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Tag Archive: bike commuting

What’s the Deal with Gravel? (In a Jerry Seinfeld voice)

So I feel like the kid in the 1950s pot commercial; I rode gravel once and now I’m hooked and my whole life has been turned upside down. I just can’t see the road the same. I now see cars and replace them with trees, signal lights are now steep hills, cement streets are now dirt paths… Everything has flipped and I love it.

I had tried cross and it was plenty fun. Not like every day fun, but fun once-in-awhile-fun. I will/must/don’t want to admit how bad I am on a mountain bike. On a road bike is where I was the most comfortable. Gravel does not come natural for me even if I’ve tried most of what cycling has to offer. For me it’s not the descents because I’m not all that confident in my skills. It’s the views as I suffer and drag my 200 pound butt up these climbs that normally lead to some hike-a-bike situations. The climbing can be brutal but like the Instagram inspirational quote with a majestic background says, “It’s just a hill, get over it.” If you can, then you will get a new perspective; your eyes will open to everything you’ve missed on a road bike or a mountain bike.

On a road bike you ride with your eyes wide shut. That’s the appeal for me, a lot of it is just not thinking and just going; you can zone out on a climb and even forget about the views. On a mountain bike you are more aware but there is still a level of letting the bike do it’s job and going for it. The closest thing to riding gavel (on a rigid bike with drops), in my opinion, is riding a fixed gear bike. On a fixed gear bike you have to be aware of everything around you. From the cars to the road conditions, the signal lights to the pedestrians, you are on full alert all the time. Not having real brakes will do that to you. Gravel is somewhat like that, you have an idea of control but it’s more controlled chaos then precision.

The real beauty of gravel [(…and I get a ten-cent commission every time I type G R A V E L)- Gravel] riding is that it’s not just about riding, hiking is also a big part of the experience. On a road bike you can take another route, on a mountain bike you have a lot of gearing and a more capable bike, so when you get to a section that’s above your pay grade you either push yourself or hike-a-bike. You go on a ride and you really don’t know if you are going to be able to ride every section of it. How much of a route you can manage changes as you improve and get more confident/stronger. I tend to fall more on the climbs than the descents. I’ve also done a lot to improve my gearing.

Nonetheless, gravel is my new obsession. So much so that this summer I am planning a Summer Adventure Gravel Series (SAGS) around the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. The adventure part is that there will be no routes given out. We will have to stay together, this will help avoid douchebagery. This is not a race. This is not about being first, fast, or better. This is about the people next to you, the landscape that surrounds you, and the route in front of you. Aside from maybe the Cannondale Slate [(with a gearing upgrade) no pun intended] there will not be a perfect bike for every situation. After, I hope we question our bikes but not our time in the saddle. I’m currently doing recon for the S.A.G.S ride- details will come.

Exploring Beautiful Berlin by Bicycle

When it comes to exploring any capital city of the world, you can be certain of the fact that there is bound to be a large number of cars and buses zipping around the busy streets. Based on this very reason, when one visits such a town as a tourist, they often try to find ways to move around that keep them off of the roads. If you are not travelling far distances on your adventures, then cycling is definitely one of the most enjoyable ways to explore a city, providing the rider with the freedom to go wherever they desire. Berlin has a number of fantastic sites to see, offering a little something for everyone.

Before one can think about stepping foot into the hustle and bustle of the German capital, it is important to first find the perfect accommodation. If you are in it for the full German experience, then you should greatly consider staying in one of the many warm, cosy cottages or villas spread across the city.

With accommodation out of the way, the next step is to decide whether you would prefer to see Berlin through the number of guided bicycle tours available or whether you prefer to spread your wings, hopping out of the nest and enjoying your own creative bicycle routes.

The guided tours allow you to follow set routes that provide the rider with a chance to experience the different sides of Berlin. With a large range of tours offered, you have the choice between visiting well-known sights, such as the Berlin Wall, or tours that focus on more specific subjects such as historical tours and wine routes.

berlin bicycles

If making your own paths is more your style, you will be glad to know that Berlin has a fantastic public bike-share system in place. Like many other cities around Europe, this great initiative provides an extremely cost-efficient way to discover what the city has to offer. The process is easy, simply call the hotline provided at the bike-share location, you will then be provided with the unlock code and the bicycle is yours until you are all cycled out. At 1 euro every thirty minute and the handiness of being able to return the bike at any bike-share location, this is truly the future of city tourism.

The Realities of Biking to Work

There are lots of reasons to trade in your car and make the switch to biking to work every day. The most basic benefits of the switch are outlined in this post from last March. Of course, knowing why you should bike into work is a lot different than knowing how to bike into work every day. The reality is much different than most new cyclists imagine. Here are the biggest obstacles that most cyclists face with their morning (and evening) commute and how to handle them.

Traffic

The relationship you have to the drivers on the road around you is going to depend as much on where you live as much as it does on how you operate your new engine-less vehicle.

