Newbie looking to commute to work

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
Zimatrix
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Newbie looking to commute to work

Postby Zimatrix » 6 Oct 2016, 10:20am

**This post got really long so there's a TL;DR at the bottom for the lazy ones :p**

Hi everyone, so I'm currently job hunting and I've found a job I'd like to apply for, the issue I have is that I may have to start as early as 6:30 and I simply can't get there until 7ish by public transport, plus it will involve getting two buses owned by two different companies so it'll cut into my earnings by quite a bit as any sort of saver tickets won't be economical.

I do however have an old mountain bike sitting in my house. I haven't been on a bike in about 8 years, since I would commute about a mile to school every day.

I'm not particularly fit and I've just moved to a new area (hence the job-hunt) so I'm pretty uncomfortable on the roads too, however I've found a route where I could do a good half of the journey along a canal and then take some small residential streets the rest of the way, avoiding main roads until the last 2-3 minutes of the journey.

I'm basically looking for some advice on getting started, I really don't have a lot of money to spend on cycling gear, I'm sure I can afford the essentials like a helmet and lights but what else do I need and can get cheap? I'll need to be able to cycle in all kinds of weather so should I invest in some cheap waterproofs? Also does a 3 mile commute sound do-able for a beginner who lives a fairly sedentary lifestyle? I'll be working part time so it'll be 3-4 days a week.

I know there are tons of articles online that detail this kind of stuff but they all seem to be catered towards working professionals who have money to burn on designated cycling gear, honestly I'm just looking to get up and go with as little money spent as possible, but like I said if this is how I rely on getting to work every day then I'm gonna need to be able to get in even in torrential rain.

TL;DR:

Haven't cycled in 8 years, looking to start a 3 mile commute with an old mountain bike, can't really afford much cycling gear so what are the essentials you would recommend for all-weather commuting?

pwa
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Re: Newbie looking to commute to work

Postby pwa » 6 Oct 2016, 11:03am

3 miles is not far by bike, so you don't need to worry about not having the best or the latest equipment. Some people prefer to commute on a low value bike to avoid the risk of having a dear bike stolen.

Learn to service your bike. You should be cleaning and lubricating the chain and other gear parts once a week. Keep an eye on your brake pads and change them when they get too thin. If you let your tyres get too worn you will get more punctures. And never set off without the stuff you need to fix a puncture. That means a decent pump, spare inner tube, patch kit and levers. Learn how to use them if you don't know already.

For a short trip some sort of back pack will do for luggage.

Get some lights and keep them charged. The front light needs to be powerful for a towpath, unless you like early morning swimming!

Use clothing that works for you. You may want waterproofs. You can try different clothes and work out what you like. If it is raining it is wise to avoid jeans. They hold too much water and take forever to dry.

You might consider a cheap Hi-Viz vest like people wear on construction sites. Cheap, easily folded up.

When you've been commuting for a while you will get a better idea of what additional purchases might or might not be worthwhile. Until then, keep it cheap.

3 miles is not too far. You could walk it in less than an hour. Allow too much time at first, so you don't feel rushed.

And enjoy it.

Threevok
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Re: Newbie looking to commute to work

Postby Threevok » 6 Oct 2016, 11:45am

Just to add to that

Try doing the journey on a non-work day first - just to get some idea of the amount of time you need to allow and if it's really for you.

Then, generously add to that time, to account for traffic, punctures, as well as retired brain surgeons and rocket scientists - whose hobby is to bring dogs that hate bikes to cycle routes - and let them off their leads....

I do three miles each way - and on a good day It takes me 12 minutes to get there and 15 minutes to get home (even on the single speed) but I have been doing it for 13 years. Most of that journey is flat (except a hill at the end) with half being cycle route and half main road.

If you decide to stick at it, I would simplify the bike as much as possible.
If most of your journey is flat - consider converting the bike to single-speed (not that expensive). There is less maintenance, less wear and less to go wrong. Also invest in a good (but cheap) puncture resistant set of tyres - and run slime tubes under them. The last thing you want to be doing - is fixing a puncture in the pitch black and pouring-rain nights of winter, or riding home in a high gear because you've snapped a cable or bent or broken a derailleur or hanger.

Clothes wise - I wear base layers (which I buy from Sports Direct and online rugby outlets, when they are on sale) and something overt the top that is reflective - but I would not skimp on waterproofing.

