Friday, July 27, 2012

Changing Commutes

Chrome DL-1 Maiden Voyage
When I first started riding for transportation in Boston, my trips were about 2-3 miles each way and took me almost exclusively through relatively flat urban areas, bike trails, and quiet side streets. But as the nature of my work changed over the past few years, I found myself making more long distance trips that took me out of town. The change snuck up on me gradually. But when I look at my typical week today, a 20 mile round trip with some hills thrown in has become normal.

The effect of this on my choice of transportation bikes has been significant. I could not tackle most of my trips today on a heavy upright 3-speed geared for the city and still arrive at my destination energetic and presentable - which is, after all, my priority. I need low gears for the hills; I need speed to cover the distance within a reasonable time. Naturally, these practical considerations have influenced my preferences.

On the other hand, the longer trips have not changed how I dress on the bike. I would describe myself as a low maintenance dresser, so I've never been one to wear carefully pressed pastel satin suits and stiletto heels in the first place. But I do wear mostly skirts and dresses - always have; it's just what I feel comfortable in. So far I've had no issue continuing to do that.

My views on the feasibility of cycling for transportation continue to expand as I ride longer distances. I still do not feel the need for a car. In fact, I enjoy traveling by bike now more than ever - the terrain is more varied, with less urban congestion. As far as challenges, time management is the biggest issue - with more careful planning required to get everything done by bike. Poorly plowed suburban roads in the winter will be a possible obstacle in future, though this past winter that was never a problem.

I am looking forward to writing more on this, addressing topics relevant for those with long commutes who still want to ride in their regular clothes. When I started out I never imagined that I would be doing this kind of cycling, yet here I am.

Has a changed commute altered your perspectives on transport bicycles, bike-appropriate clothing, and the feasibility of cycling for transportation?

68 comments:

  1. I have to ask.... if three gears isn't going to cut it, what are you riding in your skirts that will still get you there in good time? Is that where the Brompton comes in?

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    1. A number of bikes would work. Assuming you want something with a low step-over, some options are:
      . vintage mixtes
      . new mixtes (Soma Smoothie, Rivendell Betty Foy, SweetPea A-Line, custom, etc.) - built up with appropriate gearing
      . Brompton with the lowered gearing option
      . exotic bikes with Rohloff hub
      . I think some mountain bikes could work, if fitted with road tires, but I know very little about MTBs

      There are other options as well. The key really is for the bike to be sufficiently responsive, and to have appropriate gearing. Preferences for a low step-over will limit the choices, but choices are still out there. Will dedicate a full post to this some time soon.

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    2. I know you don't like hubs with more than 3 speeds, but hypothetically can you envision an IGH setup that would work other than a rohloff?

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    3. Hypothetically, sure. Set up a hub-geared bike such that your lowest gear will get you comfortably up the steepest hill on your route. On a stock bike this will almost certainly involve switching out the stock rear cog to something bigger.

      Of course then the question is which hub. YMMV, but personally I have found 7 and 8 speed hubs inefficient and would not want one on my own bike. However 3-speeds do not have a sufficiently wide range. If I had to choose, I guess I'd go with a 3-speed and just set the gears low and coast downhill. (There is also the Sturmey Archer 5-speed, which used to be great until a few years ago, but the latest version has had glitches so I am reluctant to recommend it.)

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    4. Just a thought, but I think a Rohloff will pay for itself many times over in a span of just a couple years. Just the fact that I no longer pay gas and upkeep on a car has made it an economical bonanza.

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    5. PS Erin - I didn't mean to be evasive re what bike I actually ride. Nowadays I ride the Brompton. Before I had it, I rode my Royal H mixte on those types of trips (now sold, but we are making a new prototype, so I will have another soon). And before that, I rode my Motobecane mixte. I started doing some long distance transportation rides as early as 2009, but at first they comprised maybe 5-10% of my trips, then gradually began to increase.

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    6. On the Brompton? Never would have guessed that.
      For the longer trips you could get a Carradice Camper and a Karrimor Uplift to keep it off the back wheel and ride the Mercian.

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    7. The Brompton suits me very well for the task actually. I am not comfortable riding diamond frame bikes with drops bars for transportation in my everyday clothing. And the Carradice Camper would not work as an office bag (I carry my laptop, camera, and a dozen other things).

