Author Topic: About to buy my first road bike and start biking 26 miles round trip to work!  (Read 12690 times)

webguy

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 268
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Minnesota
Last year I would bike about 5 miles each way to work on my crappy little mountain bike.  Then winter hit here in Minnesota and I moved 13 miles away from my job.  I'm not badass enough to keep cycling through the brutal Minnesotan winters but now that spring is in the air I'm shopping for my first ever road bike so that I can try and kick the ass of that 13 mile commute!

A few questions for you badass biking mustachians:

  • Does anyone else bike-commute this far every day?  And if so, what kind of gear should I be looking to buy to make my life easier?  Cycling shorts? Puncture repair kit? Special backpack?
  • The route is pretty flat and is paved bike path 90% of the way with a few road crossings etc.  If you regularly cycle that far then how long does it usually take you?  It takes me about 15-18 minutes to drive but I'm hoping I can cycle the 13 miles in under 45 minutes.  Is that realistic?  I'm in decent shape but haven't cycled for 5 months or so.
  • Any recommendations on a decent beginners road bike?  I'm looking at the Trek 1.1, Trek 1.2, Secteur base Road Race bike, and the Allez Sport Road Race Bike.  Having never bought (or ridden) a road bike before I'd appreciate any suggestions!

sheepstache

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2424
What's "crappy" about your mountain bike?  If you were comfortable on it for five miles, you might just try it for 13 and see how it goes.  If you still have knobby tires rather than road slicks, those would be pretty cheap through bike nashbar or something.  It's  true that road bikes are more efficient for longer distances, but it would be a good way to test your fitness and will for cheap and then you'd get the pleasure of switching to a road bike if that's what you decide.

If you're sure you want a road bike, and have never had one before, you don't need a recommendation.  You need to go to the store and try bikes.  Finding a frame that lets you have a comfortable posture is what's important, not the brand or model.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 13634
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I do a 22.2 mile commute a couple times a week on the road with some pretty steep hills.

- Get a bike that you can fit a sturdy rear rack to and add panniers for carrying your change of clothes (you will need a change of clothes and shower at that distance).  Especially with road bikes, I find that the more deeply bent over position for long rides means that carrying a backpack makes your hands and lower back ache.
- Get a bike that you can easily fit full length fenders on.  If you're commuting every day, you're going to be rained on.  More importantly, your fancy new bike is going to get gritty/oily crap sprayed all over it's drive train every time it's damp out.  Fenders will help this!
- Leave your bike lock on the rack at work (who needs to be lugging around 10 lbs of metal each way that you won't be using??)
- I don't think that padded cycling shorts are a necessity for a 13 mile trip, just make sure that you're comfortable with your seat.
- I carry a spare tube, frame pump, tire levers and multitool with me whenever I commute, but I don't have a cellphone.  The frame pump is attached to the down tube, the tools go in a seat bag.
- Invest in tires with puncture proof kevlar lining built in.  It's worth it, and you'll flat much less often.  Depending on how much debris you've got on your path you might also want to look at slime filled inner tubes.  NOT having to stop for a flat is WAY better than fixing one.
- Check your pressure and if necessary, pump your tires before leaving every morning.  Deflated tires lead to flats.


13 miles in under 45 minutes should be doable depending on temperature, traffic, wind, and hilliness.  I've been doing my 11.1 miles in the hills, snow, and blowing winds during the winter at between 45 and 55 minutes (one day it was 60 minutes, but that was with a 30 mph headwind most of the way and ski pants on).


As far as bike recommendations go, I'd look for something like a used touring bike or a cyclocross bike . . . (Surly LHT or Cross Check both spring to mind).  They tend to come with clearance for bigger tires (easier on your hands if your route is full of potholes), clearance for fenders, mounting points for racks, etc.  Absolutely go in to a bunch of bike stores and try things out to make sure you don't end up with somethign too small or too big.


My other recommendation is that you ease into this exercise . . . try commuting one day a week, then two then next, then three the next, etc.  26 miles is a long haul when you're not used to it, your body (ass especially) will need to adapt.  Drop handlebars are great because you can keep changing your hand position all the time to avoid fatigue . . . but that habit takes a little while to develop if you've only used flat bars your whole life.



