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First time bike commuter - Page 3

post #61 of 79
Thread Starter 
I'm impressed MN, but it's not the cold that scares me, it's being a cycling newbie and riding around in the dark a lot. I work a 9.5 hour day and I'd likely be riding in darkness both directions much of the winter. Even if I got some good lights I'm still a little uncertain about that prospect. But I might try to get creative and flex my hours on selected days to keep riding at reduced frequency?
post #62 of 79
Today was interesting so I hear ya on the darkness concerns, especially if the wind is likely to pick up the front wheel and try to play tag with it as you're trying not to slide out on the wet leaves.
post #63 of 79
To combat the light issues, I have multiple headlights:

- one on the handlebars (a 10W halogen - very bright)
- one on my helmet (a smaller LED unit)

With those two, I get good coverage both for where my bike is pointed and for scoping out a line or getting a motorist's attention.

I also have two tail lights on the frame (both LED, one steady and one blinking), and one on my back (on my jersey, jacket or vest) to get a higher vantage point.

I also just bought a pair of bar-end blinkers for the road bike, and have put strips of ScotchLite reflective tape on various frame points, my helmet and on my rims (it's really light and doesn't affect the rotational balance).

Another key: good, reflective clothing. IllumiNite stuff is a good bet, as is a reflective belt triangle (a staple of the randonneur set). Also, reflective ankle bands are really good if, like me, your pedals don't have reflectors.

It's getting colder now, but there's still plenty of good riding 'round the DC area. Granted, I'm off the bike for a couple of weeks (rib injury), but I'm itching to get back on board.
post #64 of 79

Personal beef (i.e. take with grain of salt).

More lights and more reflective surfaces is generally thought to be better than fewer
(on the theory that one can't possibly match the light output of cars and therefore is entitled to as much shininess as possible? I dunno.) and safer.

I ask you to consider that this may not be the case if the viewer is not able to -recognize- the object as whatever it is.

This is related to those experiments where tanks on a skyline are less visible when outlined in light bulbs, but I'll share personal examples:

1) Evening in Arlandria along a major 4-lane urban road. A biker headed towards me on the sidewalk, in the direction opposite traffic flow, has 3 lights on the handlebars, 1 on the helmet and several red LEDs on the bike. Did he look like a cyclist? No. He looked like he was part of the lit-up neon of the EuroMotorcars dealership directly behind him. I had to stare at him for more than half a minute to resolve the bike. Do you think a car driver (with headlamps and thus far less dark vision) would have done so?

2) Motorcyclist is wearing a reflective stripe on his jacket across the yoke of the shoulders. Another, parallel horizontal stripe on the helmet.

Yep, he looked like just another reflectively striped highway traffic barrel. Notice that if he had had stripes along the tricep or obliques, and legs, he would have looked like this:
which is far more recognizable as a motorcycle.

3) Oncoming cyclist on a dark railtrail has a flashing superbright LED on the handlebars and no other lights. So, you can't look directly at the light. You know he's there but how far away is he and how fast is he moving? Betcha can't tell.

Please consider carefully that the lights you select are useful and not just so much noise in the visual field of someone else.
At the very least, it is useless waste of electricity to be seen and consciously or unconsciously ignored.
As the human form and human motion are so much more recognizable than anything else, anything that emphasizes it, like the reflective or LED legbands cited above, is worth far, far more than a second blinky.
post #65 of 79
My experience. There are actually two problems at night. Seeing and being seen. If you ride in a city area with lots of light around you really don't need much in the way of extra light to see. If you ride unlit back roads then a good 10W plus halogen setup is necessary. You've got to see the potholes etc.

To be seen I think motion is your best tool. Wheel reflectors, leg bands/lights. Flashing red leds in the rear. Anything that draws attention and is sort of bike unique.

Stay safe.
post #66 of 79
Figured I'd post. Haven't posted anything in weeks because of vacation and being busy at work and busier at home. But.....

Today is my last day in this office. yesterday was my last day bike commuting to this office. I'm gonna miss this location.... Get off the bike path go through a parking lot, across an intersection at a traffic light and immediately into my parking garage that has bike lockers.

I need to scope out what my new commute will be, but they won't have bike lockers, just a bike rack, and I'll have to get on surface streets and go through a few fairly large intersections including on/off ramps to a highway (the Dulles toll rd, for those in the area). I'll have about 2-4 miles of street riding. I won't be riding my roadie because I won't leave it in a bike rack and because there is a fair amount of constrcution on the new route. So I'll be riding my old, converted hard tail MTB.

The new office is a closer car commute and is brand new, with nice furniture and all, and I'll have a nice office as opposed to my cube, but still..... Bah! I want my quiet bike path commute and bike lockers! :
post #67 of 79
Thread Starter 
Don't know if this link from Oct 24 Post will work without a hassle, but it's the story of my commuting life in 200 words :-o

post #68 of 79
Nice pic.
post #69 of 79
Thread Starter 
I know it's a little blasphemous to talk non-skiing/boarding while the season is still on but…last night a bad delay on the subway inspired me to get back in the saddle today after a winter hiatus. It was a beautiful 33 degree morning with good visibility here in the Wash DC suburbs as I started my 2007 bike commuting campaign at about 645am. For my ten mile commute the W&OD bike trail was mostly free of the remnants of snow and ice that still linger in our area. Replaced rear tire over winter and still using my yard sale beater bike. Weird thing I noticed today (and all last summer), one of my knees is a bit stiff and arthritic, but whenever I ride it feels great afterwards?

