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Thinking about commuting full time...

beau selectorbeau selector Posts: 15
edited July 2013 in Commuting general
Hi everyone,

First post from me - apologies if it's a bit long winded.

I'm thinking of going from 2 cars to 1 in the house which would mean the missus has the car for getting to work & taking the little one to the childminder most of the week, while I'd be combining riding to work (22 miles each way) in the summer and doing a bike - train - bike combination in the winter (about 1.5 - 2 miles ride this end & 5,5 miles the other end). All in all I'd still drive in once or twice a week.

I'm obviously familiar with the route already but do have some concerns over a 2.5 - 3 mile stretch between the station and work during the winter months (the A413 between Amersham & Chalfont St Giles in case anyone's familiar with it). It's not a dual carriageway, but it's unlit & pretty busy with a 50mph speed limit that is mostly adhered to. I'm not at all experienced in riding in the dark, so the benefit of others' wisdom on the subject would be more than welcome - any recommendations of particular hi viz products, decent lights & winter gear for example.

I should also add the due to silly (in my opinion) train restrictions I wouldn't be able to take my road bike on the train so would need to buy a folding bike instead. A decent range of gears would help as there's a bit of a climb up to Amersham station on the way home & another one in the other direction heading to work in the morning. Again if anyone has any suggestions for a particular bike that would be great. A quick search brought up this one that might be up to the job http://www.evanscycles.com/products/ter ... 6#features

Any advice would be most appreciated, there are plenty of reasons to make this work in terms of fitness, the environment & not having to shell out on a new motor when mine reaches the end of its useful life.

Posts

  • crakercraker Posts: 2,060
    The A road thing sounds fairly grim, are there really no other routes? An alternative to a folding bike would be a pair of cheapish bikes, especially for the shorter ride.

    I've toyed with a similar idea but I was out with a bad knee for three months earlier in the year, then there's coughs and colds etc etc. Give it a try but don't ditch the car just yet.
  • raymondo60raymondo60 Posts: 735
    That sounds like quite a challenging commitment actually. Not purely because of distance etc, but because of those variables you have mentioned. As a long-term commuter, I find one of the most important factors is the ability to choose NOT to commute on any given day, for whatever reason. That may be because I feel rough, or the weather is really bad, or any number of things. I do sometimes commute in those circumstances, and usually do so 3-4 times a week (17 miles each way on the 'straight ' route, sometimes longer when time/weather permits), but the thought of HAVING to commute every day, whether I felt like it or not, would, I think, bring a different attitude to the whole subject, for me at least.
    Raymondo

    "Let's just all be really careful out there folks!"
  • MichaelWMichaelW Posts: 2,226
    The std rail commuter bike is Brompton, not cheap but durable and holds it's resale value.
    I like dynamo hubs with Busch and Muller lighting, it is totally reliable and always there, no battery management issues or faffing with removable accessories. Most cycling windproofs and waterproofs are available in bright colours with reflective bits. Look for light helmets colour as well. Dark is less of an issue than fog, high winds or ice and they will affect your car journey as well.
    Looking on google maps you seem to have an alt route on A404 and B442. Worth taking a Sunday and an OS map to explore.
    The 2-bike option really only works where you can leave the bike locked safely at the work-end overnight. Use a rusty old hack with Marathon Plus tyres and bolt on bits, not QR.
    On my busy, narrow section between the industrial estate and the ring road, I sometimes ride on the pavement but only if they are empty of peds and have very few side entrances and junctions. You have to use your common sense and ride safely rather than legalistically.
  • dilemnadilemna Posts: 2,187
    A413 Amersham to CSG is lethal. Several cyclists have been killed along it over the years. Also if you don't have many cycling miles in your legs you will never be able to ride a 22 mile one way or 44 mile return on a daily basis. Anyway Amersham to CSG is only about 2-3 miles if that. 22 miles would get you pretty much into central London.
    Life is like a roll of toilet paper; long and useful, but always ends at the wrong moment. Anon.
    Think how stupid the average person is.......
    half of them are even more stupid than you first thought.
  • Phil_DPhil_D Posts: 467
    Why not try commuting 5 days in winter as well as 5 days in summer as well.

