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BIKE-TO-BROWN  April 2006

BIKE-TO-BROWN April 2006

Subject:

Re: Excellent article on considering the right bike for commuting

From:

Ken Zirkel <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Ken Zirkel <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 21 Apr 2006 14:02:42 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (207 lines)

Thanks for the link, but especially thanks for turning me on to Kent's blog.


On 4/21/06 9:30 AM, "Rogers, Donald" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Hi, folks.
> 
> Kent Peterson is well-known among long-distance cyclers both for his
> riding feats (such as riding the 2500-mile offroad Great Divide race on
> a fixed-gear bike, and living car-free for many years) and his
> well-crafted, straightforward, and sometimes poetic writing about
> riding. He's now the Commuting Program Director for the Bicycle Alliance
> of Washington, and recently has started a series of talks in the Seattle
> area on commuting. He just posted this entry to his blog at
> <http://kentsbike.blogspot.com/>, and I think it is a great summation of
> what to think about when considering a bike for commuting. It can help
> guide you in buying a new bike, or in making decisions to modify your
> current bike to best serve as a commuter.
> 
> Don
> 
> -------------------------------------------------------
> 
> Commuter Bike Considerations: Riding to Work is Not the Tour de France
> 
> By Kent Peterson, Bicycle Alliance of Washington
> 
> I'm going to start by talking not about bikes, but about shoes. I'm
> guessing here but I'll bet that the odds are pretty good that you own
> more than one pair of shoes. If you go to a fancy party you probably
> wear different shoes than you would to go hiking on Mount Si. If you are
> going to jog around Green Lake, you'll probably choose shoes that are
> designed for running.
> 
> Well, bikes are like shoes, there are different kinds of bikes and some
> kinds are better for some things than others. And like shoes, the single
> most important thing with a bike is fit. Bikes come in different sizes
> and if your bike doesn't fit you, you'll never get comfortable. So the
> first thing I tell people about bikes is to go to a good bike shop, talk
> to somebody who knows bikes and get a bike that fits.
> 
> A bike not only has to be a good fit for you, it should be a good fit
> for the riding you are planning on doing. If you are planning on using
> your bike for commuting, riding back and forth from home to work or
> school, you should get a good commuting bike. Unfortunately much of the
> bike business is geared around racing bikes or extreme downhill mountain
> bikes or various things other than commuting, so as a customer, you may
> have to do some digging to find the right kind of bike. Remember riding
> to work is not the Tour de France. The bike that is right for Lance
> Armstrong probably isn't the best bike for your trip to work.
> 
> Let's start at the bottom and talk about tires. Lance rides really
> skinny, really high pressure racing tires. Lance rides on really smooth
> roads in France, roads that have been swept and fans write his name on
> the road. When Lance has a flat tire, there is a car right there with a
> spare wheel and a mechanic to swap in the new wheel. When you ride to
> work, the road probably has potholes. Fans probably don't write your
> name on the road but people may yell things at you as you ride. If you
> have a flat tire, you are the person who has to deal with it.
> 
> So a commuter bike should probably have bigger, tougher tires than what
> Lance has on his bike. Some people commute on "mountain" bikes, some
> people commute on "road" bikes, but the important thing is that your
> bike has tires appropriate to the task. Returning to the idea of shoes,
> tires are like the shoes for your bike.
> 
> Lance knows that higher pressure tires roll easier and lighter tires
> roll better than heavy ones. The important thing is to find the right
> tire for the job. If you are riding a mountain bike on the road big,
> knobby, low-pressure tires are probably slowing you down. You can
> probably fit your bike with a slicker, high-pressure tire that is still
> tough enough for the potholed streets. On the other hand, if you have
> very skinny, very light racing tires on your road bike, you may pinch
> flat on the edge of a pothole or be undone by a patch of broken glass,
> so you probably want to look at getting a tougher road tire. There are a
> variety of good, tough tires out there and two that I've used and like
> are the Specialized Armadillo and the Schwalbe Marathon XR.
> 
> Some road bikes have better clearance than others for running fatter
> tires. A lot of modern "racing" bikes can only fit tires that are about
> 23 mm wide and such a bike probably isn't as well suited to commuting as
> something with more tire clearance like a "touring" or "sport touring"
> bike. Tire clearance doesn't just give you room to run different size
> tires, it also gives you room to mount fenders on your bike.
> 
> Most bikes are sold without fenders but it rains a lot around here and
> fenders really do a lot to keep you dry. Lance doesn't have to worry
> about fenders, when he's done with his ride; he's done with his work.
> When you are done with your ride, you are at work. It's better if you're
> dry when you get there.
> 
> Lance's job is to go fast and everything on his bike is made to help him
> go fast. Riding your bike fast is not your job, you are riding to your
> job and some parts of your bike are there to help you be safe and
> comfortable. Lance has his handlebars lower than his saddle so he can
> crank out a lot of power and be lower and more aerodynamic. You might be
