Author Topic: wanna be biker with a few ?'s  (Read 4172 times)

Hedge_87

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wanna be biker with a few ?'s
« on: July 20, 2013, 02:13:13 PM »
Have been contemplating this for a while and was wanting to ask some of you who have actual biking experience some questions. I am wanting to start bike commuting part of the time and eventually work up to 4 days a week. my ride will be 13 miles one way.
1. is this possible (i know it will probably take some getting used to)?
2. i could either ride a rural highway (speed 65mph) or same distant dirt/gravel road with virtually no traffic and speeds around 30mph. i know the dirt would be harder to ride on but would it be worth it safety wise?
3. what type/size of bike to buy? I'm 25 male 6'6" 225 pounds (fairly fit and muscular but if i lost 15 pounds i wouldn't miss it).
4. how much time would have to allow at first for a 13 mile ride and approximately how fast could i get this down to after building up my endurance?
5 do i just need to suck it up and do it?

I think thats it for now. i don't think i would have to worry about carrying much more than a lunch box and and a clean/dry shirt and socks. I have my work jeans laundered at work so i could just leave my boots there and change into work clothes when i get there

matchewed

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Re: wanna be biker with a few ?'s
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2013, 02:31:36 PM »
1) Yes anything is possible. :)
2) I personally would do the rural highway depending on the status of the shoulder. The no traffic dirt/gravel has it's own dangers if you do encounter a car. It also depends how wide the more rural road is. In other words I don't know if you can easily say which road is safer.
3) Depends on the route. If you want to be able to do both I'd say a Mtn bike hybrid or commuter w/ tougher wheels. As for size
4) I'd do a practice ride on some Saturday to get a feel.
5) Yes but you can prepare.

Hedge_87

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Re: wanna be biker with a few ?'s
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2013, 03:51:55 PM »
Thanks for the reply. I was thinking the dirt road would be safer because around here the roads are pretty flat, straight, and wide (minus the ass who thinks that they can control a vehicle on gravel going 65 mph). I guess I am leaning towards a mountain bike because regardless of which way I take to work I will have at least 1.3 miles of gravel to get to the highway. Also I live about 4 miles from the lake (all gravel) which I think would be a pretty good evening/weekend ride (perhaps one for the fiancÚ and I).

I know I'm probably going to open up a can of worms here but does anybody have any recommendations on bike brands/models. The last one I owned was a huffy and it had training wheels on it. I don't want to spend a whole lot of money on my first bike but I also don't want something that is going to fall apart and have to be replaced

Hamster

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Re: wanna be biker with a few ?'s
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2013, 05:30:17 PM »
With a commute of 13 miles each way, I think you'll be happier in the long run with a faster ride than what a mountain bike will give you. In your state of Kansas, there is a 200 mile gravel road race (the dirty Kanza 200). Most of the bikes you'll see on that ride are cyclocross or more road-like bikes.

Here is a soon-to-be started series of posts by a regular gravel rider on how to build a custom gravel rider "on the cheap"

If I were doing your commute, I'd probably be looking at a cyclocross bike. These look like a "road" bike, but have clearance for fatter tires (up to about 40mm or 1 1/2 inches). I'd want something that has braze-ons (attachment points built into the frame) for fenders and a rack for the commute. The main advantage of a cyclocross bike over a mountain bike will be speed (I would personally prioritize speed on a 13 mile commute). There are a few companies that make gravel-specific racing bikes (Kona, Salsa) but those are really for racing, not commuting - I don't think they have braze-ons for fenders/rack, etc. Surly's cross check is a good all-around cyclocross/commuter, with a steel frame. I might pick steel over aluminum for a gravel bike frame, since the steel will offer a more forgiving/comfortable ride, but keeping big tires with lower pressure will absorb a lot of shock, too. Carbon will be even better, but you'll spend more for good carbon. If you buy a complete bike, this is probably the best new deal I could find quickly - aluminum frame, and no braze-ons for rack/fenders, so you'd need a more complicated solution for mounting those items. Disc brakes might be nice if you do a lot of wet riding, but aren't necessary, and may be more maintenance than standard rim brakes.

You could also look at a touring bike. This will be like a typical road bike, but heavier, beefier, and designed for holding lots of gear. It will also allow for fairly fat tires. The link above with a build your own gravel bike is based on a Trek 520 touring frame. My regular commuter is a Surly Long Haul Trucker, which is a steel frame. I run 37mm tires (1.5 inch) with minimal tread pattern, and ride in rain on hilly gravel bike paths year round (no snow where I live).

