Any advice for a first time Commuter?

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Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby sourplum » Mon Apr 13, 2009 9:14 pm

So tomorrow I'm going to be riding to work on my Mountain bike on the ROAD (GASP!) for the first time, to work. Since it's my first time being on the road on my bicycle, I'm really nervous because the thought of riding alongside cars really intimidates me, and the route I'm taking to work tomorrow is the only way I know, and it has a reasonable amount of traffic.

I actually practiced riding the other day from and to my relative's house and even though there wasn't a lot of traffic, I was still nervous around the roundabouts. I didn't know which direction(s) had right of way and being positioned right beside a car as it was about to advance made me slightly anxious. Growing up, I have ALWAYS rode on the sidewalk, and it wasn't until a few days ago that I realized under the law, I had an obligation to use the road, not the footpath and this came as a a real awakening surprise for me. For one, I didn't know that over 12s weren't allowed on footpaths, but I personally, would not let a 13 or even 14 year old onto the road where there are much larger vehicles around and where the danger is.

Anyway, what can I do to make the trip a little less nerve-racking and more safe? Are there any special road rules I need to know about before I ride on the road tomorrow?

I know that cyclists are meant to ride on the left of the lane, but when I see parked motor vehicles on the side I feel inclined to take the full lane up to myself, but at the same time, I think it's dangerous - what happens if t car in front of me stops and I can't hit the handbrakes in time and crash into it? Worse, what if the car on my rear slams into me?
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by BNA » Mon Apr 13, 2009 10:53 pm

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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby mylesau » Mon Apr 13, 2009 10:53 pm

What state are you in?

Might be worthwhile reading the NSW RTA Bicycle Riders Handbook (pdf). Close to the same rules for all states now I think.

It would have been a good idea to ride the route on a non work day, taking your time and perhaps picking a 'slow' traffic time.
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby simonn » Tue Apr 14, 2009 10:12 am

sourplum wrote:I was still nervous around the roundabouts. I didn't know which direction(s) had right of way and being positioned right beside a car as it was about to advance made me slightly anxious.


Treat a roundabout like you are a car. Claim the lane 20-50M before the round about and signal your intention to car drivers (hold out left arm to go left, right to go right). If you signal 99.9% of the time they will slow down and let you manoeuvre with no worries.

sourplum wrote:Anyway, what can I do to make the trip a little less nerve-racking and more safe? Are there any special road rules I need to know about before I ride on the road tomorrow?


Really, to make it safe, follow the road rules and choose a good route.

sourplum wrote:I know that cyclists are meant to ride on the left of the lane, but when I see parked motor vehicles on the side I feel inclined to take the full lane up to myself, but at the same time, I think it's dangerous - what happens if t car in front of me stops and I can't hit the handbrakes in time and crash into it? Worse, what if the car on my rear slams into me?


Just like in a car, keep a 3 second distance behind a car at a minimum. Claim the lane at junctions/roundabouts (as I said above) and if cars cannot pass you and leave a 1M gap between you and them.

As a rule of thumb, you can't really go wrong if you just follow the road rules like you were driving a car.
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby eucryphia » Tue Apr 14, 2009 7:38 pm

So, how was the first day on the road? :)
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby rmgrimes79 » Tue Apr 14, 2009 7:53 pm

welcome to the world of commuting --- hope it was good for you and theres more insentive tto ride regualrly (if you can) :D
hopefully that nervousness wears off, treat the road as if your a car (not in the sense that your an omnipotent driver, but a law abiding nice person on a slow scooter) and may you get addicted like the rest of us :twisted:
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby sourplum » Tue Apr 14, 2009 8:14 pm

eucryphia wrote:So, how was the first day on the road? :)


Good news is that I've discovered a quieter route (though it's not by much, and the amount of traffic builds up slowly, and it's longer).

Bad news is I woke up this morning and my front wheel was deflated! :cry:

I had to ask a friend to me a lift. Guess what? I came back today and pumped the front tire up at the local petrol station only to find it much softer just now. What's going on with my front wheel? I don't understand, and I can't even ride it if it's going to keep acting up. Do I need a need front tire?
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby trailgumby » Tue Apr 14, 2009 8:25 pm

Yes, it sure can be nerve-wracking when you start. Eventually you get used to it, and learn to "read" the traffic and flow with it.

