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commuting by bike

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 
This is totally cool!

I was just looking over a map of a local "rail trail" (paved trail for walking, biking, blading, etc., for a ride I'm going to do this weekend, and I realized that the trail makes a straight line from my house (okay, it's about 1/2 mile away) to my office (about 150 yards from my building). By car, my commute is 8.5 miles, but by this "trail", my commute would only be about 5 miles. I'm totally psyched that I will be able to ride my bike to work, and in the same amount of time it takes to drive (okay, maybe 5 more minutes). We even have bike lockers (mini sheds to lok up bikes) in our parking garage! But I've never commuted to work by bike before, so I have some questions.

Is there anyone here who bikes to work? What do you about clothes and stink? I work for a large corporation, in a 12 story building, with lots of folks who still wear suits to work. I generally wear "dress" pants or khakis, a button up (oxford type) shirt or golf (polo) shirt, and dress shoes. My concern is warm humid days, getting slightly sweaty on the ride in, and not wanting to ride a bike for 5 miles wearing good shoes and pants.

What sort of tricks do you have for not becoming offensive at work? Do I need to carry a big backpack with all my clothes, an iron and ironing board to iron my clothes after stuffing them in a pack? If I had more money, I could just keep an extra set of clothes at work, but I don't really have enough clothes to have 2 sets.

Anyone got any hints or advice?
post #2 of 41
John, Commuting by bike is a blast if you don't get run off the road. I used to commute 15 miles each way when I lived in NJ. It was a challenge since the route was from Plainfield to Pisacataway and Somerset on surface streets. Now that I'm in Denver I have a 20 mile one way commute, mostly on bike paths from my house to downtown Denver. A sweet ride and I'm wide awake when I get there. Try to do it at least twice a week if the weather is good. Keeps the legs strong for skiing.

There's a municipal gym two blocks from work that I belong to. $20/yr for shower priviliges. I usually take a couple days of work clothes in and keep them at my desk and bring fresh clothes in once a week. I use a Mountainsmith World Cup back pack designed for cyclists. Any good internal of frameless back pack of about 2100 cubic inches capacity will work although the cyling specific designs work a little better. Shop around, there's lots out there.

If you roll your shirts and Khakis neatly in a pack they don't look too bad as long as you don't crush them too tightly. I wear Khaki's, chinos, Knit shirts, office casual at work too. The new wrinkle free stuff works pretty well. One trick I used when I didn't have shower access was to bus in in the morning and ride home on my bicycle. You can sponge bath in the mens room too if you aren't bothered by strange looks from others as you wash up in the am. Cycle commutings a lot of fun and well worth the exta effort.
post #3 of 41
Is your office building strictly your company. I would almost suspect they have a shower somewhere in the building. Maybe another company has a shower that they would be willing to let you use. Most Corporations I know of had a shower somewhere in the building. The other way is lots of speed stick and cologne although I would not be happy if you came to my office wearing lots of cologne.

Clothes, Get yourself a pack that will allow you to fold your clothes flat and pack them carefully and/or, pick up a little "steam wrinkle remover". hang your clothes steam them when you get to the office.
Leave a pair of shoes in the office you can change into.
post #4 of 41
Thread Starter 
dchan - yeah, the building is just us. I'll have to check to see if we have shower facilities. I have a cabinet in my office (actually a cube) that is more like a locker, and can hang stuff in there (maybe just 2 pair of pants). It also has shelves, so I could keep toiletries and shoes in it.

For some reason, I didn't think that I would only be riding to work a couple days a week. For some reason I was thinking that I didn't know how I'd get a bunch of clothes to and from the office. But if I'm still driving in a couple times a week, I can use those days to take stuff home and bring stuff in.

bong - I have a backpack I use for skiing. So I guess I could throw a knit shirt, socks and my lunch in that. It's not bike specific, but it does have waist and chest straps, so does it really matter?

Thanks, guys. I'm pretty stoked about getting to bike to work.
post #5 of 41

Great to hear you're joining the world of bike commuters. I take my bike on the bus from Berkeley, which crosses the Bay into SF, and then I ride about 4-5miles (uphill, unfortunately) across town to work.

Does your office building or someplace nearby have a gym? That's one option for a shower near work. Also, are you planning to bike most days? Then one thing to keep in mind is getting rain pants - I just use a really old pair of ski shell pants. Otherwise, beware the line of mud that streaks up your butt and backside. Oh yeah, unlike skiing (don't want to reopen THAT can of worms), you DEFINITELY need a helmet.

