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Bike commuting questions(11 posts)

Bike commuting questionshardtail6
Sep 17, 2003 7:36 AM
Alright, so I have a nifty new/used gunnar 'cross bike I am building up for commuting, touring, and maybe racing. That's a whole other topic.

My ponderance is this. I have a 12-13 mile commute to work one way. I have to carry a laptop and change of close for the day. I live in Milwaukee area which means change of seasons in all their glory.

What suggestions are there for equipment and preparation? Keep in mind that I plan to ride every day I can... be it snow or freezing arse cold. I would like to get some of that equipment off my back because I am riding my roadie bike with everything in a backpack and it makes for a hard trip.

Thanks in advance.
Panniers, lights, fenders, and lots of wool. nmElvisMerckx
Sep 17, 2003 8:13 AM
re: Bike commuting questionsdugmn
Sep 17, 2003 8:24 AM
I put a rack and panniers on my bike last year, but I ended up taking them off because the bike felt so much heavier. I just wear a backpack on my 24 mile daily commute, but I drive in once a week to reload on clean clothes then pack them home one day at a time. Luckily we have showers and lockers where I work.

I have a Jandd expedition rack, the lighter duty Standard rack hit the back of my size 12 feet. I've got the Jandd Economy Panniers which are your basic lightweight bags. For waterproofing you may want to line them with a garbage bag. It was about $140 for the set, comes with a lifetime guarantee. They are at
as far as panniers go...floatch
Sep 17, 2003 8:34 AM
If you're even thinking of panniers, you have to check out Arkel Overdesign's site. I bought a set of XM-40 panniers a few years back, and they're unbelievable. I recommend them to everyone because they're bulletproof, totally waterproof, and built to last a lifetime plus some.
Also, Pam cooking spray works wonders in the wintertime if you're using clipless pedals. It somehow keeps snow from packing up on pedals and cleats.
One final suggestion for cold weather riding - try sandwich baggies on your toes before buying winter booties.

Good luck!
re: Bike commuting questionsctisevn
Sep 17, 2003 9:23 AM
definitely second the advice on the fenders and light(s). I used to commute year round in the twin cities when I lived there so I got the opportunity to "test" many methods of staying warm and dry. the biggest challenge for me was my feet/toes. I tried booties,plastic bags(subway sandwich bags), wool socks and had the most success with neoporene booties and neoprene socks combined with regular cycling socks. keeping your feet warm while still allowing them to breathe and wick moisture is very difficult. For a shorter ride, Id say platform pedals with powerstraps so you could wear a stiff sole hiking boot would be as good or better. beyond that, get a balaclava to wear under your helmet and some good gloves-I like pearl izumis lobster claw amphib gloves once it drops below 15 or so. when its really windy/cold vasoline on your nose/face thats not covered by the balaclava is a good idea.
To carry a lappy/change of clothes I prefer using a messenger bag over anything-backpack or panniers. the weights lower than your backpack and in the winter it keeps your back a bit warmer. I used a timbuk2 for 3 years and really liked it, Im using a jandd gabriel bag now that seems just as solid with a few more options. thats personal preference and very subjective tho, alot of people seem to like panniers.
BTW-do they plow the bike paths in milwaukee that run around the east side? I was out there this summer and it seemed like a pretty easy way to get around.
re: Bike commuting questionshardtail6
Sep 17, 2003 10:07 AM
I am out the west side of town with some pretty good bike lane/path combos. I haven't been here for a winter yet, but I will see soon enough. These rolling moraines are baffling to us former flatlanders. How can you go up more that down on a there and back trip?

Cheap parts, frame saver and fendersTWD
Sep 17, 2003 11:48 AM
I grew up 25 miles north on Milwaukee, and in my recollection, if you add up the depth of snow that falls in a typical southeast Wisconsin winter and compared it to the total depth of the salt that they spread on the roads, I think the salt would come out a lot thicker.

The road salt will be the death of your bike if your not careful. Put framesaver in your frame before you build it up, and then reapply at least once a season when you do a rebuild (you'll probably have to rebuild it more than that). I've heard you can use a cheaper substitute rust proofer from an autoparts store. I learned the hard way. I have an old steel hardtail mtb that was my winter/spring bike that had the seatpost, steel headset, and BB all permanently corroded into the frame. It's now converted into a stool in my garage.

Second, I'd build the bike up with cheap parts. No point in spending alot of money on stuff that is going to get absolutely trashed. Consult your parts bin on this one. Scrounge up the rest. Barcon shifters would probably be a good cost saver and would probably be easier to shift with thick gloves on than STI levers.

