Cummuting Prep.

Beating the system - the cycling commuting section

Cummuting Prep.

Postby caffeine » Sun Jan 30, 2011 10:48 pm

Well... my aim was that in 6 or 9 months time when I had gotten my bike-legs back and some semblence of fitness that I would start to commute to work once or twice a week.
The two weeks since I purchased the second hand CRX1 have, however, turned my schedule upside down.

Having ridden over 45K more than twice this week, the idea of ~26K each way does not seem such a long-term dream anymore, and I plan to start in a week or two's time.

In the interim I'm training (simply by getting on the bike as often as possible), trying to work out routes and getting the bike ready.

So looking for some newbie advice.

First if anyone has got any good ideas from Donvale to the CBD in Melbourne let me know. I could path along the eastern, but it's a bit slow. I've gone as far as Kew East along the paths, then have gone the straight road-based Doncaster Road - High Street to Kew then Studley Park onto hoddle. The latter has a few hills, but managable. Much faster, but not sure how it will be in traffic.

Secondly the bike. I've got a CRX1 flatbar roadie, already set for computer, mini-pump, under-seat back with spare tube, tyre levers and multi tool. It also has small bar-ends, but I haven't really found them that comfortable to use. Bought front and rear lights today and tested them out tonight.
Planning to get a rack and mudguards (hoping they will fit on the CRX, believe they will).
I'll be carrying a laptop and change of clothes pretty much, so not sure whether to get a rack bag or paniers. Bike cage at work so security isn't an issue.
Anything I'm missing? Anything I should be looking at changing on the bike to make the commute more comfortable?

Thirdly myself. I haven't got knicks yet, not sure if I should, but is there anything I should have for me? Hi-vis stuff, or weather-proof items etc.

Any thoughts appreciated. Thought I would have ages to research all this stuff, but since I now know it's possible I'm keen to strike while the iron, enthusiasm and weather are still hot.
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by BNA » Sun Jan 30, 2011 11:14 pm

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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby Mulger bill » Sun Jan 30, 2011 11:14 pm

Sounds like you've got it pretty much nailed Caff. I'd look into wet weather gear now the rain's come back.

I can't help you with navigation but methinks devoting a few weekends to scope out a few options won't hurt.

Good luck with it.
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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby RobertFrith » Sun Jan 30, 2011 11:21 pm

Rack v. Backpack seems to come down to personal preference. I can never seem to get comfy with a backpack and no matter how well ventilated, it's always hotter underneath one. So I vote pannier, however it'll cost you some aerodynamic efficiency. If you're not fussed about maxing out your speed it makes for a more pleasant ride IMHO.

The impression I get here is that a lot of folk start out commuting on flat bars and ditch them for drops. Certainly true for me. I upgraded my flat bar roadie to drops and put the leftover flatties on another bike I built. NowI'm thinking I'd really like drops on that too. You get more positions and more comfortable positions on drops, and you can get out of the wind much better with them.

I ride in all sorts of clothes. Knicks are more aero and more comfortable than anything else. I favour the 3/4 length ones that provide a little knee support and knee sun protection (knees seem to be the only part of my legs that get burnt). In winter the bib ones are a bit cosier but a fiddle to get in and out of. Shy shorts (knicks in side loose shorts) are an insane fiddle but fashion concious non-cyclists (like my better half) find them easier on the eye :D

Gloves and arm coolers are great sun protection. Sunscreen good too. I bought two tubes of each of of the Cancer Council sunscreens this year. My fave is the Active Sunscreen Plus Mineral Silica. Non greasy 30+ 4 hour. I actually get burnt by some sunscreens now (go figure) this one seems quite benign. Cancer Council don't use nano particles in theirs.

Safety glasses are cheap, comply with Aus standards on UV protection, shatter proofing and are often surprisingly windproof and comfy - 20 bucks each for a pair of dark and clear.

Lights are handy. Spare batteries for the lights are really handy. Bright lights are the best. Two or more back lights is good, some people put one on the helmet, one on the rack/chainstay

If you're riding in winter your feet will get notably more uncomfortable than the rest of you. Shoe covers can help. Most of them leak eventually, you might struggle to make 26k with warm and dry feet, but they could be worth the investment for the first 10-15k. On the way home your shoes will likely still be wet. Not a lot you can do except suck it up.

Have a squizz at http://www.rigidmount.com/ you might like to run a camera to record the prats that try to run you off the road!. Most BNA'ers have an errant motorist story. Some take it up with the police or in the case of professional drivers, with their employer. Video evidence can be a very useful witness.