The best thing you can do (because even in cycle friendly cities like Portland, the relationship with other drivers can be tense and irritating) is to follow the rules of the road. Remember that a bicycle is considered a vehicle and, as such, you need to ride like you’re driving a car, not like you’re walking. Stay in your lane, keep up with the flow of traffic, follow your local traffic laws.

Visibility

While most drivers know to keep an eye out for cyclists, making sure you are visible is important. Don’t just pop on your helmet and head out to work expecting that you are automatically visible. The special reflective gear that is sold to cyclists is not a racket. You’ll want to make sure that your bike is equipped with the right lights and reflectors. You’ll also want to make sure that your clothing is easily visible. This could mean sewing reflectors on to your coat or buying special coats, pants and shoes that have reflective and glow in the dark capability built into them. You might feel a little goofy at first, but the last thing you need is to blend into your surroundings!

The Bodily Challenges

Riding a bike is great for your health and, yes, it can reduce your dependence on the gym. At the same time, the repetitive motion of pedaling, the posture your bike requires, etc. can lead to some new aches and pains in your muscles, especially when you are first starting out. You can also expect chafing to be a constant threat and worry.

To deal with these changes, treat each ride as the workout that it is. Warm up and stretch first. Make sure that you are outfitted correctly. Therafirm recommends wearing compression shorts to help wick moisture and prevent chafing during the ride.

Weather

Bad weather is a real problem for people who commute by bicycle. Rain and snow and extreme temperatures can all make your commute difficult.

The best way to deal with this is to wear weather appropriate gear while you are on your bicycle and pack your nicer clothing into your bag so that you can change when you get to work. This way you can stay warm (or cool) and dry on the commute and don’t have to worry about showing up for an important meeting looking bedraggled. Remember to adjust your commute for the time you’ll need to change clothes!

Storage

Most of us don’t travel to work with just our bodies. We have wallets, laptops, phones and other gear that must be accommodated. Fitting these things into a simple front bicycle basket isn’t always possible (or very good for the items you’re transporting). According to the BTA, Some things can be carried in a backpack that you wear during the commute. Another option is to fix a rear basket or fixtures that will accommodate saddle bags or panniers.

Remember to be patient! Adjusting to cycling life will take time. You won’t get everything perfect on that first ride. Take your time, do your research, talk to the pros at your local bike shop of send us your questions: info@bikecommuters.com when you need help. You’ll get there!

Giant LIV Alight All City Quick Review

This is the 2015 Giant LIV Alight All City commuter bicycle. What makes this a “commuter?” Well, based on years of running Bikecommuters.com and knowing what our readers consider what a “REAL” commuter bike is, this one takes the cake. For example, it has the ever so important set of fenders and rear rack. In addition it has 700c wheels. Further more the cockpit is equipped with ergonomic grips for added comfort.
giant liv alight all city
You can find all the SPEC info HERE. However, let me high-light a few things that we liked. 24speed drive train offers a wide range of gear selection. From fast flat terrain all the way up to the steepest climbs, you should be able to ride it with the Alight.

Hydroformed Aluxx-aluminum
bikecommuters liv giant
Frame and fork uses Giant’s ALUXX-grade aluminum. This allows the Alight to have a light feel to it. To be honest with you, we didn’t get to weigh it, but when it was picked up by hand to see how heavy it was, we were impressed.

The essentials of a commuter bike. Fenders and rear rack.
giant alight bikecommuters.com
The Alight was designed for the female commuter. Geometry set for this bike has women riders in mind. What does all that mean?

Liv bikes, apparel and gear are designed specifically for women. Liv’s team of female designers and engineers consider all aspects of a woman’s unique strengths and physical characteristics to create the only complete product collection designed solely for women. Examples of this include: Women’s-specific fit based on global body dimension studies Optimized stem lengths, handlebar width and drop, and crank arm length Shorter brake reach Comfortable saddle designed for female pelvis and hip shapes Liv ApparelFit System with multiple fit options.

giant commuter bikes

So what’s the price on this commuter friendly bike? Most Giant retailers will have it around $575, and based on our previous research, $500-$600 is what most commuting consumers would be willing to spend on a new commuter bike. But how does it ride? Like a dream! The 700c wheels make for a smoother and fast ride, while the 24spd drive train provides the rider a plethora of gearing choices. Shifting between gears are smooth, all thanks to the buttery Shimano gruppo Further more, the aesthetics of this bike is spot on. The color pops, yet it doesn’t scream LOOK AT ME!!!

Oh one more thing, just because this is considered a “women specific design” bike, it doesn’t mean that a man can’t enjoy it. I really did enjoy my time with the Alight All City. It’s a great riding bike and it really could serve a rider dual purposes. Use it to commute with and use it on the weekends to go on a long ride through the country side. It’s comfortable and fast, which happens to be a great combo!

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