Author Topic: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?  (Read 5694 times)

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« on: November 17, 2014, 02:07:40 PM »
I just realized that the schedule for my new job will require me to use my bike to drop my son off at daycare (about 3 miles from my house) then take my bike on the light rail and bike a few more miles... regardless of weather. If I take the car to do this, then my husband would have to use HIS bike to pick the kid UP from daycare, as I will still be at work. It's only a 2-3 day a week job. We live in Denver.

If we have to buy a second car, I might as well not work at all! I've already ordered one studded tire to try and our bike trailer has a plastic screen for the little dude. I really want to believe that we can make this work...  Does anyone have encouraging words about daily biking?

MoneyRx

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2014, 02:35:15 PM »
The biggest issue I see is the trailer if you are going to be jumping on the rail. Can you leave it at the daycare? Where is the rail stop compared to your house and the daycare? Otherwise, you will probably have to bike him to daycare, head home and dump it, then bike back to the rail.

Biking in colder weather really isn't a problem and if you haven't done it before you will be surprised how the weather doesn't really make a difference as long as you bundle up. I biked last year in snow and really liked it. Clothing items I would recommend: under armor style long underwear that can be worn under your pants, wool socks, face mask/balaclava, and always make sure your ears are covered!
I wear dress pants to work, so I also put gym shorts over my pants when riding to absorb any spray from snow. I wear athletic shoes when riding and keep my dress shoes in my back pack or keep them at work.

cacaoheart

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2014, 04:02:38 PM »
face mask/balaclava, and always make sure your ears are covered!

Covering my mouth/nose makes a big difference in cold tolerance. I can feel toasty even at freezing temperatures as long as that's covered.

Beric01

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2014, 04:20:25 PM »
face mask/balaclava, and always make sure your ears are covered!

Covering my mouth/nose makes a big difference in cold tolerance. I can feel toasty even at freezing temperatures as long as that's covered.

Actually, I find in freezing temperatures (the coldest it gets in winter here is around 30F) the ears and head coverage is the most important. I have a ski headband that I angle around my head to cover my ears, and a neck warmer + hood, and that seems to be fine for me. And after 3 miles or so I find I need to take off a layer.

TrMama

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2014, 04:51:22 PM »
Can't your DH bring the kid and the trailer home in the car? Are buses an option? If the trailer gets left at daycare, can your DH drop the kid off the next morning? Can your DH pick the kid up in the car and you swing by later for the trailer?

I'm a pretty hardcore bike commuter, but even I have days when I drive. Sometimes my bike breaks down and needs to go to the shop, or I don't have the time/parts to fix it right away. Sometimes I get sick and don't want to prolong the illness by biking 60 min in crappy weather.

You absolutely should be able to bike nearly every day, but you also need some sort of backup plan. My backup, backup plan involves calling a taxi ;-)

Rage

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2014, 07:23:47 PM »
Assuming you can bike to work nearly every work day, maybe when things get nasty you can rent a relayride vehicle for a while - or any rental car?  The lowest prices are typically about $30 a day.  Other rental car services around $35.  It requires a certain amount of effort and planning ahead, but when you see a nasty storm on the horizon like we had last week you could set something like this up.  It probably wipes out a lot of the money you're earning for those days, but if it keeps you from having to own a second car and the numbers work out, it's a decent fall-back plan.

johnny847

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2014, 07:29:09 PM »
Assuming you can bike to work nearly every work day, maybe when things get nasty you can rent a relayride vehicle for a while - or any rental car?  The lowest prices are typically about $30 a day.  Other rental car services around $35.  It requires a certain amount of effort and planning ahead, but when you see a nasty storm on the horizon like we had last week you could set something like this up.  It probably wipes out a lot of the money you're earning for those days, but if it keeps you from having to own a second car and the numbers work out, it's a decent fall-back plan.

Something that would probably require less planning ahead as a backup plan is signing up for a carshare service such as Zipcar if you have one in your area. For this to work though, you'd need Zipcars available near your home, and near your work (you rent these by the hour). I'm not sure about the cost comparison though to a traditional rental car charged daily.

frompa

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2014, 08:09:43 PM »
Frugalparagon - take heart.  Biking through the winter is totally doable.  As others have said, the key is to figure out what you'll need for your comfort.  I don't wear two layers on my legs until it gets below 20 F and I seldom do more than three layers up top, because no matter how cold it gets, I stay pretty warm.  I do beef up my feet and hand covers as it gets colder.  You'll figure it out. There's surprisingly little difference in biking through the cold time of year.  I'm in Penna, and we get a fair amount of snow and pretty low temps.  The biggest weather factor that affects my cycling is WIND  -- that's one that can make things much more difficult.  Hang tough and good luck!

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2014, 08:42:50 PM »
Thanks for all the encouragement!  I didn't even think about what to do with the trailer. Seems like I should be able to lock it up at the light rail station, which is not far from day care, and then just retrieve it at the end of the day. Trying to put a double trailer into the trunk of an Accord is not something you want to do regularly!

No Zipcar nearby, I'm sure in a pinch we COULD come up with some sort of cumbersome backup plan, involving buses and/or taxis-Uber-relayrides-whatever and/or asking someone for a lift (Mr. FP has a friend at work who is generally very obliging).