Personally, I go way faster on my road bike than I used to on my mountain bike with slicks, or than I do on my hybrid.  Being more stretched out and having the drops to duck under the wind makes a big difference.  I think you're on the right path by looking at road bikes.

capital

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 451
My current bike commute is 5 city miles, but I've had a 15-mile each way commute. I usually did that one two or three days a week because the job had an early start and I'm not good at hauling my ass out of bed early in the morning. I rode a jankety singlespeed I built or a 1970s-vintage Schwinn Varsity, which is a comfy bike but has a primitive 1960s-era drivetrain and weighs 45 pounds. Both worked, but if you have a bit more budget it's worth getting a more modern machine. Once you're fit, speed depends a lot on your route-- it's easy to keep up 15 or 17mph on a paved, grade-separated rail-trail (common in Minneapolis) but I usually average 10mph or so here in NYC due to the abundant stoplights.

http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/gravity/liberty_cx.htm
If you're sufficiently mechanically inclined to assemble a bicycle on your own and willing to figure out bike sizing on your own, I'm a big fan of this bike as an awesome commuter for not much money. It does similar things to the Surly Cross-Check (a widely beloved commuter bike) for a third of the price. My girlfriend has it and uses it to commute, in addition to some great rides together: 70-mile rides, mountain biking, whatever. She's a big fan of the bar-top brake levers for city riding, too. It's not beautiful, but has a certain aggro charm, and has beefy road tires and fits a rack and fenders with ease. The parts are all basic, but there's nothing stupid on it, and it's so cheap that even if half the drivetrain needs to be replaced within a couple years that you're still ahead money-wise. The fork is steel, as opposed to carbon, which I'd avoid for a bike that's going to get knocked around when locked up outside.

Equipment-wise, you'll want good lights, and probably a rack and panniers as opposed to a backpack-- backpacks get super-sweaty and can get uncomfortable on longer rides. Panniers are also great for rolling into the grocery store on your way home from work, and if you're shopping in a big suburban store, you can usually roll your bike right in with you-- it's smaller than a cart! Bring repair equipment if you can't bail onto transit or call someone to rescue you. Get a lock (always a u-lock) appropriate to your environment-- a basic lightweight u-lock in suburbia, one or more big beefy u-locks if you're parking outdoors downtown.

tuyop

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 331
I did a 62-mile round trip commute on highways every day last summer. I have some advice.

My bike was 125 dollars on kijiji (Canadian craigslist). It's a 1986 ten-speed Fuji road bike that is slightly too large for me. I replaced the chain and seat because they broke after two days.

I biked in basketball shorts and technical t-shirts and carried my work clothes inside a garbage bag in a backpack (for waterproofiness). This was not a problem because I didn't find the bike ride very sweaty, even when it was over 30C (85F), but I also like to run during the hottest part of the day for acclimitization. And I'm crazy.

Things you need, in my opinion:
- backpack
- helmet
- some reflective thingy, this is what I used: http://www.reflexsafety.com/product/12/reflex-ext-belt-w-buckle I put it on my backpack
- sunglasses (keep rain out of your eyes and protect them from bugs and road debris)
- gloves
- spare tube AND patch kit, hand pump, tire levers and repair stuff
- a sense of humor. Biking in the rain is simply HILARIOUS. You just got splashed by a truck AGAIN and now there's like, old box and god-knows-what on you AGAIN HAHAHA. Better close your mouth here comes another!!! Also: http://18milesperhour.tumblr.com/universaltruthsofcycling

Things that I wish I had:
- Music. Three hours a day of road noise gets OLD.
- Lights. There were times when I had to stay at work late and biking in the dark was terrifying.
- Clipless pedals and bike shoes. My feet always went numb from the pedals, but I spent some money on some pedals in the fall.
- A bike that fit. My hips, hands, and knees were always sore because the frame is just a bit too large for me.
- Bike shorts, jersey, rain gear. I think these things would make me more comfortable but I'll probably never get them.

Bakari

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1797
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Veggie Powered Handyman
    • The Flamboyant Introvert
15 miles, but only once a week (used to be 2.5 times a week)

Personally I prefer to travel as light as possible.  I forgo all tools, spares, fenders, pump, panniers, for a transit pass and a cell phone.

If your route isn't along transit, and you have no one to call to beg for a ride, then I'd suggest all that.

For warmth in spring/fall I usually use arm warmers and a thin wind shell, both of which can stuff down into a pocket once you get going and warm up.

Gloves, glasses, music, and lights - always lights.  A bright flashing front light makes you more visible even in the day time, when the sun in near the horizon or its an overcast day or you are riding beneath shady trees or there is a lot of traffic around you.
Personally, for a commute that long, I feel clipless pedals are worth it.  Others would disagree - see thread on pedals...

I never use padded shorts, not when I was a messenger, not when I rode 3000 miles to Mexico City, they feel weird to me.  Put in enough saddle time, on a good firm seat that is the proper width for your pelvis, and it will become comfortable. 
I don't bother with rain gear either.  If it is really waterproof you end up sweating inside so much that you get just as wet.  Light rain I just slog through it.  Heavy rain and its transit time.