PS, I keep an extra 1-2 sets of clothes at work - I don't really care if people see me wearing the same clothes every day ...
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[This message has been edited by zski (edited April 11, 2001).]</FONT>
post #6 of 41
JohnH, Pack doesn't really matter, you want one that doesn't sway around a lot and fits closely to your back. Mesh support is nice since it wicks moisture away from your back on those humid days and a compartment for a water bladder is nice too. Just don't get and external frame pack. too clumsy on the bike.
post #7 of 41
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys. The smilies are going to be fun, eh?

zski - I always wear a helmet when I ride. I've gotten so used to it that I feel naked when I ride without it But I might have to get a lighter one. Luckily, my entire commute will be on a bike path, so I won't have to deal with car traffic at all, except when I cross a couple of streets.
post #8 of 41
"the line of mud that streaks up your butt and backside. "

Hey zski, this is called "backspackle" according to the great book of Sniglets, circa early '80s.

post #9 of 41
i remember sniglets - wow. that's a blast from the past. sort of like acid wash, loverboy, members only jackets, or the "where's the beef" lady...
post #10 of 41
I commute about 2/3 of the time April to Thanksgiving about 4 miles each way. Fortunately work is downhill from home and it is cool enough in the morning so I can ride in my work clothes. I do pit out my shirts heading home though. I keep a pair of shoes in my cube as I'm clipless. This worked well even when I had to wear a tie and slacks.

We don't have a shower hear so must of us commuters use a little baby powder (shower to shower) to freshen up if we need it. When I had a longer commute, I carried my clothes in an eagle creek pack it folder which works very well. I like the timbuk2 bag for carrying clothes, lunch PDA etc.




-DS-<FONT size="1">
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[This message has been edited by dirtsqueezer (edited April 11, 2001).]</FONT>
post #11 of 41
Thread Starter 
I just found out that we do have showers that I can use, here in the building.
post #12 of 41
I find it amazing how tunnel visioned we all can be at times. When I was at my last job (9+ years) I never knew there was a bathroom on the floor below my office so when ever I had to work on that floor I would alway go back up to my floor for the bathroom. I didn't find out until almost 8 years there. I also found out during the last year I was there that we had a lunch room with Microwave and vending machines. I found out because I was called in to un-install all the computer equipment in a room next door.

It's amazing what you find when you "need something" and bother to ask.

Reminds me of a cute "man thing" joke.
Why did Moses and the people of God wander around the desert for 40 years?

"HE" didn't want to stop to ask for directions.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by dchan (edited April 12, 2001).]</FONT>
post #13 of 41

I have been commuting by bike for just about as long as I have been working. 5 miles is the perfect commute. Not long enough to get real cold on the cold days, not long enough to really get overheated on the hot days. I worked in a major office building in Boston for an evil military industrial complex mega corporation in situation that sounds a lot like yours (it was great). I'm no longer in Beantown but I still commute by bike everyday - to a more casual office environment. Here are some tricks I have.

#1. A shower is nice on rainy/snowy or extremely humid days, but it's overrated. just throw some deoderant in you desk drawer. On hot days you ride into work - you'll be a little sweaty - but what are you going to do? Take a hot shower? take a cold shower? I guarantee as soon as you get dressed you'll be sweating at your desk for an hour. The best bet is just to sit there in your shorts and shirt for about 5 min. you'll cool down.

#2. Underdress rather than overdress. Even in cold weather. The biggest chill factor is on the hands and feet, so keep them warm.

#3. I carry my clothes everyday. Keep a pair of shoes or two at work, (also keep a tie at work - that's the most often forgotten peice of clothing). I suggest a messenger bag rather than a backpack. Timbuk2 has a great website to customize a pack. Messenger bags are tough and waterproof (the price is worth paying). Get a big one but not the biggest (I use the el ocho size from timbuk2).

#4. Get a rear fender - one that clips on to your seatpost. About 10 bucks - looks cool, works well (not as well as a full fender) easy to take off for looking cool on the trail or road.

#5. If you have'nt guessed I recommend getting some riding clothes and changing when you get to work. Cycling clothes are comfortable and made of lycra or polypro which wicks moisture and does'nt hold in smelly odors. Grab a couple of sleeveless jersey's for summer. They are the coolest.

#6. for equipment. If you are on a road bike, get the fattest tires that will fit, if your on a mt. bike get the skinniest slicks that will fit. Wider tires typicaaly are less prone to flats, but knobby's increase rolling resistance. You don't want to get a flat on the way to work, but you don't want to kill yourself pedaling either.

#7. Be careful on those bike paths. They are great but many users feel that because it's not a road they are entitled to use it how they see fit. That is, running walking or riding to take up the entire path, not yielding or looking as they go from one side to another. And my favorite - people walking their dogs. They walk on the left as their dog is off in the bushes on the right. What you ca'nt see is the dog or the 25 foot retractable string leash that stretches across the path. As you can imagine that can create an ugly accident scene.

There are plenty of cheap light helmets out there. My commuting helmet gets banged up a bit just from having it around when I am changing - etc. So you don't want something too nice.

