Author Topic: Tips/advice on switching from car to bike commuting and encouragement  (Read 5042 times)

castead

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Husband drives a 2001 Taurus with 250,000 miles that needs extensive repairs to pass inspection and has a lot of cosmetic damage.
I drive a 2007 Grand Cherokee with 80,000 miles and have spent over $5,000 in repairs over the last two years. We recently bought a house in town making it possible to bike.

Husband would need to commute 17.3 miles each way to work. A couple of issues for him: He must be at work at 5:15 am. He is a supervisor (needs to look somewhat presentable), and there are no showers at work. (Summer temp can reach 100 degrees and it is humid.) 

(Buying a house closer to work is not an option as we looked for a year and had no luck when we bought our house last year; also he might switch jobs within the next couple of years.)

I work as an interpreter by appointments all over town (2 miles - 30 miles from home). I am willing to bike as much as I can within close proximity to home. Sometimes my appointments are scheduled back to back and there is no time in between to allow to bike so I cannot get rid of my car. (Ideally I would buy a new used car, but in the condition my car is in I won't get much for it.)

My biggest issue: I am very uncomfortable riding a bike. I would go as far as to say it's terrifying for me to ride among cars. I am hoping to lose the fear as I become a better bike rider, and get in better shape. Having lost two friends in bike accidents (both experienced, one a commuter, the other training for a triathlon), and having my family call me crazy and stupid for wanting to do this does not help with my confidence.

The plan is to get rid of his car, sell it to a salvage yard or something along those lines. Keep my car for now, as we cannot afford to buy a car, and hopefully save enough to buy a used car in the fall so husband doesn't have to commute in winter.

Anyone heard of the FlyKly bike wheel? Would love to get one for him since it seems it would really help with his commute, but they are $800 and won't come out for another little while.

We have an 18 month old. I am not comfortable riding with him around cars for now, but I would like to get a bike trailer for him and groceries. I hear Burley and Thule are great, but super expensive. Any suggestions?

It is worth mentioning that the area we live in (Roanoke, VA) is not very affluent and CL has slim pickings. How far away would it be reasonable to drive to buy bikes?

Any advice as to what bikes we should get, how much we should spend, or any encouragement will be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Thegoblinchief

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17.3 miles one way is hard. Few bike commuters will do that daily. It's doable but means a long commute, 90 minutes or so depending on traffic and fitness level.

For bikes, hybrids like the Trek FX are usually a good place to start. At work right now, but I can try getting more specific later if others don't beat me to it.

skunkfunk

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You probably want a road bike to go anything like 17 miles. Either that or an electric bike.

Some towns it is not practical to bike commute due to lack of infrastructure and terrible drivers. I don't know about Roanoke.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2014, 11:38:51 AM by skunkfunk »

Sonorous Epithet

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Husband would need to commute 17.3 miles each way to work. A couple of issues for him: He must be at work at 5:15 am. He is a supervisor (needs to look somewhat presentable), and there are no showers at work. (Summer temp can reach 100 degrees and it is humid.)

I work as an interpreter by appointments all over town (2 miles - 30 miles from home). I am willing to bike as much as I can within close proximity to home.

This is very ambitious of you two and I am proud that you want to attempt bicycle commuting! You have a long post with lots of concerns so I've written up a long reply.

I agree that 17.3 mi is a tough commute for your husband.

Regarding the distance:
1. Others in this forum have done halfsies. You drive to work with your bike and then ride back. The next day you ride to work then drive back. Repeat.
2. You should do a dry run or two to try to find a feasible route on a non-working day so you can determine how much time and energy to budget towards your ride.
3. Look into the possibility of doing a park and ride. In my hometown, buses will let you throw your bike on the front for no additional charge. You could bike to a bus stop a comfortable distance away and then ride the rest of the way in. You have multiple stops to choose from, you can vary the distance depending on how you feel that day.
4. Remember that there are others doing long distances too! Check out this thread (working up to a 26 mile commute).