My tips:
* Be predictable
* Obey the road rules. All of them. Not just the ones you like.
* Position your bike like you would your car. Own the lane. Be where drivers expect to see a vehicle.
* Be assertive without being reckless. Indicate your intentions clearly and with plenty of advance warning.
* Be visible. Be very, very visible.
* Scan your environment continuously. Know everything that is going on in your zone of risk.
* Subscribe to the Theory of BIG.
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby trailgumby » Tue Apr 14, 2009 8:29 pm

sourplum wrote:
eucryphia wrote:So, how was the first day on the road? :)


Good news is that I've discovered a quieter route (though it's not by much, and the amount of traffic builds up slowly, and it's longer).

Bad news is I woke up this morning and my front wheel was deflated! :cry:

I had to ask a friend to me a lift. Guess what? I came back today and pumped the front tire up at the local petrol station only to find it much softer just now. What's going on with my front wheel? I don't understand, and I can't even ride it if it's going to keep acting up. Do I need a need front tire?

Sounds like you have a puncture.

What every cyclisst needs to knwo about flat tyres.
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby wombatK » Tue Apr 14, 2009 8:55 pm

trailgumby wrote:Yes, it sure can be nerve-wracking when you start. Eventually you get used to it, and learn to "read" the traffic and flow with it.

My tips:
* Be predictable
* Obey the road rules. All of them. Not just the ones you like.
* Position your bike like you would your car. Own the lane. Be where drivers expect to see a vehicle.
* Be assertive without being reckless. Indicate your intentions clearly and with plenty of advance warning.
* Be visible. Be very, very visible.
* Scan your environment continuously. Know everything that is going on in your zone of risk.
* Subscribe to the Theory of BIG.

+1 for most of this +10 on Theory of Big. Make sure you can be seen and position yourself so you can be.

trailgumby wrote:Sounds like you have a puncture.

What every cyclist needs to know about flat tyres.

Other tips:

1) a floor pump at home with guage - so you can regularly check tyre pressure is okay (otherwise you'll risk pinch flats) and
2) smaller pump on bike, spare tube, tyre levers, patches, so you can fix flats out on the road. Practice at home first - the link trailgumby gave to sheldon browns website should be a good start.
3) try to avoid riding in the glass and debris at the side of the road. It's not where motorists will be looking for you, but worse, it's where you'll find the glass and wire that cause punctures.
4) get a mirror - all cars and motorbikes have them, and for good reason. it's much easier to go with the flow when you can see what's coming from behind you. As with driving a car or motorbike, you still need to head-check - but you'll be more relaxed being able to spot merge opportunities sooner and having a better idea of what's coming up behind you.

Congrats on getting started. Don't be too frustrated by flat tyres. It won't happen very often once you've got your bike set up right.
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby Big Jonny » Tue Apr 14, 2009 9:56 pm

Be seen, get a mirror (saved my life several times) lots of lights for night time let drivers know what you are intending, leave lots of room, once you have been car doored you will look for drivers in parked cars and dont expect them to look for you. Try to look 3 cars ahead and be a good bike rider, consider others. Most of all enjoy, its great once you get into it.
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby Dial » Tue Apr 14, 2009 10:04 pm

trailgumby wrote:...
* Subscribe to the Theory of BIG.


Definitely the best advice
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby casual_cyclist » Tue Apr 14, 2009 10:06 pm

I took a couple of weeks to get more confident on the road
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby Thoglette » Tue Apr 14, 2009 10:09 pm

Don't forget to check out the What to carry thread.

Plus absolutely everything said by Sheldon Brown (except on 1 Apr:-) )
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby provoked » Tue Apr 14, 2009 10:57 pm

I commute a fair bit these days.

My advice: Besides whats already been mentioned. Show your intentions early. If you see a parked car in the distance, indicate early and merge early. You don't want to be swerving into the middle of the lane as the bloke in his skyline is flying past.

If your not confident turning right on a busy street, hang a left and do a hook turn or u-turn (I often do at a busy intersection during my commute).