I'm hoping this year to graduate to Second Time Bike Commuter :-)
post #70 of 79
Way to go James. Keep riding and that knee will keep feeling better. having stronger muscles around the knee will help. And since riding isn't an impact sport (like zipperlining the bumps!), you can gain strength without destroying your knees.

My bike commuting has been on hiatus since my last report in October, except for one, notable, occasion.

In October, I got moved to this new office which is a bit further away (not much), but requires riding a fair amount of surface streets, including going under the Dulles Toll Rd on a fairly busy road (Centerville Rd), which has NO shoulder on the ride home. The white line touches the concrete wall of the underpass!

In December, I moved to a new house, adding about 4 miles to my bike commute. I made the commute from the new house to the new office once, while it was warm in early January. I did it on my old beater commuter. We also don't have anywhere safe to store the bike here, so I just brought it up to my office. In the future, when I bike to this office, I'll probably ride my good roadie and bring it into my office. The beater is sooooo slow!

However, it turns out that this week I started a temporary assignement, for about 3 months, working in my old office building, so I'm excited to start biking again and have all the facilities.
post #71 of 79

I only read a few post b/c I'm half doing my work and posting in messages boards at the same time but I live in DC now and I notice you said the potomac so obviously you live in the area. Where do you commute from? I have been thinking bike commuting myself in DC. It definitely seems like a bike friendly city a lot more so than Boston.
post #72 of 79
Thread Starter 
I use the W&OD trail to ride in from northern VA to Crystal City. I know a lot of folks use the Capital Crescent trail to come in from Silver Spring, MD to the city. There are many other trails/routes. Then there are the hardcore types who mix it up with traffic on regular motor vehicle arteries. You can find out good bicycling info here: http://www.waba.org/
post #73 of 79
wow thanks for the timely response. I have another quick question. Do you have any ski area recommendations that are 2 to 3 hours from DC???
post #74 of 79
Welcome to DC area and Epicski, NHpride365.

Whitetail is the best inside of 3 hours (90 miles from DC). Blue Knob is good when they have enough snow, but more like 3.5 hours drive I think. Seven Springs is a little farther but makes a lot of snow and get decent amount of natural, they have a little longer season. Further out, Canaan/Whitegrass/Timberline are nice, more snow, less challenging, some backcountry.

More info here, http://www.dcski.com/

Live free or die!
post #75 of 79
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post
...Then there are the hardcore types who mix it up with traffic on regular motor vehicle arteries...
Or they live on the wrong side of town, NE, SE or PG, no bike trail into town. I have a good route from Northeast Branch trail to K street for anyone coming in from the College Park/Riverdale/Hyattsville direction.
post #76 of 79
Ahhhh, bike commuting goood!

I'm on a temporary assignment back at my old office, which is right on the W&OD. The ride from my garage at my new house to this office is exactly 10 miles. Rode twice last week. Thursday, I had a good tail wind on the way home, which made it fun. Rode again today. I'll probably get 3 or 4 days this week. Life on the bike path is good.
post #77 of 79
Capitol Hill Bike Expo & Demo ride 4/13-4/15

WABA swap 4/28

Trexlertown Cinco de Mayo
post #78 of 79
Thread Starter 
Close shave last night. Not from a car or bus, but from a pit bull. Was riding bike trail near Shirlington. Saw big man up ahead with large dog walking on wrong side of trail. About 10 yrds out I call out loudly, "passing on the right." He stiffened and the dog reacted so I'm pretty sure they heard me. Rolling along, at 10 ft out I see that the dog has about 12ft of PLAY in his leash. As I close along side 'em the big man is trying to reel the dog in, but it's still moving towards me aggressively with teeth glaring and about 2ft from my thigh. I instinctively brake/eject from my bike and tumble to a grassy area to the right of the bike trail. I do a couple of barrel rolls on the ground and pop up ok. The man has control of the dog now and says, "Mister I'm sorry." I say, "no harm done." I'm in an ecstatic stupor from avoiding a bite from a dog who's head was as big as a basketball. As I cycle away I'm thinking that it was nice that a rainstorm about an hour before my ride made the grass where I bailed out nice and cushy.

Otherwise, my bike commuting has been going well this year.
post #79 of 79
Thread Starter 



Mine's proceding without incident.  5th year of doing this from roughly start to end of Daylight Savings Time.  It's great, still enjoy 50 minute bike ride free from the mobs on the subway.  Still on old clunker hybrid.  The words below from 2006 ring true.  One thing I do more now because I am so familiar with my route is cheat around red lights and intersections. I know it's wrong.  So far I've been fortunate. I'm hoping a confession here straightens me up.

I helped a guy last year who got hit by a car just seconds before I came upon him.  He was banged up, but conscious.  It happened when someone did a "right turn on red" without looking to their right - where he was crossing the highway.


Originally Posted by okolepuka View Post

I used to commute 1.5 hours each way in the Southwest. The only suggestion I have is never, NEVER, get comfortable to the point where you dismiss the rules of the road. Always remember that cars are solid and drivers are not looking out for you, you always have to be on guard, if you let your level of awareness slip you can die. And if they hit you, it doesn't matter if you were following the rules, you will suffer the brunt of it, always be overly cautious.
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