Have fun :!:
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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby DavidS » Sun Jan 30, 2011 11:37 pm

The rack and mudguards should go fine on the CRX1, I have a CRX3 and have a rack (with basket in my case because I don't like panniers or back packs!) and mudguards.

Sounds like you have it well sussed to me. Make sure you get the mudguards, they are invaluable on a wet road.

Most things are a matter of preference. You may like lycra, I don't. The only advice I would give is that you try things out for yourself. So, for example, if you have never worn lycra see if you can somehow try it out first. Put a rack on and then look for panniers and makes sure they fit and sit on the rack the way you like it, or try a bag which sits on top of the rack. There is quite a variety of products out there so you should be able to find things which suit you.

Enjoy the ride.

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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby caffeine » Sun Jan 30, 2011 11:54 pm

Wow! Thanks for the quick replies!

Sun protection is something I really need to think about (my dad's english and I was called Casper growing up for my white skin).

I've got $170 worth of Goldcross Cycles vouchers coming (gift from work, chose those vouchers as it was the only cycling one available) which helps me as accessories have cost a lot so far and the better half is starting to notice.

Hopfully that will get me the rack and mudguards.

I may get away with not having to worry about the wet weather stuff for a month or two yet. Initially I can 'pick my days' to avoid it. Later on I'll have to HTFU.

More shopping to do methinks!
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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby Quinns Rocks Roadie » Mon Jan 31, 2011 12:17 am

+1 for most of the advice given above.
My input is that a laptop will not survive 250k's per week for very long if exposed to road vibrations.
I have commuted with my netbook in a small backpack, but that extra weight causes bum fatigue big time.
I use padded cycling undies that I wear under black short length boardies - works as well as knicks and you can go to the shops on the way home.
I also place my shoes covered by a towel on top of the electric hot water system overnight - always dry in the mornings and no pongo and warm to step into on cold mornings. 8)
Flat bars are an issue imo for long trips - using road bars on the hoods gives arm positioning/rotation that allows better chest expansion and breathing.

Hope that helps.
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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby Max » Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:21 am

Quinns Rocks Roadie wrote:My input is that a laptop will not survive 250k's per week for very long if exposed to road vibrations.


My laptop survived 12 months of commuting last year. It was replaced only because it had reached its use-by date, not because of vibration-induced problems.

In my case, it was in a backpack most of the year, then I moved on to panniers. Just make sure your laptop is packed appropriately. My backpack contains a laptop compartment that is padded and suspended. I actually just plonk the backpack straight into the pannier now. So it still has the padding and suspension, but is much easier to carry.

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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby caffeine » Mon Jan 31, 2011 7:43 am

Laptop should be OK. I know how to protect them and will do so, but on the up-side if something does go bad then swapping it out at work is not a problem at all.

Now, something that has been mentioned is shoe covers and drying shoes out (presuming from rain here), in which case I should mention that at the moment I am still riding on flat pedals. They are SPD pedals, but with flat's clipped in at the moment.
Is getting proper clip shoes a must for regular commuting? I know how uncoordinated I can be so I'm a little bit reticent to take the plunge (plus also that extra bit of work/prep required to 'jump on the bike' lessens it's usefulness for shorter tasks, since this is my only bike).
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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby silkishuge » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:22 am

Hi Caffine,

This is the route I would recommend. I used to live not far from Donvale and rode daily pass Donvale on my work to work in Parkville. I would use Doncaster Rd, Elgar Rd and Belmore Rd, Harp Rd, turn left into Yarra Blvd to get onto Studley Park Rd, down the hill and continue up Hoddle.

1. If you are leaving your home at around 6.30am, there is a group ride every morning that leaves from Canterbury Road (Near Mailing Road)and it takes a loop back to the starting point. It goes all the way up to Mitcham and returns via Doncaster Road. You can ride with them along Doncaster Rd f you are worried with fast moving traffic. The group is split into three smaller groups depending on Speed. The ride is called the MRR (Mailing Room Ride) and you can get more information from BV.forums

2. Belmore Road does not have much traffic. Cars park intermittently along Belmore road means you practically have a lane to yourself.

3. Yarra Blvd is frequented by many cyclist (training/social/commuters) each morning. Very safe and very very very few cars

4. Another excellent bike route into the CBD is Heidelberg Road. There is a bike lane and it takes you on to Alexander Parade where you can take a left turn into Rathdowne Street which also has a bike lane. Personally, I don't like using Hoddle Street.

All the best

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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby bosvit » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:51 am

caffeine wrote:Laptop should be OK. I know how to protect them and will do so, but on the up-side if something does go bad then swapping it out at work is not a problem at all.