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    8. Veloria - you've seen my mixte on Flickr. I'm having so much fun using all ten gears! Esp. now that I changed the crankset. But I knew your mixte was gone and wasn't sure what you were using without it.

      I agree, three is good for a lot of things, but if you are traveling far or have varied terrain, having a few extra gears is REALLY nice.

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    9. I've found two things - one eccentric and a tangent: in England arriving dry and unsweaty is bloody hard (it rains all the time), a wide rimmed hat (Tilly's do just fine) and half rain coat (Barbour makes some) works a treat as a "bicycle umbrella" and - then - there's nothing as sweet as riding in the rain - the second thing is that a rohloff is less efficient than properly maintained dérailleur (is your deraileur properly maintained? really? mine aren't), but its marginal, and its completely changed the character of my brompton, from a pussycat into something like a tame tiger.

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    10. The Sturmey FW has a lower low and a nice progression. It's identical to the first four gears of a Sturmey 5.

      I worked at a shop that was able to get, for two seasons, special edition Raleigh Sports fitted with the FW. We sold 800 of them. Never had a complaint. Over time with that fleet it became apparent they were distinctly more reliable than the AW and easier to keep in trim.

      Now vintage only of course but not scarce.

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  2. my personal commuting journey has been circular, but perhaps currently counter-directional to yours. When I started riding to work, my offices and classes were within four miles of my apartment, so I never used special clothing and always rode around on a cheap hybrid bike. Then, my last job moved out to 128, so I was regularly commuting about 25 miles round trip. That was the impetus for getting a touring bike, my first bike with drop bars, and then getting bike specific clothing to make the hour+ ride more enjoyable. When I switched back to a job in town, my spandex spent more time in drawers, only coming out for weekend rides.

    It hasn't really changed my opinion on feasibility (though, perhaps getting a longer commute clarified a sense of feasibility like understanding that for most folks a bike commute that is longer than an hour each way is generally a dealbreaker) ... I just get a different appreciation for various clothing choices. I have my preferences, but I can understand how that differs from others.

    Still, I miss the additional bonus fitness that came from having a long commute. Mentally, it was much easier to get the workout in as part of the 'sunk cost' of going back and forth to work.

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  3. I'd be interested in learning how your manage to ride 10 miles one way in hot weather in work clothes without arriving looking like you've been through a mangle and smelling like a locker room. I start sweating heavily after 500 yards!

    What is a typical summer morning commute costume? (I don't plan to imitate it; just curious.)

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    1. In the summer it's a combination of crinkly/gauzy fabrics and fabrics with prints on them to hide sweat stains. Lightweight linen suits, sundresses with paisley prints, plaid or contrast striped shirts. I wear a hat with a wide brim. I also choose shaded roads and thankfully we have a lot of those here once you get out of Boston metro. Having *low* gears really helps with sweating when going uphill.

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    2. 'Having *low* gears really helps with sweating when going uphill.'

      This made me smile....Here in St. Louis it seems to be 100 degrees everyday and while my route has not changed my speed has as I shift into lower gears to stroll up the same hills I might otherwise prefer to tackle at a brisk pace. I probably use three times the number of pedal strokes, lose the air cooling me off, and at the end of the commute find sweat still dripping off my hair! A question, do you find some materials stink less than others after a sweaty ride?

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    3. We've had weeks with temps in the mid-high 90s here this summer with very high humidity. I would describe myself as someone who sweats fairly easily, so I do not mean to suggest that I stay dry on these rides. But for some reason this has never been a problem for me. Not to get all graphic about it, but the sweat is watery and doesn't turn into BO as long as I shower daily, wear deodorant and do laundry regularly. As far as materials, I mainly just avoid synthetics and look for "breezy" lightweight fabrics. Gauzy cotton, summer weight wool jersey, silk. As for sweaty hair, I just arrange it in a "messy bun" - thankfully now that my hair is growing out I can finally do that again. If it gets to the point where sweat is actually dripping, I wipe it off with a napkin.

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    4. My ride was 3 miles to work on the flat until 2 months ago. I could arrive not sweating (much), even in the height of summer if I rode slowly enough.
      My new work place is 10 miles away, and uphill most of the way. It is impossible not to sweat, even on a cold day. And unfortunately I am the kind of person who stinks very soon after sweating. Some people (more men I think) are very smelly, very quickly after sweating :-(
      Luckily there is a shower at work, but it does make the total commute time long, especially if waiting for someone else to finish in the shower.