My recommendation for a bike is too long for a forum post, but I wrote a blog for another Mustachian with the same question: http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2012/01/buying-bikes-from-craigslist.html

BWholehearted

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 23
I would bring: spare tube, pump, patch kit, bike multi tool, lights and reflectors, water bottle, and panniers rather than a backpack for sure.  You can make your own panniers out of rectangular 5 gallon buckets with a few bucks worth of parts.  Google, "5 gallon bucket panniers" and you will get plenty of ideas.  I used these when commuting and they are great; waterproof (if done right), durable, cheap, don't crush things.  Can't beat 'em.

My husband and I bought Surley Cross Checks last spring and love them!  We bought them more for touring but hopefully for commuting at some point too.  They are sturdy, use simple but quality parts (aka easier to repair yourself), and are "cheap" compared to most "road" bikes.  Though $1000 is never cheap to me, I think it was a good investment.  $1000 is way cheaper than even a cheap car, and will  be much more reliable. On the other hand, you can definitely find an old sturdy road bike for much cheaper if you are willing to fix it up.  There is a lot of joy in using the right tool for the job, so if buying a road bike keeps you commuting by bike, because it's smoother and faster and fun (compared to your mountian bike), then it's a win.  If you switch back to driving, it's a loss.  Sheepstache is right, the size and fit are the most important thing and trying out different bikes with the help of someone who knows how to fit them will pay dividends.  Even if you eventually buy used, go into stores when it is slow, ask lots of questions.  Some towns have community bike shops that will let you use their tools and expertise for a small fee to help you fix up your bike. 

Tuyop is absolutely right about having a sense of humor.  That is by far the best thing to bring with you!  Have fun!

Faraday

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1192
  • Age: 57
  • Location: NC
  • Solar Powered Slice
+1 to everything GuitarStv said, but overall, you're getting pretty good advice in these replies.

I do 33 miles each way, 66 miles round trip, a couple times a week. I'm working up to 5 days a week as weather improves. I do almost everything these guys talk about, but I don't do the backpack thing - I hate a sweaty back while the rest of me is cold. I use panniers and get to unhook them from the bike rack and carry them into the office like a briefcase.

I say try the trip once or twice on the crappy mountain bike, just to get a feel for how the bike moves and what the route is like, then start shopping for that road bike. Get a touring/commuting bike, don't get one of those ultra-lightweight race bikes - you want something that can take the daily punishment, and it's A-OK to accept a few more lbs of weight for durability and toughness.

Hamster

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 623
I would definitely not use a backpack at that distance. As GuitarStv said, a rack and panniers. It will keep your back much happier, especially in hot MN summers.

I also would rec a touring bike over a standard road bike--more durable and generally more comfrotable, if a bit heavier. Also, room for larger tires and fenders (which you will want at some time when you decide you do want to commute in the winter).

I have a Surly Long Haul Trucker, which would be an ideal bike for your situation (and Surly is in Minnesota!). Living in the northwest, I wish I had the disc break version for we weather stopping. It didn't exist when I bought mine. There are some other disc-break touring bikes out there, but if you're mostly doing dry weather, standard breaks will probably be easier to deal with.

Bakari

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1797
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Veggie Powered Handyman
    • The Flamboyant Introvert
I love my heavy steel touring bike more than any of the others, but on the other hand, the weight difference between it and my carbon road bike was enough to make taking the shorter, more hilly route more reasonable, which, combined with higher speed in the flats, meant a 35 mine commute instead of a 50 minute commute. (unfortunately thats all phrased past tense because the bike was stolen last year)

It can be nice to have a mule bike that can carry 100lbs of gear, but if you don't have anything you need to carry with you, the weather's nice, and the roads are decent, there isn't necessarily any advantage of a touring / commuter bike over something lighter and faster.

If you are only going to have one bike for everything, I tend to agree with everyone else, but it really depends on your specific circumstances and needs.  A road/racing bike can make an excellent commuter, and plenty of people use them that way every day

clutchy

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 339
I'd probably get something like a trek FX or equivalent.

I have a road bike but for work commuting I want a pannier and this bike won't accept one.


You might also appreciate a less aggressive riding position over that distance.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 13634
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I love my heavy steel touring bike more than any of the others, but on the other hand, the weight difference between it and my carbon road bike was enough to make taking the shorter, more hilly route more reasonable, which, combined with higher speed in the flats, meant a 35 mine commute instead of a 50 minute commute. (unfortunately thats all phrased past tense because the bike was stolen last year)

It can be nice to have a mule bike that can carry 100lbs of gear, but if you don't have anything you need to carry with you, the weather's nice, and the roads are decent, there isn't necessarily any advantage of a touring / commuter bike over something lighter and faster.

