BikeCommuters.com

Basic Commuter Skills

Fall Means it’s Fender Time!

Oh, autumn… you tickle me orange, and yellow, and red, and green, too! Nothing beats a brisk bike commute through town on the newly assembled and sorely missed Cantaloupe with trees like these:

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It may be that fenders are everyone’s favorite commuter bike bling, or maybe just uber practical in any kind of rainy weather, but I think these fenders will be my new besties. After years of riding in warm weather in spandex, where road spray was NBD – (sidebar, okay, I admit that I have ridden in rain that resulted in road crud up in my crack) and now, I’ve finally joined the ranks! With a steel bike that is heavy as eff and all kinds of transit options that are bike-friendly, the benefits of riding fender free (easier to quick release your wheels and pop your bike in a car trunk, or lightening up your ride for distance commutes) are no more. Time to get all dressed up for Fall, Cantaloupe!

I swung by my LBS and opted for the fullest fenders in town. To no one’s surprise, the nice, bearded LBS employee (wearing a Carhartt beanie and a really small Alaska tee shirt) recommended the PB Cascadia Road full fenders in black. The Western Bikeworks super sale was on, and I snagged ’em for only 33 bones instead of shfifty-five.

BALLIN!

So, instead of letting Cantaloupe sleep over at the LBS with a buncha shop rats and paying 40 more bones to get said fenders installed, I strapped those suckers to my silly little commuter backpack and headed back to the house for some DIY fender installation time.

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Only a week of procrastination later, plus several borrowed wrenches from my bike-loving neighbor in the apartment across the hall, and maybe some scavenging of lock nuts off of the junker that’s slowly melting into a pile of scrap metal in the basement, we have LIFT OFF!

And by “lift off” I mean frakkin‘ full-on Fall Fenders, of course!

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Whew, I hadn’t installed fenders since 2007 people. Two-Thosaaan-n-SEVEN. It wasn’t that bad, but took longer than those pro shop rats, for sure (1 hour, no shame). And the zip-tie action kind of looks like bug antennae so I think I will keep ’em long.

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Hope that extra zip tie length doesn’t slow me down whilst I be Cat-6’n all up ons Portland, yo. Or not. Remember me? Asian Bike Daria?

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Anyway, join the fendered masses for fall, all you new bike commuters. It’ll keep your feet and socks dry and the skunk stripe off your lovely fall coat (or if you ride all spandies and no undies, the road grit outta your crack)! Plus, I heard all the cool kids are doing it…

Snack tips for commuters on the go

Great snacks to keep you energized on your commute to and from work

Being a cyclist is hungry work. Whether you’re making your morning commute or going on extended rides, you need to stay properly energized. The key to success is by eating the right snacks at the right time. A lot of cyclists are stuck in the past and still base their diet on outdated nutritional fads. After reading our guide, your backpack will be full of snacks to keep you energized and on track for the finish line.

Carbohydrates vs. fats and protein

If you’re partial to going on more strenuous rides, you’ll need a source of glucose to keep your muscles fuelled. What’s the best source of glucose I hear you ask? Carbohydrates. Thanks to their chemical structure, they can be quickly and efficiently turned into useable glucose.

Fats and protein are a source of glucose too, but the time it takes to convert those into usable energy make them a poor choice for cyclists. If you’re eating foods packed with fats and protein before a ride, you’ll probably not see the benefits until after the ride is over. Here’s a good article to help you choose the best carbs to eat before cycling.

What should I eat?

As you’ve probably figured out already, foods high in carbohydrates aren’t easy to eat on the go. You don’t often see cyclists chowing down a bowl of pasta mid-way through a race. You want to look for high-carb, low-fat snacks that are easy to carry and eat while riding. Low-fat cookies, raisins, dates and energy bars are all perfect examples of this. It’s important these snacks are partnered with plenty of water though, so that they don’t sit at the bottom of your stomach doing nothing. A regular supply of H20 will ensure that the carbs are quickly transferred into blood glucose that you can use.

When should I eat?

Eating on the go isn’t easy, but the temptation to skip it entirely is. Don’t do this. If you’re not supplying your body with a sufficient amount of food and water, then you’re going to have a terrible ride. You’ll experience a loss of energy, strength and general awareness before inevitably becoming frustrated and irritable. As a rule, eat before you’re hungry and drink before you’re thirsty.

