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New Commuter - London - Questions & First Experience Report

mikecsmithmikecsmith Posts: 2
edited May 2016 in Commuting general
Hi,

So, I'm completely new to the forums and I thought I'd introduce myself by describing my first ever commute into work and asking a few questions!

Bit of background first - I'm a fairly large guy with a weirdish build - 6'2 with a very long torso, long arms and really short legs (32" inside leg) - 121kg (not much of it muscle :roll: ) and I have a poor history with cycling. The last time I did any serious cycling I was 12 years old and a lot fitter - I got hit by a car and I hit a car in the space of six months and didn't get back on a bike again until last year (17 years later). Last year a mate of mine gave me a 1982 Halfords Olympic Road Bike which had been sat in his dads shed for 25 years and was about 3-4 years older than I am.

I decided to treat it as a bit of a DIY project. Stripped the frame, had it powder coated, rebuilt the bottom bracket and headset, refurbished the crankset, installed new downtube shifters and a new rear derailleur, refurbed the front derailleur, fitted new brake pads, new bar tape and retrued the wheels. It was great for learning about how (older) bikes worked, cost far too much money and I rode the damn thing about 12-15 times only - mostly around Richmond Park. It handled like censored , the brakes even with new pads were non-existent and having never used downtube shifters I was really bad at picking my gears before going up a hill. If you've never used downtube shifters before - trying to change the damn things when going up a hill is impossible - particularly if you're large and ungainly. To top it all off - I got sideswiped by a van the one time I took it out on the road, fortunately wasn't injured too badly but had to spend a bunch more cash on parts and in the end I just sold the thing (for a considerable loss).

Not a successful start to my cycling career.

So a good friend of mine and my wife are both regular cycling commuters and they've been talking me around to the idea of trying it again on a modern bike for about 6 months now. I live in West London and my office is in Temple so it's a decent 11ish mile run through some quite busy sections. Over the Easter Weekend I decided screw it and popped into my local Evans and purchased a Pinnacle Arkose 1 - 2015 model which was on sale for a decent discount. Picked it up on Tuesday and took it out for a test ride - during the test ride the back wheel popped out of the frame (just my luck!). Fortunately it happened from a standing start on a quiet road so no injuries and not much drama - I just had to carry it .75 miles back to the store where I got a profuse apology.

That was at 11am. Other than the wheel popping out riding it was a bit of a revelation - shifting gears was incredibly easy, the brakes were amazing and I decided to buy it. I picked up a rack and pannier at the same time - told them I was buying it and asked them to just check the bike over to make sure there was no damage at the back of the bike.

Went back at 5pm to pick it up, cycled it 3 miles home in the pouring rain and loved every second of it.

So - Yesterday morning I ask my wife if she'll cycle into work with me as far as Hyde Park Corner and I'll cover the last 3ish miles by myself. We set off at 6:30am and it's amazing, the roads are fairly quiet most of the way in, I'm following my wife so I'm not worried about getting lost but I am fairly nervous as it's my first major road commute. I learned a few things on the way in:


[*] Going 30mph down a hill when the fastest you've ever been on a bike before is about 12-15mph is a real brown trouser moment
[*] Lorries are terrifying
[*] Most bus/car drivers are pretty nice but a small percentage are absolute barstewards
[*] Regular gym shorts are not the most comfortable thing to bike in after 3-4 miles
[*] Whilst I'm a decent driver I've got a lot to learn about commuting by bike


So I arrive safely at work, having walked the bike around Parliament Square since I definitely wasn't feeling up to attempting it on the bike.

Shower at work, feel great for the first two hours and absolutely knackered for the rest of the day. 6pm rolls round and it's time for the return journey. Arrange to meet my wife at Hyde Park Corner again.

Thoughts I had on the return ride at 2-3 (13-14 total) miles in:

[*] Doing a 22 mile round commute after buying the bike the day before was probably a bad idea
[*] Can I take my saddle to the nearest police station and have it arrested for abusing my backside?