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    5. Forgot to say earlier that I have just (belatedly) discovered real rayon Hawaiian shirts. I generally don't like riding in floppy tops, but on hot or humid (32% today!) days I'll do so. By accident I found that rayon, unlike cotton, wicks better and, especially, is as stink resistant as wool. Good thing I had 4 of them in my closet. Also, silk Hawaiians (I found at least one of these in my closet -- will have to see if there are others) seem to be almost as good: they don't seem to wick as well but they are very "airy" and light and also don't stink.

      And they go so well with khaki shorts.

      Wish someone made a rayon cycling jersey ...

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    6. I stumbled on rayon shirts while in Malaysia. That's what the locals wear. They also don similar loosely flowing crop pants. I prefer rayon for cycling shirts. Glad to see some one else appreciating the benefits. I tried to buy rayon fabric to make my own shirt, but sadly our nearby fabric store didn't carry it.

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  4. Immediate followup to my immediately earlier post re riding in work clothes in summer: note that my riding environment in the SW is one where 30% humidity is excessively high!

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    1. I enjoy dry heat and feel pretty good in it; it's humidity that gets me - though I've learned to live with it too.

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  5. I live in Cologne and am used to Dutch bike roads and everything they come with. Commuting by bike never has been a problem, until I started commuting here. Things I would like to change: getting a helmet. And riding a bike to work in Germany is a whole other piece of cake as to riding it in the Netherlands...
    I do not tend to dress differently though, only when it is extremely cold or raining. In that case I just wear more (or a raincoat+pants) :) Plus, the lack of hills made it possible to still use my trusty Sparta Pickup (3-speed) :D

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  6. When I worked within the city, my commute was about 6 miles, with the last 2 miles being a climb up a reasonably challenging hill. I wore whatever I would normally have worn to work (which was practical anyway, given that I worked in a restaurant), but I would change my shirt when I arrived. I probably wouldn't have needed to change if it wasn't for that last massive hill.

    Now that I work out in the suburbs, I wear bikey clothes to commute my 12 miles, and change when I get to work. I do wear nicer clothes at my new office job, but nothing I wouldn't feel comfortable cycling in.

    I have two main reasons that I change clothes, rather than wearing what I'd normally wear:

    1. There's nothing interesting around my work, or in between my work and my home. If I regularly went out with friends, stopped for groceries, ran errands, or really did anything on the commute home besides dodge traffic, I wouldn't want to do so in sweaty bikey clothes. I would want to look cute, and I would dress like I do when I ride my bike around the city. But as it is, if I'm going to do things after work, I almost always have to ride back home first anyway.

    2. I like to work up a sweat on my commute. Since I don't have to worry about looking normal out there in the boonies, I might as well treat my commute like a workout and hopefully never ever ever buy a gym membership ever. I've become a non-lycra'd speed demon—bike shorts under a skirt, Po Campo bag on my rack, brightly-colored T-shirt soaked in sweat. It's fun.

    But damn, I miss working in the city. :)

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  7. Back when my commute was 15 miles each way, I used to do the racing bike and backpack thing. Loved it! Now I commute 2.5 miles and ride an old 3-speed (my father's old 3-speed, imagine that!) in my work clothes. Love it! Cycling is for everyone, or almost everyone. That's what's so great about it.

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  8. Certainly, practical considerations have always dominated my choices for bicycles. It's sort of like having a car, which is to say I wouldn't have a 'transportation' car and a 'racing' car and a 'touring' car but rather just a car -- the best I could afford -- which had to answer many needs. Lightweight, efficient, and capacity to carry weight have always been primary. Distances often would vary simply b/c I moved a lot, but the bike has been remarkable unchanged for 30 years. Always cobbled together, with upgrades when good deals were found. Child seats added then removed, etc. I've never been a fan of cycle specific clothes and have always just worn work cloths and carried supplies. In Oregon, of course, good rain gear is helpful but I wasn't embarrassed with putting my feet in plastic bags, either! I will admit, however, than when my commute reached 25 miles one way, here in the midwest, I began wearing cleated shoes and breathable clothing and the difference was incredible. Much more comfortable and less tiring! Also, on these long commutes, I wear a visibility vest. So a changed commute has not really altered my perspectives on which bicycle to own but it has altered some clothing decisions.

