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View Full Version : Some basic tips for BTWD -- feel free to pile on more thoughts or argue with these!



Greenbelt
05-16-2013, 12:23 PM
Comfort

Padded shorts are a must for longer rides. Most bike seats (usually called "saddles") aren't very comfy. A simple way to help prevent a sore butt is to use padded shorts (the pad is called the "chamois"). Note, try not to "sit" on your saddle when riding, but rather use it as a "perch" more than a resting place.

Saddles come in different bottom sizes and shapes. Note, just because you have a big rear on the outside doesn't necessarily mean you have wide "sit" bones and need a wide saddle. It varies person to person.

Finally, if you're prone to chafing (this is especially an issue if you ride in heavy rain or when it's really hot and sweaty out), there's a product called Chamois Butt'r that works miracles. Apply to potentially affected parts and glob it directly on the chamois too. It feels gooey and fun!

If you don't like the look of riding in tight padded shorts, just wear another pair of shorts over the top. The spandex-under-gym-shorts look is cool.

Carrying Stuff

Backpacks are easiest. Many commuters use "panniers," which are essentially saddlebags, although you don't mount them on the saddle, of course, but on a "rack" either behind your seat above the rear tire (best) or in front of your bike above the front tire (careful -- it can be a little wobbly with lots of weight in the front). There are also basic baskets and crates that can be mounted pretty easily, especially if you have a rack. Be careful they don't interfere with your pedal stroke or bike handling.

Bike "jerseys" (shirts with pockets in the back) are really handy for carrying small stuff: wallet, keys, phone, snacks, sunscreen.

Flat Repair

Flat tires are a fact of life for urban commuters, especially if you run narrow, higher-pressure tires. Most bike tires are marked something like 700x35, which is the diameter and width in millimeters. Some commuter and most mountain bike tires are marked in inches, usually 26" by 1.5" or something like that. Sometimes 29" by something. So jot down your tire size and get a spare tube or two in that size.

I prefer to carry a portable air pump, which mounts on my bike's "frame." Some riders use CO2 cartridges to re-inflate after fixing a flat tire, but that can be tricky if you've never tried before.

On BTWD, it's almost a sure bet that someone will be around to help you fix a flat if you need it. But if you're planning to commute every day, it's a good idea to practice. There are lots of videos on the web that show how.

Water and Food

Do not underestimate the amount of water you'll need, even on a cool day. Bring at least one water bottle if your commute is more than a couple miles, and two if it's more than 10. Water bottles fit in "caddies" attached to your bike's frame, and can also be carried in your back jersey pockets. I dislike processed energy bars, but it's better to have one handy than to "bonk" (suddenly run out of energy) when cycling. Of course, BTWD pitstops will have fruit, bagels etc.

Rain

BTWD goes on rain or shine. If it rains, you'll get wet. That's not a problem for you, since you can get a shower or wipe up at work, but it can be bad for your work clothes, work shoes, laptop, if you're caught in a sudden rainstorm. So put them in plastic grocery bags if there's a chance of rain and you suspect your backpack or panniers aren't waterproof.

dasgeh
05-16-2013, 12:41 PM
Great list, though I worry it makes riding sound more complicated then it is. I would edit to say:

Seats:

For rides under 3 miles (or so), any seat is ok. Once you're on the bike longer, you're going to want a more comfortable seat (also called a saddle). It may be counterintuitive, but a more comfortable saddle is actually harder, and is fitted to your bum. Note, just because you have a big rear on the outside doesn't necessarily mean you have wide "sit" bones and need a wide saddle. Also, try not to "sit" on your saddle when riding, but rather use it as a "perch" more than a resting place.

On these harder saddles, you'll want to wear padded shorts or underwear. You can wear gym shorts, cute skirts or similar over padded shorts or underwear if you want a different look. You don't wear normal panties/boxers/briefs/tighty whities under padded shorts or underwear. If you're prone to chafing (this is especially an issue if you ride in heavy rain or when it's really hot and sweaty out), there's a product called Chamois Butt'r that works miracles. Apply to potentially affected parts and glob it directly on the chamois too. It feels gooey and fun!