Thoughts at 5 (16 total) miles in:

[*] HEEEEEEEELP - Holland Park Road during rush hour is terrifying

Thoughts at 7 (18 total) miles in:

[*] HEEEEEEEELP - Shepherds Bush roundabout is also terrifying

Thoughts at 11 (22 total) miles in:

[*] Maybe if I go the extra mile to the nearest A&E they'll give me some morphine for my censored
[*] Quickly followed by: extra mile :expletive deleted: that

So - now that epic is out of the way onto my questions:

1.) Any tips on increasing confidence whilst riding? I made a few hesitant manoeuvres/errors which were entirely down to my inexperience/nervousness
2.) My rear derailleur seemed to become a lot less smooth over the course of the ride - I've got a 6 week health check with the bike but should I get it in sooner to get this sorted? I missed a couple of gears and had a touch of rattling - particularly when shifting from a higher gear to a lower one.
3.) My rear brake in particular developed a fairly loud squeak on the return ride - anything I can do to counteract this?

Posts

  • AnonymousAnonymous Posts: 79,692
    Welcome!

    This part of the forum is quite quiet so you may get more responses in Commuting Chat.

    Generally speaking
    - you'll get more confidence the more you ride - like driving a car. Parliament square isn't that bad in fact (I ride it both ways every day) and you'll get used to it. I do agree Shepherds Bush isn't much fun and don't know Holland Park.
    - your arris will get tougher the more you ride, but you definitely should get some padded shorts. I would only ever recommend bib shorts (with shoulder straps) as they stay in place better and are more comfy. Most people on here would recommend them too. DHB (Wiggle in house brand) are a trusted brand who do well priced, good quality stuff. If you're feeling a bit self conscious in lycra, then by all means stick some running shorts over the top. I reckon about 1/3 - 1/4 of road cyclists I see on my commute do the same. I don't.
    - if you did all that work on the old Raleigh, you can easily sort your shifting problems. Youtube is your friend here. Check out the Park Tools website or just use google. It is an extremely simple job requiring a screwdriver and an allen key. Just search 'rear derailleur adjustment' or something and all will be revealed.
    - Not sure about the brakes, sorry. Maybe they are bedding in and the sound will wear off.
    - as for fitness, it will come. I would say that if you had comfier shorts then your bum wouldn't be howling at you and it may be just then your legs and lungs. Keep up the mileage and by all means take a day off.
    - Eat well/properly and make sure you get enough rest and your legs will recover. Try not to smash everything in sight, and you will find the weight should drop off to start with. Eventually you'll start feeling fresher as it wakes you right up!

    - Make sure that you keep riding for fun - commuting can be a chore at times, not least in the pissing rain in the cold and dark and then you get 3 punctures when late for a dinner party for which you are cooking. You note your wife also rides so enjoy the quiet routes, canal paths, Royal Parks etc at your leisure.

    Keep it up!
  • imatfaalimatfaal Posts: 2,716
    Frankly everying Coriordan said.

    One thing many first time commuters miss is cleanliness - don't skimp on the number of shorts (and yes bibs are so much nicer) I like DHB and I like probikekits own brand - I am less of a fan of PlanetX own brands cos the sizing is all wrong for me; might be better for you. Bu back to my point - if you ride 22 miles a day and don't rotate your shorts daily you could well end up with a nasty dose of saddle sores; it is a lottery - some people get them others do not. I do if I am not obsessive about getting out of sweaty kit as soon as possible, showering and using clean kit. They are so painful - put it this way Sean Kelly (not known for being a whimp) withdrew from the Vuelta a Espana whilst winning and with only two days to go.

    Here is the British Cycling page. https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/knowl ... ortably--0

    And join British Cycling - it is worth it for the money off discounts alone and the recipes are nice as well
  • pastryboypastryboy Posts: 1,385
    See if you can get on a cycle superhighway for part of your journey. I only use CS3 once a week myself but might be useful:

    http://www.westtrans.org/WLA/ICIMRES-wt ... ay-map.jpg

    In answer to your questions

    1) Learn to shoulder check and do it a lot - I can ride a good few seconds whilst looking backwards nowadays. Having an idea of what's behind you is reassuring. Before you get to a left turn look over your shoulder, check any car that's to your right, is it slowing (listen for change in engine sound)?, glance right, is it indicating? If you're level with a car when approaching to a left turn then ease up a bit till you're sure it's not going to turn across you. Over time you sort of scan everything and find yourself avoiding 99.9% of things. Assume that no one's going to indicate or use their mirrors.

