Author Topic: New Bike Commuter Questions  (Read 4434 times)

Matt F

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New Bike Commuter Questions
« on: November 01, 2012, 11:14:24 AM »
Hey, I am going to give this whole bike commuting lifestyle a shot but was hoping to get a few recommendations from people.  I have done some upfront research, but hoped for some mustachian support. Questions:

1. There are two types of roads I am planning to ride, one is 45 mph, 3 lanes each way plus the suicide lane with no shoulder, a curb and a sidewalk.  Business parking lots every 300' or so with driveway access, no pedestrians.  The other road is through an industrial park, is two lanes each way, 45 mph, but has a very wide sidewalk (looks almost like a bikepath) and only driveways for the industrial companies every 500 - 1,000' or so.  Both roads are pretty flat except for an overpass over the interstate on the 3 lane each way road which is pretty steep.  Basically, the question is should I ride on the road or the sidewalk on each road? (there is one other road, but it has an actual bikelane woohoo even though it is literally 3' wide it is painted with little bike pictures in it and everything, haha)

2. This is the route I am planning, if anyone has a much better suggestion, that would also be awesome.
http://goo.gl/maps/xnWwm

Thanks in advance and wish me luck!!

skyrefuge

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Re: New Bike Commuter Questions
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2012, 12:48:08 PM »
Woo hoo, it's been a while since there's been a "Rate My Bike Route" post!

What's wrong with the route that Google suggests when you select "Bicycling Directions"?  It's half the distance (5.3 miles), uses the southern overpass over I-26, cuts through the mall area, and then even through residential for a good stretch.

The crappy suburban arterials on that route don't look any worse than the crappy suburban arterials on your original route, and it looks like that southern overpass over I-26 would be a LOT less-stressful than the northern one.  On the northern cloverleaf, there are multiple points where you'll have to slide from one side of high-speed traffic to the other as the cars enter and exit the ramps, all while climbing/descending a hill.  In contrast, the southern overpass has signals and 90-degree connections at all its entrance/exit points, so traffic should be much more controlled there.

In general, ride on the road in all places.  The "sidewalk" through the industrial park does look like a bike path to me, and since there *are* very few driveways, maybe it's a suitable alternative to being on the road, but if it was me, I bet I'd still end up on the road most of the time, especially when I'm heading south, since that path would be on the wrong side of the road then.  I'm guessing traffic isn't too congested through that area, so cars will have no difficulty giving you space as you pass.

mindaugas

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Re: New Bike Commuter Questions
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2012, 12:53:04 PM »
Yep, road > sidewalk.

idk about your route, but I just found a new one to work I can try. Maybe it skirts around this big hill, can't tell but thanks for the inspiration!

Matt F

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Re: New Bike Commuter Questions
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2012, 01:03:11 PM »
Thanks for the reply.  The hardest part about the Google Bike recommended path is that southern overpass over the interstate is really really badly designed for when i am going to the north.  You are right about the lights making it easier in some ways (I was planning to walk my bike across the northern overpass, because like you said it has traffic coming from lots of different places); however the southern overpass generally backs up two lanes of traffic for over a mile at rush hour going from west to east (north on the overall route). 

Basically the rightmost lane is the on ramp lane for both I-26 W and I-26 E (one on each side of the overpass), so people will go into the middle lane and then try to cut into the right lane in the gaps that people leave when some of them take the first exit.  The worst part is, normally the right lane is almost stopped dead for that mile leading up, so the gaps do not really exist for people to dart into.  This overpass area probably has a fender bender once a month from this and the excitement of cars cutting in front of all the semi-trailers (big shipping area) on the upslope of the overpass is something to behold.

Riding on the road up in the north option may be worth it though.  It is super dense traffic from about 4 to 6:30 (industrial area so lots of strange shift hours) but with all the traffic lights it would probably be possible to keep up.  Just the merge lanes coming up from the interstate offramps would be tough, but i was thinking about walking in the cross walks on those anyway.  Thanks for the input!

galaxie

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Re: New Bike Commuter Questions
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2012, 06:48:49 PM »
I absolutely LOVE biking past heavy traffic.  As long as I don't have to change lanes and can just go straight on the shoulder, it's not stressful and it's a badass feeling to pass a bunch of cars.  Your southern overpass might not be as bad on a bike as it is in a car.

Matt F

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Re: New Bike Commuter Questions
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2012, 09:31:29 AM »
Unfortunately, no shoulder, only one of those little 1' wide concrete gutter things 1" lower than the road before the curb. 

Rode the north way in this morning.  10.9 miles, 1 hour 10 minutes about (a few long stop lights).  I'm in pretty good general shape, but I guess bike riding going from no riding to 11 miles at once in one day might take some getting used to.  Ride home should be interesting.  Also, my hands were pretty painful on the drop bars, any suggestions other than toughening up over time?

