The Money Mustache Community

Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: JLR on April 02, 2016, 10:39:42 PM

Title: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: JLR on April 02, 2016, 10:39:42 PM
Reading the comments on his latest post (the April Fools one), I'm just thinking about MMMs thoughts on cycling for all trips under 3 miles.

We live only 1.5mi from our nearest supermarket but the elevation difference is 300ft, with 250ft of that in a 1/2mi section near our house. We used to often ride to the supermarket and library the last few places we've lived (we have a bike trailer for carrying groceries and gear), but we have barely touched our bikes since moving to our current house. Mostly because I'm too nervous to take our children on that 250ft downhill section. This keeps us cycling the same small section closest to our house, but nowhere near town. Therefore, we currently drive to the supermarket.

So I'm wondering, what sort of elevation differences do other readers here tackle in their cycling? What would be your limit? Would that change if you were cycling with children?
Title: Re: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: BrooklineBiker on April 03, 2016, 08:40:00 AM
Hi,
Well, there are a lot of concerns I would consider in addition to how steep a hill is before taking or not taking my children on it. Can you walk your bikes on a particularly bad part? Are there blind spots where your inability to stop might lead to an accident?  Is there a bike lane? Do you or your children have disk brakes on your bicycles? Can you mount them on your bikes? Are your bikes cargo laden on the downhill on the way to the store or on the uphill on the way back from the store?

My kids & I go up & down hills in a busy urban area. Some are very steep. However, the limiting factor is their motivation (often low :( ). For myself, I use my bike for all shopping, social, and work functions within a 8 mile radius. Some of the hills I encounter are very steep and/or long.
Title: Re: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: tardis on April 03, 2016, 09:05:50 AM
I don't own a car and live in a small town of 9k people so all commuting and visits to the big city (70km round trip) are via bike.  I don't have children and wouldn't do anything out of town with them because that involves riding on the side of highways, but anything in town seems like it would be ok if you used the sidewalks (if quite young) or the slower roads (if older).  Have you thought about using a child trailer for your kids if they're still small enough?  You could probably put the groceries in there with them too.

For short distances (under 1-2km) doing errands that have a sharp incline I just walk.  Or if I decide to cycle I'll do what Brookline Biker says and just walk the bike for chunks.

I just biked 22km up 400m (1312ft) to get to a hike, then hiked the 10km up/down another 100m, and back down a few weeks ago  The down part was fun.  :)
Title: Re: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: mountains_o_mustaches on April 03, 2016, 02:04:42 PM
I think there are 2 concerns in here (correct me if I'm wrong): 1. Concerns about riding up and down a steep incline w/ children (I assume due to worries about children being able to stop properly / not get injured as they go down and 2. Not wanting to struggle up a large incline while carrying a heavy load. 

I think the 2nd concern is easier to address than the 1st.  Going uphill will get easier with time and like another commenter suggested - you can give yourself permission to walk all or part of that incline.  I try to keep a mindset that hills are free interval training and help me stay in shape.  If you have the $$ you could also consider an e-bike to give you an extra boost. 

For the first concern I have a few thoughts - do the kids have to come w/ you?  I mean, if the kids coming along are the primary barrier to biking for groceries, is there a way that your spouse can stay home w/ them while you go out and do the shopping?  Another thought would be to work with them on teaching them to safely navigate the steep downhill ride.  If they're young enough - do you have room for both the groceries and the kids in the trailer?
Title: Re: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: JLR on April 03, 2016, 09:00:59 PM
There are actually 1.5 big hills between us and the supermarket (we live at the top of the biggest hill). I forgot to account for the second one, which is on the highway. I think this shows it is the first hill that scares me more. If we can tackle that then surely we can tackle the highway goes my thinking. :)

The worst hill has kerb and guttering on the uphill side, but just dirt and bushland on the downhill side. Although that part of the ride is off the highway (90% of the rest is on the highway), most cars drive up and down 10-15mi over the limit and it is quite narrow for the top half.

About halfway down the scary hill a sidewalk starts on one side, so we might give riding on that a go. Perhaps after walking down the first section. Thanks for the idea, Tardis. And now I think about it, we could avoid the second hill by taking a back road that will about double our distance, but has a bike path for a good section. And it means riding only about 100ft along the highway. And that small section of highway does have a bike lane, of sorts.

The sidewalk on the second half of that scary section will also help us avoid the narrow, sharp corner and blindspot towards the bottom of the hill, BrooklineBiker.

Only our youngest has disc brakes as his bike is the newest. I have a bit of bike envy there. ;)

I homeschool our children and my husband has a new job where he works away. We also have no family within 5 hours drive, so getting groceries without the kids is pretty much impossible, mountains_o_mustaches. We also feel a bit trapped here up on the hill until we can tackle it on our bikes. And our bikes are languishing unused in the garage until we improve our skills and fitness on the bike!

I'm thinking if I also pack some backpacks that maybe I can get the kids to walk their bikes up the hill with some groceries in their bags to lighten my load of bike/trailer/groceries on the uphill trip home.

Thanks everyone for your suggestions. You've given me some great ideas.
Title: Re: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: mm1970 on April 04, 2016, 06:11:51 PM
We live about 1.25 mile from the store and 0.7  mi from the school.

The first part of that is 150 ft elevation change in 0.3 miles. It's very narrow, no  bike lane, barely a sidewalk, and people drive very fast.

I would never ride my bike there with my kids.  (Of course the hill goes down the other side too but it's wider.)

We do walk to school once a week.  I have no problem walking to the store with a stroller.
Title: Re: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: JLR on April 04, 2016, 06:17:18 PM
  I have no problem walking to the store with a stroller.