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  9. I started out riding heavy metal upright bikes in the early 90s but as I became more fit I began to value the exercise aspect of cycling for transportation. Now, I am absolutely in love with my disc brake- and fender-equipped Taiwanese carbon fiber road bikes. They make getting from point A to point B in hilly Portland so much more fun.

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  10. This post explains a lot. I think a lot of us assumed that your gravitating toward lighter and faster transportation bikes was influenced by road cycling, but this makes more sense.

    I used to live in NYC and was contemplating buying a Dutch bike. Then I switched jobs and moved to a hilly suburban area. As much as I still want a Dutch bike, that's just not going to work here. My main ride is a vintage mixte, with new wheels and touring gears. The bike does the job and it's pretty, but not very comfortable. I have yet to decide whether I am staying here or moving back to NYC, which will determine what my new bike purchase will be.

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  11. As you say, changing commutes from shorter to longer is problematic on a couple levels. An efficient bike is helpful, but time management is what I found difficult. Talk about lifestyle changes!!

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  12. Lighter, more efficient bike + pedaling technique learned from riding road bikes = longer distances covered easily.

    I rode a Brommie again, 3rd time now; can't decide if I love it or hate it.

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    1. you called it a brommie, that clearly means you love it :)

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  13. My commute has a few hills, and ranges from 14-20 miles (one way). I sometimes get out my road bike for the commute, but I usually ride my chromoly steel commuter bike with a 2-speed hub and drop bars. The bike is reasonably lightweight, and the drop bars allow me to get out of the wind on our many windy days. Once I got the gearing where I wanted it, the 2-speed fit my commute nicely. The low gear works for hill climbing, and I don't mind coasting down big hills.

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    1. Brian -- curious: is that the SA S2C? I've been thinking about that or, possibly, a S3X for alternate wheelsets for the two fixies on days when I feel lazy or tired. If it is the SA 2 sp kickback coasterbrake hub, how do you like it? Is there any noticeable additional friction?

      I *did* just get my nutted Surley flip flop axle replaced with a hollow one (the new ones have shoulders, unlike the old ones, so that tightening the QR doesn't bind the bearings) so that I can at least more easily switch to the 18 from the 16.

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  14. My commute has changed similarly to yours Velouria. Short rides of 5-8km years ago, working up to daily round trip commuting of 30-40km. When i rode shorter distances, I had a poor quality hybrid that did just fine. I never thought about changing my bike or clothing. When I started to do longer rides, the poor fit and poor quality components of my old bike became more noticeable. Also my wardrobe became slowly but surely filled with merino base layer and underwear (I'm grateful to you for the tips on this!). After much research on bikes, I bought a Pilen special, 8speed. The shimano hub gear could be improved, but apart from that it is a remarkably comfortable ride. At first it was slow to ride a loop frame steel bike for long distances, but I've found that my increased fitness has reduced the time for travelling considerably. I cycle in my regular (merino) clothes, but since my office is so cold, I usually add a layer when I get to work - cycling in leggings and a top, then throwing the dress I carried in my pannier on over the top when I get to work.

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    1. I also have been shooting for more merino clothes in my work wardrobe (my thanks, too, Velouria, for the tips) but do arrive at work a bit worn from the hilly commute (I live in Seattle and there's no avoiding them!). I've been riding a heavy Dutch bike and have considered the Pilen as perhaps a better upright choice. Any hills on your ride? Curious as to how they handle them...

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    2. Hey Anonymous, the big hill in my commute is the one I live on top of! So leaving home for work is a joy, buti have to look at getting home as a fitness test to really enjoy that hill. The Pilen is slow up hills relative to other bikes, but the comfort, manoeuvrability, and general zippiness of the Pilen won out for me. My dad has just bought one based on riding mine, and my mum is going to get one soon too. I'm 6 foot tall and find the Pilen to fit well. The dealer let me take it on a several kilometre ride before buying, and that is what decided it for me. Good luck with your future bike purchases/test rides!

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  15. I'll be interested in hearing more on this! At some point in the nearish future we hope to move my husbands business, as well as our home to another county, which will increase my commute from 3 miles round trip to closer to 60 round trip. I hope to still be able to commute by bike! My longest bike ride so far is still only 20 miles and it look me close to 2 hours. I don't think I really want to leave for work 3 hours before I have to be there. :/

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  16. Go back to your Forester - he SAID time was the limit, just as you did in this post. My old commute at 20 miles each way was on the edge of my time limit. My new commute at 7 miles is VERY easy to accommodate - and maybe even a little TOO easy since my gym visits have dropped dramatically.