Also, get yourself a good set of full coverage fenders, if your frame/fork will take them. I've had good luck with SKS fenders. The full coverage style fenders work wonders for keeping road spray and grime off of you and your bike. Partial coverage fenders don't do nearly as well on either account. That will ease your maintenence burden a little bit, and keep you a lot dryer and warmer.

Don't worry, all of the nay-sayers that think fenders look dorky don't ride their bikes in the rain, much less in the winter. You can go one step further, and make "fender extenders" out of an old plastic 2 liter bottle (1 gallon plastic orange juice containers work even better). You can't truly appreciate how well these work until you've been in the middle of a paceline of 15 guys in a downpour on a February club ride in the Pacific NW.

One more thing, as far as carrying the load, it's a personal preference. I like a backpack for carrying heaver stuff rather than a messenger bag since it doesn't shift around as much. Cross bikes typically are set up with a slightly more upright position compared to a raodie, so you might be able to get away a backpack better than on your road bike. You could also get yourself a stem that has a removable face plate that can be flip-flopped. Set it up higher for commuting, and flip it upside down to get a lower position if you want to race. I would try that first, once you have the bike set up, then decide to get panniers if you don't like it.

Good luck

Second thatGripped
Sep 18, 2003 8:24 AM
Full fenders are a must. I ride daily in the Pacific NW and they make the difference between uncomfortable and truely miserable. You won't be worrying too much about rain, but snow melt will wet the road and you will get soaked with water and slush if you don't have fenders.

You should get or make shoe covers. I made my own by taking a baggie and slipping it over my shoe. Then I wrapped duct tape around the baggie covered shoe (keep it loose or they will be a pain to get on and off). Trim the edges and cut a hole for the cleat. Cut an old inner tube to use as a retention strap. Tape cut inner tube onto shoe cover. Now you are ready to go. They are windproof (a big deal where you live) and keep off most of the water that gets through the fenders.

You also might want to get a pair of Seal Skin waterproof socks. I use them and they work pretty well. They also keep my feet warm when it isn't raining.

I use a backpack to commute. I don't take my laptop home anymore but I used to years ago and it fit in my backpack pretty well. I keep a pair of shoes at work so I don't have to carry shoes. The dress code at my work is VERY casual so I can wear shorts year-round (less space in the pack). I don't like panniers because they act like sails and the wind can blow pretty good around here. I use a Vaude pack that has an arch that makes an air space between my back and the pack. It also has a pocket for a hydration bladder and a hole for the straw. It has an integrated rain cover. I have been using it for four years now and like it a lot.

Try to hose off your bike after every leg of the commute (when you get to work and when you get home). This will reduce in small part the grit grinding. At least once a week during the sloppy season, give your bike a full wash. Clean your chain and relube -- with a wet weather lube (White Lightening Blue for example). Expect to replace break pads frequently. Don't forget to lube derailleur linkages if you want to retain smooth shifing. Last year I wore out a pair or MA3 rims (bought in Sept, discarded in May) from grit on the breaking surfaces. The sidewalls got thin and buckled.

Good luck
Vaude backpack questionarctic hawk
Sep 18, 2003 12:30 PM
Just curious, how does the Vaude perform on hot days?
I have a normal backpack, & my t-shirt is soaked through on the warm & not so warm days. I wear my pack tight so it doesn't move around depending upon my commuting mood.

Arctic Hawk
Vaude backpack questionGripped
Sep 19, 2003 8:28 AM
The Vaude isn't as good as no pack at all but it is WAY better than a flat-on-the-back pack. I sweat a lot and I feel a lot more comfortable in the Vaude compared to a coventional pack. It has hip and sternum straps so you can keep it from migrating while riding.
Good pointsTWD
Sep 18, 2003 4:14 PM
Forgot to mention some of the added bike maintenence tips that you pointed out. Your advice is spot on for the Pac. NW (where I live now), but I'd suggest a slight change for Milwaukee winters (where I used to live).

Washing the bike down regularly (especially the drivetrain) will save you tons of wear, tear and damage on your bike. However, washing the bike down with water becomes somewhat of a problem in freezing conditions.

I found that WD-40 works pretty well to flush out the grit, grime and salt from the drivetrain and other sensitive parts. It leaves enough of a film to give a little extra protection from corrosion. I just wipe down the chain really well and relube after using the WD-40.