    Buy a cheapo folding bike rather than Brompton for the days you have to go on the train.
  • Thanks for the replies.
    craker wrote:
    The A road thing sounds fairly grim, are there really no other routes? An alternative to a folding bike would be a pair of cheapish bikes, especially for the shorter ride.

    I've toyed with a similar idea but I was out with a bad knee for three months earlier in the year, then there's coughs and colds etc etc. Give it a try but don't ditch the car just yet.

    The only other route from the station to work pretty much matches the same description as the other one! Unfortunately bike storage at either station is far from secure so a bit of a non-starter really. Anyway I hope the knee's on the mend.
    dilemna wrote:
    A413 Amersham to CSG is lethal. Several cyclists have been killed along it over the years.

    This is the bit I’m concerned about really & your comment more or less confirms my worst fears. I wasn’t aware of any cyclist deaths down there though I can’t say I’m entirely surprised either. I’m ok with it at this time of year but a dark, wet & foggy winter evening is another matter altogether. Thanks for sharing though.

    Plenty of miles in the legs but 44 miles round trip is out of the question on a daily basis (not sure I was clear on that point!) It makes for a decent training run a couple of times a week but I don’t have the time for it every day.

    Interesting point about having the choice not to commute. I hadn’t thought about it that way & I guess it’s easy to get carried away with the idea when the weather’s as good as it is now. Fortunately my boss is pretty good about working from home if I have a cold or whatever so that might be another thing that works in favour of the whole idea.

    Anyway I’ve found a possible way round it which is to take the train to another station nearer work (1.5 miles or so from the office) during the winter months. The reason I hadn’t looked at it before was the higher cost (an extra £40 a month) and lower frequency of trains, but with a bit of planning & co-operation from work it should be doable. If it’s only 10 mins from home to station & station to work then hopefully wanting to do it vs having to do it won’t be such an issue.

    How does anyone else find doing a similar commute on a cold, wet winter's day then?
  • daxplusplusdaxplusplus Posts: 631
    Cold is fine.

    Rain is OK.

    Rain + Dark + Glasses not fun.

    Ice is the problem and is the thing that makes me turn around and go home. Or take the motorbike via a different, longer route.
    Sometimes you're the hammer, sometimes you're the nail

    strava profile
  • raymondo60raymondo60 Posts: 735
    Commuting through the winter can be very rewarding. Obviously if road conditions are genuinely 'dangerous' then its a no-no, but I have really enjoyed the benefits of cycling through the depths of winter; its just a case of being prepared, having the right kit etc. Interestingly, I haven't suffered a 'cold' or 'flu' in years, and I'm convinced that is partly because

    a) I'm reasonably fit due to my consistent cycling
    b) I tend not to mix with the general public on trains/tubes/buses etc

    Personally I am very fortunate; I can get up in the morning, look out the window, and if cycling is off the agenda I have a viable alternative I can use, via train, without too much hassle. Last calendar year I commuted to work on 132 days out of approx 250-ish working days, so just over half of my journeys were by bike. This year I'm aiming for 150.

    Good luck whatever you decide, but more than anything, be safe.
    Raymondo

    "Let's just all be really careful out there folks!"
  • folsom1folsom1 Posts: 24
    The bike/train combination can work with a bike at both ends. As suggested, get a rusty mountain bike for the 2 mile stretch, lube it up good so it works but looks like censored .

    The only problem is when the bikes get out of sync, say if a co-worker gives you a lift to the station one day, leaving you stranded at the station the next day.

