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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

I really want to start commuting to work - it's a mostly flat 18 mile route which goes through two small towns, one at each end of the commute. I have planned the trip to take me a little over an hour. The route includes a nice new four lane highway which connects the small towns & has bike lanes on either side (littered with lots of small gravel & miscellaneous debris).

I have a decent lighting system and the will to commute in coldish weather, but I still have fears when considering riding on the side of a few narrow roads where visibility is often poor (hills, curves). Especially when considering that this area is probably the least "fitness oriented" place on the planet. Folks here are not bike friendly – they think bikes are targets, and should not share the road – ever.

Perhaps this is somewhat of an exaggeration, however, to ride these roads in total darkness - even with a good taillight and good headlight - seems too dangerous. Once I hit the bike path it would be easy, but getting through town would be . . . scary.

I really don't want to add mileage to my route - 18 miles each way is enough for me before & after work everyday - call me a wimp for this, that's okay.

Any suggestions on what I could do?

Thanks,

Steel_SSer
 

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Similar Situation Here

I live in the Florida Panhandle (AKA Lower Alabama). It is not bike friendly at all. I ride home from work in the dark every night. I like riding at night. Fewer cars on the road. Kinda peaceful. I put 3 blinking LEDs on the back of my bike and my headlight is pretty bright. I actually feel safer at night because I think I am more visible with all of the blinking lights. I don't think you are any more at risk at night if you are well lit.

Mike
 

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Bacon!
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I try to look like a christmas tree.

I've got two bright led lamps in the front spaced apart to look like a little car. I've got three blinkies on the back. I've also added a LED headlamp to my helmet with a night vision (red) option that is very bright. Whenever I see a car coming out from a side road I shine it on them. It might be irritating but doesn't kill their night vision and sure lets them know I'm there. Also lights up signs down the road nicely. As far as coming from my rear I have to hope I don't get clobbered. Not much else I can do. I also hope that when I approach intersections the cars see my red headlamp as I sweep them with it.
 

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Big is relative
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Visibility.

There is a company called Flashback in Canada www.flashback.ca that sells bike reflective material. They sell a flag that mounts on the left side rear dropout that sticks out to the side about 18". This would make you appear wider to cars and would add some additional reaction time for drivers encountering you on a narrow winding road. In theory it would also make them give you more room. Check out their website, they list prices in US dollars as well. The flag is currently out of stock but they promise early this year for orders.
 

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Afraid of the dark

I tend to agree that if you make sure you are as visible as practical riding at night is not more dangerous than riding in the daytime. When I was living in NJ I found that riding after 7pm was quite enjoyable. On weekdays most people are home and in front of the TV by that time. Of course you're in the best position to judge the safety of this route. If you'd ride these roads in the day I would consider giving it a trial run at night.
 

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Jerkhard Sirdribbledick
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thbirks said:
If you'd ride these roads in the day I would consider giving it a trial run at night.
I'd agree with that. The other way of looking at it is that if you'd ride the roads during the day but not at night, you might have a false sense of security during the day.
 

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I started feeling more comfortable commuting at night when I spent a lot of money on a headlight. After hardly able to see the road with those $50-$150 range bike lights, I finally decided to upgrade to a Light & Motion Li-Ion Arc Ultra. Wow, it was great to finally see what was ahead of me! Attached to the seatpost is a Cat Eye TL-LD1000 and that thing is great! It has 2 rows of LED's that can be individually controlled for different flashin patterns, and it also has side-mounted LED's that beam light sideways: http://www.cateye.com/en/products/viewProduct.php?modelId=41&catId=7&subCatId=4
I also have 2 of those dangling blinking SL-LD100's attatched to my backpack.

Wrap yourself and your bike up in a lot of reflective gear as well! www.roadid.com sells reflective gear and has something called High-Viz Stickpak that I stick on my bike.
 

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Stay away from rush hour

I have a 14.5 mile commute (each way). I ride my bike to and from work 2-3 days per week (I'm a fair weather commuter -- if it is raining or too windy in the morning, I don't ride. But, if I have to ride in bad weather to get home, I can deal with it.) The first half of my ride is on city/suburban streets; the second half is on two lane roads with no shoulders. Most of my close calls (and the one time that I actually was hit by a car) occurred on the city/suburban portion during rush hour. I have some flexibility with my work hours and tend to work late. If you can time your commute so that you leave work after most traffic has passed, you will have a much better commute in the dark.

It sounds like you know your route, so this advice may not be necessary. But, I find that riding in the dark is much easier on a route that you know than one that you don't know. Every once and a while, I have to take a different route home than my usual one. On my usual route, I know almost every rough surface, pothole, dangerous sewer grate and other cycling obstruction. When I take a different route, I find that I am much more apprehensive because I don't know what may be lurking up ahead.
 