Now, something that has been mentioned is shoe covers and drying shoes out (presuming from rain here), in which case I should mention that at the moment I am still riding on flat pedals. They are SPD pedals, but with flat's clipped in at the moment.
Is getting proper clip shoes a must for regular commuting? I know how uncoordinated I can be so I'm a little bit reticent to take the plunge (plus also that extra bit of work/prep required to 'jump on the bike' lessens it's usefulness for shorter tasks, since this is my only bike).


IMO No!

I swapped out my spd's on my commuter and changed to flats with the toe clip. Much easier, no changing shoes when I get to work etc. I am a tradie so I tend to change work locations regularly so having to carry my boots is a PITA, where as for you having a permanent place of work it would be far less of a hassle.

Don't stress about knicks or shoes, especially to start with. If you find you get a sore bum, buy knicks or a better saddle! If you get sick of your feet slipping etc buy some SPD specific shoes. It's not rocket science and it is not going to effect you without them to the point it will stop your commute.

IMO save your money until you miss them, there are few things in the world that you can overspend on easier than cycling, well except for the obvious one!
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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby caffeine » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:51 am

silkishuge wrote:Hi Caffine,

This is the route I would recommend. I used to live not far from Donvale and rode daily pass Donvale on my work to work in Parkville. I would use Doncaster Rd, Elgar Rd and Belmore Rd, Harp Rd, turn left into Yarra Blvd to get onto Studley Park Rd, down the hill and continue up Hoddle.

Seem reasonable... how do you get from Harp to Yarra Blvd?

silkishuge wrote:1. If you are leaving your home at around 6.30am, there is a group ride every morning that leaves from Canterbury Road (Near Mailing Road)and it takes a loop back to the starting point. It goes all the way up to Mitcham and returns via Doncaster Road. You can ride with them along Doncaster Rd f you are worried with fast moving traffic. The group is split into three smaller groups depending on Speed. The ride is called the MRR (Mailing Room Ride) and you can get more information from BV.forums


Right by my house! Well, almost, I live behind Tunstall Square on the Springvale/Mitcham/Doncaster road triangle. Will have to check that out.

silkishuge wrote:2. Belmore Road does not have much traffic. Cars park intermittently along Belmore road means you practically have a lane to yourself.

I think I'd need it, that hill on the elevation profile looks like fun! That being said it doesn't matter which way you go through that part, there will be a steep down and up regardless.

silkishuge wrote:3. Yarra Blvd is frequented by many cyclist (training/social/commuters) each morning. Very safe and very very very few cars

I like those sort of roads... I'm not against riding in traffic if I need to, but if there is a more sensible option that avoids it I will take it.

silkishuge wrote:4. Another excellent bike route into the CBD is Heidelberg Road. There is a bike lane and it takes you on to Alexander Parade where you can take a left turn into Rathdowne Street which also has a bike lane. Personally, I don't like using Hoddle Street.

All the best

Jon


I planned to ride over hoddle, then down some of the smaller streets into the CBD. Having driven and bussed frequently down Hoddle, I'm not particularly keen on it myself.

Thanks heaps for the ex-local info! Also checked out the Ringwood rec ride you suggested in another thread, looks like it might be a good weekend spin!
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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby silkishuge » Mon Jan 31, 2011 11:21 am

caffeine wrote:
silkishuge wrote:Hi Caffine,

This is the route I would recommend. I used to live not far from Donvale and rode daily pass Donvale on my work to work in Parkville. I would use Doncaster Rd, Elgar Rd and Belmore Rd, Harp Rd, turn left into Yarra Blvd to get onto Studley Park Rd, down the hill and continue up Hoddle.

Seem reasonable... how do you get from Harp to Yarra Blvd?



Harp Road will take you all the way to one end of the Yarra Blvd. It is a left turn into Yarra Blvd just before the bridge that takes you across from Kew to Heidelberg Road. The Yarra Blvd is a nice riding area with good views to the city. You also get to wave at the traffic stuck on the Eastern Freeway as you cross the bridge. The jam usually starts at Elgar Rd all the way into the city :lol:

The Ringroad Ride (RRR) is also a good ride with many friendly people. MRR are also a friendly bunch but the fast group can be very competitive and sometimes they do get carried away and drop people off along the way. The slower groups ride and stay in an organised group. If you are not able to chat, you are probably going too fast is the speed they adopt.

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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby alf » Mon Jan 31, 2011 1:06 pm

caffeine wrote:Is getting proper clip shoes a must for regular commuting? I know how uncoordinated I can be so I'm a little bit reticent to take the plunge (plus also that extra bit of work/prep required to 'jump on the bike' lessens it's usefulness for shorter tasks, since this is my only bike).


