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View Full Version : Peer Review? Personal Notes on Longer-Distance Commuting



Greenbelt
02-12-2012, 04:50 PM
Late December, I took a weekend and wrote down a long set of notes on what I had learned after a year and a half of bike commuting. Most of it is very elementary, of course. But I get a lot of pretty basic questions when people they see me heading out in my bike gear: How do you figure out how to get from here to there? Is it safe? How long does it take? What kind of bike should I get? Do you ride on the street? How do you stay warm and dry?

So being a research person who spends a lot of time writing, I figured I'd try to consolidate my opinions -- many of which are based on things I learned in various threads on this forum -- into one place. These notes amount to sort of a concise guide for newbies by a relatively newbie, for whom these questions and discoveries are still fresh.

But on second read, I realize that my opinions and observations will probably not be right for everyone. It is kind of silly after all to assume my take on things would be best for someone else. Plus, the ultra-personal style is a little tacky I suppose.

So I was wondering if I should maybe make the draft more general, even if it's less concise, rather than my personal take. And I'm very aware that some of my opinions might be wrong or just not very savvy.

So I'm thinking maybe this could benefit from being more of a group project?

Would the forum be interested in an online virtual peer review or commentary? Then, after a period of corrections and additions from more experienced commuters, the notes could be edited and recompiled into a pamphlet for other newbies. I'd also be interested in adding some of the great bike commuting pictures posted here for some future draft if time ever permits. If the draft ever got good enough, I thought it could be posted somewhere, or that it could be PDFd for easier printing.

I get a sense quite a few people my age would like to commute by bike, but they live far enough away from their jobs that it's hard for them to envision how they could actually pull it off. And at least in my age bracket, we don't do tend to things spontaneously -- we need plans and instructions and guidebooks.

So here's an experiment. If this works, you should be able to see a first draft -- an attached Word file linked below. Feel free to mark it up and repost or send back to me, or add suggestions, criticism, concerns, objections, and flames in the comments. I especially need help with the basic descriptions (and pros and cons) of various bike styles, and also some of the mechanical tips (I'm not a mechanic -- pretty helpless with a wrench, actually). -Jeff

756

eminva
02-12-2012, 06:43 PM
I have not had a time to read it yet, but I think it is a great idea. When I started bike commuting, I began my research with google. There wasn't a lot out there then, so it would be nice if it were posted somewhere in cyberspace where those contemplating a bike commute could find it.

I assume there is a lot more on the internet now about bike commuting -- you might start by googling the topic and seeing what's out there. Then try to fill any gaps. You might be on to something with addressing the needs of cyclists in a particular age range, long distance commuters, etc.

I will read it and give you comments (it's harder for me to find time to read stuff like this now because I used to do it on Metro -- the only downside I can think of to the bike commute . . . ).

Liz

Dirt
02-13-2012, 09:24 AM
I just skimmed through it quickly and I like what you did. Like you, I always try to say "this is what works for me... for you it might be different." when I talk about any of this kind of thing.

The format might work well as a FAQ on a web site or blog. It might help to break it down into main questions areas with additional, more specific questions underneath.

I like your content. Great job.

Pete

jrenaut
02-13-2012, 09:28 AM
The format might work well as a FAQ on a web site or blog. It might help to break it down into main questions areas with additional, more specific questions underneath.
When I saw this, I thought it would be great as a wiki, where we could all edit and add our own perspectives. It would be cool if Bike Arlington or DDOT or someone wanted to host that. Alternatively, I'd be happy to do it, too.

Greenbelt
02-13-2012, 10:57 AM
When I saw this, I thought it would be great as a wiki, where we could all edit and add our own perspectives. It would be cool if Bike Arlington or DDOT or someone wanted to host that. Alternatively, I'd be happy to do it, too.

The wiki idea sounds excellent to me. -Jeff

Dirt
02-13-2012, 11:14 AM
The wiki idea sounds excellent to me. -Jeff

Sorry. I can't hear that word without thinking of the cheesy Buck Rogers TV series from a bunch of decades back. "Wiki wiki wiki"

If you want an intelligent post, this one is NOT it.

