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  1. #1
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    20 mile commute, one way in the dark, bad idea?

    Hi everyone, Currently I own only one bike, a Trek Fuel EX 8, a full suspension trail bike, certainly not a good commuter. Last week I ordered a Scott Speedster S20 from the LBS and have been seriously considering biking to work, at least sometimes. I have two concerns:

    -20 miles each way, might be too long for someone new to the road/commuting
    -I work third shift, midnight - 9:00am, so I would be riding on windy roads in a wooded area in the dark. I do have a good light, NiteRider MiNewt X2 and an LED taillight, but I'm not convinced it's a good idea.

    I would like your honest opinions, would you do it?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    weirdo
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    Sure. If you`re concerned about the length, try it first in daylight on a day off and see how it goes. When you have a better idea how you fare with the ride, you`ll be able to guess how it`ll feel to bookend your the ride. Don`t forget there are also options to ride part way, ride only one direction, or only ride X days per week. Also, reflective anything and everything can`t hurt.
    Recalculating....

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar
    Sure. If you`re concerned about the length, try it first in daylight on a day off and see how it goes. When you have a better idea how you fare with the ride, you`ll be able to guess how it`ll feel to bookend your the ride. Don`t forget there are also options to ride part way, ride only one direction, or only ride X days per week. Also, reflective anything and everything can`t hurt.
    I don't have the option of public transportation, so one way isn't an option. I could do part way, but I'm not sure where I would leave my car, I wouldn't want to leave it in some random place that would invite thieves.

    I do plan on trying this route during the day and seeing how it goes. Just seeing what kinds of advice/opinions the commuting veterans had. Thanks!

  4. #4
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Some people do things like drive in to work one day, with their bike, ride home, ride to work the next day and drive home, etc. Or just commit to it on Tuesdays and Thursdays and drive the other days until you feel comfortable adding another day. 20 miles is a lot to start with, if you aren't already getting a fair amount of saddle time.

    Riding in the middle of the night is an odd and cool feeling. I'd be more worried about the ride home just after 9am.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  5. #5
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    Most of us have to ride in the dark at least 1 way at this time of year, and if you are prepared with good lights/reflectors, it doesn't have to be any more dangerous than daytime riding. It helps if the windy wooded road doesn't have too much traffic, allowing easier/safer passes by motorists. I would have more trouble with the 40 miles/day/everyday on top of the work schedule, but that's me. If you can find a suitable parking spot you could try it from 10 miles out or so at first. I would consider a friend's house, an all-night supermarket, a park-n-ride lot, a state police barracks, etc. as possibilities, but don't know if any of those work for you.

  6. #6
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    IMHO, riding in the dark is safer than riding during the day. A nice bright head/tail light is more easily seen in the dark and drivers tend to take more notice. And since your night-time commute is at midnight I bet there wouldn't be too much traffic at that time, which is even better. I commute at 7:30am and 5:30pm...unfortunately with everyone else in my town.
    "Got everything you need?"

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Straz85
    I don't have the option of public transportation, so one way isn't an option. I could do part way, but I'm not sure where I would leave my car, I wouldn't want to leave it in some random place that would invite thieves.

    I do plan on trying this route during the day and seeing how it goes. Just seeing what kinds of advice/opinions the commuting veterans had. Thanks!

    You are the only one that can answer the safety question.

    You need to develop a list of all the risks, and then consider how you can reduce or eliminate the risks.

    Then you need to develop plans on how you are going to respond if the risk develops into a real problem....

    Without stepping through that process you are just guessing.

    Secondly it will take a while for the body to get used to 20 miles/day, or 40 miles/day...

    Just slowly increase how often you ride....listen to your body.

    Also read up on how to train for biking.

  8. #8
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    Exactly what time would your commute be? I ask as the death hour is right around 2:00 am when the drunks start heading home at high rate of speed.

    In my opinion things start getting stupid around 9pm and get worse from there. On my morning commute - at least once a year I will find the skidmarks going straight into a tree, bouncing off - ending up in the middle of the road - with a nice roaring fire finish (scorched / melted asphalt). Hopefully that kind of activity continues to occur in the wee-hours.

    As noted, with a good light set-up - traffic tends to yield and slow down due to the unknown factor. I find during the early part of the dark season - motorists are completely confused, then after they get used to you for a month or so - they drive normal but still yield a bit more.

