The Chainlink

Woo, so today marked the first day I biked to work. I live up in Logan Square and work down in the loop, so it's a bit of a ride (5.5 miles to be exact).

I'm an ex-scooter rider, so I've got some leftover habits from that, but riding a bike (though sometimes similar) has a lot of different habits I should be picking up.

So I'm asking you chainlinkers to give me some advice. What are some valuable tips for riding during the morning and evening commute?

I've got a 2010 Langster (just the normal one, no crazy colors or anything) and I'm loving it. I always wear a helmet, so no need to give me that tip. But I could use some advice as far as lane changes, left hand turns, best/worst streets in Chicago. And I could also use some tips for locking up the bike. Right now I've just got a u-lock through the front tire and frame locked to a bike rack. Gonna grab a second ulock with a cable to take care of the back wheel and saddle, but I don't have quick release bolts on anything, so I'm not too worried for now.

Anyway, thanks for any and all advice!

B

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I never would recommend that a cyclist ride in a certain way without being able to assess their riding skills firsthand. When communicating such matters over the faceless internet, it's perfectly responsible to explain why you ride a certain way and what the benefit is, but it's not responsible to urge someone who's skill and comfort and general coordination level you don't know. You could be urging them out of their comfort zone and to their death.
True, but I like to think most people don't take a (relatively) anonymous internet forum as the end all be all. I'm taking all this information in (and it's a LOT of good information, thanks guys!) and applying it in the ways I see fit.

I've been riding bikes since I was old enough to ride a bike, but have never really invested much in it. That's why I bought this commuter and decided to start riding to work. (plus, it'll pay for itself in one summer vs. riding the CTA).

Anyhow, all the great tips are greatly appreciated (bought a second u-lock, front and rear LED lights, and got some clipless shoes. Just gotta wait for the pedals to arrive!).

H3N3 said:
I never would recommend that a cyclist ride in a certain way without being able to assess their riding skills firsthand. When communicating such matters over the faceless internet, it's perfectly responsible to explain why you ride a certain way and what the benefit is, but it's not responsible to urge someone who's skill and comfort and general coordination level you don't know. You could be urging them out of their comfort zone and to their death.
Glad to hear.
Still, I'll speak up with this same rant every time I see someone telling a stranger they know little about to "take the lane."

Bryan D said:
True, but I like to think most people don't take a (relatively) anonymous internet forum as the end all be all. I'm taking all this information in (and it's a LOT of good information, thanks guys!) and applying it in the ways I see fit.

I've been riding bikes since I was old enough to ride a bike, but have never really invested much in it. That's why I bought this commuter and decided to start riding to work. (plus, it'll pay for itself in one summer vs. riding the CTA).

Anyhow, all the great tips are greatly appreciated (bought a second u-lock, front and rear LED lights, and got some clipless shoes. Just gotta wait for the pedals to arrive!).

H3N3 said:
I never would recommend that a cyclist ride in a certain way without being able to assess their riding skills firsthand. When communicating such matters over the faceless internet, it's perfectly responsible to explain why you ride a certain way and what the benefit is, but it's not responsible to urge someone who's skill and comfort and general coordination level you don't know. You could be urging them out of their comfort zone and to their death.
Point taken, but I see far too many people riding six inches from parked cars when they really shouldn't be. It's dangerous for them and for drivers. Knowing when it's appropriate to get over into traffic is a very important skill to pick up, and it's worth pointing out that the fear of getting clipped from behind, which is what forces people into the parking lane, is more or less irrational.
Any advice disseminated on this website in an effort to make your bike commuter experience a positive one, may or may not actually be advice and may or may not actually enhance your bicycle commuter experience. The tips which have been provided in this thread, I believe is very good advice to help you avoid getting hit by cars. But of course, bicycling will never be 100% safe, and no one can guarantee you won't get hit by a car, even if you follow all the advice on this thread. (I believe if you follow this advice you will be much less likely to suffer a collision than if you ignore it.) Ultimately, you are responsible for your own safety. Have a nice day. (Better Howard?) (Wish I knew how to make the font smaller...)

H3N3 said:
I never would recommend that a cyclist ride in a certain way without being able to assess their riding skills firsthand. When communicating such matters over the faceless internet, it's perfectly responsible to explain why you ride a certain way and what the benefit is, but it's not responsible to urge someone who's skill and comfort and general coordination level you don't know. You could be urging them out of their comfort zone and to their death.
Dr. Doom got it, Kevin. And the OP got it.
Minor distinction-- tell someone why you take the lane, or tell them about the act of taking the lane and why it's good and when it's appropriate, but never, never say "take the lane" to someone whose riding style and ability you haven't assessed first hand.
(Sorry, my sense of humor is in its charging cradle right now)


Kevin Conway said:
Any advice disseminated on this website in an effort to make your bike commuter experience a positive one, may or may not actually be advice and may or may not actually enhance your bicycle commuter experience. The tips which have been provided in this thread, I believe is very good advice to help you avoid getting hit by cars. But of course, bicycling will never be 100% safe, and no one can guarantee you won't get hit by a car, even if you follow all the advice on this thread. (I believe if you follow this advice you will be much less likely to suffer a collision than if you ignore it.) Ultimately, you are responsible for your own safety. Have a nice day. (Better Howard?) (Wish I knew how to make the font smaller...)
H3N3 said:
I never would recommend that a cyclist ride in a certain way without being able to assess their riding skills firsthand. When communicating such matters over the faceless internet, it's perfectly responsible to explain why you ride a certain way and what the benefit is, but it's not responsible to urge someone who's skill and comfort and general coordination level you don't know. You could be urging them out of their comfort zone and to their death.
Dr. Doom's a certified superhero. I haven't had an opportunity yet to assess the OP's superpowers. I believe that fear is a powerful motivator and that if a novice rider, or someone who doesn't understand what "take the lane" means, hears "take the lane," they won't automatically weave out into traffic, and maybe, if they do, it's Darwin's will...