> more comfortable with your handlebars somewhat higher so you have less
> pressure on your hands. It might be better for you to be more upright.
> You may be less aerodynamic but you might find it easier to look around.
> 
> Speaking of looking around, I'm a big fan of the bicycle mirror. Some
> people have mirrors mounted on their handlebars, some people have
> mirrors mounted on their helmets. Some people don't use mirrors at all
> but you probably wouldn't drive a car that didn't have rear view mirrors
> and I've found that a bike mirror is a very handy bit of gear.
> 
> Lance doesn't have to worry about carrying as much stuff as you do.
> Lance maybe has to carry a water bottle and a Powerbar. Those are good
> things for you to carry but Powerbar doesn't sponsor you so maybe you'll
> carry tastier snacks. You don't have that handy team mechanic so you
> probably want to carry a tire pump and a spare tube and a few other
> tools. You may want to carry a change of clothes, a rain jacket and
> maybe you need to carry some other stuff for work as well.
> 
> There are various ways to carry stuff. Some folks use a backpack and
> some use a messenger bag. A lot of people use a rack and some kind of
> luggage like a trunk bag or panniers. Other options are a handlebar bag,
> baskets or a bag that attaches to the bike saddle. A commuting bike
> doesn't just carry you, it also carries your stuff. Figure out what you
> need to take and figure out a solution that works for you.
> 
> One item that you'll probably be carrying is a good bike lock. When
> Lance finishes his ride, somebody makes sure his bike is safe. When you
> finish your ride, you are the one who makes sure your bike is safe. A
> good lock is essential and so is good locking technique. Different areas
> have different problems with crime but in general it's up to you to make
> sure your bike and its various parts stay in your possession. Some
> commuters avoid lugging a huge lock with them by leaving the big lock
> attached to the bike rack at their office but if you opt for this
> technique you want to be certain that you never, ever leave your
> unlocked bike "just for a minute" to dash into a store. A minute is all
> it takes to lose your bike.
> 
> When Lance is racing, he knows everyone is looking to see where he is.
> When you are commuting it's safest to assume people aren't looking for
> you. So it's best to do what you can to make yourself seen and heard.
> For riding at night, lights and reflectors are essential. Any time, day
> or night, bright light colored clothing is a good idea. Lance has to
> earn his yellow jersey but bright yellow vests are available at almost
> any bike shop. A bell or a horn is another thing that Lance would never
> have on his bike but it might be very handy item to have on yours.
> 
> So far I've mostly talked about things that you might want that a racer
> like Lance won't need, but now I'd like to flip things around a bit.
> There are some things that make sense on a racing bike that might not
> make sense on a commuting bike.
> 
> Almost all bicycle racers use clipless pedals and special shoes. Lance
> rides in shoes with very stiff soles and cleats that stick out. Great
> for racing but bad for walking around. Now a lot of "serious" cyclists
> will tell you how much more efficient you are with clipless pedals and
> fancy shoes but maybe you don't need all that for commuting. Many
> mountain bike shoes are almost as stiff as road shoes but they have
> recessed cleats so you can actually walk like a human while wearing
> those shoes. Other options are old-fashioned toe clips or Power Grips.
> With toe clips or Power Grips you can ride in more "normal" shoes.
> 
> Racing bikes may be geared for going fast but for commuting with a load
> of stuff you want to make sure you have gears that are low enough to get
> you up whatever hills you'll encounter. Lance can climb big mountains
> with racing gearing. The odds are pretty good you'll want lower gears
> than what Lance uses. Again, a good bike shop can give you guidance
> about selecting the proper gears. Don't get caught up in having a lot of
> gears, some folks commute on one speed or three speed bikes and do fine.
> The key is having the right gearing for your commute.
> 
> As I mentioned earlier, some people commute on "road" bikes and some on
> "mountain" bikes and there are a lot of different kinds of bikes. If you
> are looking at commuting on a mountain bike, complex suspension systems
> are probably not going to do much but slow you down. In the case of a
> mountain bike, gearing that comes in handy for climbing a steep
> rock-strewn slope may be too low for your commute.
> 
> My favorite commute bikes are simple. No fancy suspensions. No super
> expensive carbon bits that cost twice as much because they are three
> grams lighter than last year's bits. A good frame with good clearances
> for sensible tires and fenders. A good way to carry stuff. A bike that
> isn't too pretty so thieves might take the nicer looking bike parked
> next to mine.
> 
> Bike commuting is not the Tour de France. You are not Lance Armstrong.
> You don't need to be. All you need is a good bike and I hope I've helped
> you understand a little more about what to look for in a good commuting
> bicycle.
> 
> Bike to Brown discussion list:
> http://listserv.brown.edu/archives/bike-to-brown.html
> 
> Bike to Brown website:
> http://biketobrown.brown.edu/



-- 
Ken Zirkel
Web Communications Specialist
Brown University
Providence, RI
401-863-1068
[log in to unmask]

Bike to Brown discussion list:
http://listserv.brown.edu/archives/bike-to-brown.html

Bike to Brown website:
http://biketobrown.brown.edu/

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