(Hopefully) New Biker
I’m hoping you experienced commuters can help me out. The bus I take to work is going to be cancelled in March and I REALLY don’t want to pay the ridiculous parking leases in Oakland. According to Google Bike Maps, I can take a route ~10 miles to work (I live in Shaler). Is this feasible? I would need to get a bike too–any recommendations for bike types and favorite bike shops? I do need to keep prices reasonable. Thanks in advance!
It sounds doable to me – I’ve ridden from Oakland to Shaler and back using the 62nd street bridge, and cutting through morningside, but I think it’ll depend too on where you’re at physically. How do you feel about hills? Have you been on a bike before? What kind of condition are you in now as far as your health goes, strength, endurance, that sort of thing?
Is that section of trail under the 32nd st bridge open yet? I haven’t looked at it in at least a year when it was gravel.
I’m okay physically–I’m a runner. I was thinking I would have until the end of March to really get in good enough shape to do it regularly. The hills aren’t a problem–it seems like good cross-training! I haven’t been on a bike for about 3-4 years, but that was just around campus.
10 miles is totally doable, even if you’re not so used to a bike… Practice. Gear. Lights. Prepare. You can totally do this
Don’t forget the rack n roll might still get you part of the way – if you can get downtown, you could ride the jail trail to oakland. Or while you’re working out the kinks, find a place that has cheap or free all day parking a few miles away (like half way or so), and drive your bike to that location, park, bike the rest of the way.
you’ve got tons of options if you include racknroll, bits of walking, even (I know, I know,) a little driving – the trick is seeing them. Calling Stu? Stuuuuuuuuuu… ALMKLM too, I think he lives over there, and I know there’s more regulars over there, I just can’t put places to handles right now…
until they show up, maybe take a gander at the commuter guide on here (resources section), and I’ve found interesting help on commutebybike.com they have a Commute 101 series with interesting stuff on it (though not Pgh specific).
To make things a little easier you might want to try driving to Highland Park and taking the bus or riding from there.
Any favorite bike shops? I’m thinking about a hybrid/commuter bike? Thoughts?
I think it’s very feasible. Not sure what part of Shaler you live in, but I used to take Mt Royal Blvd into Etna, then cross the 62nd St bridge, then you could go a couple of different routes from there, Morningside wouldn’t be too bad
How comfortable do you think you’ll be cycling alongside traffic? I think getting some experience in that way will be helpful.
Can anybody recommend a good shop to get a bike fitting? If you know what size bike you need, then you could probably hit up Craigslist and get something used for cheap. If you like it, you can get something pricier down the road
I’ll definitely want to practice in traffic as much I can. I live on the other side of Route 8, the Middle Road side, so Mt. Royal would be a little silly for me.
now is a pretty good time to buy a bike. there are plenty of last year’s models priced to sell (for example, i saw a $500 bike for $350).
i wouldn’t give too much thought to the brand of the bike, and if it were my call, i would go with what i believe people are calling a “fitness hybrid”. basically, a hybrid with 700c wheels, moderately wide (32-38mm) slick tires, no suspension, and a slightly more aggressive posture than, say, a cruiser or comfort bike.
there’s a ton of advice anyone can give for specifics, but you probably don’t need it. just make sure you get fenders and lights! this can’t be overemphasized.
for shops, i don’t have any personal favorites (besides kraynick’s, but he doesn’t sell full bikes). i would just say shop around. find a shop you’re comfortable with, a bike that feels just right, and a price you can afford.
I have a Trek Navigator “comfort/hybrid bike” that I like a lot and ride 7-8 miles each way to work on. It’s about 10 yrs old now. I bought it at the Ambridge Bikeshop. Now there are 2 Trek stores in town. REI has bikes, too. For me the biggest pain when I bought the bike was finding a shop with sales people who would listen and discuss the options rather than sterotyping or outright ignoring me based on gender/age/style. I was fortunate that my little brother was able to help me out narrowing the selection. He used to own a bike shop & is a very kind and patient dude and gave me great advice RE options in my price range.
I’ve been pretty happy with REI and Performance Bikes in terms of bike bling & service. I’ve had mixed experiences at some of the other stores, but I know there’s others here who love ’em.
 p.s. come on some of the group rides with Flock of Cycles. that’s a nice way to practice being out on the streets. The Commuting 101 guide is great. You can download it elsewhere on this web site. That helped me A LOT. Also the bicycle map.
You should go to as many bike shops as possible. I like Thick Bikes on 17th St in the South Side. Chris will help with finding the correct size bike you need. Once you find out the size that best suits you also check out craigslist you might find a good deal on something used.
Someone on this board once commented on spending a little less money on your first bike, but spending more on your accessories (lights, fenders, clothing, rack, etc.). I think this is good advice.
I agree with that. If I find that I like it and it works out, I’d be willing to spend more money on it.
Agree with above: you don’t need a badass bike right away so much as you need the essential gear, especially if you’re riding in the cold (good wool base layers, balaclava, decent gloves, good lights and a good bag, or fenders and panniers).
As far as bike shops go, I got a new cyclocross bike last night at Iron City and they were ultra helpful. They swapped out the stock stem with a shorter one for free to help the bike fit better, and gave me a really good deal. I think I might be biased though, it’s the first bike I’ve actually purchased at a shop and not through Craigslist, or built up myself, and I knew exactly what frame size I needed.