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    1. That Forester! If I had a hilly 40 mile roundtrip commute and a stable office situation, I would probably ride a roadbike and change at work, using those trips for training. Not sure what I would do in the winter though.

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  17. Just a question. In your photo, are you commuting in a skirt or pants?

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    1. Dress, cardigan, leggings. I would not normally wear leggings when trying to look presentable; this was just a casual bike-ride.

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  18. Don't know that a Rohloff would make you any happier than any of the others; hard to tell if it is that low-friction or not. If you could get your hands on an old SRAM iMotion 9, I think you might be quite happy (you lack the strength+weight to break it, wide range, low friction, relatively even spacing). I was happy with mine till I broke it.

    Another option is to combine a Schlumpf with a 3-speed; I think that gives you 6 speeds, with a non-standard jump in the middle. Cheaper than a Rohloff.

    My normal state is to not care that much about sweat; a little is no big deal, if it's really hot, I'll bring a change of clothes. Moderating speed is a huge help. I have biked in a suit, but not too fast.

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    1. I've tried a Rohloff hub on a Van Nicholas bike. It made the bike awkwardly rear-heavy to lift, but I must say it performed splendidly for a commuter.

      But you know, all these exotic drives... I admire the technology, and the spirit of trying to make something new and interesting. But personally if I can't make do with 1-3 speeds, then I prefer derailleur gearing. I just do not see what's wrong with derailleurs, unless you store your bike outdoors in the winter - and I do not believe for a second that people store their Rohloff bikes outdoors.

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    2. I store mine outside. It's a heavy bicycle, so a simple U-lock makes it a real PITA to haul off, plus each Rohloff has an obvious serial number. Plus it's a weird bike, which makes it less of a commodity, and all the cargo stuff makes it hard to spot the fancy hub.

      What the fancy IGH gets me is 5 things. I can shift stopped, which is good on a cargo bike. I can have a wide range with a chain case, not so easy with a derailer. I get a stronger and more symmetric rear wheel (cargo, again). There's less stuff to get torn up by conditions each winter (and the chain case helps keep the chain clean). I *think* it gets me a stronger chain, and there's also no risk of the chain being oddly between gears when I bear down on it (I split a chain that way once, ruined my commute home).

      Also, on efficiency; winter conditions are going to cut derailer efficiency unless you are a real drive-train-care weenie.

      But you're not hauling cargo (yet) and you're not riding in the winter (yet) and you'll probably never have the weight (and you sure don't want it) to pop a chain apart unless it is really worn out. So a derailer is probably okay for you.

      I will say, almost from the get-go with the SRAM I could tell that IGH was the way to go for a cargo bike, and my only gripe with the non-Rohloff hubs was their less-than-stellar durability under high load (load that needs weight to generate, so not an issue for you) combined with the cargo-induced need for the lowest input ratio that still conformed to recommendations.

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    3. Agree with Velouria.

      The Rohloff was designeg and works wonderfully for adventure cycling. It is overkill for most commuters.

      Here in Chicago i commute happily on a single speed. My tour bike has a 44 gear up front and for most tours a 5 speed 14 -34 freewheel in back. For my big cross country tour i used a 6 speed Mega range, 14 - 38.

      Dont overthink the amount gearing needed for daily riding. You will be musch happier long run.

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    4. "But personally if I can't make do with 1-3 speeds, then I prefer derailleur gearing. I just do not see what's wrong with derailleurs"

      Waitaminute...you changed your mind on this too.

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    5. dr - Interesting, glad to be wrong. Curious about your bike now.

      GRJ - There was not so much a mind changing on that one, as personal experience overruling advice I was initially given. Fairly early on I realised that I disliked 7-8 speed hubs. I like the feel of 3-speeds, but beyond that something feels off to me and I prefer derailleur gearing.

