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  1. #1
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    Commute Help for a NEWBIE.

    hey.

    Recent change in employment circumstances, the price of fuel in NZ ($2.15 a litre) & the dire state of traffic congestion in Auckland has forced my hand and I am about to start commuting to and from work each day - 25kms (15 miles) each way.

    75% of the commute will be on designated bike paths and quite flat. I'm pretty much a Roadie (sorry ) so my fitness is good.
    I'm going to use my MTB (Giant Anthem) as the commuter. The full sus will help my aging back problem and make the ride a bit more plush. If I use my road rig - I'll thrash myself and try to chase every one down who passes me : ( yeah, I'm a roadie remember )

    OK - so i've swapped out the knobby tyres for some slicks, charged up all my lights, bought some more lights, bought a flouro pack cover, bought a pack liner to keep the contents of my pack dry. I have a pump of course, spear tubes, co2 canister levers etc.

    I have ridden the route today to see how long it takes (around an hour at a nice cruisey pace)
    I'm gonna be doing this 5 days a week - do you regular commuters put anything in your drink bottles other than water? - I know an hour isn't much, but I need to be sharp at work. What about calories? - should I look to increase during the day or eat more at breakfast - I'll eat breakfast before the commute. I usually pack my lunch but thinking I should up the calories to accommodate the commute.

    Yeah, so my roadie time is on hold as I will be getting 2 x 1 hour sessions each day which isn't ideal, but is still ok. When things settle i'll look to get out on the roadie for a long ride in the w/e - but only when I feel like it and the body has adjusted to the daily commute.

    Ok - are there any other pearls of wisdom you fine folk can throw my way? It's the end of summer here in NZ, mornings are a bit chilly but low to mid 20's during the day (celsius). I have plenty of riding kit for all weather. Rain is a bit of an issue as I usually hit the the wind trainer if it rains. I'm gonna try and ride in all weather, but public transport is my Plan B.

    Look forward to hearing what you have to say.

    Cheers,
    JRS.

  2. #2
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    Welcome to the fold. Eat a normal small breakfast before your ride, then you'll probably want another good snack when you get to the office. You'll probably be hungry throughout the day, so make sure you have stuff available. It sounds like you've got a good plan figured out, so give it a whirl and make adjustments from there. Ride safe and enjoy!

  3. #3
    weirdo
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    Hey, Jackrabbit! My commute ranges from 13 minutes (nice weather, skiniest tires and shorts) to about 25 minutes (bundled up, studded tires, crap conditions), so I don`t even take a bottle. No help, sorry. BUT....
    ...if you proimise to post up some pics of that awesome scenery you guys have hidden away down there, I`ll feed you a line of BS and invent some advice for you .
    Deal?

  4. #4
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    Hi there, nice to hear from another part of the world, keeps it interesting. Do you have a place you can leave some clothes and shoes at work, and to change when you get there? I find this a lot easier than carrying it. I usually just carry bike stuff, lunch, and breakfast, and any alternate bike clothes I think I might need for the ride home in a small daypack.

    I'm not crazy about rain, but I think putting wet stuff back on later is worse, so maybe leave some dry shorts at work too. Several changes of crumpled newspaper helps the shoes dry out.

    Clear or light colored sunglasses, or the self-darkening ones can be good for protecting your eyes from dust, road ick, etc. without making it too dark at the beginning/end of the day.

    If the path is popular with runners, walkers, etc., a bell might be helpful.

    I don't bother with water on the bike for winter commutes, but try to drink more at work, sometimes with a packet of emergen-c powder (vit C, etc.) to ward off colds. In summer I usually use just water on commutes. If I am riding the whole way (22 mi, usually only on nice days), it helps to have something else to eat before I leave work, and/or some gatorade. Usually I combine the ride with the bus and only do 15 mi round trip.

    Is security an issue where you will park your bike? If so, get a good lock - you might be able to leave it at work rather than tote it back and forth.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the prompt, informative replies -

    Yip - I'm all sorted at work with a shower and somewhere to store all my stuff - I'll keep some towels and toiletries there and swap out as i need. We have a designated, secure bike storage area as well.

    Putting wet clothes back on is an issue so thanks for the advice on extras at work - I might take a an extra bib and some sox.......newspaper in the wet shoes works a treat also!

    I have a few glasses options from all my roadie kit - I have a clear lens for the morning and a darker option for the evening ride home.

    I think I'll up the snacks that I take to work and eat more during the day.......I'm a real morning person, so the early ride in the dark is not an issue, the ride home after a long day could be the killa!

    All in all - I'm pretty enthusiastic about the whole deal and looking forward to the more regular riding -

    Sorry mate - no pics to post of this place (not sure how to do that) - we are spoilt down here, but unfortunately, Auckland is just becoming another heaving big nasty city with all the perils associated! 10 more years here - then I'm out!!