Get good lights too

Vorpal
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Re: Newbie looking to commute to work

Postby Vorpal » 6 Oct 2016, 11:48am

First, you don't need any special cycling gear. Wear what you would wear for other outdoor activities. You do need lights on your bike when it is dark out. The helmet is optional. If you are intested in *all* the information about that see viewforum.php?f=41 otherwise just find a helmet that fits well, and consider that you may want to put it on over a hat or balaclava.

Good gloves or mittens are worth investing in, and if you plan to carry on when it's icy, get some studded tyres.

Waterproofs are a personal choice, though you may need them if you can't change and shower at work. Cheap ones tend to hold moisture in as well keeping it out, so you get wet from sweat and condensation instead of rain.

Get a book called Cyclecraft or check it out from the local library. If you can, sign up for a Bikeability course.
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
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hamster
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Re: Newbie looking to commute to work

Postby hamster » 6 Oct 2016, 11:51am

MUST:
a) Lights (with rechargeable batteries, AA will do). Exact choice depending on whether 'being seen' for urban (flashing etc) or 'seeing' (powerful beam) for rural.
b) High viz tabard / jacket
c) Waterproof jacket, gloves.

Strong wish:
a) Slick tyres (Schwalbe Marathon 1.6) - fast rolling, heavily puncture resistant
b) Mudguards

PH
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Re: Newbie looking to commute to work

Postby PH » 6 Oct 2016, 12:39pm

Good luck with the job hunting and the cycling, I think you'll be fine. Leave plenty of time and take it easy, you'll soon get into the swing of it and three miles won't seem like enough. Clothing is something else you'll get the hang of, stuff that still feels comfortable when wet and also dries quickly is good, and luckily includes many cheap synthetics. Your LA may have a course that would help with road confidence, or as already suggested Cyclecraft or the IAM book How to be a Better Cyclist, are worth reading. Confidence will come from doing it of course, and an early start when the roads are quieter is no bad thing.

Vorpal
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Re: Newbie looking to commute to work

Postby Vorpal » 6 Oct 2016, 12:47pm

If you need more clothes, someplace like TK Maxx is a good place to find bargains on decent clothes. Also the sales at warehouse type outiftters can be good. Charity shops are another place to look.
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

roubaixtuesday
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Re: Newbie looking to commute to work

Postby roubaixtuesday » 6 Oct 2016, 12:48pm

You'll be fine, no problem with three miles even if normally sedentary.

If I were you I'd have one must and two highly desirables:

Must have lights. Rechargeable ones, or use rechargeable batteries recommended.

Mudguards if possible on your bike make a huge difference in winter. If your bike doesn't have proper fixings for them, even the clip on to the seatpost kind are an awful lot better than nothing.

A track pump with a pressure gauge. Most newbies have soft tyres and get loads of punctures as a result. A track pump makes it quick and easy to pump up the tyres, and you know you have the right pressure. Do it weekly (bike tyres go down much faster than car tyres)

Lots of other nice to have things, but these are what I'd prioritise.

gbnz
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Re: Newbie looking to commute to work

Postby gbnz » 6 Oct 2016, 12:55pm

hamster wrote:MUST:
a) Lights (with rechargeable batteries, AA will do). Exact choice depending on whether 'being seen' for urban (flashing etc) or 'seeing' (powerful beam) for rural.
b) High viz tabard / jacket
c) Waterproof jacket, gloves.

Strong wish:
a) Slick tyres (Schwalbe Marathon 1.6) - fast rolling, heavily puncture resistant
b) Mudguards


I'd agree; High viz tabards are fantastic for being seen. It's worth looking at the likes of commercial safety gear suppliers such as Arco/Greenhams or a local equivalent, as it should possible to pick up a highly effective, generic tabard, at a fraction of the price of a cycling specific Hi Viz item

whoof
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Re: Newbie looking to commute to work

Postby whoof » 6 Oct 2016, 12:59pm

Check with your local council about bike training some councils will provide this for free. Worth it especially if you haven't been on a bike for a while and are not confident with busy traffic.

Also see if you can have your bike looked at to see if it's roadworthy and learn some basic maintenance such as changing an inner-tube. There are free schemes such as Cycling Uk's Big Bike Revival.
http://www.cyclinguk.org/project/big-bike-revival

You need the same stuff to cycle three miles as you would to walk it plus lights (although if you were walking at night on a tow path lights would also be a good idea).

Unless you have some health problems three miles is a very doable distance. Try some practice rides before you need to ride to work.