Encouragement (and/or face punches) also appreciated, haha.

skyrefuge

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Re: New Bike Commuter Questions
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2012, 10:29:05 AM »
I might see the possibility of a nice loop then.  In the morning (I assume home is up north and work is down south), take the 5.3 mile southern-overpass route, and on the way home, take the 10.9 northern-overpass route.  I bet the southern overpass is still pretty nasty even when you're going westbound, but it looks like it would be a lot better than the eastbound direction (which I agree, looks really bad).  At the least, if you're anything like me, I bet you could soon convince yourself after a few weeks of riding 22 miles round-trip that it's a worthwhile tradeoff to take on increased risk of death for the opportunity to ride 5 fewer miles.  :-)

If you managed to do that, you'd be doing a clockwise loop, giving you mostly fast and simple right-turns for your whole commute, you'd be able to take it easier in the morning since you wouldn't have as far to go, and then in the evening you'd have that sidewalk/bike path on your side of the road.  And you get more variety in your commute!

A 10.9-mile one-way commute is definitely up in the higher-end of the bike-commuter distribution curve, so be proud of yourself for making it in at any speed.  You'll certainly get faster with more practice.  But don't push too hard to start, just make sure you make it home alive tonight and then there's no shame in taking a day/weekend off.  Better to slowly build up than burn out and give up.

As for your hands, a few things.  First, yeah, you'll toughen up over time.  Do you have cycling gloves?  If not, they can reduce some pressure and make things more comfortable.  Then, were you riding with your hands "in the drops" (down on the lower part of the handlebar) for most of the way?  That might just be too low of a position for you, which puts more of your body weight on your hands.  I ride with my hands up on the brake hoods most of the time, only going down in the drops when I'm fighting a headwind or really want to make good time.  But also just switching between the two (or more) positions can mix things up and help avoid discomfort in any one position.

StashinIt

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Re: New Bike Commuter Questions
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2012, 10:39:11 AM »
Rode the north way in this morning.  10.9 miles, 1 hour 10 minutes about (a few long stop lights).  I'm in pretty good general shape, but I guess bike riding going from no riding to 11 miles at once in one day might take some getting used to.  Ride home should be interesting.  Also, my hands were pretty painful on the drop bars, any suggestions other than toughening up over time?

Encouragement (and/or face punches) also appreciated, haha.

Awwwwwwwww YEAH! Putting a plan into action! Loving it!

I think in a couple of months you'll find the google maps default option superior for a number of reasons.

1) You're commuting so you'll just want to get from point A to point B as fast as possible once the newness wears off
2) You'll get a lot stronger/faster so you don't feel like such an encumbrance on the bigger streets.
3) You'll get used to taking your lane and will never consider riding on the sidewalk.

For now, I think your purposed route is the best for you. 10 miles in 1 hour and 10 minutes is good for a beginner. You'll get faster and be able to do it 50 minutes in no time.

Good on ya!

StashinIt

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Re: New Bike Commuter Questions
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2012, 10:45:10 AM »
Also, you might want to join the November biking challenge http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/throw-down-the-gauntlet/november-biking-challenge!!/ it's a good way to keep motivated.

Personally I just moved up from biking to work (11 miles round trip) twice a week to 3 times a week. I would recommend starting at 2x a week and work your way up from there.

mindaugas

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Re: New Bike Commuter Questions
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2012, 10:53:25 AM »
Also, my hands were pretty painful on the drop bars, any suggestions other than toughening up over time?

Congrats, you may just need to do some adjusting of your position, seat height, stem, etc. Just youtube some fitting guides for road bikes. Could just be from stretching too much. Plus, I rarely use my drops, especially for commuting. Unless it's super windy there or you really want to tuck for a downhill. Even then you don't need to ...


Matt F

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Re: New Bike Commuter Questions
« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2012, 11:35:40 AM »
My first time on a road bike for more than 20 seconds or so.  Rode most of the way with hands on the drops/brakes.  Searched online and saw what you mean with the brake hoods.  I have never done that and will try it on the way home (my bike is a old takara with stem shifters, etc and the brake hoods are a lot smaller than most of the ones I see online).

I have not gotten gloves, was trying to be somewhat thrifty but we'll see how that goes.  I actually rode with winter gloves on this morning cuz it was cold for here at 7am (45 degrees F? god my blood has thinned out).

Anyway I appreciate the advice and encouragement from everybody.

frompa

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Re: New Bike Commuter Questions
« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2012, 03:55:58 PM »
Another way to add protection for your hands is to add another layer of tape on the bars, right on top of whatever's already there.  This additional cushion is a boon, though you should also take advantage of the many hand positions available to you on typical drop bars.  Changing up where you put your hands can save you some pain in the long run.  Enjoy your ride!

galaxie

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Re: New Bike Commuter Questions
« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2012, 07:28:12 AM »
I second all the advice to move your hands around on the bars.  I usually ride with my hands on the hoods most of the time and occasionally switch to either the horizontal part of the bar (to straighten up a little) or to the drops (to go faster/deal with wind).  My commute is 10 miles, and it does take a while to get used to the distance.  I started at 2 days a week and worked up to it. 

Check your bike fit (or have a bike friend/bike shop help you) to make sure you're comfortable.  Good fit can also make you faster.