    It's a good practice to ride towards the middle of the road around the blind corners to improve sight angles - and then tuck in when the cars get nearer. Not too late of course, but enough so the cars know your there well in advance.

    20 miles should be pretty doable depending on the vertical gain etc.. Maybe an hour and 15 minutes after building a solid base.
    Last edited by Self Motivated; 11-04-2010 at 07:11 PM. Reason: It's yield dummy - not yeild

  9. #9
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    Thanks for all the responses! Sorry it took me so long to reply to my own thread.

    I completely agree that I'll need to train to get myself to the point where I can do 40 miles in a day. I'm hoping this is a mild winter so I can do some good training over the next few months. I'm also picking up a trainer, and maybe going to do some spinning this winter. I already ride my mountain bike 3-5 times a week most of the year, and maybe once a week in the winter, anywhere from 7-25 miles a day (usually the lower end of that), but of course committing to 40 miles is a whole different ballgame. I can't just say "ugh, I'm exhausted today, I'm heading back to the car now".

    I work midnight - 9:00am, so I would be leaving home between 10:00 and 10:30pm, depending how long I find it takes me to do that ride.

    I do have a good headlight setup, and a taillight, not sure how good it is, but I could get another. I don't have much reflective gear, but certainly would invest in some, I tend to be very safety conscious when I drive and mountain bike, so I don't see that changing on the road bike.

    Thanks again for the responses, you guys have been really helpful. Any more advice is appreciated.

  10. #10
    weirdo
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    Hey, Straz- I`m a 3rd shifter too. Usually 11 to 7.
    You are talking about a pretty long commute for biking no matter how you slice it, and you`re right that once you`re in it you`re in it and can`t easilly change your mind. But do keep in mind that road miles are easier than dirt miles and road tires are easier than knobbies. Again, when you give it a trial run you`ll be better able to judge for your own situation.

    You might google up what info you can on the Radbot 1000 blinkie taillight if you`re in the market. Next time I need one that`s what I`m going for. And for reflective gear, one of those road construction vests is really nice because you can wear the same vest over whatever clothes suit the weather as long as you get a big enough vest. Have a good one!
    Recalculating....

  11. #11
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    Get some good lights and take it slow. 40 miles RT is no joke of a commute. It's a real time commitment. My commute is 41 miles RT and when i first tried it a couple years ago I burned myself out by trying to add days too quickly.

    A bonus of a long commute is you can eat like a pig and still loose weight My wife hates it.

  12. #12
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    I do 17 miles each way, right now the way in is dark the whole way. In December its dark in both directions. I'm able to stay away from the busiest streets. Check this board for light ideas.

  13. #13
    One Colorful Rider
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    I Did 21 miles Thursday night in the Rain about 39 degrees
    just to catch a movie

    http://www.raceacrossthesky.com/


    ...No Problem Here

  14. #14
    Squeaky Wheel
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    I have been doing 18.5 hilly miles each way for two years. It was a struggle to do 2-3 days/week when I started, but now I can do 5 days/week no problem. You just have to stick with it.

    Check out Dinotte taillights. Lot's of headlight options (I run a Dinotte 800L), but Dinotte taillights are hands down the best.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodway
    Check out Dinotte taillights. Lot's of headlight options (I run a Dinotte 800L), but Dinotte taillights are hands down the best.
    I have not tested a Dinotte 140 against the Radbot 1000. I have however built two tailights to run off my 12 volt system that are each 100 lumens compared to the 140 for a single Dinotte. I think these DIYs are close enough to the Dinotte for me to submit a reinforcing endorsement as the best non-DIY tailight out there. When I looked it was about $140 with battery. (I have seen no comparisons with the MagicShine tail light so this comment may be subject to revision, but I don't think so. )

    Two Radbot 1000s at 25 lumens (after they use up the initial high voltage of recharged NiMH cells), were more competititve than I'd have thought compared to 200 lumens of the DIY tail lights. The Radbot's more focussed beam doesn't cover as wide a swath, so it does it almost as powerfully. Recently posted by an on-line retailer for about $21. So you could have 6 of them for the same money 150 lumens versus 140. (The come with Alkalines, so NiMH cesll and chrager are extra). Two do show up much better than one and give the impression of a single larger light at a distance.