    Thanks once again - Cheers.

  6. #6
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    My commute ranges from a hilly 4 km ride with 92m climb over the last 800m (the climb kicks my butt every time) to a nearly flat 15km ride with 60m climb over 3 to 4 km. I am riding a hybrid with 700x42 tires for what it's worth. The 4km ride takes me about 20 minutes and the 15 km ride about 55 minutes.

    If I take any water with me, I usually take my 750ml bottle and really only drink when I'm stopped at a traffic light or stop to take a break. I might put a pinch of salt in the water, not enough to really taste it, or sometimes a bit of fresh lemon juice for flavor. About 70% of the time, it's just plain tap water though. I do have a hiking pack with a 3L reservoir that I use sometimes but I really only fill the bladder about halfway and that's plenty for my ride. My hiking pack is about 30L cargo capacity, so while it's not huge, it is quite bulky.

    Camelbak 750ml bottle


    As far as caffeine goes, I might have a small coffee or espresso beverage, not more than 12 oz (approx 350ml) of coffee or 2 shots of espresso, in the morning or a soda for lunch, but typically not both if I'm riding that day. I ensure I drink lots of water afterwards to make up for the caffeine induced water loss.
    Last edited by jseko; 03-12-2011 at 11:20 AM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by JackRabbitSlims
    ... Auckland is just becoming another heaving big nasty city with all the perils associated! 10 more years here - then I'm out!!
    Riding environment includes drivers unfortunately, where the bike paths end. The local culture and many other factors play a role in how well the road is shared. I had to keep upping the ante in visibility/conpsicuity until I hit the level where the "I did not see you" = "I did not look/look well enough". YMMV, NZ driving tests and enforcement may make it better and I hope it does. On the other hand, they let my brother get a license when he visited, so the standards can't be that tough. There was a recent thread on showing reflective bikes, and there is Another Comuuting Thread About Lights that may be worth your time. An ounce of prevention may be worth and arm and a leg but be a lot cheaper.

  8. #8
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    I think it's really nice to have a dedicated commuter. It doesn't need to be expensive. An old rigid MTB or late-80s road bike will do the job admirably. When the weather starts to get nastier, which is soon for you IIRC, you'll really want full fenders for wet days. It may not do all that much about hard rain, but it makes it much more comfortable to ride on wet pavement when it's just foggy or drizzling out. Installing full fenders on a racing bike is a PITA, and if you want to compete on it, you have to take them off (if I remember the rules correctly.) Full-suspension MTBs often can't accept off-the-shelf full fenders, and the ones that do fit don't do all that much.

    I wouldn't want to ride pavement for an hour on my mountain bike - I like drop bars for that long. But YMMV.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  9. #9
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    I just scanned the posts here so forgive if I duplicate.
    You will find a higher pressure tire like a 700c a big improvement for a moderate length commute. I did my commute on my hardtail MTB a few times and after I bought a commuter specific bike (770cx32 w/ disc brakes) I cut my travel time by about 20% and used much more of my pedaling energy for speed rather than turning big soft tires.
    Is there any chance of using your main or trainer road bike with a backpack?

  10. #10
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    Yeah - there is a chance of getting back to the road rig in the future.

    The decision to roll the MTB with slicks is that I have been rehabilitating a lower back problem and full sus is a bit more forgiving on my body right now.

    I've ridden the route once, and TBH, I quite like the more upright, cruisey, riding style on the MTB.

    I'll see how things go this week and can make adjustments as I need them - nothing is set in stone and I imagine I'll need to tweak a few things in my set up to accommodate the commute.

    My biggest problem right now is getting home in time for my Yoga & Pilates classes each night -

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by JackRabbitSlims
    ...I've ridden the route once, and TBH, I quite like the more upright, cruisey, riding style on the MTB.
    Upright on the bike I stand out a lot better, and can see/be seen over a lot of traffic. You can get a tacking effect with partial cross winds, too with subtle changes in body angle (your back may not allow this). A true tailwind and you are a sail! I still have drops for wind but they aren't low: about tops height of a normally positioned road bar for when the wind has me climbing grades into it in my lowest ratio.

    BTW all this about Japan. How're things with you and yours after the quake NZ had?

  12. #12
    I Ride for Donuts
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    My commuter is a 29er with drop bars... don't be afraid to experiement a lot with bike set-up.

    My shortest-route commute is just under 6 miles (20 minutes on a good day). I don't eat or drink anything before the ride, and generally have something light and some coffee 1st thing when I get to work.

    Once a week I have an 18 mile ride after work. (my house doesn't move...long story) Anyway some days I forget the water bottle because I don't use it from home to work, so I'm forced to tank up on water before I leave on the 18 mile ride. It makes a huge difference to just drink a ton of liquid before you set out. I rarely get thirsty over the 18 miles when I do this.
    You have no excuse for driving to work
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    (no excuse for that either)

  13. #13
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    Thanks once again for the great comments.