Carrying Stuff

Any bag will work, but you don't want it to shift around when you're on the bike. Backpacks are easiest. Messenger bags work too, and good ones have an extra strap to keep them from moving around. Whatever you plan to use, ride around for a minute with it on the bike to make sure it doesn't get in your way.

Many commuters use "panniers," which are essentially saddlebags, although you don't mount them on the saddle, of course, but on a "rack" either behind your seat above the rear tire (best) or in front of your bike above the front tire (careful -- it can be a little wobbly with lots of weight in the front). There are also basic baskets and crates that can be mounted pretty easily, especially if you have a rack. Be careful they don't interfere with your pedal stroke or bike handling.

Bike "jerseys" (shirts with pockets in the back) and handlebar bags are really handy for carrying small stuff: wallet, keys, phone, snacks, sunscreen.

Flat Repair

Flat tires are a fact of life for urban commuters, especially if you run narrow, higher-pressure tires. Have a plan for if you get a flat. This plan can include knowing where the nearest bus stops are (you can always take a bike on local buses), having a cell phone and a friend who can pick you up, and/or carrying a small kit to repair a flat (tube, patch kit, air).

For the tube, most bike tires are marked something like 700x35, which is the diameter and width in millimeters. Some commuter and most mountain bike tires are marked in inches, usually 26" by 1.5" or something like that. Sometimes 29" by something. So jot down your tire size and get a spare tube or two in that size.

For the air, I prefer to carry a portable air pump, which mounts on my bike's "frame" or can go into a backpack/bag. Some riders use CO2 cartridges to re-inflate after fixing a flat tire, but that can be tricky if you've never tried before.

You can put a flat tire repair kit in your backpack/bag, but many people put it in a little bag that fits under the saddle.

On BTWD, it's almost a sure bet that someone will be around to help you fix a flat if you need it. But if you're planning to commute every day, it's a good idea to practice. There are lots of videos on the web that show how.

Water and Food

Do not underestimate the amount of water you'll need, even on a cool day. Bring at least one water bottle if your commute is more than a couple miles, and two if it's more than 10. Water bottles fit in "caddies" attached to your bike's frame, and can also be carried in your back jersey pockets. I dislike processed energy bars, but it's better to have one handy than to "bonk" (suddenly run out of energy) when cycling. Of course, BTWD pitstops will have fruit, bagels etc.

Rain

BTWD goes on rain or shine. If it rains, you'll get wet. That's not a problem for you, since you can get a shower or wipe up at work, but it can be bad for your work clothes, work shoes, laptop, if you're caught in a sudden rainstorm. So put them in plastic grocery bags if there's a chance of rain and you suspect your backpack or panniers aren't waterproof.

mstone
05-16-2013, 12:45 PM
Padded shorts are a must for longer rides.

There are very few commutes of a length that even a relatively uncomfortable saddle "requires" padded shorts. (And with a comfortable saddle like a well-broken-in brooks, even a truly long ride doesn't "require" an added pad.) What is required is clothing that does not chafe or bind (watch for seams!) and, ideally, handles moisture well. (Wicking it away rather than turning into an uncomfortable clingy mess.) Bike-specific padded shorts happen to provide those features, but I think it's a mistake to suggest that people have to buy them in order to ride a bike.

Note that even with padded shorts, riding a bike will hurt your bottom if you're not used to it. The only solution is to ramp up slowly and just keep at it.

DismalScientist
05-16-2013, 12:56 PM
While I don't necessary disagree with any of the suggestions, I wouldn't take any of them too seriously if I were a newcomer to BTWD.
I am an experienced commuter with a 7 mile trip each way. I wear regular work clothes and not bike shorts. I generally don't carry anything, but if I did, I would throw on a backpack. I don't carry anything to repair flats, although I know how to change one. I don't carry any food or water.

Most commutes are in an urban area and buses are nearby. If I were to need water or food, I would simply stop at a store and get some. (Of course, I wouldn't hesitate to carry water if I thought I needed it, but my commute only takes 30 minutes.) If I get a flat, I just put my bike on a bus and fix it at home. If it rains and I want to limit how wet I get, I'll just put the bike on the bus. (Remember to check the radar before leaving work--you can try to time your commute to avoid the rain.)