Wait, let's do some math . . .


Carbon fiber bike - 15 lbs
Your weight - let's say 160 - 190
Weight of stuff you need to bring while commuting - change of clothes, water bottle, lunch - 5 lbs
Totalled up:  180 - 210 lbs

Steel road bike - 25 lbs
Your weight - let's say 160 - 190
Weight of stuff you need to bring while commuting - change of clothes, water bottle, lunch - 5 lbs
Totalled up:  190 - 220 lbs

So, you're getting a 30% speed (15 minutes over 50) increase by reducing the weight of the whole system by only 4-5% ?  Something doesn't add up here. . . and that's assuming that the touring bike is almost twice the weight of the carbon bike!

Bakari

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1797
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Veggie Powered Handyman
    • The Flamboyant Introvert
my weight: 130
weight of stuff I bring: 0

carbon bike: about 15
steel bike + rack, fenders, generator light, electronic horn, etc: about 30

But the most important part you missed was: "...taking the shorter, more hilly route more reasonable..."

I didn't really care to haul that extra 10% weight up the large and numerous hills of the direct route between home and work (8.4 miles)
Instead, I would ride down below the lake, which was mostly flat, but 11.5 miles.

Weight difference (and aerodynamic positioning) doesn't make a lot of difference when you are riding on flat ground (and no wind), but it makes a huge difference up a 13% grade (or into a 15mph headwind) - something you don't think about on a test ride in the parking lot or a 2 mile trip to the store.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 13634
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Comparing different routes and bikes with completely different amounts of stuff attached to them is pretty much useless, no?  You could always have removed all the extra stuff from the touring bike to make it closer in weight to the racing bike, no?

I'm about 190 and didn't notice a huge difference in speed on a pretty hilly 20 mile commute when I added 10 lbs of steel baskets, racks, lights, frame pump, fenders, and seatpost bag to my 20 lb winter bike.

rue

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 18
My commute by bike was much shorter (embarrassingly so ) but this is what I learnt. There will be a transition period when you will be building stamina and you will be tired and will need to factor in extra rest time in evenings and weekends.  Dont try not to do (eg still going out with the boys on the first couple weeks etc) this as you will set up to fail.  Take your vitamins and stay green and clean.  Make sure your accident cover is up to date.  If you have a bad one (ask me how I know this and it was me and just gravel : /) you could be laid off for weeks. Good luck!  It is awesome you are doing this.

kendallf

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1048
  • Age: 52
  • Location: Jacksonville, FL
OP, I regularly commute on a route longer than your proposed one (18-21 miles one way, depending on route).  I also race and ride for pleasure on a variety of bikes.  I'll give you my input based on that experience..

To your specifics, the route is flat and you're looking at what I'd call 'beginner race style' bikes.  If you mainly want to use this bike to commute, head toward the commuter road bikes such as the Surly mentioned earlier.  Like others also mentioned, I vastly prefer letting the bike carry my gear in panniers mounted on racks to using a backpack, especially for longer rides.  Lights are a necessity and fenders are at least very nice to have if you're going to ride in all weather conditions and in the dark occasionally.  My main commuter is a 40 lb. tank set up with a generator hub and lighting, fenders, racks, and tough commuter tires.  On flat ground, it costs me somewhere between 0 and 2 mph over my race bike.  No big deal.

If you have other cycling goals such as group rides and faster paced stuff, you can go for the bikes you mention; just know that you're making a compromise on commuting.  Get blinky lights, perhaps some lightweight fenders, try to minimize your stuff for the backpack.  If you have the luxury of a car pool option or a car you can leave at work, drive in with extra supplies for the week and ride home unencumbered at least one day a week.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

jp

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 129
I just moved about 15 miles away from my office... so the commute went from 10 miles round trip to 30 miles round trip.  I can ride 15 miles, that's no problem.  It is very hilly though, and I average about 12 mph (compared to 15 mph on my old flatter, shorter commute).  I have only done the commute once so far, and I did it  on my trusty single speed (a 1979 Scwinn Traveler), but to hell with that.  I am taking the road bike next time (a 2002 Specialized Allez). 

I have to admit, it does suck and it takes me over an hour.  It doesn't bother me in the morning, but it does bother me at night when my kids are waiting for me to get home.  I am actually thinking I am going to start driving it.  Someone talk me down...