    @BrianMc - Yeah the earthquake has really rocked NZ (no pun intended) - it is the 2nd one to hit Christchurch in less than a year, but the latest one has taken many lives and basically leveled a large pat of the city. I have friends and family there and they are all ok......but the place will never ben the same. Some folks have just decided to move away if they can.

    I'm in Auckland - so miles away, but something like this affects the whole country and the trickle down with regards to the economy, food prices, unemployment levels etc is a concern.

    Pales in comparison to what is happening in Japan - how will they ever recover from this?? Is hard to watch or read about, but you can't just ignore it.

    OK - gotta go make my lunch then hit then get pedaling.

    have a great day!

  14. #14
    Squeaky Wheel
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    Lot's of good advice. I'll just add a few things that I have learned as a full-time bike commuter (over 10,000 km of very hilly commuting miles in 2010):

    1. Riding in the rain is not that big of a deal if you have the right gear for it. That means fenders, shoes, pants, jacket and gloves. If you really want to ride year-round, invest in a pair of winter riding boots. I wear Lake's, but there are many others. Winter riding boots will keep your feet warm and dry on the way in and more importantly on the way home. Expensive but worth it. I am partial to the Showers Pass jackets and pants. I count 14 rain rides so far in 2011 (I live near Seattle in the Northwest part of the USA, it's a little wet here in the winter), and honestly I don't think twice about gearing up and going out in the rain.

    2. Even with good gear, if you are out in the rain for any appreciable time, your gear will get wet. Ask your company if there is a place for a rack where you can hang your gear to dry during the day. At my company, we put a hanging rack in an unused, very undesirable office that was just sitting empty, and we put a fan in there to blow air on the hanging clothes to dry them out faster.

    3. If your back is a problem, you might want to think about dumping the backpack. Especially if you are going to ride full-time. A rack/trunkbag-pannier system is a lot easier on the body. Of course if you are going to ride a full-suspension bike, a rack may be a bit of a challenge - there are seat-post mounted options which you can put a trunk bag on, but they make panniers difficult.

  15. #15
    I Ride for Donuts
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    I would love some winter riding boots.... my ride gets down in the single digits, sometimes negatives, and I've been able to get buy for 6 winters now with $30 shimano SPD shoes that I got on sale in 1999 and some neoprene socks from pricepoint. The only time I've wished for some killer goretex cycling boots is when I'm hiking up my dirt road in 8 inches of fresh snow because there's ice underneath and no traction to be had. Killer equipment is nice, but you can get by.
    You have no excuse for driving to work
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    (no excuse for that either)

  16. #16
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    Very thrifty, CB, only 50 cents/toe/year, assuming you still have ten.

  17. #17
    Squeaky Wheel
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    The Lake Boots are actually leather, not gortex, and while they do keep your feet warm in low temps, I think they really shine for riding in wet conditions. I've tried several different types of shoe covers over my regular riding shoes, and none have performed nearly as well as the Lake boots in the rain.

    Heck you could ride in sneakers if you just want to get by. I ride almost every day, year round, and think that dry feet are worth a couple hundred extra bucks. But, to each their own !

  18. #18
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    @Woodway.

    Thanks for the advice - I have taken a look at the Lake Boots and they look like something I would consider when the weather gets rough.

    Any other tips for wet weather riding?
    I have a pack cover and a dry sack to wrap the contents of my pack in, A good gortex jacket. etc I haven't seen Neoprene sox before - any recommendations?

    Do you place a cover over your helmet??
    Can you recommend good gloves also???

    Thanks

  19. #19
    I Ride for Donuts
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    It's funny where I skimp and where I spend... I've commuted on a $2000 bike in my cold $30 shoes, wishing I had the money for killer winter shoes. I'm a die hard too, I'm out there in nasty winter storms, and I like my feet. I really should spring for some killer shoes.

    It's been raining for a few days around here... my shoes are under my desk drying out right now. But I am wearing the socks I rode in, thanks to my Gator neoprene socks. They're these ones:
    http://www.pricepoint.com/detail/189...nder-Socks.htm
    but I have the older generation...slightly different, and slightly thicker I think. They were absolutely killer for about 2 winters for dealing with the slush/rain/snow...I wear them over my normal socks, and then wear the normal socks all day...I never worried about my socks or feet getting wet.
    During winter 3 I started to notice that the ankle area (facing the wind/rain, flexing with every pedal stroke, and getting all the runoff from my waterproof pants) was starting to let some water in. They are still very warm and windproof, but I wouldn't call them 'waterproof' anymore. 2.5 years is a pretty good run though. Today, for example, it was a fairly light but consistent rain, and I had a quarter-sized wet spot on each inner sock right at the front of the ankle. Not bad. This is year 4 with the neoprene socks. The disadvantage is that your shoes get nasty compared to using shoe covers.