It may be good to do a few trial runs where you are not under time pressure to determine the best route and what equipment, if any, to carry. Over time, you will learn what works for you. I think it is best not to worry too much before starting to commute by bike. After all, one advantage of commuting by bike is the lack of stress that your commute causes.

baiskeli
05-16-2013, 12:58 PM
I am an experienced commuter with a 7 mile trip each way. I wear regular work clothes and not bike shorts. I generally don't carry anything, but if I did, I would throw on a backpack. I don't carry anything to repair flats, although I know how to change one. I don't carry any food or water.

Most commutes are in an urban area and buses are nearby. If I were to need water or food, I would simply stop at a store and get some. (Of course, I wouldn't hesitate to carry water if I thought I needed it, but my commute only takes 30 minutes.) If I get a flat, I just put my bike on a bus and fix it at home. If it rains and I want to limit how wet I get, I'll just put the bike on the bus. (Remember to check the radar before leaving work--you can try to time your commute to avoid the rain.)

Well, you are an economist.

dasgeh
05-16-2013, 01:01 PM
While I don't necessary disagree with any of the suggestions, I wouldn't take any of them too seriously if I were a newcomer to BTWD.

Great point. I would change the intro to something like "Tips for regular bike commuting" -- you don't need to follow these for one-off BTWD, but as you discover you love it and want to make it a regular thing, these are some good ideas.

scott930
05-16-2013, 01:07 PM
Note that even with padded shorts, riding a bike will hurt your bottom if you're not used to it. The only solution is to ramp up slowly and just keep at it.

The only solution is to get out of that saddle, and ATTACK! between stoplights for the entire commute.

baiskeli
05-16-2013, 01:14 PM
The only solution is to get out of that saddle, and ATTACK! between stoplights for the entire commute.

Why stop at stoplights?

DismalScientist
05-16-2013, 01:20 PM
Why stop at stoplights?

You forgot you sarcasm smiley.:rolleyes:

TwoWheelsDC
05-16-2013, 01:56 PM
If you're going to change at work, don't forget underwear. Every other consideration is secondary.

baiskeli
05-16-2013, 02:52 PM
You forgot you sarcasm smiley.:rolleyes:

Oh, yeah, sarcasm. Yeah, right. If you say so.

dasgeh
05-16-2013, 03:18 PM
If you're going to change at work, don't forget underwear. Every other consideration is secondary.

You're not a true bike commuter til you've gone commando at work.

vvill
05-16-2013, 03:39 PM
I had one of those mornings today. Running late. Halfway to the trail I realized I forgot my wallet/keys/ID/etc, luckily my wife hadn't left for pre-school yet. Arrived at work and realized I had no underwear to change into. Etc.

Terpfan
05-16-2013, 03:46 PM
I would add, if you're not sure about something and on these forums, then just ask your question. People are great here about providing earnest advice and opinions. Similarly, on the trails, if something goes wrong during commuting (unlikely on just one trip, but hey, if you're biking to work once, why stop?) then more often than not a fellow cyclist will saying something like "are you alright" often shortened to "alright?" If you're not, just say so. People will stop and help you if they can or point you in the right direction. And enjoy it all--you will likely pace auto traffic, have amazing views, and appreciate everything around you a little more.

Greenbelt
05-16-2013, 04:17 PM
... luckily my wife hadn't left for pre-school yet.

Your wife is in pre-school?

vvill
05-16-2013, 08:22 PM
Heh, no, but my 4 year old just isn't very steady behind the wheel yet.

Mikey
05-16-2013, 09:29 PM
Remember, if it is your first time, or your 400,000th time if you ride your bike to work you are a BADASS, period. You will look over at all of the cars stuck in traffic and have a sense of superiority, because you are, well, superior to them. And if the cars are not stuck in traffic, it's becuase so many cars were taken off the road by your fellow BADASS bike commuters. Just remember, wait in the line at lights.