    I do this albeit with a fairly remote station, and one week my censored -bike's lock jammed shut so I didn't bother locking it up. No-one took it! There's plenty of other nicer bikes with chunky D-locks through the spokes, so I guess a rusty MTB isn't worth it...
  • BMKNBMKN Posts: 222
    Before you go buy any bike or bike gear work out how much it will cost you, also are you fit enough to do the 44 miles every day and do a full days work and have energy left for your kid, It may end up working out more expensive than running the car, a new bike and for a distance of 44 miles you shouldnt get a censored bike, thats average £1200, cycling gear lots of changes atleast £200, decent set of lights front £200 you will need good lights for that length of a commute or even half of it, rear light around the same price, cost of new tires £30 for gatorskins and these will need replacing every few hundred miles, what do you do incase of a puncture? Also the amount of money you will need to spend on food to maintain your weight, I have to eat every hour nearly or I drop weight and I only do an hour commute inclusive and an hour training at lunch, Work out how much petrol will cost you each day and tax and insurance + parking, then work out your cost of train fairs for during the winter. As said above I wouldnt ditch the car yet, try it first, I got rid of my sports car and 6 months later I now have a punto that belongs to my fiances parents and she has a car, its nice to have the freedom of 2 cars. Maybe drive in half way and cycle the rest in or as other poster said 2 cheap bikes for the winter.
  • BMKN wrote:
    Before you go buy any bike or bike gear work out how much it will cost you, also are you fit enough to do the 44 miles every day and do a full days work and have energy left for your kid, It may end up working out more expensive than running the car, a new bike and for a distance of 44 miles you shouldnt get a censored bike, thats average £1200, cycling gear lots of changes atleast £200, decent set of lights front £200 you will need good lights for that length of a commute or even half of it, rear light around the same price, cost of new tires £30 for gatorskins and these will need replacing every few hundred miles, what do you do incase of a puncture? Also the amount of money you will need to spend on food to maintain your weight, I have to eat every hour nearly or I drop weight and I only do an hour commute inclusive and an hour training at lunch, Work out how much petrol will cost you each day and tax and insurance + parking, then work out your cost of train fairs for during the winter. As said above I wouldnt ditch the car yet, try it first, I got rid of my sports car and 6 months later I now have a punto that belongs to my fiances parents and she has a car, its nice to have the freedom of 2 cars. Maybe drive in half way and cycle the rest in or as other poster said 2 cheap bikes for the winter.

    Don't worry, I've worked out the cost & so on, I'm not sure I'd be suited to my job if I didn't think of such things!

    44 miles a day is only a couple of times a week over the summer & I know what you mean about needing to eat a lot on those days. I certainly wouldn't consider it in winter since much of the route just wouldn't feel safe in the dark, hence the train idea.

    My commiserations on the car btw, I'm not sure it would be possible to downgrade from my current set of wheels so at least I'll avoid that particular dilemma.
  • InitialisedInitialised Posts: 3,047
    I ditched the 2nd car almost 2 years ago after not using it enough to justify keeping it and cycling through one of the worst winters I've ever experienced. I rarely miss having it, though there are times when it'd be nice, like for travelling to Sportives, trail centres etc...

    My thinking is that if I'm too ill to ride then I'm too ill to work, but as others have said, that rarely happens partly because routine exercise maintains the immune system (so long as you don't over do it) and partly because I'm not squashed in a bus or train inhaling everyone else's germs, oh and I'm entitled to the flu jab so tend to get it annually.

    My minimum commute is only ~13 miles round trip but most days I do 25-40 miles. Admittedly, I tend to bias this toward the evenings in Summer and Mornings in Winter to avoid riding in the dark, mainly to avoid having to spend on good lights so I can get away with sticking to street lit areas and average 'seen by' lights.

