Author Topic: Want to start biking to work, but...  (Read 5205 times)

Lis

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Want to start biking to work, but...
« on: July 07, 2014, 03:42:15 PM »
One of the reasons I love the apartment I moved to last year was the fact that it's so close to work, only 2.7 miles! Even though there's a ridiculous hill involved (luckily I'll be going up that on my way home, not to work), it obviously makes much more sense to use my bike to get to work, the supermarket (maybe 2 miles away), etc. What I hadn't realized when I moved in is the stretch of road near my place that's fairly narrow, windy, and in disrepair. Concerns for my safety have prevented me from trying to walk or bike into town.

After a year, they've finally started to repair the road! They're widening it a bit and fixing up the shoulder. In a few weeks, the road should be a little more safe to commute on. I've seen people start already!

I currently have a bike. It's the bike that I've had since I was around 7... I'm currently 24. To be honest, I haven't grown height-wise that much, so as long as the seat is all the way up, I can still fit on it safely and comfortably. The thing is, I haven't really ridden it since I was probably 10 or 11. (I did bring it up to college with me for a semester, but I lived at the bottom of a steep hill, and my lazy college butt didn't want to bike up that.)

I know next to nothing about bikes. The tires are currently pretty flat... I figured I'd try to inflate them and see how long they last, but chances are I'd need to replace them (I honestly can't tell you when they were last replaced, if ever). Riding it around the backyard a bit, everything else seems to be working okay. But there's a huge difference between riding around in a safe neighborhood and taking it on pretty busy roads. I can't imagine that after 14 years, 10 or so years of disuse, everything is still in working order.

Can anyone recommend what I should be checking for, or let me know of a good resource to look into?

kaizen soze

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Re: Want to start biking to work, but...
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2014, 04:58:26 PM »
There are lots of websites that have a maintenance checklist.  If you just want to check the bike over before trying your first 5.4 mile proof-of-concept bike commute, I would check that tires hold the pressure, that the brakes are properly adjusted and have some brake pad left in them, that the derailleur works and shifts cleanly, and that the bike seat and handlebars are properly fitted.  You might put some chain lube on the chain.  Make sure nothing is about to fall off or rusted through.  For more long-term use, I would do a more thorough check, which may include replacing a few parts like the chain.  But after you prove to yourself that the bike commute will work generally, after doing it for 2-3 days, I think I'd be tempted to donate or sell the kid's bike and then buy a working adult bike (used if that's more your budget). Either way, my advice is don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good -- just get the bike ready for your first time out, and don't overworry right now about what you'll do on day 2.

snshijuptr

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Re: Want to start biking to work, but...
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2014, 05:06:41 PM »
I'm guessing if you got the bike as a child then it is a mountain or hybrid bike. You can try inflating the tires. If they deflate then just get new tubes.

Next go to your friendly local bike shop (or online, though you might want to cultivate a good local relationship for tips & tricks) and pick up degreaser and chain grease. Some places actually have little kits with buckets, cleaners, and a manual. Some parts are largely useless, but if you don't have a bucket and rags at home they can actually be handy. Clean and grease your chain. While your at it give the frame a good wipe down with a clean rag.

Next, if it has gears, make sure that it can shift easily into each gear. The shifters should click easily and the chain shouldn't CLUNK into place. If there is an issue here, you might need to go to your local store and get an Adjustment. Ask them if you can watch. This is a tricky procedure, but a great skill.

Check your brakes. Make sure that the brakes are aligned and not rubbing against the tire. This is a simple fix and there are lots of videos on YouTube (HINT: the videos don't seem to point out that there is a spring on your brakes that you need to release before making an adjustment.

Finally, if you haven't done it, buy a new helmet. Your helmet from grade school is not a good choice. Regular commuters should wear a helmet and possibly get a mirror and lights. Legally in most states, you need front and back reflectors.

HINT: REI (and other bike retailers) offers basic and advanced maintenance classes. Also check with local bike clubs.


chardog

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Re: Want to start biking to work, but...
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2014, 05:08:23 PM »
^^ Ditto.  Just practice the route on a weekend or weeknight to shake down the system and figure out how much time it takes.

There is nothing like 'just doing it' to figure things out.

Also, make sure you follow the rules of the road.  Make eye contact with other road users at conflict points such as intersections and driveways.  Make sure you are seen and make your intentions clear by using proper hand signals, etc.

chardog

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Re: Want to start biking to work, but...
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2014, 05:09:26 PM »
Also, since its only a couple miles, if something happens, you can just walk the bike.  :)

tanhanivar

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Re: Want to start biking to work, but...
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2014, 06:46:38 PM »
Also see if any local groups offer free or cheap bicycle classes. Our city council offers free "back on your bike" and "bicycle commuting" sessions in local parks on weekend, and subsidises occasional bicycle maintenance courses.

PindyStache

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Re: Want to start biking to work, but...
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2014, 09:13:14 PM »
Excellent stories and tips about riding safely, with lots of in-depth videos from normal folks like yourself: http://cyclingsavvy.org/

Primm

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Re: Want to start biking to work, but...
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2014, 09:18:21 PM »
Check the wheel spokes too. If they're rusty or broken you won't get far.

Lis

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Re: Want to start biking to work, but...
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2014, 06:42:49 AM »
Oh boy, looks like I know what I'm doing this Sunday!

Just checked my local bike shop's website. $70 for a tune up! Eek! If I can avoid that, that would be wonderful.

Thanks for all of your advice!!