    2) spray some GT85 on it and add some chain lube. if it's still not moving then learn some mechanical stuff - very easy to tweak rear shifting. Also make sure everything is tight and nothing's worked loose.

    3) wipe the rim, check brake block alignment.

    Over time you'll get fitter and being faster and able to keep pace with traffic will make you more confident.
  • snowstersnowster Posts: 582
    Welcome never had any experience of cycling in London but on the occasions I have visited your much more braver than me way too busy for this Country boy best of luck on your commute stay safe and enjoy your cycling...
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 53,295 Lives Here
    snowster wrote:
    Welcome never had any experience of cycling in London but on the occasions I have visited your much more braver than me way too busy for this Country boy best of luck on your commute stay safe and enjoy your cycling...

    Ah London's alright.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 53,295 Lives Here
    My only advice would be don't feel like you're in a rush.

    By all means cycle fast, but if it's less stress to wait a couple seconds and then setting off, or slowing a little sooner, or not going for that tight gap, then don't do it.
  • smokey_baconsmokey_bacon Posts: 1,637
    My only advice would be don't feel like you're in a rush.

    By all means cycle fast, but if it's less stress to wait a couple seconds and then setting off, or slowing a little sooner, or not going for that tight gap, then don't do it.

    Absolutely this. Keep your noggin switched on and dont just follow the herd if your instinct tells you different.

    Also routine is a great benefit for fitness, eating and maintenance...before you know it it has all become second nature.
  • imatfaalimatfaal Posts: 2,716
    My only advice would be don't feel like you're in a rush.

    By all means cycle fast, but if it's less stress to wait a couple seconds and then setting off, or slowing a little sooner, or not going for that tight gap, then don't do it.

    To re-iterate - this ^

    It really is enjoyable once you get over the lunacy of the whole enterprise - but a smile and scalping the censored on the open road is far better than a scowl and fighting for position at the red lights
  • wolfsbane2kwolfsbane2k Posts: 3,005
    Welcome to the forum! Unfortunately I can't provide any details on riding in London, but there are a lot on here that can help you.

    And if you can do that lot to your old steed, your mechanical head should be able to cope well with the minor tweaking needed on the new one.

    Your behind will recover. Given your torso sizing, bibs might not work for you, I'm 6ft7 and at similar weight, therefore torso is probably similar dimensions and haven't found one yet that 'works', so use cheap aldi/lidl/decathlon padded shorts, with baggies over the top. If you can afford it, trying not to be rude, fatladattheback might be able to offer a good fit (I haven't managed to try them out but they do stuff in my sizing)
    Intent on Cycling Commuting on a budget, but keep on breaking/crashing/finding nice stuff to buy.
    Bike 1 (Broken) - Bike 2(Borked) - Bike 3(broken spokes) - Bike 4( Needs Work) - Bike 5 (in bits) - Bike 6* ...
  • The RookieThe Rookie Posts: 27,748
    I don't ride in London and my commute is rural but do ride in Indian cities so have an appreciation of the issues.

    The biggest safety factor in traffic is speed, vehicles catch you more slowly and at speed you can manoeuvre more quickly, also it allows you to take the primary for your safety without being as big a hindrance.

    Your Arris, just like the muscles in your legs, you need to toughen up the muscles over your 'sit bones', I don't bother with padded for my 7 miles, but it does take a few days for those muscles to 'man up'.
  • inbikeinbike Posts: 264
    The Rookie wrote:
    The biggest safety factor in traffic is speed, vehicles catch you more slowly and at speed you can manoeuvre more quickly, also it allows you to take the primary for your safety without being as big a hindrance.

    After a few months of commuting in central London he'll discover that one overtakes a lot more vehicles than the other way around :D
  • gbsahne001gbsahne001 Posts: 1,963
    Just a question of toughening your rear end up, the current set of 3/4 I'm using don't have any padding but are still comfy enough for the 16miles each way.
  • roger_merrimanroger_merriman Posts: 6,155
    gbsahne wrote:
    Just a question of toughening your rear end up, the current set of 3/4 I'm using don't have any padding but are still comfy enough for the 16miles each way.