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    6. Derailleurs are finicky are need lot's of adjustment. Derailleur chains need frequent replacing and are getting real expensive, too. Changing rear tire flats are a pain with derailleurs. Dished wheels are weaker. And if you've heard horror stories about cable guides on top tubes I'm surprised you haven't heard horror stories about derailleur accidents!! Does this sound like I'm a Rohloff owner? :)

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    7. @V - Bike now, roughly

      Outdoor storage, back in the pre-dummy days

      Main thing is, the cargo bike is heavy. Rear hub is pit locked, front gets u-locked, nobody's going to sling it over their shoulder and go jogging down the road.

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    8. but I imagine most of you brompton owners have had the pleasure of having a bike with you in a situation you wouldn't normally (a foreign airport, train station, hotel etc.) and so being able to explore a city or town or place in a way you couldn't possibly have without? add a rohloff and, while you don't have a super light racer, you have something exponentially more powerful than before, it doesnt have to be one thing or another in life

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    9. There's a downside to a Rohloff on a folder, and that is the weight. I tried an experiment with a very cheap folder I bought on Craigslist to see how I would like it on a business trip. It was mostly a success, but the bike itself was too darn heavy. And it was too darn heavy for me, who (see links above) hoists a 65-lb bicycle into a vertical position for storage. When you have to carry the bike around as part of your commute, the weight matters. When the weight of the bike is supported by its wheels, I am not a weight weenie, but when it is yanking my arm out of its socket, I am.

      Rohloff on a commuter makes sense when you haul cargo up a hill.

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    10. @derf - (Based on my short experiments with a cheap, heavy folder) A folder is the one bike where I think a non-racer should be a weight weenie. Often enough you pick the bike up and lug it, and that happens far more often than you face a hill that would require the extreme low-end of a Rohloff on a 16" wheel -- and for such a hill, walking will also do.

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    11. it's a valid point, but the longer one has a brompton the more one realises the depth of its design - one part being that it's very seldom necessary to lift it, one can almost always roll it on easywheels, we all need to learn from our own experiences i suspect, and it sounds as if you've found a way that works for you, the only sweet thing i'll add is that with a larger front chain ring a brompton with rohloff gives the most useful mountainbike spread of gears :o)

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  19. Hello! I have a question, and haven't been following your blog for very long, so I apologize if it's been mentioned previously. I also like to commute in regular clothing, and after leaving the oppressive humidity of Florida for high-desert Oregon and now Colorado weather, I've rediscovered skirts and dresses.

    Anyway, I'm having comfort issues regarding underwear, mainly seams beginning to cause tender spots after a few days of commuting, and that the underwear area tends to sweat more, or maybe the fabric just takes longer to dry. Katherine mentioned "merino base layer and underwear". Does that mean wool panties? Or is there some other secret to feminine comfort on a bike that I'm missing?

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    1. Wool underwear works great for general hygiene when cycling (check out Ibex, Smartwool, Icebreaker, I/O Bio). If you're getting chafing along the panty lines, try "boy short" styles, which don't have them. This really works for me and I have insanely sensitive skin.

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    2. Yup, I was referring to underpants, but also a thin merino singlet (for summer) or thin merino leggings and top. I'm still yet to find wool or silk bras in my size :). After some experimenting, I found mens style boxer shorts (from Macpac) to be best for temperature regulation and avoiding chafing. They look funny on, but the cycling comfort is worth it! To avoid chafing in hot weather I also use tea tree ointment before long rides (again thanks to Velouria's recommendation).

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  20. Have you seen the Faraday? This might provide an answer although it's pricey. Looks great though. Here's a link.

    www.ideo.com/work/faraday-bike/

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  21. I need a cromo bike with at least 27 speeds and wider gearing to commute here. We have a lot of hills, many 15 degree plus in steepness. I prefer a more aggressive position, but upright. My tire width preference is 25-28c because of distance. I prefer double-butted cromo or Reynolds steel frames.

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  22. I, for one, am very interested to see future posts on this topic. I am a registered nurse who visits patients in their homes and have done this by bicycle for the past 1 1/2 years. To complicate matters, I don't have an office and I live in Portland, OR, where the weather is....challenging. I have come up with all sorts of tricks to arrive at my various destinations looking professional, smelling fresh, and staying dry. One of my favorites is putting on a skirt or dress, folding the skirt portion up into my rain jacket, then pulling rain pants on over my lower half. Once I arrive at my destination I can pull the skirt down and wiggle out of the pants, all without needing a private place to change. Merino wool has become my best friend--I don't know what I'd do without it!