Love,

Pete

KLizotte
02-13-2012, 12:35 PM
Obviously, keeping your speed under control is key to avoiding self-inflicted crashes. I need to adjust the brakes on my commuter bike every month. For commuters, we need to stop fast sometimes, like when a pedestrian decides to jump off the curb into the bike lane right in front of us! Or when a dog on a long leash (or no leash) suddenly decides to chase a squirrel across a trail. So don’t ride with inferior brakes – take them in for service regularly if you’re like me and have limited “brake voodoo” home-repair skills.

Wow, you really have to adjust your brakes every month?! I must admit that I never look at my brakes unless they sound or act funny (has never happened on my 1 year old bike). I did have to get the pads replaced at about the 3,000 mile mark because they'd worn out (lots of braking in the city).


By the way, why don’t tire makers make Kevlar CX tires for commuters? Just asking.
The Armadillo Elites category has a kevlar CX tire.


I only get a couple thousand miles per chain.
Huh, I get at least 3,000 on my chain. I wonder what the average is?

Greenbelt
02-13-2012, 12:53 PM
Obviously, keeping your speed under control is key to avoiding self-inflicted crashes. I need to adjust the brakes on my commuter bike every month. For commuters, we need to stop fast sometimes, like when a pedestrian decides to jump off the curb into the bike lane right in front of us! Or when a dog on a long leash (or no leash) suddenly decides to chase a squirrel across a trail. So don’t ride with inferior brakes – take them in for service regularly if you’re like me and have limited “brake voodoo” home-repair skills.

Wow, you really have to adjust your brakes every month?! I must admit that I never look at my brakes unless they sound or act funny (has never happened on my 1 year old bike). I did have to get the pads replaced at about the 3,000 mile mark because they'd worn out (lots of braking in the city).

I think my brake issues have to do with 1.) being 200 pounds, 2.) lots of sand and dirt and gravel on my ride route, and 3.) riding in the rain, 4.) not keeping my bike as clean as I should. Something about the combination of rain and built-up road grit and grime seems to force adjustments (not always new pads) pretty frequently. My wife, who weighs a lot less and doesn't ride in the rain as often, rarely needs brake adjustments. (I also frequently get wheels out of true and the occasional broken spoke, which she's never had.)

Tim Kelley
02-13-2012, 01:27 PM
When I saw this, I thought it would be great as a wiki, where we could all edit and add our own perspectives. It would be cool if Bike Arlington or DDOT or someone wanted to host that. Alternatively, I'd be happy to do it, too.

We'd be happy to host something like this! We just don't know how to make it happen--any technical guidance that you can provide?

rcannon100
02-13-2012, 01:37 PM
First, very much like the idea. Is the document long? Can you just post it here?

Also, like the Wiki idea. One option is Google Sites. It's wiki like, however only those people with your permission can edit the site. Helps keep some control and excessive demands on a moderator to constantly weed out spam.

I returned to full time cycle commuting a while ago. One of the joys has been - I eat thru parts. I am buying brake pads by the bag. Yes, I am big - and yes my commute involves the Custis Hill and lots of urban maneuvers. Just bought new tubes, and a new tire, as well. Do you mean there is a way of bike commuting that doesnt involve getting gunk all over your bike?? :D

jrenaut
02-13-2012, 01:39 PM
We'd be happy to host something like this! We just don't know how to make it happen--any technical guidance that you can provide?
There are a ton of options. The simplest of which is probably something like VaultWiki (https://www.vaultwiki.org/), a Vbulletin plugin. Note that I just found that via Google, I can't speak to how well it works. You could also run separate wiki software, but that would be more difficult to integrate (ie, you'd have to write some code to let people use the same logins). That said, I'd be willing to donate some coding time if that looks like the better option.

pfunkallstar
02-21-2012, 09:56 AM
VaultWiki FTW. Seriously, wiki, wiki, wiki.

americancyclo
02-21-2012, 10:48 AM
yeah, I Nth the wiki idea as well.

Rootchopper
02-21-2012, 11:39 AM
Grear idea, Jeff. You have an excellent first draft. I commute almost as far as you do (Mount Vernon to Rosslyn).

There are three things I would add to your text.

1. Transitions will kill you. I find that bike commuting is a little like triathalons. You can waste a lot of time getting dressed, packed, undressed etc. What to do? Pack for tomorrow including filling water bottles, laying out your keys and office id etc. when you get home at night. This means you just get dressed and go.