If you do go for a mountain bike, I'd get a hard tail (no rear suspension) 29er (29 inch diameter wheels, rather than the standard 26" diameter mountain bike wheels). The larger diameter wheels will roll more smoothly for the long commute.

Another Dirty Kanza link with video from the NY Times.

GuitarStv

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Re: wanna be biker with a few ?'s
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2013, 06:07:08 PM »
13 miles is a long way to go on a bumpy mountain bike trail.  It's doable, but might be less comfortable on the wrists, butt, and lower back.  With a road bike on smooth roads you're looking at probably under an hour.  That said, I'm not a huge fan of riding on highways where cars are going that speed.  If you do go that route, make sure you are as visible as possible so that the distracted drivers see you.  Fluorescent stuff, reflectors, and daytime visible lights will all be pretty essential for safety.

I second the idea of looking at touring bikes.  They're kinda the best of both worlds - more robust than a road bike, much faster than a mountain bike.  I ride an 11 mile commute (mostly bad roads with lots of potholes) on 32 mm tires with little tread.

If you're going for a touring-style bike, the surly long haul trucker or surly cross-check would be worth checking out.  Nashbar has really good sales on their touring bike every once in a while:  http://www.nashbar.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/SearchDisplay?searchTerm=steel+touring+bike&catalogId=10052&cn1=&langId=-1&gast=steel+touring+bike&storeId=10053&URL=CatalogSearchResultView&ddkey=http:PBSearchTermAssociationsCmd .  You have to know what size of bike frame will fit you, and do some minor assembly (the bike comes in a box, so you have to attach the handlebars, set up the front derailleur, and screw on the rack).

Hedge_87

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Re: wanna be biker with a few ?'s
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2013, 06:51:39 PM »
thank you guys for the replies. i really like that link for that bike hamster. The Dirty Kanza has me intrigued also. who know you might just see me there in a year or two. the highway into town really isn't that busy in the morning. Also most people are headed the other way to the bigger towns north of me. I'm headed south so that wouldn't be bad. I bet on average I meet maybe 10-15 cars on my way to work. I realize the savings + health benefits will pay dividends in the long run but its still hard to think about turning a 8 hour and 30 minute work day in to a ten hour work day assuming i can get the bike ride within an hour one way. ok another noob question would I be ok just riding in regular running shoes or would you all recommend those clippy shoes (like i said noob i have no clue what the right terms are). I would change into my work boots once i get there anyway.

Hamster

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Re: wanna be biker with a few ?'s
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2013, 08:41:43 PM »
Hedge,

You will be ok with running shoes, just like you'd be ok with a mountain bike. But, a faster bike and bike shoes/cleats will make you faster/more efficient. If you were riding 2 miles to work in Amsterdam, I'd say stick with your street shoes and an upright bike. But you are talking about putting in some good miles, so my recommendations are based on the distances/terrain you're talking about.

Links below are just for illustration of the terms, not necessarily for items I'd recommend.

Terminology:
Toe clips (the old school plastic or metal cage with a fabric strap that holds any shoe in place on the pedal). Used with "regular" platform pedals and any kind of shoe.
Clipless pedals: Confusing term, but these are the kind that don't look like a pedal, but are some device that locks into a cleat on the bottom of a cycling shoe to hold your foot in place. Certain pedal systems work with certain shoes, so you need to check for compatability. They are called clipless (despite the fact that you "clip" into them, because you don't need the old school toe clips. They will require more maintenance than platform pedals, and if you don't have them set up right, some people have knee problems from poor fit.

The benefit of cycling shoes/cleats/clipless pedals comes from 1) Cycling shoes have very rigid soles, which let you transfer more power to the pedals and not waste it with the flexing of the soles of the shoes 2) fixed attachment to the pedal allows for more efficient pedal stroke. Instead of just pushing down on the pedals like on a platform pedal, being clipped in and using good technique lets you push the pedal forward at the top of the stroke, and pull it backward at the bottom of the stroke, as well as unweighting when lifting your foot and pushing down during the downstroke. So, it lets you use more muscles and transfer power better, meaning more speed/efficiency and less fatigue.