Best of luck, and I hope you find that once you start riding to work, driving to work is absolutely horrible.
post #14 of 41
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice Jimpd and Gonz.

I have reverse tread street tires for my bike (not quite slicks, but freat road tires). I'm not sure what they are, but IRC Metro does ring a bell(?).

I think my plan will be to leave 2-3 pair of pants and my work shoes in my office (I just wear one pair of shoes at work until they're trash). I can hang the pants so they'll be fine. I'll also keep some deoderant, powder a washcloth, some liquid soap and a hair brush at the office. Then I'll pack in a shirt and socks.

The bike lokers are pretty cool. I was checking them out this morning. They're first come, first served. Big grey plastic boxes (mini sheds about 4 feet tall). All you do is throw your bike in, put your own lock on it and put your name on a sheet, so that they know who's bike is in there.

I'll probably ride my hard-tail (Raleigh MT400, 3x7 rapid fire and a cheap-ass RS Q10 front shock), but I may change my mind depending on the condition of the path, since the full suspension is easier on my ass and weighs the same. I'm not too worried about security since the lockers are in the parking garage and keep the bike invisible. There are only about 5 or 6 lockers. I wonder if they get filled up on nice days? I'll look into the rear fender. If I end up riding the day after a rain, I'll probably end up going through puddles.

Gonz - I look forward to riding w/ you in May. But don't expect me to have a lot of time to kill on weekends. My wife is already hounding me that we have too much to do and not enough time before the baby is due. She even tried to get me to cancel my ride for this Saturday morning. So taking a whole day to ride is probably not an option. A half day would probably be doable though. She knows I need my stress releif.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by JohnH (edited April 12, 2001).]</FONT>
post #15 of 41
so, since gonzostrike points out that lots of the above advice is for newbies, keep this in mind:

prolonged bike rides lower your sperm count...

i wish there were a smiley for that one.
post #16 of 41
Thread Starter 
post #17 of 41
that is RUDE!!!!

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[This message has been edited by zski (edited April 12, 2001).]</FONT><FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by zski (edited April 12, 2001).]</FONT><FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by zski (edited April 12, 2001).]</FONT>
post #18 of 41
there's no clear scientific data that sperm counts are definitely reduced by cycling, but there is lots of acecdotal evidence. studies do, however, show that erectile dysfunction, and nerve and artery damage can result:

a properly fit bike seat definitely helps<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by zski (edited April 12, 2001).]</FONT>
post #19 of 41
Thread Starter 
I have been told by fertility specialist that bike riding can effect fertility. An improper fitting seat and being jarred around on it, can lead to lack of blood flow to the balls, lowering sperm count. There have even been cases (quite a few) where men have been rendered completely infertile from riding. Obviously, this doesn't happen to everyone. Lance has a kid! But then again, I'd bet a couple of paycheks that his seat fits him properly.

DH riders probably don't suffer from it much because they never sit.
post #20 of 41
Thread Starter 
I went to a local bike shop near the office at lunch today. Unfortunately, I need to find a good LBS. The one here is a chain (Performance), but this one store is not too bad for a chain, although nothing like the LBSs I had in Annapolis (3 really good ones, one was walking distance from my house).

I picked up a new helmet, a rear fender, one pair of padded shorts (damn those things are expensive!) a new presta valve adaptor (lost the old one in the move), and *FINALLY* I got a pair of bike shoes! So I'm gonna finally learn to ride clipless. They were having some decent sales, and I picked up their home brand, top of the line shoes for $70 (supposedly they were normally $100). They fit really well, they're light and come with an assorment of changable cleates for the front (I don't think I'll need those for commuting). They had some that were only $35, but they were sort of a suede, which I thought might get really dirty and trashed, and the soles were softer. The helmet I got was also pretty high-end, but I liked the venting, so I spent $80 on a helmet (yikes!). I looked into seat post mounted racks, which seemed like a good idea, but none of the bags that fit on the racks were big enough to handle the stuff I'll need to put in it. So if I find a better sized bag that I can put on a rack, I'll get a rack. I may even have on at home, but I need to look around. then I wouldn't need a fender either, and won't need to have a backpack on my back.

It turned from a nasty day here, to absolutely gorgeous, 70 degrees, sunny and dry. Now I really want to go ride.
post #21 of 41
Thread Starter 
Well, I went out and rode on Saturday. It was sort of a "Death Ride 2001". Now, keep in mind, folks, I'm no roadie, and I only skied 15 days this season, so I'm as out of shape as Al Bundy. My friends showed up at my house on Saturday, and she brought her 14lb bike! Wow! I've never picked up a bike that light in my entire life! Luckily, her husband, who is a complete animal, brought his mountain bike, complete with knobbies. They proceeded to kick my ass all over town and back again. We rode 48 miles. Yeah, that's right, 48 torturous, agonizing, excruciating miles. It was a 24 mile up and back on a paved bike trail. Thank God I put my street tires on my bike. The first half of the ride is almost completely uphill. Not steep, but you can't rest at all, and have to keep spinning. So about 20 miles into it, I had to stop for a short break. Then we stopped for snacks at the turn around point (end of the trail). The ride back wasn't as bad because it was mostly down hill, but I still didn't seem to catch a break because the masochists that I rode with kept the pace up. We ended up being out for a total of 3:50. Almost 4 hours of spinning my figgin' legs. So it came out to about 12mph. That would be a snail's pace to the couple that I rode with, who could have probably done it at 18mph.