2. Types of bikes. Perhaps not surprisingly you omitted recumbents. They come in all shapes and sizes (recumbents come in touring, racing, hybrid models) and are an excellent commuting vehicle. And tadpole trikes (2 wheels in front, 1 in back) are also a cool option. For the purposes of your write up, I wouldn't say much more than that.

3. Stressing. Many newbies get all stressed out about getting to work on time. Chill. First, you're going to the office. It'll be there, no worries. Second, if you have a flat or some other time consuming incident, no problem. People have car problems and metro delays all the time. Don't appologize for riding your bike. Third, add a few minutes to either end of your commute to stop and smell the roses (or tour the cherry blossoms at sunrise).

Tim Kelley
03-02-2012, 09:24 AM
What would people thinking of doing a FAQ through Google Docs? I haven't used it that much, but it seems like it would be the easiest venue to put together a FAQ. Multiple editors, automatic saving, people already have Google accounts, etc...

That seems a lot easier than trying to learn the ins and outs of installing a WIKI plugin for that forum. After we've worked on the document we can link it in a sticky thread and promote it through some of BikeArlington's other channels. Hopefully other cycling organizations would pick it up too.

Thoughts? Anyone volunteer to get this started?

GuyContinental
03-13-2012, 08:47 AM
I love the idea of a Wiki and would happily participate.

Some quick comments (as I sit in my office smelling a little funny from my 90 minute morning ride- no showers around here...)

1. Clothes options- you hit on the one-way commute (usually my MO) but an alternate is the Monday drive where you take in your week's worth of clothes. Personally, I hate carrying anything when I ride and manage 100 miles/week without a backpack.
2. Clothes choices- Some folks (me) have real problems keeping their nether regions and belly warm when the temp is below freezing. Runners use a product called "wind briefs" that essentially have a wind-barrier "cod." Bib tights are also a pretty good bet. In general, folks need to remember the impact of wind chill- 20 mph riding at 30 degrees is an effective temp of 17! That's eyeball freezing cold!
3. Snowy trails- the frozen bike rut problem and studded tires for the truly hearty
4. CX bikes- unless you are on mixed terrain that includes some gravel (e.g. G'town branch) you probably don't want CX tires- you'll wear them out very fast and you don't gain much int he pavement traction department. A nice fat 35mm on a CX will do most people fine
5. Bike Maint- specifically rinsing (yikes!) In a word, don't do it unless you are planning to fully dry the bike and re-lube everything. Derailleur pulleys, cables, brake linkages, chain, cassette and pedals will all suffer premature wear from frequent washing. The problem comes when you let it go for too long and a simple wipe won't get the grime off. I'm as lazy as the next guy but I keep some rags in my office for a quick wipe down and re-lube bi-weekly. Every two months I use the White Lightning chain cleaner and do a thorough cleaning. As a result I get 5K (+) out of an Ultegra chain.
6. Headphones- might want to mention the hazards of headphones on self and others. Personally, I listen to Pandora or NPR but only in one ear and never at high volume
7. Smart phone devices- I use a $5 iPhone app called "Cyclemeter" and think that it's the best thing since sliced bread- it tracks route performance based on best, median and worst and whispers your relative performance in your ear after automagically lowering the volume on Pandora. I love it for training but also keep track of my annual mileage and map rides

pfunkallstar
03-13-2012, 09:11 AM
I would really appreciate a wiki on this. I've been commuting for a long time but I'm sure there are some magic pro tips to be unearthed.

Certifried
07-24-2012, 09:36 AM
So, yeah, searched this up and I know it's a few months old, but I'm sort of an IT guy (16+ years). I've got quite a bit of experience with wikis and stuff, so I'd really like to get this going :)

KelOnWheels
07-24-2012, 10:33 AM
Let's do it! I've done a bit of wiki modding, shouldn't be too hard to set up.

Greenbelt
07-24-2012, 10:54 AM
I got some nice comments back from a couple people, some of which I used and others of which I sort of lost (sorry about that).

In the meantime, I posted a slightly edited version on the shop website under "Commuting Tips." I haven't figured out how to make the in-page jumplinks, but will do eventually...

http://www.proteusbicycles.com/jeffs-commuting-tips/

Certifried
07-24-2012, 10:59 AM
Yeah, and in looking around the web, I've found a LOT of great information out there. Pretty much all the questions are answered, so maybe something like just a list of links might suffice.