H3N3 said:
Dr. Doom got it, Kevin. And the OP got it.
Minor distinction-- tell someone why you take the lane, or tell them about the act of taking the lane and why it's good and when it's appropriate, but never, never say "take the lane" to someone whose riding style and ability you haven't assessed first hand. (Sorry, my sense of humor is in its charging cradle right now)

Kevin Conway said:
Any advice disseminated on this website in an effort to make your bike commuter experience a positive one, may or may not actually be advice and may or may not actually enhance your bicycle commuter experience. The tips which have been provided in this thread, I believe is very good advice to help you avoid getting hit by cars. But of course, bicycling will never be 100% safe, and no one can guarantee you won't get hit by a car, even if you follow all the advice on this thread. (I believe if you follow this advice you will be much less likely to suffer a collision than if you ignore it.) Ultimately, you are responsible for your own safety. Have a nice day. (Better Howard?) (Wish I knew how to make the font smaller...)
H3N3 said:
I never would recommend that a cyclist ride in a certain way without being able to assess their riding skills firsthand. When communicating such matters over the faceless internet, it's perfectly responsible to explain why you ride a certain way and what the benefit is, but it's not responsible to urge someone who's skill and comfort and general coordination level you don't know. You could be urging them out of their comfort zone and to their death.
Kevin Conway framed up the foundational riding mindset / techniques nicely. A few additions, one preachy and two informational:
1) remember ... you're riding on behalf of the biking community ... please show some manners! biking demands defensive riding, but you're not the only one on the roads.
2) bike lights to make you visible to all traffic during dawn / dusk & beyond
3) google now has directions via bike ... check it out. my tried and truest roads are N-S: damen, clark, state (between ontario & north), halsted, california, lake shore bike path; E-W: diversey, fullerton, lawrence, roosevelt

Happy wheelin'!
I know that tires being referred to in this thread are kind of geared towards the Langster...

Not everyone rides that style of bike so here's my take on good tires.

The most bombproof commuter tires are the Schwalbe Marathon Plus or Marathon Plus Tour. Gatorskins are great, Armadillos are nice, but neither are anywhere as tough the Marathon Plus tires. They do add drag though. Speed isn't everything. Speed kills...
If you're serious about commuting, or really any sort of semi-regular cycling in Chicago, you'll probably want to invest in a good set of fenders.
Simple things make the commute safer and enjoyable. 1) Leave a hour earlier than normal-This gives you time for cooling down, cleaning up and changing along with securing your steed. 2) Assume no motorist will see you or even let you in the lane, expect sudden stops. 3) Do not run stop signs or lights-this should be a given for riders or motorists. 4) Use lights and reflective gear-Early morning or late night are prime time to get in a accident. 5) Carry some form of I.D. and emergency contact info-Road ID, dog tags, etc. 6) Update your medical records and shots-amazing how quickly cuts can get infected if you take a spill. 7) Carry extra tubes -self sealing are nice but a tad heavy, expect riding in Chicago to get a flat at least once every week or so. In Spring I go through at least 6-8 tubes in a month. This is riding a heavy 26" mountain bike tire with full knobs. 8) Messenger bag or back pack for carrying things to and from work. I have used both and like the messenger bag, your back does not get as sweaty and can hold a lot more than you would think. Chrome or Timbuk2- I have the large Chrome bag, worth the price. 9) Watch for car doors, sewer grating, manhole covers, potholes-all of these can ruin your day. 10) Check the weather forecast before leaving-Ice cold rain is a pain along with slick streets and not being being seen due to poor visiblity by cars, cabs,trucks. Bring the rain gear with if it looks like it will. You will learn by trial and errorr as you do more and more comuting Bryan. Good luck with the single speed, no hills on your comute I take it.
Bryan D said:
True, but I like to think most people don't take a (relatively) anonymous internet forum as the end all be all. I'm taking all this information in (and it's a LOT of good information, thanks guys!) and applying it in the ways I see fit.
I've been riding bikes since I was old enough to ride a bike, but have never really invested much in it. That's why I bought this commuter and decided to start riding to work. (plus, it'll pay for itself in one summer vs. riding the CTA).
Anyhow, all the great tips are greatly appreciated (bought a second u-lock, front and rear LED lights, and got some clipless shoes. Just gotta wait for the pedals to arrive!).

Clipless shoes are overkill for a 5 mile commute. Why limit yourself to riding with a special pair of expensive shoes and crippling your bike in the process? Consider using the pedals that are already on the bike for your first few weeks of commuting. Then see if you think the marginal gain provided by foot retention will really be worth the expense and inconvenience of going clipless.

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