Regarding the weather:
1. If he starts his ride in the wee hours of the morning, the temperature will be at or very new the LOW temperature for the day, not the high. This can be a huge difference. Many times when I thought I would be fighting off sweat, it turns out that I was more worried about being too cold! Then on the way back, he can sweat to his heart's content because he'll arrive home where there is a shower, fresh clothes, and an understanding and supportive family waiting for him.
2. You can choose how vigorously to ride in. Riding a bike fairly lazily is as strenuous as walking, but pushing yourself is as taxing as running. Just because you are on wheels instead of legs, you still get a choice on how hard you do or don't push yourself.
3. Remember the spotlight effect: no one actually gives a shit even if you DO get sweaty. They're not paying attention to you as much as you think they are. And even if they do say anything, just be honest. "I am trying out bicycling commuting, and I'm obviously still working out the kinks" tends to draw interest and encouragement from other people, not disgust.
4. You don't need a shower to freshen up. A simple washcloth goes a long way.
5. Even if all of the above fails, you can just bike in when the weather is favorable. Even 40% of your working days is a huge improvement!

Your husband could also look into alternatives such as scooters or a motorcycle, which are cheap and get GREAT mileage (like 70-100 MPG). This is still mustachian, it's just talked about less often on these forums.

I think YOUR plan of biking sometimes, if your route is short enough, is sound. You will eventually learn what is and isn't within your biking range, and you can ease into it.

My biggest issue: I am very uncomfortable riding a bike. I would go as far as to say it's terrifying for me to ride among cars. I am hoping to lose the fear as I become a better bike rider, and get in better shape.  Having lost two friends in bike accidents (both experienced, one a commuter, the other training for a triathlon), and having my family call me crazy and stupid for wanting to do this does not help with my confidence.

I feel you. I lost two friends in car accidents, and they were both experienced. One was a dedicated car commuter (he commuted in his car every day!) and the other was training for a track day.

Okay, not really, but I wanted to point out that we all know people who have died in auto accidents. Our first reaction is always "What a terrible tragedy, I miss my friend very much" but then no one says "I could never drive a car like that and risk the same fate!"

And regarding your family, they also think of it as dangerous and they want to prevent you from taking what they view as unnecessary risk, because they love you. But of course, you know that bicycling can be very safe and the real risk you are afraid of is working the ratrace and not having control over your life (a much more terrifying prospect to me!)

My girlfriend is also afraid of traffic. She is afraid that someone will text while driving, not see her, and flatten her and her bike like a pancake. Her reaction to this is to ride as far to the right as the can to get out of the way of cars. But this is dangerous, and I'm trying to break her of the habit. The safest way to ride with traffic is to BE SEEN by TAKING THE LANE, and only allow cars behind you to pass when both you and the car feel it's safe to. Don't even give them the opportunity to think "Maybe I can squeak by."

The next thing is to DRIVE PREDICTABLY. If a driver sees a bike acting like a car, they will know what to do. If they see a bike going on and off the sidewalk, weaving in and out of parking cars, appear out of a blind spot all of a sudden, make turns suddenly without signalling, and the like, they will have much more trouble keeping you safe.

Since I started bicycle commuting I've gone out of my way to research safe biking techniques. Just like to took you time to be taught how to drive, it's worth it to take the time to teach yourself (or be taught) how to safely and legally ride a bike on city streets!

You should acquaint yourself with the bike lanes in Roanoake. Google Maps has a bike lane overlay that has helped me discover many routes in my town. You'd be surprised how many lovely, quiet, tree-lined bicycle-friendly residential roads and bicycle paths there are right there alongside the giant busy highways you usually think of when you think about your commute. You may be spending less time surrounded by cars than you think you will be.

Anyone heard of the FlyKly bike wheel? Would love to get one for him since it seems it would really help with his commute, but they are $800 and won't come out for another little while.

There's lots of ways to give an electrical assist to a bicycle. The FlyKly (which I am pronouncing as "flakey" in my head) is a Shiny New Spendy(tm) way of doing it. Others on this forum can speak better to their experience with it.

We have an 18 month old. I am not comfortable riding with him around cars for now, but I would like to get a bike trailer for him and groceries. I hear Burley and Thule are great, but super expensive. Any suggestions?

It is worth mentioning that the area we live in (Roanoke, VA) is not very affluent and CL has slim pickings. How far away would it be reasonable to drive to buy bikes?

Craigslist for trailers. I see trailers fairly often for a fraction of retail. Just like kid-sized anything, people dump them super cheap when their kids outgrow them.

For driving distance, if you can save more than $1 per mile away it is, it's mathematically worth driving for. (Figure .50 in car costs per mile, round trip, and that's the expense of driving to get a discount or better selection.) Of course, if it gets you starting this Grand Experiment that much faster, perhaps it's worth an even longer drive.