GuitarStv

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Re: Want to start biking to work, but...
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2014, 06:47:53 AM »
If you've had the bike since you were seven I'd get a new bike.  Few people buy nice bikes for 7 year olds.  They're cheap, heavy, and usually made with crappy components.  Few bikes for 7 year olds will properly fit a grown person.  Your ride is very short distance, so there's no rush . . . and you can probably make due with what you've got for a while . . . but it's not worth throwing too much money at that old bike in my opinion.

kallinan

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Re: Want to start biking to work, but...
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2014, 07:09:46 AM »
I rode a fair bit as a child.  Stopped in college (didn't even take my bike with me), briefly dallied with it in my mid 20s for two years, dropped it again, and then picked it up much more seriously, and probably for good, in my 30s.

I'm not sure where you live (urban, suburan, small town, rural).  But if you have access to any kind of non-downtown city streets, it's great for getting reacquainted with your bike in a low traffic, low stress environment.  I would have never re-started my biking if my only option was a high-speed road - I would have been too nervous.  As you become more confident dealing with traffic, you'll start to learn how to ride with traffic, doing stuff like making eye contact, communicating, and taking the lane.

For your current bike, if the tires don't stay inflated, just get new tubes.  They're cheap, usually about $5-10 per tube.  You'll need a pair of tire levers to change tires, but those are cheap, too, and worth the investment.  Youtube is filled with videos on how to maintain your bike - it's a really underrated resource.  Like others said, check your gears & brakes.  All are adjustable.  Again, a bike book or some youtube videos will get you to where you need to go.

Also, don't get discouraged by your bike.  It's probably not sized correctly, and probably ill suited for serious climbs.  Definitely consider a new (or better yet, a new used) bike before going back to driving. There's plenty of used bikes to be had on Craigslist, EBay, or even in some bike shops.  If you're not doing serious riding, forget a road bike.  Get a decent hybrid with no suspension - that crap will just suck away energy going up hills.  But the flat handlebars, good gearing, and upright posture is a good way to get back into cycling.  They're also more versatile in case you want to start hauling a trailer for groceries.  My new hybrid cost me $360 for years ago, but being more Mustachian today I'd probably see what $200 gets me in the used market.

Lis

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Re: Want to start biking to work, but...
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2014, 07:22:32 AM »
The area is suburban, and once I'd get about a half mile into my ride (towards town) I wouldn't be too concerned. The roads are straight and even, there are sidewalks and wide shoulders, and there are always a lot of walkers and bikers around, so drivers have become pretty good at being cautious. There's just about a quarter mile stretch from my neighborhood that I'm concerned about. It's a single lane each way, but there's little shoulder and it's mostly cracked and broken. It's used heavily as a back road by commuters, so it's always fairly busy. I'm a pretty careful driver, and I nearly hit a cyclist once simply because he was on the other side of a bend in the lane (no shoulder) and I couldn't see him til I was right on his tail.

A new helmet is definitely on the to-get list. I don't know where my old helmet is... I'm assuming in the trash some where.

For the parts you all mentioned, do you think I would have a better chance finding those components for less online, in a store that has everything like Target, or should I hit up my bike shop?

Ashyukun

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Re: Want to start biking to work, but...
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2014, 09:29:51 AM »
For the parts you all mentioned, do you think I would have a better chance finding those components for less online, in a store that has everything like Target, or should I hit up my bike shop?
You can probably get them for less online, but big-box stores often don't carry a lot of the more specific parts for bikes. You're probably well served in going to the bike shop though and talking with them- the knowledge they can impart and help they can give is most likely worth the slight premium for the parts vs. online.

frugaliknowit

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Re: Want to start biking to work, but...
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2014, 11:51:16 AM »
If you're bike is one from 20 years ago, chances are the frame is too small (raising the seat too much is bad news for optimal comfort and efficiency, especially climbing hills). 

You would be better off renting a bike for a day or borrowing an appropriately sized friend's bike to check things out.

Here's a frame sizing guide (it is based mainly on leg length):  http://www.amazon.com/b?node=5801315011
Here's how to measure a frame in case you cannot find it's size labeled:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsepwlfQcDA

If you want to increase your hill climbing power, jogging or walking fast uphill, stairmaster, and stepper help.  The other half is technique where you use momentum and gears (mainly learn by doing).  I hope that helps and good luck!!

PindyStache

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Re: Want to start biking to work, but...
« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2014, 01:11:11 PM »
I'm a pretty careful driver, and I nearly hit a cyclist once simply because he was on the other side of a bend in the lane (no shoulder) and I couldn't see him til I was right on his tail.

I'm guessing that cyclist was hugging the curb, trying to stay "out of the way" on the car's road?

This is why it is the cyclist's responsibility to be "driving" in the lane, with visibility and communication being far more important than the potential to slow a car down for a few seconds as they have to wait to pass. Drive big and take your lane--I usually am either in the middle of the lane or in the left tire track (approximately where the driver would be in a car) on two-lane roads with regular traffic and no room on the shoulders. It gets a honk every now and then, but will avoid the situation you experienced yourself. The honks are just vindication of badassity!

For the parts you all mentioned, do you think I would have a better chance finding those components for less online, in a store that has everything like Target, or should I hit up my bike shop?

Target or other box store will NOT have all you need. I recommend you go to a bike shop with this list and ask questions about using/installing them. This serves multiple functions: low-cost advice from real people (youtube is great but has limits), invest in the local bike shop, and you can see if the shop fits the needs of bikers like yourself. In my neck of the woods a shop charging $70 for a tune up would tell me it caters to the kind of folks who buy $10,000 bikes and likely focus on all the latest expensive gadgetry that truly has very limited impact on the biking experience. Even if you start to learn how to do your own work on the bike you will want to build a relationship with a good local bike shop.

Online will probably be cheaper but you need to know what you want and the money will leave your community.