    Another light than might interest you is the Light & Motion VIS 180. It is about the same output as a Radbot 1000 on fresh cells straight back and about 20% of that with an amber LED reflecting to each side. It is a self contained and power controlled Li-po powered light, so a bit more money at $100. If you can afford the Dinotte and like its class, then the VIS 180 might be the rear helmet light you want. If not, look at their VIS 360 setup, not as bright a rear light but way better than none.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrianMc
    I have not tested a Dinotte 140 against the Radbot 1000. I have however built two tailights to run off my 12 volt system that are each 100 lumens compared to the 140 for a single Dinotte. I think these DIYs are close enough to the Dinotte for me to submit a reinforcing endorsement as the best non-DIY tailight out there. When I looked it was about $140 with battery. (I have seen no comparisons with the MagicShine tail light so this comment may be subject to revision, but I don't think so. )

    Two Radbot 1000s at 25 lumens (after they use up the initial high voltage of recharged NiMH cells), were more competititve than I'd have thought compared to 200 lumens of the DIY tail lights. The Radbot's more focussed beam doesn't cover as wide a swath, so it does it almost as powerfully. Recently posted by an on-line retailer for about $21. So you could have 6 of them for the same money 150 lumens versus 140. (The come with Alkalines, so NiMH cesll and chrager are extra). Two do show up much better than one and give the impression of a single larger light at a distance.

    Another light than might interest you is the Light & Motion VIS 180. It is about the same output as a Radbot 1000 on fresh cells straight back and about 20% of that with an amber LED reflecting to each side. It is a self contained and power controlled Li-po powered light, so a bit more money at $100. If you can afford the Dinotte and like its class, then the VIS 180 might be the rear helmet light you want. If not, look at their VIS 360 setup, not as bright a rear light but way better than none.
    Here's a photobucket album showing steady-burn comparisons between several taillights, including the Radbot 1000 and the DiNotte 140: http://s240.photobucket.com/albums/f...Radbot%201000/ I would always use flashing mode in real life, the steady-burn test is simply to get approximate output comparisons.

    I think multiple taillights are a good idea. If the tips of your bars are fairly level to the ground, then bar-tip blinkies can be surprisingly effective. Trek markets some that take one AAA per side, so you can use rechargeables (and you'll want to, because they use up batteries fast): http://bontrager.com/model/06988

    Here's a twilight video that includes both the DiNotte 140 and the bar-tip lights:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDhwTV229E0

    I found some very good reflective tape, you might consider a stripe of red tape down the rear of each seatstay: http://www.night-gear.com/reflective...-reflexite-539 One of the great things about reflective tape, is that it's reflective from nearly any angle of attack, unlike plastic cube-corner reflectors. On my own road-commuter, I have to worry about oncoming traffic in the city too, so I added some of the silver V82 down my fork blades, down the underside of my downtube, and a pinstripe along the top tube. Blends in well on a silver bike:



    If your route calls for lots of side visibility anywhere, the FibreFlare light sticks are also worth considering. They're not cheap, but think how much you're saving on gasoline



    Reflective legbands are also very valuable... they move to attract the eye, the motion gives the right signal (oh, it's a cyclist or runner), plus they're down low where low-beams hit them strongly and they're visible from all directions.


    Oh, and on a practical note, make sure you're practiced in fixing mechanicals (flat tires, broken chain) and go prepare with a spare master link, at least a couple spare tubes and patch kit, a tire boot in case your tire gets seriously slashed, and it never hurts to have a second light so you can see what you're doing. And if it's wet in your area, figure out at least a rear fender, possibly an Apex: http://www.treefortbikes.com/product...der-Black.html

  17. #17
    Squeaky Wheel
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    Dinotte lights are expensive. But for your money you will get a very high quality light that will last for years, and you will get great service from the Dinottoe team. I own a 800L headlight and two 140L lights (taillight and daytime running light) and could not be any happier with them.

    I also own a Magicshine 900 headlight and one of the $30 Magicshine tailights that I bought through Geoman Gear. Magicshine is very inexpensive and has quality to match. In the last year I have had to replace one Magicshine battery (would not charge) and the tailight just stopped working about two weeks after I received it. Geoman Gear was fantastic with their service and shipped me warranty replacements for both.

