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  1. #1
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    Commuting Newb

    Hey guys, I just got a new job in Charlotte NC, and Im looking to start commuting. I have a few questions though. Depending on which route I take it will be a minimum of 15 miles and max of 20. Is this completely unreasonable? Should I consider driving part way and then biking the rest. I would have a road bike and be traveling on the roads (obviously). Unfortunately there are not real bike paths in the area that I know of. I am in decent shape, but really only been riding for about 6 months now, and most of that has been mtbing so im not exactly used to traffic etc. Any thoughts or other tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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    Congrats on the new job....

    As for commuting, 15 to 20 miles is totaly reasonable. As you are just starting out though you may want to ease into it a bit. Plan on commuting on the bike every other day for a while. Then work more bike days in as you get used to it. A few things that I would suggest.

    Become very familiar with local traffic laws concerning bikes. Traffic laws vary WIDELY from State to State and even from city to city when it comes to bikes. I've lived in places where cyclists were considered pedestrians and where they were considered a vehicle, where it was legal to use sidewalks and where it wasn't. You need to KNOW what rules you must follow. The City most likely has a website with this information on it. I'd look into it carefully. It can save some hassles along the way.

    I'd also suggest driving your proposed routes the first few days to get a "feel" for them. You can learn allot about a route from the traffic flow, number of vehicles on the road, traffic light timing, driver moods, etc., by driving the routes. Pay attention to what intersections are "choke points" for vehicle traffic, they'll be even more so for you. If here are serious back ups during the rush hour along your route, it makes for some really crabby drivers, and can be rather hair raising and dangerous for anyone on a bike. You may also find some alternate routes, or additions to the routes that you are considering that will make them safer. Just make sure that you prioritize the "safety" of the route. I'd rather ride an extra few mintues on a safer longer route than expose myself to increased risk. When it comes to bike vs. car, car ALWAYS wins!

    Take spares! Spare tubes, an inflation device, and basic tools just like you would for an off road ride. Flats happen and mechanicals occur even on the road. So spare tubes, a couple of SRAM power links, or shimano pins and a spare chain link or two, mini chain tool, tire lever or mini tool are a really good idea.

    Leave EARLIER than you need to. First you'll want time to cool off, clean up, and (if you wear cycling clothes) to change into your work clothes. Plus leaving a tad bit earlier than you need to gives you some cushion time should you have a flat or a mechanical on the way.

    WEAR BRIGHTLY COLORED HIGHLY VISIBLE CLOTHING!!! I know that bright colors are not "cool" anymore. Earth tones etc. are the in colors even for cycling clothing. But for a commuter on a bike subdued colors are asking to get hit. Bright orange, yellow, green, red, blue, etc. are what you need, at least for your jersey or shirt, and any outer layers. The key is don't blend in, stand out! Your shorts or pants can be whatever color you can get or like, but your upper body should be swathed in the brightest most offensive colors you can find. This is one time that you WANT people to notice your lack of fashion sense!

    And finally. I there is a chance that you could be commuting during hours of reduced visibility (notice I didn't limit it to just darkness) don't forget the LIGHTS! There are many red LED lights for the rear available, get one! Most have serveral different modes of operation, but they boil down to a constant on or a blinking pattern. The way you use them is your choice. There are also the same type of white LED lights for the front, but they don't produce allot of "useable" light. They're great for visibility, but don't allow you to see much. If you're entire route is pretty well lit, then one of these is fine. But if you have dark areas on your route YOU need to be able to see as well. For that type of situation I would recommend a good MTB light intended for night riding off road. You'll be seen and be able to see as well.

    Anything else is either pretty much personal choice, or regionally or situationally dictated. Things like how to carry clothing, lunch, etc. What additional protective clothing you should carry, rain jacket or the like are dependant on what type of weather you are likely to encounter and so on. Do keep in mind that the weather person is NOT always right!

    So welcome to the commuting community, and have fun!

    Good Dirt
    "I do whatever my Rice Cripsies tell me to!"