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Paulatic
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Re: Newbie looking to commute to work

Postby Paulatic » 6 Oct 2016, 1:01pm

My FiL cycled two miles to work, came home for lunch so 8 mile per day, most of his working life. Only specialist bit of equipment he had was a pair of trouser clips.
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mjr
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Re: Newbie looking to commute to work

Postby mjr » 6 Oct 2016, 1:03pm

Welcome to the OP. Others have said most of it now, I think.

gbnz wrote:
hamster wrote:MUST:
a) Lights (with rechargeable batteries, AA will do). Exact choice depending on whether 'being seen' for urban (flashing etc) or 'seeing' (powerful beam) for rural.
b) High viz tabard / jacket
c) Waterproof jacket, gloves.

Strong wish:
a) Slick tyres (Schwalbe Marathon 1.6) - fast rolling, heavily puncture resistant
b) Mudguards


I'd agree; High viz tabards are fantastic for being seen. [...]

I'd disagree strongly with only that one. They're decreasingly useful in urban areas due to the widespread use of hi-viz, they've always bordered on camouflage in many rural scenes (yellow is common here), they are suspected of encouraging target fixation if they are seen, they grey out under street lights and they only last a few washes (sometimes as few as 10) and apparently each wash dumps microfibres into the drain (there's a discussion about it on here somewhere). It's definitely not a must if you've got a full set of good lights and reflectors on the bike.
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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meic
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Re: Newbie looking to commute to work

Postby meic » 6 Oct 2016, 1:07pm

It isnt the HiViz material that gets you seen, it is the reflective strips.
The effect of those strips is apparent to anybody who drives a car at night and doesnt need arguing about, the facts are self evident.
Yma o Hyd

thirdcrank
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Re: Newbie looking to commute to work

Postby thirdcrank » 6 Oct 2016, 1:22pm

I've tried to read all the advice above and I don't think anybody has suggested a dummy run. I think it's a good idea just so you have an idea of what you are about, rather than finding things out when you have the first day of a new job in mind.

I'd recommend getting into a routine with all the small things that can turn into big things. I'm talking about avoiding getting your bike out, only to find a problem. So, if you get home and there's something not right with your bike, deal with it promptly, rather than putting it off. If you can get into the habit, check your tyres at, say, teatime each day. Then if a slow puncture has occurred on your way home, you won't discover it just as you hope to set off. Depending on arrangements at work, do a similar check during a convenient break. (Discreetly, so your new colleagues don't spot a good source of fun.) With that early start, as others have said you will need lights for much of the year and rechargeables can be cost effective. Again, get into a routine with the charging of batteries: don't leave yourself without working lights.

Try and get your feet under the table at work as soon as possible. If there are people doing security type jobs on site, make friends with them as a priority. They often have the key, literally, to your peace of mind: some nice hideaway where you can leave your bike without worring about theft, practical jokes or bad weather. I'm particularly fond of boiler rooms where wet togs can be dried. At the very least, don't alienate anybody with that type of job because they can be very awkward, but I've generally found that a polite approach reaps dividends.

For a reasonably fit person, three miles isn't a huge hike. If the weather is really bad in winter, and I'm thinking about danger like untreated black ice rather than just a bit of discomfort, I'd say leave yourself time to walk.

Good luck with your job application and enjoy your cycling.

========================================================

While I was typing, hi-viz has been mentioned. Nowadays, hi-viz waistcoats can be bought dirt cheap from workwear outlets - avoid bike shops. I'm completely with meic on this. Apart from that, there's no real downside and if something does go wrong, there's one less thing for the victim-blamers to crow about.

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Re: Newbie looking to commute to work

Postby Vorpal » 6 Oct 2016, 1:28pm

thirdcrank wrote:I've tried to read all the advice above and I don't think anybody has suggested a dummy run.



whoof wrote:Unless you have some health problems three miles is a very doable distance. Try some practice rides before you need to ride to work.


Threevok wrote:Try doing the journey on a non-work day first - just to get some idea of the amount of time you need to allow and if it's really for you.


:lol: :lol:
thirdcrank wrote:Try and get your feet under the table at work as soon as possible. If there are people doing security type jobs on site, make friends with them as a priority. They often have the key, literally, to your peace of mind: some nice hideaway where you can leave your bike without worring about theft, practical jokes or bad weather. I'm particularly fond of boiler rooms where wet togs can be dried. At the very least, don't alienate anybody with that type of job because they can be very awkward, but I've generally found that a polite approach reaps dividends.

A cup of tea and a biscuit now and again can work wonders :wink:
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom