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Commuting Information(11 posts)

Commuting InformationSharkman
Apr 25, 2003 12:44 PM
I am thinking about giving up my downtown parking spot, and biking to and from work. I live in the Portland, OR area, and have approximately a 23 mile each way commute. It rains here a lot (really a lot lately), so wet weather gear will be essential. I am 50 years old, have been dabling in racing the last 9 months, and am pretty fit, certainly fit enought to handle the commute.

I have an old Klein Performance bike (basically a touring bike that looks a lot like a Quantum) that I think would be perfect to commute on. Its got appropriate hardware for a rack and fenders, is a pretty strong frame (Klein built them like tanks back then, and they were warrantied for life to the original owner). The drive train is 11 year old Ultegra 600, 8 speed. Rear spacing is 130mm.

I am thinking of doing the following to the bike to ready for the commuting gig:

1. Upgrade drive train to 9 speed. Either Ultegra or Dura Ace. I'll put quite a few miles in commuting, so am thinking about the longer term durability of Dura Ace. Would probably go 12-21 in the rear. The commute does not have any hills steeper than 3% or so. I climbed a one mile 9+ % grade last night in a 39/23 seated with no problem, so I think a 21 would be fine. Would give me closer gear spacing.

2. Upgrade headset and possiby fork. Have an old quill stem in their now. Would like to have the headset updated to whatever I can use on that bike. Dont want to worry about the headset descending the I-205 bridge bike path at 35mph.

3. Get a pack for my rear rack to carry things in.

4. Get wet weather gear. Have a good REI goretex jacket. Need some rainproof pants.

5. Shorter stem. Bike is a 58cm and really a bit too big for me, but nothing I cannot cure with a shorter stem. What stem to get depends on item 2. above.

6. Eventually, get different wheels. This bike currently has Mavic Heliums on it. Was thinking of Dura Ace hubs laced to CXP33 rims, with a lower spoke count. I am 159 lbs or so, with the commute might lose another 5-10 over time.

I have a deal worked out with a downtown athletic club where for $40 per month, I can store the bike in an enclosed locker, store clothes in an inside locker and use the shower facilities. The place is a 5 minute walk from my office. I also have found a company that lets you use a car when you need one, called Flexcar, so I can get to middle of the day business appointments.

What have I not thought of? All comments and thoughts would be appreciated, whether adding to things to think about or challenging the thoughts I have already had.

Thanks in advance.

As a Portland bike commuter for a few years...PdxMark
Apr 25, 2003 1:17 PM
Your commute will be alot longer than my 4 miles each way.

I think it would be a waste to upgrade parts just yet... So long as you can get parts for the 8-speed, which you can, I'd stay with that. Likewise, I'd keep your current stem. Just get a full, complete overhaul at one of the good shops, like Bike Gallery or River City, now and again each year. With a thorough check-up like that, your bike will be fine...

Micheal Sylvester at Bike Gallery on Sandy Blvd. can get the fit of your bike dialed-in... Once the fit is taken care of, you have pretty much the perfect commuter bike already. Those Helium wheels might not be the best fit, but Ultegra hubs would be plenty good.

The best thing to get is a Wipperman Connex connector on your chain, so you can easily take the chain off and clean it during the wet season (Oct-June). The wet and grime will chew through your chain quickly if you don't make some effort to sometimes clean the chain. It's only once every few weeks for me, but any care will help. Likewise, the wet and grit will help your brakes chew through your Heliums too. That's why you'll want a strong conventional rim - I use Open Pros.

I carry my rain stuff to and from work almost every day... you never know when it'll rain. For my feet I like Gore-Tex socks because they are less bulky to carry day-in and day-out.

What you mainly need is a super bright light, like a Niterider. Your commute distance might make it hard for a Niterider halogen to burn long enough to get you to and from work in the winter... but the newer (and more expensive) HID lights may have a long enough burn time for a round trip - or you can get a recharger for home and work and just recharge at each end. Niterider also has a 19-LED tail light that is great and justified, for me, going with Niterider rather than one of the other good (and less expensive) headlight brands.

Welcome to the bike commute roads. Let me know if you have any other questions about commuting in Portland.
Another thought -PdxMark
Apr 25, 2003 1:29 PM

You'll want some bullet-proof tires. Specialized Armadillos are an example (though they have a relatively harsh ride), or Mr. Tuffy liners (but regular tires will still be subject to cuts), or, in my belt-and-suspenders, zero-tolerance for commute flats, Armadillos PLUS Mr. Tuffys. My tires/liners probably weigh more than my frame, but I don't leave time in my commutes for flats... so...

With an overhaul, fitting, new super-lights, tires, you'll spend enough to feel like you paid for some Dura Ace parts, but you'll be much better equipped...

Which brings up...