From my perspective I feel unsafe riding if my shoes are not clipped to the pedals however this would be a personal choice and you should do whatever feels safer to you.
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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby TheShadow » Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:04 am

caffeine wrote:Laptop should be OK. I know how to protect them and will do so, but on the up-side if something does go bad then swapping it out at work is not a problem at all.

Now, something that has been mentioned is shoe covers and drying shoes out (presuming from rain here), in which case I should mention that at the moment I am still riding on flat pedals. They are SPD pedals, but with flat's clipped in at the moment.
Is getting proper clip shoes a must for regular commuting? I know how uncoordinated I can be so I'm a little bit reticent to take the plunge (plus also that extra bit of work/prep required to 'jump on the bike' lessens it's usefulness for shorter tasks, since this is my only bike).


What, then, is your opinion of laptops in panniers then, and how to protect them? I've just started carrying a laptop in a pannier. It's inside a padded backpack which is then stuffed into the pannier.

Depending on how big your panniers are and how much you put in them, you lose some of the instant flickability to micro-weave your way through pothole and glass-strewn roads at speed, which you can still do with a backpack, but after about 4 weeks or so I don't miss that and don't care if I never wear a backpack again.

EDIT: I'll just add that going from clipless pedals to street shoes on flat pedals can be quite liberating and that on slow bikeways and city intersections you are not infrequently in a situation where it is advantageous to be able to simply step off the bike and run/walk while carrying/pushing the bike like a normal person can rather than someone wearing rigid, slippery-soled clogs. I'm about to trial a 50min commute in my sandals. :mrgreen: I may end up going back to clipless shoes for that, although I doubt I'll be faster than the time lost putting them on and taking them off at the other end...
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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby gdt » Sun Feb 06, 2011 1:59 am

TheShadow wrote:... laptops in panniers then, and how to protect them?

The neoprene sleeves might take less room in a pannier than a laptop bag. They are easy to find on the net or take your laptop with you and go shopping.

There are also hard sleeves. These are necessarily specific to a model of computer, so unless you've got a popular model like a Macbook or a EeePC they might be difficult to find.
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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby wombatK » Sun Feb 06, 2011 8:52 am

Why do you really need to take your laptop home ? If it's just to do work on standard software (MS office apps etc.,.), why not carry what you need on a USB drive ?

Laptops are so damn cheap these days that buying a cheap one to keep at home isn't going to break a budget (easily pay for it out of fuel and fare savings). If you need to have a work-supplied one due to expensive software or security for logging into work apps, maybe work would prefer to give you a second for home rather than risk damage whilst cycling.

Other than this, you've got most of the necessities covered. For a 26 km trip, getting weight off your back and down low on the bike in panniers is really helpful. Plus panniers make you look big and motorists tend to give you more clearance, and its much easier to buy a thoroughly water-proof pannier than backpack.

Clipless pedals with stiff soled cycling shoes and lycra are pretty helpful on longer rides like this. Shimano have various SPD pedals with a flat side if you want to take an each-way bet option (check them out at Cell bikes online shop).

Boot covers are a good idea once you get up to wet-weather commuting. Answer to your question about drying shoes is to stuff them with newspaper, and replace if necessary after a few hours (it absorbs the water really well).

Have you thought about a hi-vis shirt or cycling jersey ? The easier you make yourself to be seen, the less hassle you'll have with motorists.
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Cummuting Prep.

Postby caffeine » Tue Feb 08, 2011 8:32 pm

Yup neoprene sleeves are handy. I have a hard case for the MacBook, but that won't commute.
For the work laptop the sleeve and some foam will be fine.
My job is IT dev / support and incident management for a bank so it really does need to follow me. In fact there will be occasions where I will need to pull over and find a park bench and log on if it's serious. :-)
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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby Scott2Work » Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:28 am

Hi Caffeine,
You have found your way to the forums, and if you haven't already you will soon find the on-line shops. The problem is they will give you lots of ideas and suggestions for things you will want to make your commute more pleasant or quicker or safer. It is really easy to spend $$$$s on stuff like that, but my suggestion is that because we are all different and like different things try second hand or cheap options first. Often the new and expensive versions are worth every cent but they will only be so to you if you like and use them.
A cheap pair of Lycra knicks will not be as comfortable or durable as really good pair, but you should be able get a cheap pair that will let you work out if they suit you personally. Having a flat bar bike you may find you are more comfortable in mountain bike style clothing. Enough people buy clipless shoes and either decide they don't like them or give up cycling or bought the wrong size, that you can usually get a pair that have little or no use quite cheaply. Give them a try and if you decide you like them you will be able to spend your money on a good pair of winter clipless boots when it gets cold as well as wet.
Of course if your budget allows, and the boss don't mind, do your research and lash out on the good stuff first, as I said they are usually worth it.
As for your bar ends, I did not like mine much at first, but I use them plenty now. They give me something to really pull on when I'm in the mood for a hard climb, and somewhere else to put my hands at others.
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Cummuting Prep.