After the ride I didn't move for 4 more hours! I think I died and was reincarnated as ooze.

I did, however, get to use my clipless pedals for the first time. The soles of the shoes hurt my feet, so I think I'll try my soft footbeds in them and see how confortable that makes them. Getting in and out of the pedals wasn't too bad. Actually, getting out is easy, and once in a while I can get in in less than one revolution, but not often. I'm glad I didn't try to learn to use them while mountain biking, or I probably would have killed myself.
post #22 of 41
Thread Starter 
Gonz - I literally picked her bike up with the pinky finger of my left hand. I beleive that it is only 14lb. And yeah, it is a fairly small frame. She's only 5'4", with fairly short legs, and the bike is pretty stripped down except for the gel seat. She's got some very high-end wheels on it too.

Yeah, I wore the new shorts on the death march. I never got riding shorts before because I've never been a fan of Lycra or Spandex for men. I wore regular shorts over them. I guess they helped, but it's hard to say. I have the feeling that making a 48 miler for your first ride of the season, your ass is gonna hurt no matter what you wear. I had considered getting the shorts with the gel padding, but the guy in the shop said you can't put them in the dryer because the gel will clump up. Since then, I have heard otherwise. Chalk it up to morons working at Performance (chain store). My next pair will be gel.

As to the foot pain, it was pretty much along the whole foot. I think I like where I've got the cleats positioned, because if I move them further back, I feel like my toes are diving, and I don't get enough extension. But they're so new to me, I have to play with them a bit.
post #23 of 41
Shorts with a gel liner? I tried them, but they gave me that "poopy" feeling. YMMV.
post #24 of 41
John H,

What kind of shoes are you riding?

For a lot of my around town stuff and commuting I use a Specialized shoe that resembles a stiff hiking shoe. Great for anything under about 10 miles but I would not want to ride in them for a 48 mile ride - because of the exact problem you state. For long rides nothing beats a super stiff sole - even though they are hard to walk in.
post #25 of 41
Thread Starter 

They are a super stiff sole. There about the top-of-the-line shoe from Performance Bike Shops (their in-house brand... don't know who actualy makes them). The stiff sole, along with virtually no padding on the insole is why they hurt.
post #26 of 41
John, re the stink: 2 words- Old Spice.
post #27 of 41

I hope the softer footbeds work out for you. The shoes you have don't sound like they would be a problem. If the problem persists some things I suggest are changing your seat height - which may aleive your foot pain but may casue other pains (back, neck, legs)and trying different types of socks - or maybe no socks (but that may be considered "old school" in the cycling world). If all else fails and it becomes a persistent problem you may consider seing a doctor and getting orthotics.

good luck.
post #28 of 41
Thread Starter 

The footbeds I'll be putting in there are custom fit orthotics. They were made for me by the guy who was doing the US ski team at the time (1989). They're old, but I hope they'll be good for this sort of thing.
post #29 of 41
Thread Starter 
Well I did it. I rode in today. It took about 32 minutes, and the backpack made me sweat pretty good. I'm thinking of trading the rear fender for a rack and just putting my backpack or a small piece of luggage I have on the rack. I rode my K2 FS. I'll have to try the hard tail but I hate changing tires, and I'd need to put my road tires on my hardtail. The weather looks like it might be good enough to ride every day this week. We'll see. Feels good not burining any gas and getting some exercise on the way to work. The ride home is gonna be tough though. It's goona be 88 degrees, and an uphill ride.

post #30 of 41
Very interestinmg thread. I've been doing my commute by bike for the last year probalbly averaging about 4 one way trips a week. My one way is about 16 miles with around 1000 ft climb overall on the way home. Its great except for those -20°C days (-4°). Lately i've been driving in with my wife down town so I only have the bike home which is about an hour in the summer with a fairly good road bike.

I'm not a gear whore when it comes to bikes or atleast not yet so I've been doing this with a new but really heavy mountain bike and old road bikes 15 years which are good to ok until I break them. One was free and one was $30. So doing it on the cheap until now.

So any recomendations for a commuting bike for about 80 miles a week all year round but not including snow days when I'll use the tank.

Thanks Doug
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[This message has been edited by dougw (edited April 24, 2001).]</FONT>
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