Any advice as to what bikes we should get, how much we should spend, or any encouragement will be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Get a bike that FITS! One that you feel comfortable riding. For a beginner this is the most important guideline. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) it's the ONE thing that can't be marketed as a feature or recommended to you by Internet forumites ;), because it's different for every person. If you don't know what you feel comfortable on, visit some bike shops and just test ride a shitload of bikes. There's no better way to learn what works for you. Ask to start with a hybrid, since it's in the middle in terms of riding position (The Trek FX 7 was mentioned and is a good first test ride), and go from there.

castead

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Thanks everyone, this is very helpful!  I just goggled the bike directions and as it turns out there is a more direct way to get there in about 14 miles, it bypasses the bike trail though, so a lot more traffic lights.





Albert

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In my opinion 17 miles one way is way too long for everyday commuting, but one could of course try. My limit would probably be around 10 km (ca 6 miles). Since my commute is much further than that I take a train.

zolotiyeruki

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$800 for an electric bike kit?  That's a bit steep.  You can convert your bike to electric for a lot less than that.  Heck, you can get decent kits sans battery off ebay for about $150-$200.  It just replaces your whole front wheel.

castead

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$800 for an electric bike kit?  That's a bit steep.  You can convert your bike to electric for a lot less than that.  Heck, you can get decent kits sans battery off ebay for about $150-$200.  It just replaces your whole front wheel.

So nothing special about the Flykly that makes it worth it? I was going to get one from Kickstarter for $550 last year, but since we were in the process of buying our first house I couldn't come up with the $.

Should I just do an ebay search for electric bike kit? Where do I get the battery from?

Thanks!

marblejane

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Your first step is to get a clear understanding of what size bike you and your husband need. I would suggest going to a local bike shop and getting properly fitted on a road bike. You don't need to buy a bike there, but this will give you a starting point for what sizes to look at.

You can sign up for a free account on wrenchscience.com and use their online fitting tool to get your bike measurements, too, but definitely try to test ride some bikes at a store before attempting a craigslist search.

Given the uses that you described, you will probably want a road bike with drop bars for your husband, and an old-school mountain bike WITHOUT suspension for you. Your husband will want the road bike with drop bars for speed and comfort over long distances, while the mountain bike will allow you stability and a more upright position for shorter trips.

w/r/t overcoming fear: just get out there and ride, and don't feel bad about taking baby steps. I started riding last July, and my comfort level in traffic has gone up exponentially. Read up on defensive biking techniques. If there is an REI near you, they often offer classes where they take you out on a bike and teach you to ride in traffic.

17 miles each way is going to be a lot for your husband to do every day. You might want to start by driving him into work in the morning, and having him bike home in the evening. (You could try this on a weekend to start, just drive to his work with the bike and have him bike home). Traffic lights add a lot of time to a bike commute, so I'm not sure that the short route will actually save your husband time. I would start out taking the most protected route (bike paths, low traffic areas) until he has more practice.



castead

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17 miles each way is going to be a lot for your husband to do every day. You might want to start by driving him into work in the morning, and having him bike home in the evening. (You could try this on a weekend to start, just drive to his work with the bike and have him bike home). Traffic lights add a lot of time to a bike commute, so I'm not sure that the short route will actually save your husband time. I would start out taking the most protected route (bike paths, low traffic areas) until he has more practice.


Husband used to bike everywhere in NYC for 4 years so he is very comfortable in a bike.

Why without the suspension? Is it a cost thing?

Thank you :)

marblejane

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That's good, then he should do just fine.

The suspension adds weight and absorbs some of the forward motion from pedaling. Unless you are going to go off-road, it's just going to slow you down and make pedaling harder.

CarDude

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17 miles with no shower? I wish you luck, my friend.

marblejane

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Here's double bike trailer for sale in Roanoke: http://roanoke.craigslist.org/bik/4450193640.html

castead

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Your husband could also look into alternatives such as scooters or a motorcycle, which are cheap and get GREAT mileage (like 70-100 MPG). This is still mustachian, it's just talked about less often on these forums.

A scooter sounds like a great idea. We don't have a garage, however, and our house sits on a hill so there are lots of steps to the front door so not sure how we would store a scooter, and I'm guessing having it sit outside is probably not a good idea as it would get stolen or ruined.