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My commute is 16 mi. one way. I leave at 5:30 AM, and ride the entire AM leg in the dark. I was very apprehensive when I 1st started, but I actually feel better in the morning than I do riding home in the daylight. In the AM, there's almost no traffic, and cars seem to be especially courteous, giving me plenty of room.

My ride is all 2 lane suburban to semi-rural roads, most with no shoulders. A couple of them are quite narrow, and I find it necessary to "take the lane" on the way home to prevent vehicles from passing me when there is oncoming traffic.

When I ride in the dark, I look like Las Vegas moving down the road. I have a small tailight clipped to my helmet, a "band" light strapped to my left calf, and a very bright flashing tailight fastened to my small backpack. In addition, My commuter bike has reflective tape on the bar ends, the rear of the seat. I also put some dots of it on my heels. I have a small under-seat bag that has a 3" red reflector on it. There's another 3" red reflector on a bracket attached to the reae brake. My jacket, and backpack, and shoes have reflective piping. The front of the bike has a 3" white reflector and a small led light I bought from Performance.
 

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Downhill Juggernaut
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The more I ride in the dark, the more comfortable I get with it. I actually enjoy my morning commutes. Lighting makes all the difference. When I first started I had a sigma led light. Nice blinking, but not what I needed. I then moved up to a cateye with more power. I enjoy that. Right now I'm riding a cross check that I'm thinking about buying from a friend. He has a Nite Rider lighting system on it. Holy Crap! I never knew what lighting was until I turned that thing on! It has a spot and flood with like 32W IIRC. It is amazing. Even though I know just about every bump on my commute, I love that lighting. I would go anywhere with that light on my handlebars. If I do buy the bike from him, maybe I'll get lucky and he'll forget the lights are on it.

On the back I have three seperate blinking red lights. I have three different blinking reds from planet bike on the back. One on the seatpost, one of the chainstay, and another on my messenger bag. My wife watched me from behind and said it was a huge improvement over just the seatpost light. Good lighting has boosted my comfort level greatly.

As long as you're visible the rest falls into place. It's just spending enough time in those conditions to get comfortable with it. Hey, as a bonus... most dogs are asleep during early morning commutes.
 

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Two psychotically bright lights up front, one HID and one LED, front and rear reflectors, a double LED tail light set to always on from the back of my seat bag, three blinkies on my backpack (one for each side and a large one that hangs just under my helmet), a large slow moving vehicle reflective triangle covers the back of my backpack, in addition to wheel reflectors, pedal reflectors, reflective gear on all of my kit (shoes, pants, shirt, vest, jacket, gloves, helmet). I ride with a mirror and pay close attention to everything else on the road. I use speed to keep out of trouble just as often as I slow and move into a safe area to avoid it.

The lighting helps me feel a lot less isolated out on the road. I get lots of comments from drivers and peds that confirm that they have no trouble at all seeing me. Most of them think that I am riding a motorcycle.

And even with all of that, I still drive and stage out of a parking lot that gets me inside of a few miles of rural unlit, two-lane, no shoulder, 60mph road nearest to my house. It's a death zone with some really bad accidents to prove it.

Just find what you are comfortable with and get started. What you learn once you get going will give you a lot more confidence. Practice your bike handling skills ahead of time will help you, unless you are a strong and confident rider to begin with. It just seems weird at first. But it is definitely doable. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I REALLY appreciate all the encouragement! I also enjoy reading about the lights, reflectors & suggestions for night riding. I will definitely get a couple more blinkies for the rear, and add some reflectors and reflector tape. I have a good headlight, but adding another headlight won't be a bad idea - I'll try an LED this time.

My confidence is growing. I used to ride motorcycles for several years and I have a decent quality rain suit in case I get caught in wet stuff.

Does anyone think 18 miles with one big hill is doable for a daily commute, or am I just dreaming. My goal is to ride enough to save enough money to pay for the bike I'm getting ready to buy (Surly Cross Check, single speed - of course). At least, that's how I'm going to explain the new bike to my wife.

;)

Happy riding & THANKS very much again,

Steel_SSer in rural Georgia
 

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Steel_SSer said:
I REALLY appreciate all the encouragement! I also enjoy reading about the lights, reflectors & suggestions for night riding. I will definitely get a couple more blinkies for the rear, and add some reflectors and reflector tape. I have a good headlight, but adding another headlight won't be a bad idea - I'll try an LED this time.