Postby caffeine » Sun Feb 20, 2011 3:27 pm

Ok.
I have all the gear I need to start.
Rack fitted, Tioga waterproof panniers ready, spare batteries for lights, emergency spray jacket.
Mudguards are the missing item, but should be ok for a week and a half until I get those.

Wondering now about any suggestions on routine.
I want to try and do this right, as I know that if I get frustrated I might not last long enough to make it a habit.

At work there are showers, I don't have a locker but can leave plenty of stuff on my floor (desk or cupboards).
At the moment I am planning to take a trip into work tonight with a bunch of work clothes, towel and stuff.
I'm then thinking I will take laptop and a few bits each way, then on non-commute days take in replacement clothes and take away the dirty ones.

Any procedural/logistics tips, things that make life easier, traps to watch out for etc. ?
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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby Mulger bill » Sun Feb 20, 2011 4:47 pm

Do all your packing and prep the night before. Bag/Pannier loaded, bottles filled and lunch made, kit and shoes laid out ready to slip into. Reduce the risk of forgetting anything while you're stumbling about waiting for the morning coffee to kick in. I have been known to slip out to the shed late at night to squeeze the tyres and brake levers too. :oops:
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Cummuting Prep.

Postby Max » Sun Feb 20, 2011 5:28 pm

+1 to what Mulger said. I also recommend making a checklist. This has helped my morning bumbling tremendously as I don't partake of coffee until after I get to work.

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Cummuting Prep.

Postby caffeine » Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:03 am

Wooooo-bloody-hooooo!

Planning for 6am, took until nearly 7am before I started peddling with last minute things, but that's not surprising.

When I felt the weight of my previously light bike with the loaded panniers I had doubts I would make it.....

Once riding, though, all was well. My loaded up flatbar only got overtaken three times, and none of them blitzed past. I overtook 4 so I think I'm ahead.
Had three bikes pull into high street behind me right before the fairly long hill in kew, none of them stayed with me which surprised this newbie and probably gave me the boost I needed to power on.

All in all 22.3km, average of 25.2km/h. 55 minutes peddling, 15 stopped in traffic so 1:10 all up.

More importantly I enjoyed it, had some fun and feel fresh to start work.

Couple of scary traffic bits, might adjust my route accordingly, but all in all a great success!

Thanks heaps for all the help!
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Cummuting Prep.

Postby Comedian » Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:42 am

Wohoo! Well done :mrgreen:
Once you can climb hills on a bike it's all downhill. :mrgreen:

Hopefully I'll know what that's like..... one day. :shock: :lol:

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Re: Cummuting Prep.

Postby caffeine » Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:01 am

OK... didn't want to start a new thread, but looking for feedback.

Wondering how far and how fast people, on average, commute.

Oddly I'm getting concerned that I may be going too fast when I ride (both for fun and for transit). With panniers on my 23K commute I average around 24.5km/h on the way in, slightly less than that on the way out. For fun w/o luggage probably 26km/h average. Fair bit of up/down on the way (Doncaster East in Melb to CBD)

Looking at the people I'm passing on the way in, and the people who pass me I think I'm doing it wrong.
By that I mean I seem to be passing people who look fitter and lighter than me on better bikes, and being passed only by the very occassional lycra without baggage.

Given I'm still very unfit and not a strong rider that leads me to believe that I am pushing harder than I should. I know last week commuting Monday and Tuesday basically left me spent enough that there was no riding Wed/Thu (but I am still growing my bike legs).

Should I be going slower? If so any tips on how to do so? I know that sound stupid, but I feel I'm going at a natural pace, and going slower doesn't seem to necessarily equate with 'easier' over the trip.
___________________________________________________________________________
Giant CRX-1 - Started riding Jan 2011 so take all comments with a grain of newbie salt!

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Cummuting Prep.

Postby Max » Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:28 am

If your current pace feels natural, don't mess with it. Your issue relates to stamina. That will come with time. Ride when you want to, rest when you feel you need it.

Max
One of the best things about bicycle commuting is that it can mitigate the displeasure of having to go to work. - BikeSnobNYC
Cycling is sometimes like bobbing for apples in a bucket full of dicks. - SydGuy
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