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by dinkirk
    Hey guys, I just got a new job in Charlotte NC, and Im looking to start commuting. I have a few questions though. Depending on which route I take it will be a minimum of 15 miles and max of 20. Is this completely unreasonable? Should I consider driving part way and then biking the rest. I would have a road bike and be traveling on the roads (obviously). Unfortunately there are not real bike paths in the area that I know of. I am in decent shape, but really only been riding for about 6 months now, and most of that has been mtbing so im not exactly used to traffic etc. Any thoughts or other tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
    Route selection is going to depend a lot on what the roads/streets are like between home and the workplace. The best route for bike commuting is not necessarily be the same way you'd go by car.

    If you're not used to riding in traffic, I'd strongly suggest seeking out and taking one of the League of American Bicyclists' "Road I" classes, which are advertised under various labels. You can find scheduled classes and/or qualified instructors here: http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/e...e_schedule.php . There's also a specific Commuting follow-on class to Road I which would be helpful in picking a route and packing your stuff.

    Try riding your route first on a weekend or off day to make sure it'll work for you, and see if there are better alternatives.

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Squash
    And finally. I there is a chance that you could be commuting during hours of reduced visibility (notice I didn't limit it to just darkness) don't forget the LIGHTS!
    I just want to second this. Last night I was out late on the way to the weight-room when all of a sudden an unlit cyclist materialized in the parking lot. He wasn't exactly in front of me where I would have hit him, but it was surprising how invisible he was until he was suddenly there in my headlights.

    By contrast, my partner and I were returning home before dawn this morning from an ambulance run. It was still dark out, and from a good mile or more away we saw this funny, blinking white light. Sure enough, it was a cyclist going, well, beats me where s/he was going, because we were a long way from anywhere, but at least the person was visible. S/he was on the correct side of the road too.

    That white light was just one of those inexpensive LED things that snap onto your bars, but it did the job.

  5. #5
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    Wow thanks a lot for the great response! One thing I wanted to clarify is that the 15-20 miles is one way, so it would be a total of 30-40 miles round trip. Like I said i havent riden road much before, but it seems like that would still be doable. Especially like you said if I did every other day or something along those lines. Anyway, thanks for the great advice!

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    If you're in good shape, that would be a long, but doable commute. Road rides are much less strenuous than off-road.

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    The distance is going to likely hurt a bit, if so, do the drive halfway thing to work up to the distance, and be sure to rest at least one day out of every seven.

    Ride very carefully for the first little while...

    Closely examine your route and determine all the possible dangers..

    Make changes to the route to avoid the dangers...for example how you approach a particular intersection etc.

    For the dangers you can't avoid, make plans to mitigate the dangers...

    Once you get this done you really will be a lot safer, when you ride a route that you haven't "safed", again be very careful and start the process all over again.

    I have a whole bunch of routes now that I have safed and feel very comfortable with.

  8. #8
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    It depends on a few things like if you can change clothes at work, and how hilly your route is. If you are not accustomed to 20 mile rides, drive half way. It will still benefit you and the enviroment. I live 21 miles from work but I rarely have time for 4 hours of bike commuting.
    "I don't suffer from insanity!I rather enjoy it."

  9. #9
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    wow 4 hours of commuting? that was my next question is how long would yall expect a 15 mile commute to take? Thanks!

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    15 miles = 1 hr 15 mins TOPS!!! If not, you need to modify your gear slightly.

  11. #11
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    1hr and 10-15 mins sounds about right, at least on a geared bike.

  12. #12
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    mine is 16.5 miles. on ss road bike, i usually do it in between 50 minutes and 1 hr. on my ss mtb with knobbies, usually between 1 hr and 1 hr 20 minutes.

  13. #13
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    dinkirk,

    congratulations, i think youll really enjoy commuting. 15 miles is definately doable. i commute 23 each way most (if not all days) here in socal. i would expect it to take a little over an hour at first (if youre not used to it) but after a month or two i think you would easily be able to do it in under an hour.

    one thing to consider is a route with fewer stop lights. stop lights can add a lot to a commute if you miss a bunch of them. here in socal i have found that they are not timed for bike traffic. if i miss one, i miss them all. the other day it took me an hour and a half instead of an hour and 10 or 15 minutes.
    Let The Good Times Roll

  14. #14

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    http://www.ncdot.org/transit/bicycle/

    This is North Carolina's Pedestrian and Bicycle page. They have bike laws and bicycle routes.

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