Tuesday, August 05, 2008

My Commuter Cycle

This is the second in a series of posts I'm writing about the easiest way to cut back on the amount of money you spend on gasoline- don't buy it. Riding a bike has many benefits not the least of which is the low cost of getting around. Recently I wrote about hauling big stuff on a specialized bicycle. In this post I'd like to share my commuter cycle with readers- the bicycle I ride to work and back.

I started bike commuting about a year ago and I love it. Yes I burn less carbon, yes I use less oil and yes I'm in better shape. But the reason I've stuck with it is that riding to work is just so much fun. I started at my local bike shop. The owner helped me put together a great setup tailored to my commute. I ride a Trek 7.6 hybrid. As you can see in the picture above it has:

1) A Straight Bar. This means I ride in an upright position. I see cars and they see me.

2) A Headlight. Inevitably a bike commuter will be out after dark. This light helps me ride safely after the sun goes down or before it comes up.

3) A Rear Blinky Light. Apparently the space program led to great advancements in LED technology. Thanks to John Glenn and gang I have a red light on the back of my bike that blinks and can be seen up to 1 mile from my rear.

4) A Helmet. Safety first.

5) 700c Road Tires. These ain't stubby mountain bike tires. They're designed to help the bike move faster over pavement so I won't be late for dinner.

6) A Rack on the Back. This is key because if you're riding to work, you're going to need to carry stuff. My rack is compatible with my two year old daughter's bike carrier and also with the pair of saddle bags (called panniers) shown in the picture. In them I carry my lunch, a change of clothes and anything else I need for work. On the way home I can stop at the store to pick up anything we need at home.

7) A Bike Lock. It stays in the panniers. It keeps my bike safe when I'm not riding it.

8 ) A Tube Replacement Kit. This also stays in the panniers. With precautions, tube punctures can be minimized but every once in a while I have a flat. A spare tube, the tools to install it and a way to inflate the tube have me up and running again in no time.

9) Toe Clips or Clipless pedals. Using these will helps me better leverage the full power of my legs. It helps me get to work and back faster..

10) A Water Bottle Cage. This will helps me stay hydrated.

11) A Computer. OK this isn't necessary but it is nice to see how fast I'm going, how far I've ridden and to track my progress as a cyclist.

12) Bar Ends with Built-In Rear View Mirrors. These help by giving me another position for my hands and also by helping me to see what's coming up behind me.

Depending on what your particular commute looks like your needs will vary. That's why I recommend visiting your local bike shop to help get you started. If your commute is less than 40 miles round trip commuting on a bicycle is really possible. Give it a try.

"i used to fantasize about living in a healthier place, one where i could ride my bike, for example. then, one day, i started riding my bike. now, without having fled or escaped to anywhere, i live in a place where i can ride my bike." – heretic fig


Jennie said...

Welcome back!
Nice bike. The one thing I'll add to the bike discussion is this: be prepared for road degradation. I work in an industrial part of Des Moines. My commute goes over roads with potholes you could hide small children in. I don't know about other states, but our road repair fund is pretty much tapped out. I expect roads to deteriorate significantly over the next few years as governments start working with huge shortfalls. For that reason my bike is more of a mountain bike set up. Still upright visibility, but shocks front and back and knobby tires to get me through gravel and debris and potholes. It's a little heavier and there's more friction working against me with the knobbies, but I don't wipe out at every patch of gravel either. :-)

homebrewlibrarian said...

I live 2 miles from work but up to 5 miles from various places like food marts, the library, brewpubs, etc. Anchorage roads see a lot of left over winter debris well into the summer so after several flat tires within two weeks (!) I had to swap out the road tires for some WTB All Terrainasaurus tires. Yup, more drag but haven't had a flat since!

I added a blinky light made by Planet Bike to my helmet. It sits in a bracket that allows it to swivel when I move my head so it's always pointing outward. I also have a blinky light on the seat post but it can be obscured by stuff on or in my panniers. I put a headlamp on my helmet. I have a TEC or some sort of LED light on a strap that I can wear on the helmet. Having a light pointed in the direction you're looking has a lot of value!

Consider getting a bright yellow windbreak or vest with reflective tape. Your body is the largest object on your bike from the front or rear so make it visible! Also reflective velcro straps to keep your pants legs out of your chain. I have reflectors in my spokes so I can be visible from the side as well.

Check with local bike shops for bike trail maps. You might find ways to get around without having to share the road with cars. Since I work in a downtown area, I've taken to using alleys and that's helped quite a bit.

Kerri in AK and commuter cycling for over 30 years

Carly said...


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Any of your other work that you think fits our criteria would also be a very welcome addition (http://www.brightfuture.us/new/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=49&Itemid=80). I can publish your article for you, or you can easily become a member and publish yourself, participate in forums etc.


nulinegvgv said...

thanks jennie, i agree that road conditions are likely to worsen in coming years. i have a spare set of wheels with knobby tires for rainy conditions or riding off road. i would use those if my regular ride to work was over poor pavement. i did switch tires after my first few months of riding. i started using a slightly wider tire- it's important for people to know that there are lots of options concerning critical bike parts like tires.

homebrewlibrarian, have you tried Mr Tuffys? They are kevlar tire liners that stop punctures really well. They are fairly cheap and will probably last as long as the bike. and they won't slow down the bike. i put them in my tires after a few flats. the road shoulders and the bike lanes are full of debris from cars. what we really need is more infrastructure dedicated only to pedestrians and cyclists.

Carly, i am a bit too busy to commit to particpation in another project but you are welcome to republish anything i post here. i'm glad you liked it.

tanyaa said...

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Judy S said...

I would also like to add that the Better World Club: http://www.betterworldclub.com/ offers bicycle roadside assistance similar to what you get for your car through AAA.