AlmostM

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2014, 09:02:54 PM »
I'm currently living in Tokyo and at a different point I lived in Germany.  In both these places, and a lot of the rest of the world, people bike commute year round and don't own cars.  Some things I've noticed in Tokyo are waterproof covers for the kids seats and handle bar baskets as well as Poogies (built in hand covers).  Also, a lot of people here have electric bicycles.  You'll see women riding around with one kid strapped to her (baby bjorn style), one in the front basket and an older kid in the back child seat.  These bikes cost about $1300 US in Japan, but I haven't seen them in the US.  MMM has a recent post on converting your existing bike to electric.  There are other trendy brands of cargo bikes like Surly's big dummy or XtraCyle and Bern, but they are pretty expensive (new). 

In Mpls (my real home) some people bike commute all year long through sub-zero temps.  The key is really figuring out your layering systems.   The cycling infrastructure is way better outside the US, but there are still plenty of people riding year long in tough climates.  Try finding cross country ski gear (lobster gloves so you can shift and break) and googles.  Make sure you have waterproof or at least warm shoes.  Use news paper bags to cover your feet for wind block and get a waterproof bag or paniers to carry a change of clothes and anything you need for work.  I have some friends who have retrofitted the kitty litter buckets for use at Waterproof paniers which works well. 

Also, check to see if there are rentable bike storage compartments near your office.  In mpls there are nice lockable boxes to store a bike that are cheap $5/month or so and can make it safer to store things instead of lugging them around everyday.

sol

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2014, 09:41:02 PM »
If I was biking without any back up plans, I'd want to have at least two bikes.  Eventually one of them is going to break unexpectedly in a way you can't fix overnight.

The weather isn't really an issue, as long as you dress right and set aside extra time to make the trip when it's really terrible outside.

If you have a bike rack for your car it opens up extra possibilities like driving to drop off the kid, then delivering the car to your husband over lunch and biking back to work, then biking home.  This is obviously more convenient if the two spouses work sort of close together, but it does solve the problem of dealing with the trailer.  I probably wouldn't want to do it regularly, but in a pinch our single-car family finds the bike rack to be a real life saver with tricky schedules.

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2014, 10:05:28 PM »
Oooh, good tip about being prepared for bike breakdown. Having a second bike shouldn't be necessary, though, because we could work like this: He takes bus to work, I take car; he takes bus home, then rides his bike to pick up Tot. That's actually what we're doing tomorrow because I'm nervous about my first day! (We work prohibitively far apart, unfortunately--I'm 10 miles north and he's 5 miles south.)

kendallf

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2014, 08:26:26 AM »
2nd the bike rack for the car.  If your car has one available, put a 1 1/4" receiver hitch on it, then get a tray style rack for that.  You'll stil have to put the trailer in the car, but the rack will make multi-mode trips much more convenient.

I regularly drive my car to work or to the house I'm working on with a bike on the back, then leave the car, ride home, reverse this the next day.

Bonus of a receiver hitch is that if you occasionally need to haul heavy/bulky things, you can get a cheap utility trailer and kick the ass of all those under-utilized pickups, too.  My Lexus regularly tows lumber and we moved the ~1000 lb. TIG welder to the new house with it.  :-)

BPA

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2014, 08:31:47 AM »
My current backup is walking.  My previous one was public transportation. 
 
I do have a beater bike now in addition to my main bike.  I do prefer walking to cycling in snowstorms though.

skunkfunk

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2014, 09:24:11 AM »
Better than all-weather no-backup car commuting.

TrMama

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2014, 11:03:46 AM »
Oooh, good tip about being prepared for bike breakdown. Having a second bike shouldn't be necessary, though, because we could work like this: He takes bus to work, I take car; he takes bus home, then rides his bike to pick up Tot. That's actually what we're doing tomorrow because I'm nervous about my first day! (We work prohibitively far apart, unfortunately--I'm 10 miles north and he's 5 miles south.)

The bike rack is also super handy for when your bike breaks down and you need your spouse to come rescue you. DH and I have both done this for each other.

RH

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2014, 11:27:30 AM »
Any reason why you have to use a trailer? I'm not sure of the age of your son, but there are other options:

Yepp Child Seat
Followme tandem coupling
etc...

You should good "Emily Finch BikePortland" for some other ideas/inspirations.



RelaxedGal

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #17 on: November 18, 2014, 12:39:16 PM »
Congrats on the new job!

My first thought when you said you were taking your bike on the train was "You can't do that!" - here in Boston the commuter rail doesn't allow bikes during rush hour, except folding ones.  But I am wrong, and happy to be wrong.  That page also pointed me to a bike sharing option in Denver that might work as a backup for you in lieu of buying a second bike.  Thinking of days when you get a flat on the way to daycare, can still walk the bike there, light rail to your stop, then pick up a rental bike and go from there.

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #18 on: November 18, 2014, 08:42:45 PM »
Bike share is a good backup suggestion! There is probably one near my work (though not my house).

Trailer really seems like the only viable option. Kid will be 4 in January, so maybe old enough for a tandem when the weather warms up in the spring--I'm planning to look for one with our Christmas money from Grandfather FP . I don't think I can attach a seat as my bike has a petite frame. I'll just have to hope I can lock it up at the train station and then reattach it and bring it home empty.

I'm optimistic that I can make it work because I'm motivated. I drove to work together and I really hate it!

RelaxedGal

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Re: All-weather no-backup bike commuting?
« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2014, 07:07:33 AM »
I think a tandem in the spring is a great idea.  My husband scored a trail-a-bike at a kids consignment sale in September.  My daughter, who will also be 4 in January, is not quite 40 inches tall now and can reach the pedals just not spin them fully.  I think by spring it will work great. Even now she LOVES it, insists she's pedaling, and would much rather ride it than in the trailer.  She asks to be my "third wheel" for a trip to the playground every Saturday.