Wednesday, January 05, 2011

My Commuting Tricks: Part II

Yesterday I thought I'd start off sharing some ideas from my commuting experiences and today I would like to expand a bit upon that.

A couple of things that will help you get going and keep going are what is on the agenda for today.

More On Your Bike Choice: Commuting can be hard on a bike, so I don't like to use the "best" bike equipped with the "best" stuff that I have. Not that you can't, but if you commit to commuting, you will be putting your spendy bits through a wear cycle that will be a bit advanced in comparison to what you might normally do to a bike/parts like that. Replacement costs to upkeep your steed need to be thought about. Commuting by definition means a bicycle that is reliable every day. You don't want the worst bits hanging from your frame, but you also may not want the very best either. Something to think about. Me? I use a single speed because it is dead reliable, resists fouling from the elements, and wears a lot longer than a derailleured bike.

More On Your Route: One of the things I noticed, and a topic that came out of yesterday's post, was that of familiarity. What I mean is that if you use the same route, at the same time, everyday, you will notice patterns in things, if you pay attention. The way traffic lights work, (or don't), is one thing. You might find that some are rotating through signals at a steady rate. Others may not be triggered until a car comes up to the intersection. Some lights may be odd and random. I have all three types on my route. (I'll get into more specifics on this later). Other things you might notice are commuters in cars that you see every day. Busses, trucks, or pedestrians. It will be a good idea to make eye contact with these folks at a minimum. A wave and a smile can pay dividends later. Why? Because folks will notice you, #1, and then they will get familiar with you. Less cars, trucks, busses, and pedestrians to get ticked off at you. In fact, some of them may even start looking out for you!

More On Clothing: Layers folks. Layers! Many thin layers will keep you warmer on the cold days of commuting. I like to do a "base layer". It doesn't have to be an "actual base layer" from a sporting goods store, but those are certainly viable. Silk undershirt are pretty good, but a cotton t-shirt will do for a short-ish commute of ten miles or less in most cases. Next, I like something wool. Thin wool shirts, wool jerseys, or wool sweaters, if they are not too heavy, will do just fine. Then I like a wind breaker, rain jacket, or some outerwear that resists the wind. Good to go! But you should experiment, and again, you don't have to use cycling specific stuff. Make it easy!

More commuting tips coming soon......

10 comments:

mw said...

went SS for the commuter a while ago. got tired of trashing even less expensive drivetrains.

one of my commuter bike rules is that you can only work on the bike in the few minutes you have before you need to leave. more of an inspiration than an actual rule. but it is rare when the commuter is in the stand at home. it just works and keeps working.

Guitar Ted said...

@mw: I used to run gears, but with so much road grime accumulating on parts, I just decided it wasn't worth all the maintenance time. I had a pretty "Frankensteined" M-737 XT derailluer on that bike. I should find it and post a photo.

Mark said...

I mostly ride fixed but recently went freewheel because of a late season leg injury but fixed is the best KISS method for commuting.

Guitar Ted said...

@Mark: Absolutely. You are right about that. Fixed gear is about as minimal maintenance as it gets. That said, I like coasting too much to give it up. ;>)

Also, for someone just getting into commuting, it may not be the right answer......yet! Given time to get comfortable with the rest of the dynamics, adding in a fixed gear bike could be the icing on the cake.

Steve Fuller said...

I'm riding gears right now since the road conditions are nice and I'm out of shape. When we get snow on the ground again, the newly SS'd Karate Monkey is going to get brought up from the bullpen. Still need to get a real SS crank on it and figure out gearing. I'm at either 34x19 or 36x19 now.

Tom said...

If you are like me (larger than you would like to be) finding wool layering pieces can be challenging. But I have found a place that does a great Merino LS and SS shirts in Tall and Extended sizes.

http://www.minus33.com/

A bit pricey, but this stuff is built to last.

CQ said...

If I was a bit closer I would love to commute ! How far do you guys have to go? I would have 30 miles each way in wide open country . I've thought about taken the bike with in the a.m on one day and then catch a ride the next to ride home after work.

CQ

Guitar Ted said...

@CQ: There are guys commuting 20 plus miles each way around here, but they have the time to do that. I would agree that with distance it gets more challenging, but it isn't un-doable. It just requires more sacrifices. That's a personal decision that you'll have to grapple with.

Jackie said...

It's getting icy on my commute in CO and I was wondering if you knew anything about running Nokian studded tires tubeless?

Guitar Ted said...

@Jackie: Well, not being a fan of studded tires, I can only give you some feedback I received from a co-worker last year who ran them. He mentioned that they were pretty good at grip on ice, but were a huge pain to turn over, (rolling resistance), and were stiff riding.

I would imagine that someone schooled in converting tires to tubeless might be able to do something with the Nokians, but my co-worker never tried it, and I have not heard of anyone doing so.