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  23. I have a number of bikes my latest acquisition a electric Gazelle with a 250 watt motor In the front wheel.
    Can be set up up so it it is like riding on the flat regardless of terrain, load , or wind
    If have to travel 20 miles with work kit and be presentable far and away the best choice

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  24. We do indeed live in a golden age for commuter options, and one type of commuting bicycle definitely doesn't fit all scenarios.

    One point that hasn't been mentioned.....even the better Dutch bikes aren't all that well-built, and for regular, longer commuting, tend to be fairly high maintenance. I'm basing this on having owned a handful of Gazelles when living in Paris and South Beach (Miami).

    7-9 speed internal gear hubs do have noticeable internal resistance--almost like riding through a thin layer of mud. Rohloffs do not. Rohloffs are also probably the closest thing to a perfect bicycle component: great function, superb reliability, almost maintenance free, near unlimited useful life.

    For men, longer commutes/more challenging terrain and formal business attire are somewhat difficult to combine. I've commuted under any number of conditions in any number of locations, but was recently appointed head of a large organization where suits/ties are the norm, and I'm still not sure how to integrate this with cycling to work.

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    1. If you are now the head of this organization, the solution is very simple: just make it known that the Boss has changed the "acceptable company dress" paradigm. Or else.

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    2. Couldn't you just arrive early, change from bike clothes into a suit and then change back when it is time to go? If you have to look conservative all the time then cycle back and forth in tweed run clothes and change into a suit at the workplace.

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  25. Its not just distance. I end my morning commute with a 400 foot elevation gain in about an eighth of a mile. After doing this climb on heavier bikes for far to long, switching to a road bike was a BLOODY REVELATION.

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  26. That has to be the steepest grade ever - 400 feet up in 660 horizontal feet! Are cars allowed on this road?

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  27. When I started commuting longer distances I found that I prefer going in road bike clothing (but spd shoes) and changing at the workplace. That way I always wear dry clothes at work and it's comfier during the ride. I pretty much pick my route so I will be able to go fast for a good bit of it so I will arrive sweaty to work.

    As long as one doesn't slam the stem I think a roadbike/cx works fine in the city takes up less space on cycle paths and saves time on the long bike paths/roads. If I need to carry something I use a backpack.
    A cx can easily be used during the winter with studded tires and a dynamo front wheel although I believe a 29er (possibly with fenders) would be even more ideal.
    If I biked in long normal pants I'd probably want a chain protector.

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  28. Veloria - I'm curious - when you were using the Paper Bicycle (for commuting I'm assuming), what was average trip distance? I'm especially intrigued by that bike and the whole single speed idea in general (less is more right?!). I live in Chicago and Matthew J's comment about commuting on a single speed makes me more and more interested to try it. BUT...I'm looking at about 8-9 miles each way and while Chicago is FLAT FLAT FLAT, I'm still a little hesitant to commit. Matthew J if you're still following, how long is your commute?

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    1. Grace, hills are not the only form of resistance you need gears for. Wind is another, and especially affective if you are riding upright.

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  29. Johan T: Yes, a road bike is a very nice longer distance commuting bike, as long as the frame will take at least 1" tires and, for me at any rate -- for I hate carrying anything on my back -- it will accept a saddlebag or panniers. I commuted on numerous road bikes, though these were usually older steel bikes that would accept 25 mm tires with fenders. In fact my current commuter (well, nice commuter, since I also have a multipurpose Fargo) is a custom Rivendell with custom rack, SON dynohub and Edeluxe light as well as full size pump and sufficient kit to cope with any expected commuting breakdown.

    Phil Miller: said Rivendell, as with most of my other commuters, is in fact a fixed gear: 72" on the cruise side with a 64" bail out that I've not yet used. No mountains, but some steep hills, many long, gradual climbs, and much windiness. Solution: pedal slower. (I'm 57, and no spring chicken -- winter duck, more likely.)

    Grace: when I first started a cross-town 16 miles each way commute (don't do that any longer) as a feisty young 40-something, I also was anxious about the distance, but quickly got used to it. Really, a 10 mile commute is about ideal for me, but 16 miles -- and 10 of this was gradual but steady climbing up from ABQ's river valley toward the Sandia mountains -- turned out not to be anything particularly epic. My biggest problem was *not* making each ride a time trial. I rode this distance largely on fixed gears for a good 8-9 years.

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