    I wear a thin beanie and the hood of a waterproof jacket under my helmet. I'm not a fan of helmet covers.

    I have pearl izumi lobster gloves for the cold (they're miserably hot above about 25* F, so I've never worn them in the rain), and pear isumi windproof gloves for mid temps (25-38ish). These are the ones I wear in the rain most...they are not waterproof, but very resistant. the windproof-ness keeps them warm even if they're a bit wet. They dry fast, so they're ready for the trip home if they get wet on the way in.

    I have a North Face backpack that also used to be waterproof, but isn't quite anymore... I carry a couple of freezer-size ziplock baggies that I throw my phone, iPod, etc. into if it's really dumping. My tools and spare tube can get wet. It's still 'mostly' waterproof, so it's very rare that anything inside gets wet, but I don't want to risk it with my expensive electronics.
    You have no excuse for driving to work
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    (no excuse for that either)

  20. #20
    Squeaky Wheel
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    CB has some really good advice.

    When it gets really cold, or it's raining really, really hard (or both like this morning), I put on a pair of standard riding gloves and then slip Dakine snowboard mittens over the top. My hands stay warm AND dry. Takes a little getting used to shifting with mittens on, but doable.

    If it's raining lightly but still cold I wear Planet Bike Borealis gloves. I always have multiple pairs of gloves with me such that if a pair does get soaked, I can easily change to a dry pair.

    Once temps get to 50 or above, I just switch to standard riding glovves.

    I don't wear a helmet cover, I get overheated.

  21. #21
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    I've never tried a helmet cover, but I finally bought a cycling cap when I was getting rain all over my glasses a while ago. They help a lot, and since I'm in a pretty wet climate, I find that I wear that thing on almost every ride about eight months out of the year. It goes through the wash every week or two - otherwise it would get really gnarly.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  22. #22
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    I have some socks from Gore I wear over wool socks in cold weather. They are double layer, one I think is gore tex, but they are thin and "slippery", so they go into shoes easily. They look kind of baggy but seem to be comfy anyway. I've had them a long time, not sure if they still make them, but I'm sure someone does. Neoprene is warm but I find it too clammy for my tastes.

    I have used a helmet cover in the past, but it's not compatible with my helmet light. In a colder rain it was nice, or even to block more wind on cold days.

    I haven't found (or invested in) any truly waterproof gloves.

    We don't get as much rain as the NW, so when do ride in it I accept some soaking and just make sure I stay warm enough through some combo of riding, water resistant rainwear, and underlayers. I switch to more waterproof hiking pants and jacket if its really pouring, but the Showers Pass stuff sounds better.

  23. #23
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    @Woodway - Hey, I like the look of those Lake winter riding boots (also, I got soooo wet riding home last night I need to invest in some all weather riding kit) how do they size up??

    I mean, i wear anything from a 40 - 42.5 depending on the shoe brand (8 - 9.5 in US sizing) do the Lakes size large or small??

    I haven't seen them in NZ, but have found several good online prices that I like.

    Also - any ideas on getting fenders on a MTB??? I have a Giant Anthem and cant see and drill holes to take them.

    "Showers Pass" seems to be a popular brand on here.......any others you recommend - I need a good riding jacket.

    Cheers.

  24. #24
    I Ride for Donuts
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    The single best piece of equipment I've ever owned is my Mountain Hardwear softshell jacket. I'm not sure on your temperature ranges, so it may be a bit much, but softshell technology is where it's at in my opinion. I have a basic rain jacket too, because the softshell gets pretty warm in a warm rain, but it never ceases to amaze me how versitile and functional it is. Check out some softshell stuff. It's amazing.
    You have no excuse for driving to work
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    (no excuse for that either)

  25. #25
    Squeaky Wheel
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    Quote Originally Posted by JackRabbitSlims
    @Woodway - Hey, I like the look of those Lake winter riding boots (also, I got soooo wet riding home last night I need to invest in some all weather riding kit) how do they size up??
    They tend to run a little small. I would recommend getting at least a full size larger then you normally wear. For example, I usually wear a US size 10.5 and I bought 11.5 and they fit great.

    Quote Originally Posted by JackRabbitSlims
    Also - any ideas on getting fenders on a MTB??? I have a Giant Anthem and cant see and drill holes to take them.
    SKS makes a variety of fenders for mountain bikes.

    http://www.sks-germany.com/?l=en&a=products&r=mudguards

    Quote Originally Posted by JackRabbitSlims
    "Showers Pass" seems to be a popular brand on here.......any others you recommend - I need a good riding jacket.
    I am pretty happy with my Showers Pass jacket. I have the Double Century model, which is very lightweight, but still good in wet conditions.

    Good luck!

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