    And finding the right saddle, I find the middle ground ie MTB commuter types like Charge Spoon very comfty, wider gel ones are awful and race light stuff not much better.
  • mitbmitb Posts: 78
    I work and ride in London but live in Reading, Reading is 10 times scarier on a bike, I think because traffic's so much slower in London, even if there is a lot more (and the many, many buses are pure evil). Like people have said above, my breakthrough came when i stopped treating it like a demented sprint and cursing every time you hit a light and shouting at censored drivers- just take it all in your stride, swings and roundabouts, win some lose some...you just want to get to work safe. When i did that i started to enjoy it, it really makes my day and my health (mental and physical) so much better.
    Don't try for every day at first- your body (and buttocks) needs more rest to start with. If your bike has disc brakes, they squeal a bit when bedding in, then squeal when they're wet or dirty...they're squealy. Get some disc brake cleaner, makes a big difference on mine. i don't think shifting should go shonky so quick, you can get evans to look or take the opportuntiy to learn, it's pretty straightforward. Good luck!
    Oh, and Schwalbe marathon plus tyres have, so far, taken flats out of the equation, which makes it all a lot easier.
  • redhandedredhanded Posts: 139
    I think cycling in central London is a lot less scary than the 'burbs as traffic is slower, people who drive regularly in central London will be used to cyclists and will know they're not going to drive anywhere fast...

    +1 for Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, I've had no punctures in almost 8 years using them (2 different sets, about 4 years with each as I got a new bike..)

    As mentioned, I think you just need to find your own pace for the commute and don't worry about the carbon racers whizzing past or the bike shaped objects pootling along. I record my rides and my journey times are all very consistent within a few minutes and pushing it a bit doesn't seem to make much difference.

    Shepherds Bush roundabout is a bit of a pig and I don't like Holland Park Avenue either - there never seems to be quite enough room to filter through. I was wondering if you could look at alternative routes, like cutting through backstreets to Kensington High St, although that is also often jammed in the evening peak.
  • imatfaalimatfaal Posts: 2,716
    How is the OP doing after two weeks?
  • drlodgedrlodge Posts: 4,824
    Another tip from a lecherous perv...I normally find another cyclist with the same overall pace as me to follow, normally a girlie. Its more a safety in numbers thing - cars/lorries are more likely to hit a lone cyclist than a bunch. However from Richmond Park to Blackfriars bridge is a cyclist rat run so everyone is doing the same route en masse and its pretty safe. Parliament square can get interesting though!
    WyndyMilla Massive Attack | Rourke 953 | Condor Italia 531 Pro | Boardman CX Pro | DT Swiss RR440 Tubeless Wheels
    Find me on Strava
  • edrobbinedrobbin Posts: 173
    Loved the post - Fair play to you!

    Parliament Square is really no problem - If you're doing Hyde Park Corner, then pretty much everything else will be a stroll in the umm..Park...

    The scary bits become a lot less scary when you keep pace with the traffic, and be bold on the road. As the other guys said, the traffic is generally pretty slow in central London so keep up with the vehicles, get into position early, don't hesitate and be clear and obvious with your manoeuvres.

    Enjoy...and get censored -pads...!
    Waterloo - White City

    Cannondale Quick Carbon 1 2016
    Cannondale Scalpel Carbon 3 26" (Lefty) :D
  • vpnikolovvpnikolov Posts: 568
    edrobbin wrote:
    Loved the post - Fair play to you!

    Parliament Square is really no problem - If you're doing Hyde Park Corner, then pretty much everything else will be a stroll in the umm..Park...

    The scary bits become a lot less scary when you keep pace with the traffic, and be bold on the road. As the other guys said, the traffic is generally pretty slow in central London so keep up with the vehicles, get into position early, don't hesitate and be clear and obvious with your manoeuvres.

    Enjoy...and get censored -pads...!
    This. Could not have said it better. Especially in regards to the position. This is critical at traffic lights and I come across so many cyclists that position themselves in really bad and dangerous ways.
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