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance a local bike advcacy group. Membership is cheap and gets you a 10% discount on parts at most local shops (not labor or whole bikes)... Discounts will more than pay for your membership...
As a Portland bike commuter for a few years...Sharkman
Apr 26, 2003 3:21 PM
Roger your comments re upgrades. You're right, it probably makes more sense to stay with the eight speed until it dies. I did see Sylvester for a fitting on my Landshark, so I can probably just measure the dimensions from the seat tube to where the stem holds the bars on the shark, and just buy a new quill stem to shorten the effective top tube length. I do think that would be money well spent. I'll probably also replace the cassette on the ultegra 8 sp (if I you can still find them), as the current set up has either a 25 or 27 year tooth cog, and is way bigger than I need.

I think I can put the light issue off until August to September, as we have enought daylight now not to worry about it. I'll have the headset looked at and the wheels looked at from a overhaul/maintenance perspective.

I need a new chain on that bike anyway. Any reason not to get an SRAM instead of just adding the Wipperman connector to the existing ultegra chain?

What do you recommend for clothing and such?

As a Portland bike commuter for a few years...PdxMark
Apr 26, 2003 4:52 PM
How do you like your Landshark? How long have you had it?

I don't know Shimano compatible chains. I bet SRAM is fine... I was passing on what I had gleaned from comments about the connectors alone ... A search of this messageboard can probably give you the consensus low-down on Shimano connector chains.

If you can't get 8sp casettes at local shops, though I bet yo ucan, these guys have them:

Clothing - kind of a complicated, season-dependent mess. I always wear cycling shorts, and add on from there.
I carry something weather-related almost all the time... just in case... at least a light shell...

A post below recommends tights over rain pants. I concur that I rarely wear rain pants, only for the hardest rains or coldest days, but they are almost always in my pack Oct-Apr. It's not getting soaked in tights that's bad, it's putting on dripping wet tights for the ride home that would not be fun for me. For your long ride, though, a second pair of tights in the pack might be alot better than rain pants.

T-shirts are fine for me. I add long sleeve jeseys in colder weather... My jacket is a Burley - well vented and all... too much in the summer, but I wear it virtually everyday, to and from, from Oct to March or April.

I like my gore-tex socks inside my cycling shoes for wet days. They are in inobtrusive, light to carry around in the pack for weeks at a time, and keep my socks from getting utterly slimed in wet riding conditions. I stuff newspaper in my shoes at either end and they are dry for the return.

Waiting to get the light makes sense... for me, I work late sometimes, so I use it even during some summer nights. The post below notes the uselessness of "see me" lights. I ride streets that are "bike boulevards" - through bike routes with just local car traffic. I almost hit cyclists, on my bike, who use those tiny things... Your lights can't be too bright.. and lower power settings on Niterider halogens are relatively inefficient for light output... So I'd plan to spend alot on your light...

Do you have a copy of the Metro bike map? It's at the shops and can help you work out a good route from I-205 bridge to downtown... I think I'd prefer Marine drive on the bike path to 33rd, then from 33rd there are great routes to downtown... though, to avoid bucking tough easterly winds in Fall/winter, I'd sometimes use the I-205 bike path to.... not sure what would be best connector... for some weather protection ...

Be interested to hear how Flexcar works out. I considered it, but the hourly rates didn't seem to pencil out for the weekend usage we would usually have.

I'm not sure I'd give up my car entirely... with your long commute, there may be days that it's alot to face. That doesn't happen on my 4 mile ride... but there's not much of a comparison to your commute.

Sounds like you are getting set-up very well. Enjoy the ride!
As a Portland bike commuter for a few years...Sharkman
Apr 26, 2003 7:56 PM
I like the Landshark's ride alot, although if I had it to do over again, I'd buy a titanium bike. I do not like having to stress over rust and such on a steel bike, and I have ridden it too much in the rain.

Where did you buy your Burley jacket at? I have heard good things about those. I rode from Vancouver up to White Salmon yesterday (Friday) while my family went up by car for a swim meet in Hood River. Rode about 66 miles mostly in a downpour, and discovered that my 10+ year old REI goretex jacket isn't so waterproof anymore. So new jacket and rain pants are at the top of the list.

I had not thought of Marine Drive to 33rd, that's a good idea. I am going to rent (for free) a lockable bike locker at the Gateway transit center. That, plus a book of Max tickets will give me the option to cut the ride from 23 miles down to 16 to 17. So I had been thinking of going through SE or the south part of NE PDX to get downtown. I like your idea better now that I think about it. I may have to give 33rd a dry run soon.

I don't plan to give up my second car either. Wife drives a Chrysler minivan (have 4 kids), I currently drive a Jetta Diesel that has 107k on it. I would look to replace the Jetta soon in any event. I also live on 5 acres about 4 miles as the crow flies due North of Camas. Have 100 chickens (raise and sell fresh eggs, or at least my 14 year old daughter does), also have two horses and really need a pickup out here. So the plan is to sell the Jetta and get a pickup. But commuting by bike would allow the pickup to be much older and cheaper than would be the case if it had to do double duty as a commuter. Flexcar will be for daytime appts that come up with clients ( I am a CPA working in the business succession planning field for Moss Adams, LLP), where I have to go out of the office unexpectedly.