DON'T squeeze between the cars infront of you and the curb at a red light. Chances are, the light turns green and your squished between the curb and the car (been there, done that, failed to uncliped, ended on my a$$).

Respect all road users. I do my best to show the people in their cars that I'm just doing the same thing they are on a different set of wheels. Trust me, it works wonders. I rarely have issues with drivers as I respect their right to the road as much as I respect my own (e.g. Yes, I can take the whole lane, but where safe I'll hug the left to let the traffic flow by).

And! Don't run red lights. I see it daily, and it pi$$es me off as much as it annoys everyone else!

Have fun out there!

Cheers

Edit: I ride a race bike, and only today I was thinking about a mirror. Can you mount them to a roady?
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby Nobody » Tue Apr 14, 2009 11:58 pm

provoked wrote:I ride a race bike, and only today I was thinking about a mirror. Can you mount them to a roady?


EDIT:
WARNING.THE MIRROR LISTED BELOW CAN BE DANGEROUS. IF THE VELCRO BUCKLE MOVES AROUND UNDER THE BRAKE LEVEL, IT CAN STOP THE BRAKE FROM WORKING.
As it did on my bike with Tiagra brake levers.

I've got one on my road bike. It shakes a bit more than I would like but much better than nothing and you can touch it to damp the vibration if you need a clearer picture behind. It also sticks out a bit. So far it is the only one I know of which is road bike specific.
http://www.ribblecycles.co.uk/productde ... 0000000000

I might try placing some putty, Playdough, or something on the end of the mirror to help damp the vibrations a bit.
Last edited by Nobody on Wed Apr 15, 2009 1:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby Nobody » Wed Apr 15, 2009 12:03 am

wombatK wrote:4) get a mirror - all cars and motorbikes have them, and for good reason. it's much easier to go with the flow when you can see what's coming from behind you. As with driving a car or motorbike, you still need to head-check - but you'll be more relaxed being able to spot merge opportunities sooner and having a better idea of what's coming up behind you.

Another benefit of a mirror is you're not always turning your head so you're more likely to see the door opening in front of you etc.
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby wombatK » Wed Apr 15, 2009 6:02 am

Nobody wrote:
provoked wrote:I ride a race bike, and only today I was thinking about a mirror. Can you mount them to a roady?


I've got one on my road bike. It shakes a bit more than I would like but much better than nothing and you can touch it to damp the vibration if you need a clearer picture behind. It also sticks out a bit. So far it is the only one I know of which is road bike specific.
http://www.ribblecycles.co.uk/productde ... 0000000000

I might try placing some putty, Playdough, or something on the end of the mirror to help damp the vibrations a bit.

I've done something like this http://home.pacific.net.au/~dasmero/tip ... _Drop_Bars with a mirrycle MTB mirror. Mirrycle have been promising a hoods mounted version - august last year, they said about Xmas, not there in Feb when I last looked. This has reminded me to have a look - It now seems to be on their website http://www.mirrycle.com/road_mirror.php . Had a mirrycle one like it on my 30 year old road bike - best damned mirror ever made and it still works, never vibrated, great field of view !

My home brew vibrates a bit - but its still better than other options I tried (e.g. a Zefal bar-end mirror - useful, a Zefal spy - almost useless, but others here like them).

Sticking out (past your arms) is just what you need. I'd go with the blackburn or the new mirrycle (probably will order one ASAP).
WombatK

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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby waynohh » Wed Apr 15, 2009 8:30 am

sourplum wrote:
Bad news is I woke up this morning and my front wheel was deflated! :cry:

I had to ask a friend to me a lift. Guess what? I came back today and pumped the front tire up at the local petrol station only to find it much softer just now. What's going on with my front wheel? I don't understand, and I can't even ride it if it's going to keep acting up. Do I need a need front tire?



Your vale might be torn/stuffed. Replace the tube then see if you can repair the current one.
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby gavinr » Wed Apr 15, 2009 11:45 am

trailgumby wrote:* Subscribe to the Theory of BIG.


