When approaching a situation where you'll have to stop or slow down (intersections, traffic lights, turns, hills etc.), start braking early to wipe the water off the rims.
Your stopping distance will be at least 3 times as great.

Go slower around corners, turns, and downhill.
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Old 05-17-06, 02:58 PM
  #193  
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Originally Posted by legot73
A new tip I just invented this week:

If you have the luxury of a shower at work, pack a hand towel to dry off. Unless you have really long hair, this does the job and packs so much smaller/lighter. The poly camp towels don't seem to work well for me.
To add to this, Costco (in Southern CA, USA anyway) sells a nice multi-pack of small microfiber towels. They're, oh, maybe a foot square or so, and an ugly yellow color. But, they're light, small, and cheap. Oh yeah--they dry you off excellently as well.
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Old 05-20-06, 05:17 PM
  #194  
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Adding to Nyrome's tips for ladies:

If your company frowns on commuters walking in with lycra, you can buy or make a simple wrap that ties about the waist. Keep the wrap handy. Just before pulling in, stop and wrap the wrinkle-proof about your waist and then walk in.

Most people don't seem to mind the wrap over the lycra. This seemed to help me not to offend men from India and other countries.
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Old 05-21-06, 02:51 PM
  #195  
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A couple of times a week, I commute in about 15 miles. I live 34 miles from my job, but am working up to that full distrance, just because it would take about two hours. My 15 mile jaunt takes about 57 minutes. I rack my bike, drive to a shopping parking lot, unrack, and then ride in.

Nothing special except for a messager bag that sits on my back to carry my laptop and a few other articles. I try to plan ahead though. I check the weather reports on Sunday, and plan my rides in. Then the day before I ride in, I take in an extra pair of clothes. I keep a Dopp kit in my office and am pretty fortunate because my job has a gym and I can shower up in the locker rooms.

One thing that I DO take with me, on every ride and run I do, is a Road ID https://www.roadid.com/id.asp?referrer=2258

If you don't have one of these, I highly recommend it. Just a good ID system if you're not carrying anything else.

Other than that...all I can say is that whenever I ride in, and back, those are the two best parts of my day!
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Old 05-21-06, 10:55 PM
  #196  
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I am a newbie commuter with only 22 miles to my credit. I am only riding home at the moment till I get in better shape and can reliably make the distance in a set amount of time.

I must say that the advice here is of great help to me in deciding what to pack for the trip.

Here is what I take with me so far:

1. Helmet
2. Safety vest- I am lucky and get them for free from work.

In the backpack I have:

3. Flat repair kit
4. Bike multi- tool
5. First aid kit- never leaves my pack!
6. Gloves
7. Sunshades/eye protection
8. Rain poncho
9. Water- trying to decide if I need my hydration bladder in the pack or if the water bottle on the bike will do.
10. Return home items- Lunch continer, dirty work clothes, etc.
11. GPS attached to handlebars to track average speed and milage.

Other than that I carry my wallet, keys and other such stuff in my pack as well.
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Old 05-25-06, 05:12 AM
  #197  
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Originally Posted by vrkelley
Most people don't seem to mind the wrap over the lycra. This seemed to help me not to offend men from India and other countries.
vr, why are you worried about offending men from India? This is America!
If you go to their country I can see your point, but when they're in our country, they need to follow (or at least understand) that OUR rules are different. Women are equals.

Ok, now I'm down from the soadbox.
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Old 05-26-06, 11:03 AM
  #198  
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Commuting Newbie: Turning Left on Busy Streets?

Hi, all:

I've found this forum (and this thread in particular) very helpful. I just bought a new commuter bike about a month ago and have done the run from my apartment to the vicinity of my office a few times. Yesterday was the first time I did the actual commute, though -- other times I've ridden in have always been on the weekends. I'm not in nearly the kind of shape I have been in the past, and the whole idea of commuting via bike is to get more exercise AND save gas. It is frustrating, though, that I'm not able to carry as much stuff or to bike in when the weather is wet, as it frequently is in Boston.

Based on what other folks bring on their commutes, I'm still pretty unprepared. I should really pick up a flat-fixing kit and re-learn how to use it. I also need to bring my bike back to the shop where I bought it and see why my derailleur chain keeps popping off the track.

But the real reason I'm posting is to ask for people's strategies when it comes to taking left turns on busy streets, such as Massachusetts Avenue. Yesterday, I had a great ride home until I got overconfident at the very last leg of my journey. My backpack was overloaded with a very heavy laptop, and I was in the left lane of a very busy four-lane road, attempting to make a left turn. I had to brake more suddenly than usual and the extra weight caused me to lose my balance. I fell off my bike right in the middle of the road and felt like a complete and total idiot. I guess the best thing for me to do is just dismount and cross in a crosswalk; how frustrating! That extra endorphine kick at the end of a long ride can make me feel indestructible, and I can forget that I am not a two-ton car. It's a fine line between "owning the lane" and being a complete idiot sometimes.
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Old 05-28-06, 03:04 PM
  #199  
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Another option for a difficult left turn is to go straight across the intersection, but stop just at the other side. Then turn your bike and wait for a green light with the traffic going in the direction you want to go.
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Old 05-31-06, 08:25 PM
  #200  
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I know I shouldn't do this, but it seems like people get responses here better than they do on the intro page, so I'm going to dump my intro post on here and make some minor changes to try to garner some feedback.....

I just moved from 35 miles away from work (all highway) to 11 miles away from work (all side roads)

I'm going to try to start commuting via bicycle. I just received a bonus from work which will fund said venture. I will be perusing these forums a bit for bike suggestions (and, I might add, this thread has given me some EXCELLENT accessory suggestions), but I'll state here -

I looked at the Schwinn Super Sport DBX and I think it looks fantastic, but I just can't justify the price tag. I am looking for a road bike with dropped handlebars and disc brakes.... as time goes on I'm less hardcore on the disc brakes but my wife just bought a bike with them (a hybrid) and I loved the stopping power they provided. So if you know of any bikes that are like the DBX but cost less, than please suggest!

My other thought is to go with a much cheaper bike (Iron Horse, Fuji) to make sure I'll actually use it, and if I really get into it, then I can buy a second, more expensive bike for doing things that don't involve commuting and leaving my bike outside for 8+ hours a day (The workplace won't let me take it inside)

I'm not too terribly worried about theft as I am a white collar worker and the bike rack is right next to the smoking area so there are people around all day (I don't know why they'd put biking next to smoking, but it's not my call......) and, the smoking area is nowhere near a busy street. That said, I still probably will double lock it.

Anyway, my initial goal here is to get suggestions for a bike. I'm trying to convince myself that I don't need to go mainstream (Trek, Cannondale, Schwinn, Masi, etc) but I certainly would be more comfortable on something I recognize.
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