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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,141

    1st night time commute

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    Well, I spent my whole day getting ready to ride to the train station this afternoon and return home after dark, at 8:30. For a whopping 8.4 mile trip... (round trip!).
    This morning I tested out the cruddy reflective vest I have, and it was not too reflective. So, off to a different lbs than the one I bought my bike at. I got a nice vest and 2 reflective ankle straps with LED flashers. However, I found out one didn't work, after I got home, so I have to go back there and exchange it. I obsessed over what to wear. I don't have to dress up for class, but I don't want to look dorky, either. Plus, it was about 67 this afternoon and predicted to be about 52 tonight. Well, I finally settled on an old pair of cycling capris that were made by Prana for Terry a few years ago. They look like regular pants, but have a very minimal chamois. Then I wore a sleeveless Craft base layer with a regular LS t shirt that has some lycra in it. I stuffed my Shak in my pannier, which was so full, I had to do some serious rearranging to get it to not bang into the spokes.
    The ride there was fine, but it was the first time I have ridden in regular shoes in 7 years. I did not like that. I was very wobbly taking off from a line waiting to turn, with cars all around me, which was embarrassing. But, I got to the station and locked my bike in front of the LBS.
    I brought way too much stuff in my pannier, which comes off and can be used as a backpack. I was obsessed with planning this, I forgot to do some of my reading, which I have to do now.
    Got back to Concord about 8:20. It took me at least 10 minutes to unlock my bike, put on all my reflective gear, put the lights on and get going. I think I was nervous, because I felt a bit shaky. Some of it is just riding my Jamis, which I only ride like once a week, maybe twice. Off I went. Right away I realized my light isn't that great, so I stopped and put my headlamp on. I know, overkill. It helped, but it's not really in the right spot when it's on my helmet. It's a light that's really for hiking. So, all in all, it was kind of fun and peaceful. I know the few cars that were out saw me, as they gave me a wide berth. But there were a few places that I really couldn't see at all. We don't have a lot of street lights out here. But, I know these roads so well, I dealt with it. I am also very nearsighted and wear contacts and my night vision isn't that great, either.
    I definitely want to keep doing this on Thursdays, at least until it's so cold I can't stand it.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Newport, RI
    Posts
    3,834
    Was it a little fun? DBF has always talked me out of night riding by saying it's more scary than fun. Was that your impression? (I think the real reason he discourages me is he'd just be too worried about me). It doesn't really sound like you were scared, just like there were a few kinks to work out.

    Is there anything you're going to change for next time? Were you using flat pedals, or toe clips? Were the roads you were on very busy? I'm also the type to try to think of everything before I try something new, so I really appreciate your post.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,141
    The only thing that was scary was that at certain points on each road I really couldn't see well. But, you have to understand that I was on roads I ride all the time, so I could just look right in front of me and follow the white line until a streetlight came. It's pretty much dead here after 8 PM or so. Most people would consider the roads "country roads," but it is really suburbia with 2 acre zoning and no street lights! The shops in Concord Center stay open until 8 or 9 on Thursday, so there was some activity when I first started. But, I really didn't have to stop at all, just rolling stops at the major intersections. Most of the cars (less than 10) were coming in the other direction. I knew I could do it, no matter what; I mean it's 4.2 miles!
    I have campus pedals on this bike. I usually ride it with mtb shoes, clipped in. So, when you are riding on the flat side and stop and take your foot off, they sort of flip around, because the spd cleat on the other side weights it a little. I will not use toe clips. I sort of felt like my feet were going to fly off on the trip in, but I did better on the way home, although I really didn't put my foot down because there was no traffic.
    The changes I will make are 1) get a better light. I don't want to spend a lot because this won't be something I do every day. But the $20.00 light isn't cutting it.
    2) I think I will just put my purse (a small Timbuktu bag) in the pannier, along with a little bag to carry my books, and a pair of regular shoes to change into. Then, I will not take the pannier off and lug it with me on the train and to class. It was heavy and took me time to put on when I got back. I will wear my mtb shoes to ride and leave them in the pannier, along with my helmet, when I get to the train.
    3) I think I am fine leaving the pannier on and the shoes in there. I am locking the bike in front of the lbs, across from the train. There are 2 racks and the one I used is sort of in front of the window, behind a bush. There are always other bikes locked there. The shop is open when I get back and the owner knows I am leaving my bike there. This is a pretty safe place, although maybe I am being naive.