    Apart from the grim A-road section I'd see no reason not to give it a go and see how you get on with it for the rest of the Summer. Take what you'll need on Monday, bring it back Friday, travel light in between. I skipped my first winter, so maybe do that and use the better days to see how it goes with a folder on the train. If you get snow you can always get snow/ice tyres for it.
    I used to just ride my bike to work but now I find myself going out looking for bigger and bigger hills.
  • dilemnadilemna Posts: 2,187
    There was a cyclist killed a few years back which was reported in all the local press. 4x4 owner, restaurateur, ran down a cyclist late one night iirc leaving the cyclist for dead then concocted a web of lives to deny it. I think he was convicted, but exact offence I cannot recall.

    Re, riding in winter. Not fun at all. Snow, ice, freezing cold, muscles unwilling to work, not to mention salt, crud and continually clean and lubing bike. I wish it could be 28-30C every day.

    Also good lights and clothing are a must. Buy cheap censored ones and buy twice. Exposure lights are pretty much the best on the market. Endura Pro Winter bib leggings are pretty good. Get two of everything so you have a dry set to put on when riding home. Also winter boots are a must. You will spend your whole time trying to keep warm and dry, when not riding, working, drinking, eating and sleeping.
    Life is like a roll of toilet paper; long and useful, but always ends at the wrong moment. Anon.
    Think how stupid the average person is.......
    half of them are even more stupid than you first thought.
  • Hi everyone,

    First post from me - apologies if it's a bit long winded.

    I'm thinking of going from 2 cars to 1 in the house which would mean the missus has the car for getting to work & taking the little one to the childminder most of the week, while I'd be combining riding to work (22 miles each way) in the summer and doing a bike - train - bike combination in the winter (about 1.5 - 2 miles ride this end & 5,5 miles the other end). All in all I'd still drive in once or twice a week.

    I'm obviously familiar with the route already but do have some concerns over a 2.5 - 3 mile stretch between the station and work during the winter months (the A413 between Amersham & Chalfont St Giles in case anyone's familiar with it). It's not a dual carriageway, but it's unlit & pretty busy with a 50mph speed limit that is mostly adhered to. I'm not at all experienced in riding in the dark, so the benefit of others' wisdom on the subject would be more than welcome - any recommendations of particular hi viz products, decent lights & winter gear for example.

    I should also add the due to silly (in my opinion) train restrictions I wouldn't be able to take my road bike on the train so would need to buy a folding bike instead. A decent range of gears would help as there's a bit of a climb up to Amersham station on the way home & another one in the other direction heading to work in the morning. Again if anyone has any suggestions for a particular bike that would be great. A quick search brought up this one that might be up to the job http://www.evanscycles.com/products/ter ... 6#features

    Any advice would be most appreciated, there are plenty of reasons to make this work in terms of fitness, the environment & not having to shell out on a new motor when mine reaches the end of its useful life.

    A bit late to this thought it best to respond to your original post as so many other answers already.

    Firstly, to & from Amersham station: Have you considered the routes to Chalfont & Latimer or Chorleywood stations? (not as busy but more like commuter rat runs) These avoid the A413. The A413 is certainly not as bad as others have made out and probably pretty good at the time you would be riding it(outside the main rush hour). There is also Gerrards Cross although the increased cost of train travel may rule this out but to me this is the best bike-train-bike option. Then at the London end, there is always the Boris Bike option (depending on timing) or leaving a station bike at Marylebone if you use GC as your route.

    I've ridden the route out of London to CSG once at rush hour and once you get the other side of the M25(Harrow Road, then Metline stations until Northwood, then Harefield and country lanes to CSG), the commute is lovely, even at night. And nearer London, it is bus lanes or Harrow Road which is wide from what I remember.

    Commuting in the dark needs good lights, front ones need to be good enough so you can actually see with (rather than be seen). Two or three lights on the rear so you always have a least one visible due to batteries running out of juice.
    Tier 0 living. You should try it. It's not the deadly, hysterical, fear driven state the government want you to believe it is.

    Fair-weather commuter
    Canyon Ultimate CF 8.0 in Black
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