Tips and Tricks for Bike Commuting

If you’ve been a long time reader of BikeCommuters.com, then you’ll know we’ve gone through all sorts of steps to ensure that bike commuting is easy, fun and money saving. Below are some tips and tricks we’ve compiled over the years. Enjoy!
Febreeze is your friend. Carry one in your bag to ensure you and your clothes stink once you get to your destination. I like to spray a bit of it on my helmet pads once I’m done riding.
bikecommuters.com febreeze

Be seen, get some reflective gear.
Reflective accessories

Really cool pants that doesn’t stink or stain. But it comes with a price. If these pants are too rich for your blood, consider getting some Dickies work pants.

Bluff works pants

See where you’re going at night. Get a light!

The Bike Geek: Wheelsucker

oldguysrule

Hello and welcome back to The Bike Geek’s weekly post. Today’s post is a little late because I got my ass kicked by a 70 year old cyclist who happens to inspire this week’s writings.

beachshot

I don’t know about your bike commute, but my bike portion gets pretty lonely so I usually get together on the weekend with a couple of friends and ride to the beach. Our usual ride is about 30 miles round trip and a good portion of this ride is down Pacific Coast Highway.

wheelsucking

I’ve been riding with these guys for over ten years and they are usually in better shape than I am. So how do I keep up with them? I suck their wheel otherwise known as “drafting”. Drafting has allowed me to finish centuries and ride at over 20 mph during long periods of time. Drafting has been known to save about 20% to 30% energy but you have to do it correctly. You must ride about 6 to 10 inches from the rider in front of you in order to benefit from the draft. This could be pretty scary if you don’t know how the person in front of you rides or if they are unaware that you are sucking their wheel. Most riders who are in front signal any upcoming road hazards and announce themselves while taking over other riders.

timetopull

Now, wheel sucking has its own set of rules and lingo. For example, it is totally OK to draft off your buddies but you also have to take your turn at “pulling”. Pulling means that you get on the front of your buddies while they suck your wheel, this allows for them to regain their strength so they can keep pulling at a good speed.

This past weekend we “grabbed the wheel” of an older gentlemen who was pulling 6 of us at about 23 to 24 mph and left us totally drained. The guy was a freaking beast and when we had to stop at a red light he told us he was 70 years young. So yeah, I got my ass handed to me by a 70 year old guy but thanks to wheel sucking I was not “dropped”. Here is a little video of the ride:

So what is the moral of this post? Old people rule and wheel sucking is good as long as you are not an ass about it.

What’s the Deal with Gravel? (In a Jerry Seinfeld voice)

So I feel like the kid in the 1950s pot commercial; I rode gravel once and now I’m hooked and my whole life has been turned upside down. I just can’t see the road the same. I now see cars and replace them with trees, signal lights are now steep hills, cement streets are now dirt paths… Everything has flipped and I love it.

I had tried cross and it was plenty fun. Not like every day fun, but fun once-in-awhile-fun. I will/must/don’t want to admit how bad I am on a mountain bike. On a road bike is where I was the most comfortable. Gravel does not come natural for me even if I’ve tried most of what cycling has to offer. For me it’s not the descents because I’m not all that confident in my skills. It’s the views as I suffer and drag my 200 pound butt up these climbs that normally lead to some hike-a-bike situations. The climbing can be brutal but like the Instagram inspirational quote with a majestic background says, “It’s just a hill, get over it.” If you can, then you will get a new perspective; your eyes will open to everything you’ve missed on a road bike or a mountain bike.

On a road bike you ride with your eyes wide shut. That’s the appeal for me, a lot of it is just not thinking and just going; you can zone out on a climb and even forget about the views. On a mountain bike you are more aware but there is still a level of letting the bike do it’s job and going for it. The closest thing to riding gavel (on a rigid bike with drops), in my opinion, is riding a fixed gear bike. On a fixed gear bike you have to be aware of everything around you. From the cars to the road conditions, the signal lights to the pedestrians, you are on full alert all the time. Not having real brakes will do that to you. Gravel is somewhat like that, you have an idea of control but it’s more controlled chaos then precision.

The real beauty of gravel [(…and I get a ten-cent commission every time I type G R A V E L)- Gravel] riding is that it’s not just about riding, hiking is also a big part of the experience. On a road bike you can take another route, on a mountain bike you have a lot of gearing and a more capable bike, so when you get to a section that’s above your pay grade you either push yourself or hike-a-bike. You go on a ride and you really don’t know if you are going to be able to ride every section of it. How much of a route you can manage changes as you improve and get more confident/stronger. I tend to fall more on the climbs than the descents. I’ve also done a lot to improve my gearing.

Nonetheless, gravel is my new obsession. So much so that this summer I am planning a Summer Adventure Gravel Series (SAGS) around the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. The adventure part is that there will be no routes given out. We will have to stay together, this will help avoid douchebagery. This is not a race. This is not about being first, fast, or better. This is about the people next to you, the landscape that surrounds you, and the route in front of you. Aside from maybe the Cannondale Slate [(with a gearing upgrade) no pun intended] there will not be a perfect bike for every situation. After, I hope we question our bikes but not our time in the saddle. I’m currently doing recon for the S.A.G.S ride- details will come.