I feel you. I lost two friends in car accidents, and they were both experienced. One was a dedicated car commuter (he commuted in his car every day!) and the other was training for a track day.

Okay, not really, but I wanted to point out that we all know people who have died in auto accidents. Our first reaction is always "What a terrible tragedy, I miss my friend very much" but then no one says "I could never drive a car like that and risk the same fate!"

Hahaha I totally see what you're saying, and yet, the fear is still there. Somehow, even though I am aware of crash statistics, being surrounded by lots of metal makes me feel safer. I know it's not logical. And I don't know anyone who has ever died in a car crash, so perhaps it's not real to me. I am willing to try and confront my fears though! 

I am totally like your girlfriend, and thanks to you now I know why bikers are always (very annoyingly) riding in the middle of the road going very slowly. It's a safety thing. I wish they would educate drivers (perhaps when you get a DL) about cyclists. Oftentimes I've felt annoyed by the way they take the road and make me late. I guess now I will be the very vulnerable cyclist. Probably going very slowly and feeling self-conscious.

Sonorous Epithet

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Your husband could also look into alternatives such as scooters or a motorcycle, which are cheap and get GREAT mileage (like 70-100 MPG). This is still mustachian, it's just talked about less often on these forums.

A scooter sounds like a great idea. We don't have a garage, however, and our house sits on a hill so there are lots of steps to the front door so not sure how we would store a scooter, and I'm guessing having it sit outside is probably not a good idea as it would get stolen or ruined.

Having never had a scooter before, I may be talking out of my ass, but my guess is there isn't much danger. Park in your driveway if you have one. Or maybe behind your house. Or just on the street. Maybe put a cover on it to deter lookie-loos and/or protect it from the elements. Walk it in neutral if the parking space isn't a good starting space. Do you have vandalism/theft problems with motorcycles or cars on the street around you?

Hahaha I totally see what you're saying, and yet, the fear is still there. Somehow, even though I am aware of crash statistics, being surrounded by lots of metal makes me feel safer. I know it's not logical. And I don't know anyone who has ever died in a car crash, so perhaps it's not real to me. I am willing to try and confront my fears though! 

I am totally like your girlfriend, and thanks to you now I know why bikers are always (very annoyingly) riding in the middle of the road going very slowly. It's a safety thing. I wish they would educate drivers (perhaps when you get a DL) about cyclists. Oftentimes I've felt annoyed by the way they take the road and make me late. I guess now I will be the very vulnerable cyclist. Probably going very slowly and feeling self-conscious.

Hey, it's okay to be afraid, and it's brave to admit it, and even braver to do the thing you're afraid of. As you spend some time learning about non-car forms of transportation, things get less scary, because knowledge is empowering.

A quick google of "VA bicycle laws" turned up about a bajillion results. Try something like this: http://www.vdot.virginia.gov/programs/bk-laws.asp.

The other day I was returning home on the bike path when there were a bunch of pedestrians slowly milling around, after a little league game had just gotten out. I had to stop pedaling and slow down till I could pass safely. I found myself getting mad for no reason. I thought to myself, "Pay attention! Don't you assholes know you're making me late! Get a bike, you bum!" They probably made me take all of 10 extra seconds, but it felt like forever at the time. I guess no one's immune ;)

castead

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Having never had a scooter before, I may be talking out of my ass, but my guess is there isn't much danger. Park in your driveway if you have one. Or maybe behind your house. Or just on the street. Maybe put a cover on it to deter lookie-loos and/or protect it from the elements. Walk it in neutral if the parking space isn't a good starting space. Do you have vandalism/theft problems with motorcycles or cars on the street around you?

No driveway or alley, and apparently they have been breaking into cars and stealing things. I've never had an issue with anyone breaking into my car, not that I have anything they can steal if they do, and if they take the car they would be doing me a favor as I would probably get more money from the insurance than I would otherwise.

Upon further investigation, it turns out that the people that had their cars broken into happened to leave them unlocked. Is it really breaking into them in such case? Perhaps I should leave my car unlocked and hope they take the whole thing.

I spoke to my husband about the scooter and he seems extremely excited about this idea as he really doesn't want to commute that far on a bike. I think we will try and find a bike for myself and a scooter for him! Thanks for your help everyone!

Sonorous Epithet

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Let us know how it works out!

jnik

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There are two LCI's in Roanoke. Drop 'em a line; they can probably help out with route choices (and maybe have a good lead on local used bikes).