    It was fun enough to want to do it again, with just some tweaking. I wouldn't want to be going much further than I have to go, but it is a good way to not to use the car.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    San Antonio, TX
    Posts
    756
    I'm all about making myself as visible as possible. My ride to work in the mornings takes place well before sunrise, so I'm in the dark (!) a lot. I have a Planet Bike Superflash taillight -- that sucker will definitely catch the attention of whatever motorist happens to be out at that time (not many, thankfully).

    For a headlight I am using a Planet Bike Blaze 1/2-watt LED. It's serviceable, and I love the compact size, but I could stand to have something a little brighter. I understand they have a 1-watt light, so I'll save up for that (I think they're around $45, but don't hold me to that).

    I also added reflective stickers to my helmet and wheel rims (got 'em from the TE store). At some point I will get a reflective vest, as well.

    Riding at night (well, early morning, really) is a little spooky, but I've gotten used to it. Now I enjoy the peace and quiet that I get at that time (disrupted only by my grunting and wheezing on the one Massive Killer Hill that I have to climb).
    Last edited by wackyjacky1; 09-19-2008 at 03:36 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Newport, RI
    Posts
    3,834
    That sounds good (spds, leaving on the panniers, better light etc.). The roads sound safe. The bike, being across from the LBS will be okay, I'm sure. Have you considered MTB shoes that you could wear all day? I have Keen commuter sandals, and they're good for walking in. I know, soon enough it will be too cool for sandals . I'm still wearing mine with socks, a look I'm not 100% sold on, but they're so comfy. I think I just became my mother.

    Part of my commute from work is on a heavy traffic (rush hour), winding road by URI, with no shoulder. I could get off this road and on a bike path after about a mile, but it's that first mile that has kept me driving my car all winter in years past. My commute is also 15 miles long to my car. I really just ride for the fun of it, not to save gas (I still have to drive a good part of the way because of 2 bridges), not for any other reason but it's a nice chance to get in some miles. It's a lot more work for me to commute by bike, but I do it because it's fun. I'm not sure it would still be fun if I was scared some text messaging kid was not going to see me.

    Well, I think I officially talked myself out of it again! 4 miles on country roads sounds fun, though. Keep us updated on the changes.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,141
    Well, I really, quite frankly don't have to save gas, especially since I hardly drive very far when I drive, now that I quit working. But, it makes me feel like I'm doing a small part to conserve and it's a challenge.
    I know those bridges and I wouldn't drive on them either.
    Fifteen miles is a good commute; that's what i did when I was teaching (well, 14.7). I also did it just to ride and get the miles in. I don't consider myself hard core and the ride became second nature to me when I did it. I never commuted more than twice a week. Is there some way you can walk your bike that first mile? I am not familiar with the URI campus, but riding around any university is scary. I am freaked out watching the commuters whiz by in Porter Square, in the dark, most of them with no helmet .
    I considered the sandals, with wool socks, because no one in Cambridge would look at that. But, I just can't do it. I might look for other shoes with spd cleats. I remember when my son started riding he had some cool sneakers that actually had cleats in the bottom. I doubt they make those anymore, or for women with miniscule feet.
    WackyJacky, I bought a reflective vest and it was money well spent. But the best things I feel I bought were the ankle bands with the flashing LED lights. I had one on each leg and two blinkies on the back of my bike, which were very clear for all to see. It's just the front light I need to change.
    And yes, I loved riding in the early AM. I used to leave at 5:30, right before the sun came up fully. I commuted on my road bike, so I had to wait until then since I can't put a front light on that bike. But, those first few minutes were great.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    3,213
    Hey Crankin,
    At 8.4 your commute ride is longer than mine--so no shame there!
    Good luck getting the bugs worked out, and yah--have some fun!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Spokane, WA
    Posts
    818
    Adding a helmetlight is NOT overkill. The more lights the better.

    Reflective vests. I picked one up for less than $10. in the sporting good section of a local department store. It was labeled for runners and works fine for cycling. It's big enought to wear over my backpack and is VERY reflective. If you have a Harbour Freight Store in your area they have a nice selection of saftey vests and other reflective stuff at a really good price.

    bikerHen

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Rhode Island
    Posts
    1,365
    When I started my new job last December, it came with the requirement that I bicycle commute to at least the bus - 5 miles (an agreement made with DH in order to secure a new bicycle.) So I started bicycle commuting knowing that I would have to deal with darkness. I bought front and back lights, a hiker's headlamp from Ocean State Job Lot (which I strapped to an old helmet), and put reflective tape on my messenger bag and back of helmet. I got a free commuter velcro strap with reflector from our local DOT as part of a bike commuter program.