Yes, we kept our stroller for as long as possible for supermarket walking trips at our old house. It was funny the time I went Christmas shopping and an old couple came over to our pram/stroller cooing, wanting to look at my baby. They looked in and found two frozen turkeys.... :)
Title: Re: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: GuitarStv on April 04, 2016, 06:52:36 PM
I like to bike to the slightly further supermarket rather than the close one.  There's a deep valley between it and my house, about 150 elevation change each way and 8 km.  The hills require a granny gear and sense of humour when you're pulling a heavy load of groceries back.  My suggestion is to make for damned sure you have everything strapped down properly when you're heading down the hill.  You don't want that baguette sliding down towards your spokes when you're blasting along at 50 or 60kph.
Title: Re: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: Syonyk on April 04, 2016, 08:20:39 PM
Good hydraulic disc brakes, front and rear, take care of the descent.

And I know it's unpopular around here, but an electric bike (rear hub motor, or mid-drive if it's really steep) basically solves this problem.  You still put in effort, but it makes insane hills utterly feasible.

I used to bike to the store and back (a good uphill to get home) with 40+ lbs of groceries in a hiking backpack.  I wouldn't consider doing that on a pedal bike, but I took the trip regularly with an electric bike.

An electric bike you ride regularly is better than a pure mechanical bike collecting dust. ;)
Title: Re: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: FLBiker on April 05, 2016, 07:37:07 AM
When I lived in HI, I basically bike straight up the mountain to get groceries (but coming back was fun).  I had my sister's old (too small) rucksack that I used.  Fun times.

That said, with kids, it really comes down to what you feel is safe.  I bike commute to work every day, but once I'm responsible for taking my daughter to daycare, it might change.  I'll have to see how I feel.  I have a decent route, but I'm mostly on roads and Tampa drivers aren't great.  We'll see.
Title: Re: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: Jack on April 05, 2016, 07:51:24 AM
How old/large are the kids? Instead of having them ride separate bikes, would a trailer. trail-a-bike, cargo bike with monkey bars (http://yubabikes.com/cargobikestore/monkey-bars), or tandem be appropriate?
Title: Re: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: JLR on April 08, 2016, 12:31:34 AM
How old/large are the kids? Instead of having them ride separate bikes, would a trailer. trail-a-bike, cargo bike with monkey bars (http://yubabikes.com/cargobikestore/monkey-bars), or tandem be appropriate?

All too told and big for trailers, tag alongs, etc. I kept them in the trailer as long as possible (good memories of pulling two in the trailer while pregnant with #3), but those days are over. :( The old kiddy trailer is now strictly for cargo.

I drove down the big hill yesterday and tried to convince myself it really wasn't that steep. But I know all about how easy it is to misjudge a hill in the car vs. how it really looks on a bike. :)

Once the rain stops we will go for a little test ride.
Title: Re: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: Jack on April 08, 2016, 07:54:55 AM
How old/large are the kids? Instead of having them ride separate bikes, would a trailer. trail-a-bike, cargo bike with monkey bars (http://yubabikes.com/cargobikestore/monkey-bars), or tandem be appropriate?

All too told and big for trailers, tag alongs, etc. I kept them in the trailer as long as possible (good memories of pulling two in the trailer while pregnant with #3), but those days are over. :( The old kiddy trailer is now strictly for cargo.

Well, you could always get something like this:

(http://sandsmachine.com/p_comt36.jpg)

Not exactly mustachian though, unless you build it yourself.
Title: Re: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: Syonyk on April 08, 2016, 08:59:11 AM
They've got the ordering wrong there.  Should be biggest to smallest for least drag.

Also, that looks like a structural nightmare to build, and the weight on the tires will require special tires, at best...
Title: Re: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: GuitarStv on April 08, 2016, 09:33:33 AM
What number of spokes would you want on that behemoth?  In the 50s?
Title: Re: Cycling to the Supermarket and Elevation
Post by: Jack on April 08, 2016, 09:39:55 AM
Also, that looks like a structural nightmare to build, and the weight on the tires will require special tires, at best...

It's just a quad tandem. They're pretty uncommon so they tend to be built-to-order (and very expensive), but they're common enough that they're not "experimental" or anything and there are companies that specialize in them (e.g. Santana, Co-motion).

Also, as far as the frame being a "structural nightmare" goes, look at it again: it's basically just almost a normal diamond-frame (except with single tubes instead of split seatstays and chainstays) repeated several times. It's not complicated, just big.

Although they use higher-spoke-count wheels, I would expect most tires to survive perfectly fine: you'd just inflate them to the top end of the PSI range, but the contact patch would more resemble the bottom of the PSI range ( contact patch size per tire = gross vehicle weight / (2 * tire pressure) ). Remember, lots of wheels are built to take the abuse of things like mountain-biking and cyclocross; I doubt that a large tandem stresses them any more than that kind of thing. Super-thin lightweight racing tires might not be a great idea, of course.

Here's what Santana (http://santanatandem.com/Bikes/QuadEtc.html) has to say about tires and wheels on their quad/quint/hex tandems:

Quote
Wheels: Hadley/Velocity Dyad 48 spoke
Tires: Continental Gatorskin 700x32mm or Travel Contact 26x1.75" steel bead

Choice of 700c wheels limited to 650 lbs combined rider weight or 26" wheels allowing up to 1050 lbs CRW.

By the way, Sheldon Brown has a good article about DIY tandems (http://sheldonbrown.com/tandem-build.html), although his technique of grafting two normal bicycles together might not be good enough to scale to a quad (because you might want to build the frame out of larger-diameter tubing, etc.).