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Bike Commuting: Part 1 of ???

For quite some time I’ve been meaning to write about how I make my bike commute work. When I started commuting, I found it incredibly helpful to read what others were doing and how the logistics worked for them. Unfortunately though, I quickly learned that I must be in the minority of bike commuters for a couple of reasons:

1. I live in the suburbs, the distant suburbs, yet I work close to downtown (~25 miles home-to-office, although I don’t bike the entire distance – I ride to the nearest train station which is 10 miles each way).  Seems like most bike commuters live in urban areas, much closer to where they work.

2. I ride a road bike. I have no interest in riding a mountain bike for my commute (I used to), or a hybrid. I don’t care about comfort, I care about speed. If my commuting by bike instead of car adds too much time to my day, I’m not going to do it regularly.

3. Basically every blog I’ve read where the person commutes more than five miles, they put on a full set of cycling clothes. I do not have any desire to put on lycra every morning. Besides, I don’t even own a single cycling jersey or pair of cycling shorts. The closest thing I have is the one tri top/tri shorts that I bought earlier this year.

4. I don’t go out of my way to find less busy roads to ride on. I want to get from point A to point B in the least amount of time possible. I ride on busy roads, where the speed limits vary from 30mph to 55 mph (~50km/hr to 90km/hr). There are no bike lanes on my commute, and …

5. I don’t advocate for bike lanes. That’s a separate post in and of itself.

So, keeping in mind that I don’t necessarily fit the mold of the typical bike commuter (or at least not the typical bike commuter that has a blog), this may be an odd take on commuting. I’ll break it up into several parts, which I’ll likely make up along the way (I don’t really plan ahead much). I know that I’ll cover my bike (today), bike lights (since it took me awhile to find an awesome one), carrying work clothes, my essential commuting gear, and maybe a few other topics.

Part I: The Bike

Orbea Mitis

Orbea Mitis
(the red tire was a recent addition – it was cheaper than the black version!)

Prior to this bike, I had a series of major issues with some cheap bikes (translation: I went through three bikes in the course of a couple of months, breaking several bottom brackets and snapping an axle).  I was lamenting my bike problems to a cycling co-worker, who then told me he had an old frameset/crankset in a closet at home that he’d sell me.  So, I ended up buying the frame and crankset off of him for an obscenely low price.   It’s an Orbea Mitis, and has an aluminum main triangle, with a carbon rear triangle and carbon fork.  The crankset is an SLK-Pro carbon crankset, and it easily sells (used) for more than what he charged me, including the frameset.

Everything else on the bike is a random collection of parts.   I’m proud to say that I assembled the entire bike myself, attaching every single component (including the headset and bottom bracket, which came attached to the frame when I bought it, but I took apart to clean/lube).  Buying this bike was not a pre-planned purchase, so I had a budget to work with in choosing components.  I spent more on a couple of parts, and skimped on others, putting my money where I felt like the difference would be most noticable.   For example, the stem/handlebar are Bike Nashbar brand, and I put Shimano 105 derailleurs on.  The aero bars were a later add-on when I signed up for my first triathlon, although I do use them a surprising amount when I commute (particularly into headwinds).

Staring down the front of my bike, you’re met with two different lights and an HD video camera.  I’ve got two lights on the back also.  If it’s dark, all four are running (one blinking and one steady at each end).  During the day, I run one blinking light on each end.  I’ll talk more about the lights/being visible in a future post.

Not much room to attach anything else.

Not much room to attach anything else.

That’s my bike in a nutshell. I’ll probably tackle my lights in the next post.

Is there anything in particular that you want to know about making bike commuting a workable option?

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11 Comments

  1. Great post!! My commute is 7 miles. I ride my hybrid and it’s definitely not as fun as my road bike but it gets me to work! Like you I don’t put on cycling clothes and I try and find the fastest way to get there and home!! 🙂 but I do like bike lanes when I can find them!!

  2. I just started commuting on my road bike to work too! I do just about everything differently than you! Hah! I used to ride without biking shorts too, but found they made the ride much more comfortable. I also go out of my way to ride bike lines because the cars scare me a little.

    • The vehicles can be scary, but I’ve gotten used to them. The DFW area gets a really bad rap for being biker unfriendly, but I’ve found most motorists to be respectful (it’s a lot better here than in Kansas City).

      Are you commuting with the clipless pedals now? How’s that going?

      • I am commuting with clipless pedals! I got the “training” falls in my first week after buying my bike. It was painful, but I am pretty comfortable with them now. I bought the SPD mountain bike clips because you can clip in on both sides of the pedal… anything to improve the odds of NOT falling down! 🙂

        • EVERYBODY falls when they first start out riding clipless. The SPD pedals are a great choice for commuting too, since it’s a lot easier to walk in those than it is in road cleats. I’ve gotten pretty good at doing ‘track stands’ – staying clipped in to both pedals while stopped at red lights – so that I can avoid the occasional trouble that I have trying to clip back in to my one-sided pedals.

  3. jimmyjtaylor says:

    I commute on one of my two road bikes, one has clip less pedals the other does not. I always where cycling shorts, but usually just wear a T-shirt. There aren’t any bike lanes here, but traffic is used to bikes and buggies. I ride in on main roads, most direct route, but take back roads home.

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