If you don't want to spend the money on a full setup now (why should you, if you are just testing the waters?), I would spend a few dollars for some old school toe clips on platform pedals. You can start with your regular shoes. If you want to switch from running shoes, you could get some "walkable" bike shoes which have fairly rigid soles, but have a recessed area for the cleat, so they are relatively easy to walk in. Something like these, but get something cheaper/on sale. You can wear them with toe clips, but without cleats to start, which will give you some benefit. If you start doing lots of long rides, you'll probably make the switch to clipless at some point. And you'll probably fall a few times when stopping before you remember to unclip :-)

Hamster

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Re: wanna be biker with a few ?'s
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2013, 09:49:49 PM »
Totally off topic, but one last thing about biking, gravel, and the midwest. The place I first learned about the Dirty Kanza was on: http://www.chubbysuperbiker.com

Ben, the author of the blog was in the >500 pound range, and got a Surly Long Haul Trucker (I found his blog on google when researching my bike). He's managed to drop 300 pounds through diet/biking, with a few falls off the wagon along the way. He lives in Nebraska, and did 135 miles (if I recall) before having to bail out on the DK200 a few years ago. I think we was still high 200s or 300 pounds at the time. Pretty impressive.

GuitarStv

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Re: wanna be biker with a few ?'s
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2013, 05:26:21 AM »
thank you guys for the replies. i really like that link for that bike hamster. The Dirty Kanza has me intrigued also. who know you might just see me there in a year or two. the highway into town really isn't that busy in the morning. Also most people are headed the other way to the bigger towns north of me. I'm headed south so that wouldn't be bad. I bet on average I meet maybe 10-15 cars on my way to work. I realize the savings + health benefits will pay dividends in the long run but its still hard to think about turning a 8 hour and 30 minute work day in to a ten hour work day assuming i can get the bike ride within an hour one way. ok another noob question would I be ok just riding in regular running shoes or would you all recommend those clippy shoes (like i said noob i have no clue what the right terms are). I would change into my work boots once i get there anyway.

If you don't like clips, I am a big fan of studded platform bike pedals.  When it rains unexpectedly, studded pedals keep your feet stuck to the bike like glue.  Regular flat pedals become very slippery and it becomes quite miserable to bike around.

Hotstreak

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Re: wanna be biker with a few ?'s
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2013, 11:05:36 PM »
I have toe clips on my bike and love them.  The performance boost from regular pedals is HUGE, and I don't have to worry about having extra shoes to change in to if I want to bike down to the lake, park, or a friends for the day.  I can bike in running shoes, casual shoes, whatever.  I've never used clipless, but everything I hear from bikers is they are fantastic (mostly from long distance recreational bikers).

mpbaker22

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Re: wanna be biker with a few ?'s
« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2013, 07:11:04 AM »
As far as time, my 13 mile commute takes 45-50 minutes.  That includes a few hills and stop lights which sound like they won't slow you down.  Of course a road bike on relatively smooth roads is going to be a ton faster than a mountain bike on gravel.
I consider myself to be in decent shape, but not a high quality athlete by any means.

Oh, and it really does depend on the shoulder of the highway.  There's a highway near where i grew up with 2 lanes and 55 mph speed limits, but the shoulder is as large as another lane and it's perfect for cycling.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2013, 08:21:44 AM by mpbaker22 »

Etihwdivadnai

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Re: wanna be biker with a few ?'s
« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2013, 09:39:50 AM »
If you want to learn more about various forms of cycling
and in particular about basic cycle maintenance
I can recommend "Richard's 21st Century Bicycle Book"
which is available, for free, on-line as a 3.3 MB PDF

See: http://www.pdfmagazines.org/guides/11448-richards-21st-century-bicycle-book.html

Opt for the free (a.k.a. slow) download option on the Novafile site which only took a couple of minutes
after the obligatory 90-second delay before the free download starts
(i.e. do not opt for the paid-for faster download speeds, just go for the free download option at the end of the page).

(md5sum, for those that care: 0cd61626265cba3c0b211cdb83223540 *Richard's 21st Century Bicycle Book.pdf)

Chapter 21. Bike Care is probably the section of most relevance to cycle maintenance.

The original "Richard's Bicycle Book" was essentially the all-things-cycling "bible" in the UK in the mid to late 1970's

I wish I still had my old dog-eared, grubby oil-stained copy of this book,
but it was lent round too many friends and family.

This ebook is essentially a new edition of that same older book.

Happy cycling :-)

Etihwdivadnai

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Re: wanna be biker with a few ?'s
« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2013, 10:37:13 AM »
You also have the wonderful Sheldon Brown's [Cycling] Technical Information website: http://sheldonbrown.com/ for all things technical (and much more besides)

In particular, http://sheldonbrown.com/on-road-repairs.html
would appear to be partiicularly relevant to your [this thread's] question(s)