In the UK lots of cyclists attached flags to the offside of their bike to increase their perceived BIGness. You can see a pic of one at www dot flashback dot ca/bicycle.html. I've never seen one here, are they legal/available?
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby Nobody » Wed Apr 15, 2009 1:25 pm

wombatK wrote:I've done something like this http://home.pacific.net.au/~dasmero/tip ... _Drop_Bars with a mirrycle MTB mirror. Mirrycle have been promising a hoods mounted version - august last year, they said about Xmas, not there in Feb when I last looked. This has reminded me to have a look - It now seems to be on their website http://www.mirrycle.com/road_mirror.php . Had a mirrycle one like it on my 30 year old road bike - best damned mirror ever made and it still works, never vibrated, great field of view !

My home brew vibrates a bit - but its still better than other options I tried (e.g. a Zefal bar-end mirror - useful, a Zefal spy - almost useless, but others here like them).

Sticking out (past your arms) is just what you need. I'd go with the blackburn or the new mirrycle (probably will order one ASAP).

Thanks for the tip WombatK. I don't have STI or the other style listed on the MIRRYCLE site so I may have to make my own as well if I don't end up happy with the Blackburn.

I found a hazard with my current Blackburn mirror in that the velcro strap buckle can move around under the brake lever and stop it from functioning. Another reason to look for other options. [Sorry all, I didn't know this before yesterday when it happened to me.]
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby Mulger bill » Wed Apr 15, 2009 6:03 pm

gavinr wrote:
trailgumby wrote:* Subscribe to the Theory of BIG.


In the UK lots of cyclists attached flags to the offside of their bike to increase their perceived BIGness. You can see a pic of one at www dot flashback dot ca/bicycle.html. I've never seen one here, are they legal/available?


Abbotsford cycles (Richmond, Vic) had a reflector on a red target attached to a ~30-40cm arm, that what yer thinking of?

Shaun
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby mikedufty » Wed Apr 15, 2009 6:27 pm

I had one of those flags briefly when at high school. I wouldn't recommend it. Most cars give you heaps more room than the flag anyway. The ones you would be worried about try to see if they can hit the flag. Mine eventually got ripped off by a car. Much better off without it.
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby wombatK » Wed Apr 15, 2009 6:45 pm

Nobody wrote:
wombatK wrote:I've done something like this http://home.pacific.net.au/~dasmero/tip ... _Drop_Bars with a mirrycle MTB mirror. Mirrycle have been promising a hoods mounted version - august last year, they said about Xmas, not there in Feb when I last looked. This has reminded me to have a look - It now seems to be on their website http://www.mirrycle.com/road_mirror.php . Had a mirrycle one like it on my 30 year old road bike - best damned mirror ever made and it still works, never vibrated, great field of view !

My home brew vibrates a bit - but its still better than other options I tried (e.g. a Zefal bar-end mirror - useful, a Zefal spy - almost useless, but others here like them).

Sticking out (past your arms) is just what you need. I'd go with the blackburn or the new mirrycle (probably will order one ASAP).

Thanks for the tip WombatK. I don't have STI or the other style listed on the MIRRYCLE site so I may have to make my own as well if I don't end up happy with the Blackburn.

I found a hazard with my current Blackburn mirror in that the velcro strap buckle can move around under the brake lever and stop it from functioning. Another reason to look for other options. [Sorry all, I didn't know this before yesterday when it happened to me.]

Mirrycle say it fits most Shimano integrated shifters - more specific details are in the fitting instructions pdf file. The mirrycle ought to give a firmer fitting to the bike than the blackburn, which has a long thin arm from where it grips the shifter and might be vulnerable to shaking around a bit (like my home brew). If you go with the Blackburn, maybe you can post a review on it.
mikedufty wrote:I had one of those flags briefly when at high school. I wouldn't recommend it. Most cars give you heaps more room than the flag anyway. The ones you would be worried about try to see if they can hit the flag. Mine eventually got ripped off by a car. Much better off without it.

+1. They were popular on kids bikes in the seventies, but got in the way of parking your bike etc.,. A nice fat pannier does a much better job of making you look BIG - a great advantage over backpacks.
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby hartleymartin » Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:17 pm

My advice is get bicycle insurance.
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Re: Any advice for a first time Commuter?

Postby x8pg2qr » Tue Apr 28, 2009 12:33 am

Some Australia-produced Youtube videos:

http://www.youtube.com/cyclingpromotionfund
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