    If you want high quality super reliable lights, go Dinotte and feel good about parting with the extra $$$ knowing your light won't let you down when you need it most.

    If reliability is not the highest priority for you and you want to save some $$$, go Magicshine. Many who have bought Magicshine report zero problems, so my experience may be atypical. And to be clear, when the light works they are great but my quality experience has been less then stellar.

    BTW - Geoman Gear has suspended sales of Magicshine batteries because of all the issues they have with them. No word on when they will start selling them again.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by mechBgon
    Here's a photobucket album showing steady-burn comparisons between several taillights, including the Radbot 1000 and the DiNotte 140 I would always use flashing mode in real life, the steady-burn test is simply to get approximate output comparisons.
    You were in the thick of discussions when the Planet Bike Superflash came out. So you bring a lot of experience for the OP. I found the output against the wall matches the lumens of output very well, as your photos also show. This is the effect you get on street signs behind you, while riding. It is really impressive. The Radbots sort of show, but the DIY 200 lumens do the same as the Dinotte here: they light the road up behind. When I ride the shoulder the 2 x 100 lumen lights, make the fog line red.

    The twilight video is much better for seeing what a following driver sees. It shows the bar ends look a lot closer to the other lights that their output suggests, in part because the more powerful lights have wider beams spreading that light (a good thing). That narrows the perceived brightness differences for following drivers.

    Thinking about it, the camera on the ground, low and to the right of the bike, is actually similar to the eye position of an SUV driver which is high and to the left of the bike, diagonal from the camera position, so likely, pretty close to what the driver would see. This is one of the few and best of this sort of video.

    The wider output of the more powerful lights helps with cars approaching from angles a lot.

    Quote Originally Posted by mechBgon
    I think multiple taillights are a good idea. If the tips of your bars are fairly level to the ground, then bar-tip blinkies can be surprisingly effective. Trek markets some that take one AAA per side, so you can use rechargeables (and you'll want to, because they use up batteries fast).
    For more evidence that two or more rear lights help, and for a driver's eye view try this post, first video. (The camera came with the built-in slant.)

    I get much better respect at night. The handle bar lights might get me more room in the day by getting them to provide safe distance to my bars, not my body mass.

    You can ride Ninja and survive, you can ride well-lit and reflectored and be hit, but the odds are in favor of the easy-to-be-seen.

  19. #19
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    My commute is about 18 miles each way. And living in europe I end up riding it in the dark BOTH ways through much of the winter. Here are my recommendations:

    1-Get GOOD lights both front and rear... and all sorts of blinky flashy shiny things.

    2-Do whatever you can to make your bike faster... better tires, slick tires as opposed to knobbies, lighter wheelset, less superfluous stuff. The weight etc. added makes much less difference for a 5 mile commute than it does for a 20 mile commute. As an example, my geared commuter, with fenders, rack panniers etc. that I ride when I have to carry a lot of stuff (clothes for the week etc.) takes me to work in about an hour and some change, and home in about an hour. When I don't have to haul anything my singlespeed road bike (much lighter, less stuff etc.) makes the same trip in about 40 minutes each way.

    3-It seems like a long distance at first, but you get used to it. After a while, when your fitness level goes up, you'll start taking the scenic route occasionally, just to get a better work out.

  20. #20
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    I do 18.5 each way, every other day this time of year. It's kind of hilly. 1200 feet there and at my place, but on the ride there are two big valleys that go from 700 to 1200 then back down. Not too bad, but a lot on my SS. I almost always ride home in the dark, and don't enjoy it at all because of how people drive on the back roads.

  21. #21
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    Lots of lights, both front and back and make sure you have spares. I have a 1 watt spare light on the bars, plus another in the bag, plus always have a couple of spare blinkies for the back. cheap lights are ok for spares, as long as you have good batteries. Another thing to keep in mind is battery life in cold weather. It is much shorter than in warm weather.....

  22. #22
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    Sounds awesome. I would do it.... I ride home night frequently in China..... dangerous as hell but awesome.

  23. #23
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    Over the summer i rode18.5 miles to work ( I work 2nd shift) an coming home i was worried bout the motorist not seeing me.

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