    I wear hiking boots, black yoga pants over my bike shorts, a long underwear top, a wool sweater, and jacket. I wear a hat under the commuter helmet because it runs big anyway. I have two waterproof panniers from Nashbar - the basic model. They have two big reflective dots on the back.

    I just now ordered a Pearl Izumi whisper jacket in high-viz yellow from Backcountrygear.com, and a new pair of full-finger gloves. To rationalize, I realized that it was the same price as a tank of gas - something I haven't bought in over four weeks. So yeah, I deserve it. Plus, cars will see me better.

    I see better on my bike than through my windshield of my van. I like that when you turn your head (with a headlamp) your light goes with your eyes.

    Keep commuting in the dark - you'll get used to the route and the darkness.
    I can do five more miles.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,141
    I've been researching lights; probably won't do the dark ride this week, but shooting for next.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Norwood, MA
    Posts
    485

    headlights are necessary!

    I am a major fan of headlights for 2 reasons: they make you more obvious to to traffic when you are at intersections, a couple looks right & left and you have had a chance to make sure drivers have seen you; and they let you see around corners. If you rely on a handlebar mounted light you are negotiating turns blind. It feels like you are riding into a black hole. It is easy to put a good LED headlight on a helmet. The Princeton Tec EOS or Petzl MYO XP are both easily adapted to a helmet. You do still need a handlebar light, both because it is required by law and it will give a longer reach. There are the bike dedicated lights, or you can use the Fenix LED flashlights

    Night riding can be wonderful. One night a flying squirrel swooped from one side of the road to the other. Most nights would produce lots of reflective eye spots, I did get some photos I would not have gotten otherwise. Listening to the woodcock courting dives, mid-winter Great Horned Owl calls, even the coyote yips and howls make a night ride a special private show.

    Unfortunately, the price of admission is spending almost as much time getting ready as you do riding.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Spokane, WA
    Posts
    818
    +1 on a helmet light. I like to shine my light at cars waiting on cross streets. Just a quick flash to let them know I'm approaching. Works everytime.
    Helmet light + bar mounted light = great visibilty! I love having a light that shines where I'm looking. bikerHen

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,141
    When I came home from class last night my husband surprised me with a Night Rider light! It's not on my bike yet, but I tested it on my deck, at 9 PM.
    It lit up the whole woods. I will be trying it out Monday night. I am also going to keep the other light on there, for a back up.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    373
    I also have a helmet mounted light and another light on my bars. I set the bar light to flashing mode as an attention grabber and the one on my helmet is good for actually seeing, laser beaming daft drivers etc.


    I bought the helmet light for night mountain biking to supplement my old HID light and it has a pretty good light beam - my OH has done an entire technical offroad MTB ride using just the helmet light. My new HID is making it a bit redundant for offroad though.

    I have one of these:

    http://www.use1.com/exposure/product...2009/index.php

    The mount is fantastic and can be pointed wherever and the Li-Ion battery is part of the light so no trailing wires. It has a three hour burn time on full whack so doesn't need recharging every five minutes.
    Tattiefritter

    My Blog

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,141

    Update

    OK, did my second commute tonight. My husband bought me the MiNewt light and it made a BIG difference. Also, I didn't realize my headlamp was adjustable; you can point it down to the ground, almost parallel. So, I did wear my bike shoes to the station and brought a pair to change into. I didn't have to leave them in my pannier because they fit nicely into my smaller backpack I had for my books. I stuffed that and my purse in the pannier and just took them out when I got to the station. I hooked my helmet to my Timbuktu purse, which was clanging around all day, but, it worked.
    So... all was well when I set off to go home. I took an earlier train and there were definitely more cars out. Just when I got out of Concord center and it is darker, it started raining! I don't ride in the rain much, especially on my road bike, but on the Jamis, the thicker tires make it not so scary. However, I had no rain gear, just a wind jacket. My clear glasses were quickly fogging up. I thought about calling my husband, but decided to just do it. Thankfully, the rain stopped about half way through the trip and my only other catastrophe was dropping my glasses going up the steep hill on my driveway, as I had taken them off, since I couldn't see. It is always foggy on the top of our hill. Oh, and my ankle bands with the flashing LEDs; I have the strap pulled all the way to make it tight enough for my puny ankle. Unfortunately, the extra strap hanging around has nowhere to go after I click it shut. I felt something funny, just after it had stopped raining. It was the strap about to get eaten by the chain. I pulled into a driveway and fixed it, but I need to find a permanent way to cut it and keep it from fraying.

 

 

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