Also, I plan to drive a car one day a week, so I can pick up the kids from their swim practice for my wife, so she gets at least one day free from that duty. I do plan to get a really good light system when the time comes. I do not often have to work past 6:30, and if I left at 6:30 right now, I'd make it home by 8:00. I can make 20+ mph pretty easily (have been training with North River Racing for 7 months), so even though my ride is long at 23 miles, I think it will be an hour and fifteen to twenty minutes.

Mark, if you work downtown, perhaps we could meet for lunch and you could share more of your wisdom. email me at

Apr 27, 2003 6:27 PM
Good decision. Good luck and perhaps post to let us know how your 23 mile commute is doing. I will start doing a 14 mile one way commute next week, I don't know if I would have the mental commitment of 23. But you do have bragging rights. blah blah blah. Wakes you up before work, when I don't ride I feel groggy. Your 50, wow. What a hero. Good luck.
It sounds like you need a new bikeStraightblock
Apr 25, 2003 3:12 PM
Replace the drivetrain, fork, headset, stem, wheel upgrade all on an old bike that's too big for you?

If it were me I'd overhaul it and get as good a fit as I could, commute for a while,and start looking for its replacement.
Apr 25, 2003 8:44 PM
Unless your 8 speed is shot, why upgrade it while it still works? And by the way, 9 speed Ultegra will probably outlast DuraAce, because the cogs are more durable and the bottom bracket is possibly better suited for the wet weather.

Headsets and forks should just be used until they need replacement. After all, this is a commuter.

Commuters are supposed to be strong, reliable, robust bikes. They usually don't have to be super fast or pretty. Spending the kind of money you are talking about is questionable on an old commuter, especially if it is too big to boot.

However, kudos to you for wanting to commute. I have been to Portland many times and I am not sure if I would want to commute 5 days/week for 46 miles/day during the cold rainy months of December thru March.
Keep the 8-speedss-nyc
Apr 26, 2003 9:31 AM
It is more durable then 9-speed. Upgrade as things fall apart which should take some time.
Commuting in PDXjimmyjames
Apr 26, 2003 3:04 PM
Ah Fez, it's clear that you've only been a visitor, otherwise you would know the cold and rainy months here are October through May. Although the rain is warmer in May. Commuting here makes a man out of you (assuming you're a man.) To that end, (Land?)Sharkman, I applaud your decision to commute. My one-way distance is only six miles, and I wish I lived farther away. You're a lucky man. Forthwith:

1. I agree with "Straightblock" that it would make little sense to put a lot of money into your older bike. It may be worthwhile to consider a new bike eventually. I finally put down the money for a (quite nice) Fort frame that fits me very well, that I built up with Campy for my commuter. Extravagent? Perhaps, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I spent more time on my commuter than on any of my other bikes (combined), and I felt I should love it and be excited to ride it every morning. It helps in January.
If you can live with the (fitted) Klein, just use up the componentry as you ride. The rain and the grime of city streets eats chains, cogs, rings and rims.

2. A proper overhaul will give you all the confidence you need in the old headset, etc.

3. I've been using Vaude pannier bags I bought at River City for over a year now and have been very pleased with them. The model I have has a roll top like a rafting bag and is totally waterproof. They have a slick and quick mounting system. My one gripe is that there is no horizontal compression strap, so they tend to bulge. I suppose I could use my own strap, but I've never been bothered enough. My Blackburn rack broke at a weld last week, but the bags have held up great. (I wouldn't necessarily take the break as typical, by the way--I've been carrying an armload's worth of law case books everyday.) Many of the other bags had seperate rain covers, which is kind of silly here.

4. I have a pair of waterproof pants and have worn them only a couple of times. My body temperature is unusually high, but I get terribly overheated in them. For me, leggings or winter tights allow my body to better temperature regulate. Also: windstopper fabric is most excellent on wet gloves.

More: I don't know how many different tires you've used, but from my experience the Specialized Armadillos are nearly bulletproof. In 3000 or so miles (while a bike messenger) I got one flat, and that from a 3/4" industrial staple. I couldn't wait for them to die. I finally got a chunk torn out of them and went immediately to the nearest bike shop to replace them. The ride is terrible, they are very heavy and the handling is questionable. Similarly, I had a Vittoria Tecno Twin Tread (with the green tread on the shoulders) which was nearly puncture free but had a poor ride, little grip and felt sketchy leaned over (but lasted forever). Vittorias are also subject to "Vittoria disease," random and unexplained cracks in the sidewalls. Definately do get a tire with a puncture resistant belt. I'm currently riding Performance Forte 26c tires which have been puncture free over about 1500 miles and ride and handle better. I'm a little leery of them, though, because I had a Forte Pro that had a mysterious sidewall blow out.

PDXMark mentioned Goretex socks; because of my aforementioned body temperature abnormality my feet aren't a concern, but I had a messenger friend who said his Sidi Storm winter shoes were the best investment he made in cycling equipment. They have a neoprene liner and such, and there are a few similar shoes on the market. See e.g.

I have a Digital Niterider 15w NiMH light system that has been very reliable and is remarkably bright. On the brightest setting it should give an hour-and-a-half run time, but you can extend this at a lower wattage. Under no circumstances should you bother with a cheapy "just be seen" light. No one needs that anxiety when they can't see th