My confidence is growing. I used to ride motorcycles for several years and I have a decent quality rain suit in case I get caught in wet stuff.

Does anyone think 18 miles with one big hill is doable for a daily commute, or am I just dreaming. My goal is to ride enough to save enough money to pay for the bike I'm getting ready to buy (Surly Cross Check, single speed - of course). At least, that's how I'm going to explain the new bike to my wife.

;)

Happy riding & THANKS very much again,
I wish you luck on you commute. Is your commute 18 each way or round trip? You can't really consider your commute a thirty six mile ride, you will have to think of it as ten 18 mile rides. Riding once a day for 2 hours means that your body is recovering for 22 hours between rides. Commuting for an hour in the morning and then again in the afternoon means that your body has less of a recovery even if it is only 18 miles. Listen to your body and know when to take it easy. If you are really exhausted after your evening commute, plan a little extra time for the next morning and ride easy. Don't let your ego drive you into overtraining. I ride 13 each way 5-6 days a week and coupled with some tough training rides on the weekend, I really have to ease up on my ride.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Two or three times a week will be enough for me - a worthy goal.

I just did an Excel spreadsheet comprehensive diagnostic analysis of the commute - I'll have to ride about 311 days to save enough gas money to pay for the bike.
 

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I ride about 13 miles one way each commute, even with driving through the death zone portion. There is never a day that I have trouble with the distance. To add another 6 to it would be doable for me...a 47 y/o fitness rider.

Bare in mind too that you will be getting a lot more benefits than just the pay-back of your bike cost. A lot of that is pretty hard to quantify, but you'll find it very rewarding.

Here's a great link to see some comparisons of head lights:

http://eddys.com/site/page.cfm?PageID=493

Hope this helps! ;)
 

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Another source for reflective tape

http://www.identi-tape.com/hi-intensity.htm

The silver Reflexite stuff is way bright. I stick bits of it around the inside of my rims, creating a rotating strobe effect, and also have wrapped it around the crank arms, so a driver approaching from the rear sees the pedal motion and the wheels, which makes a strong "bicycle" impression.
 

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Steel_SSer said:
Does anyone think 18 miles with one big hill is doable for a daily commute, or am I just dreaming.
I'll admit to being a fair weather commuter, but My commute is 15mi each way with 1 big hill and 1 long (but not as steep) hill right at the end. When the weather is good (most of the time in summer) I'll ride ~3 days a week. Before I moved, it was 20mi along more or less the same route and I'd still manage ~3 days a week.

One of the other posters suggests you don't push yourself too hard, and I would agree. Don't be disappointed if you don't ride every day. I try to keep my commutes pretty low effort for the most part, especially in the AM. On the way home I let my effort be dictated by my training schedule and how I'm feeling.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Riding to work is a done deal - I'm going to do it.

My next problem is trying to decide whether or not to get a multi-geared or a single speed.

I'll post an update after the first ride. I still need to pick up some reflective tape & more lights. It's funny how usually the colder it gets the less likely it's going to rain.

I probalby won't begin commuting to work for another three weeks, or so. Also, I really need to get more lights (front & rear) and add some reflective tape to my riding clothes.

I'll keep everyone updated on how it goes - should be a lot of fun, if I just take it easy and leave in plenty of time (I'm going to test ride the entire route on my day off in two weeks). I used to ride ~150 miles a week, but now, my mileage is way low - even with time spent mountain biking. I need this next few weeks to build up to the point where I can manage this trek with ease - and not getting in a hurry on the way to work is great advice.

Thanks again,

Steel_SSer
 

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Your attitude sounds great. Taking it easy and leaving plenty early are good ideas. If I want to ride hard, or hurry, I always do it on the way home. On the way to work in the AM, I almost take it easy, averaging 16 - 17 mph. Depending on how I feel, I generally ride home harder/faster. Sometimes, I'll even try to set new landspeed records. :D
 

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pillage! plunder! 4 parts
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More visable at night

I really think if you prepare properly you are more visable at night. During the day you blend in with other things and your moving is the only thing that really helps a motorist see you. I have a niterider headlight and a blinking tailight, a couple reflective stickers (helmet, back of pedals) but I also added Radio Shacks version of tireflys. They screw on to your valve stems and are lit so you get the rotating light on the wheels. I have had three people mention while at stoplights that they make the biggest difference in helping them realize it is a bike and it also indicates what direction you are going.

So all in all if you prepare well I think the biggest thing is mentally preparing to ride in the dark. The only thing I really notice a difference in is that I don't have a lot of "bailout" options in the dark as you can't see as well. During the day I am always looking at escape routes in case it is needed.
 
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