If the reason you’re not eating is because the energy bar you picked up tastes like sawdust then you need to explore alternative snacks. The most nutritional food in the world is of zero use to you if you don’t like the taste of it; so find something you like.

Read the nutritional information, fill up your basket and begin experimenting. Strike the perfect balance between high carbs, low fats/proteins and good taste. Ethical Superstore supply a fantastic selection of organic food that will be right at home in a cyclist’s backpack and stomach.

Tips for choosing a good helmet

What makes a good helmet?
Everyone has a different budget when it comes to buying a cycle helmet. If you’re willing to cough up the extra coin then you can expect the helmets to become lighter, better ventilated or have a better adjustable retention system.

But never fear! You don’t have to spend a fortune to get something that will keep you safe. All helmets must conform to standards that guarantee a certain level of protection. The debate on whether helmets should be compulsory continues to rage on. No matter what side of the fence you’re on, it’s undeniable that you’re better protected in some circumstances when wearing a helmet. Have a read through this guide to get an idea of what you should be looking for.

Fit
You want your helmet to strike that perfect balance between snug and secure. It doesn’t want to be so tight that it’s pinching you around the face. Meanwhile, if the helmet is too loose and you get into a crash, your head will still be moving around inside it. So you don’t want that either. Don’t be afraid to go into a shop to try some on. After all, it’s vitally important to get one that’s comfortable and safe.

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Main/outer shell
The main shell of most helmets is made out of expanded polystyrene. This will absorb the force of an impact if you ever hit one of those inconspicuous pot-holes. The outer shell holds the inner shell together and will also help to disperse the shock of a crash.

Padding
Inside every helmet are pads and cloth that are designed to keep your head comfortable and absorb sweat on those more challenging rides. As you can probably guess, your helmet will not smell like a bed of roses after extensive use. You’ll want to ensure that the padding is removable so that it can be washed as necessary.


Straps and head retention system

The straps should be adjustable and easy to use so that you can keep the helmet in the correct position. The ‘Y’ piece straps will help you adjust the position of the helmet on each side of your head so that you can comfortably clip it all together at the chin strap.

The head retention system is an adjustable harness at the back of the helmet that improves stability by grabbing the occipital bone at the back of your head. They are usually controlled by a wheel at the back of the helmet that can turned either way to tighten or loosen your back support.

Ventilation
As you go up in price you can get varying levels of ventilation. Strategically placed vents are cut into the helmet so that your head can remain cool as you ride. If you find yourself becoming hot headed during a ride – and it’s not a result of road rage – then you may wish to get a well-ventilated helmet.

If you’re shopping online, you can get a lot of great deals on bicycle helmets from retailers like Koo Bikes. They also supply a number of bike accessories such as locks, lights and air pumps if you’re in the market for something new. One final tip before you buy a helmet online; make sure that the helmet size matches your own head measurement to guarantee a helmet that ticks all the boxes.

Weatherproof jackets for commuters

Listen up fellow riders, bad weather shouldn’t be an excuse to leave your bike to gather dust in the garden shed or garage. With today’s cycling-friendly clothing, staying warm and dry in less than desirable weather has never been easier. To show you how, here’s five top jackets that are sure to keep you weatherproofed for the coming months.

Men’s
There are some top-notch men’s Helly Hansen jackets on Marine and Outdoor Clothing which work hard to keep rain out, and warmth in. Why not start with an essential like the Voss Jacket which offers total waterproof protection and comes in several bright colours – helpful when identifying yourself to motorists if cycling late at night. Or if you fancy something that’s a bit warmer, the Odin Isolator jacket is easy enough to pack away, but warms you up if a flash for those colder rides. It also offers extra wind protection but does just come in dark colours.

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Women’s
We really like the Sportful Womens Show SoftShell Jacket as the fabric not only ensures you’re kept warm and dry, but allows for maximum movement when out on the road; the high collar will also work to keep the chill off your neck. Another good option is the Altura Ladies Night Vision Evo Jacket which is great for commuters and, being reflective, keeps you safe on dark nights.

Kids
And for the juniors riders who also need to be kept warm and dry when out, we want something comfortable that will keep the chills at bay. The Helly Hansen Junior Dubliner Jacket has a higher collar, keeping the wearer warm all the way to their helmet, and is totally wind and waterproof.

For many more excellent rain tips and tricks, please visit our “Rain in the Forecast” article from a few years ago.