As ejwme says, Practice. Gear. Lights. Prepare. You can totally do this
You want good fenders on your bike.
Gear: rain gear. Cold weather gear (look up “turduckin” in another thread), even in March.
Lights, front and rear. You want bright lights, but please dont’ do the “point-a-bright-blinking-point-source-directly-into-driver’s-eyes” thing.
You probably want a very low lowest gear. 22 teeth front and 32 teeth back is extreme, but appropriate, followed by a 2nd gear that isn’t a huge jump higher.
When I came back from DC, (665 miles over two weeks) a bike sales dweeb told me that a 28F/32R gearing would be just fine: “As soon as you get in shape.”
A good fitting bike.
Marko and the others are right about starting with a less expensive bike (it will make a fine backup bike sometime). On the other hand, getting a good fit and good gear ratios are urgent priorities.
Much better to have well-fitted, nicely geared trash bike with lights and fenders, than a poorly-fitted “road” bike for the price of a used car.
Really good FENDERS. A front fender that wraps down far enough that it starts to curve towrds the front again – and a mudflap extendign that. Not some silly 15 inch cantilevered thing.
If I were to prepare for a 20-mile round trip by doing long Sunday rides, I would work those long rides up to 50-60 miles. You don’t want to exhausted when you get to work- or when you get home.
PRACTICE. Ride in traffic. The worst traffic you can find on the weekends may be relatively mild compared with rush hour -if your working hours are standard.
Did I mention fenders? Fenders are your friends whenever it rains – and it always rains.
@Erin – You obviously came to the right place. These are the best people in the world… especially the Vikings among them.
And the Flockists, tie-fighters, hipsters, lycra-clad freaks. All good people.
Commuters, weekenders, whatever-you-call-bearded-glass-wearing-dudes-on-recumbents…
“M’lord” generally suffices.
@Erin: lots of good advice already. I’d add “dress in layers”, “wool is your friend”, and “try alternate routes before you NEED to”.
Oh, yeah…and practice tire/tube repair in the comfort of your home, so doing it in a cold drizzle isn’t quite so traumatic an experience.
[Edited to add:] Mirrors may be helpful, depending on how well you can see behind yourself whilst riding.
And have fun…commuting in this city can be a blast.
You forgot sandals, too.
Anywho, I commuted from M-side to Allison Park for 18 months. Your ride will give you a good workout, at least. There are lots of little options to avoid the worst of the hills, too.
John’s suggestion is a good one–parking in HP or Morningside is not permit-based, and even at rush hour, I suspect you can get pretty easily from Shaler. Get comfortable with the (relatively) flat commute, then work in the trek from your house.
The 62nd Street Bridge isn’t horrible, though you do approach the bridge from Etna in the left hand lane. Generally, traffic isn’t bad, though, so it’s not hard to merge over. I reckon that will be the hairiest spot.
So much helpful advice! You guys are great! I’m thinking of checking out Iron City tonight after work.
For a 10 mile ride from Shaler to Oakland, there is going to be a decent amount of climbing and descending, so even if you get a very utilitarian bike, you’re going to want it to be fairly light and have good gearing.
Back in December, I needed a bike for my son and I to the GAPCANDO trail this summer, and we didn’t have anything that was just right. So I found an old Specialized Rockhopper rigid frame mountain bike on CL for $20, went over it completely, new tires, cables, rack, fenders, put another $100 into it, and I think it’s awesome. I think it compares favorably to a $1,500 touring specific bike. Though part of my exercise WAS to see how cheaply I could do it.
Would you have any interest in borrowing a bike and coming on a Flock ride, maybe the black & gold ride? It might be good to try riding around town with a group, and check out other peoples rides. I think I am doing the ride on the 6th, and I have numerous bikes to lend.
That would be really great. I was actually just looking for info about the Flock rides. Also, I love the idea of building up an older bike but I have zero clue how to do it.
You might want to check out the nearest local bike store (LBS in board-speak). You could also ask about them here. The closer to your home you shop the better.
Not to get too personal, but what’s your leg inseam length?
check out thick as well if you are on a budget, chris usually has at least a few used bikes in the shop. other good bike shops that are fairly convenient to your location, shadyside trek on center ave, dirty harry’s in verona, scholl’s in westview. my wife and i also have plenty of extra bikes if you want to borrow one for the flock ride on the 6th. we are in morningside so you could park at our house and ride to oakland with us too.
Dirty Harry’s just across the river from you in Verona is where I got the best ever fitting (ok, it’s the only place I tried for a fitting, and my experience was awesome). They put me on every bike in the store to try and figure out the right mix of lengths and angles and all kinds of things I don’t know about. I ended up buying a standard bike (second I tried, it just felt perfect) but I learned a lot about my assumptions and preferences (turns out I did not actually know what I wanted, which really shouldn’t have surprised me).
Whatever bike you get – make sure it’s comfortable to you. It could be The Fastest (or best at hills, or whatever)Bike, but if it’s too small or large, it will be agony. Worst part is, you may not even know it hurts until months later you try something that *does* fit.
I just got a great deal on a awesome hybrid style bike at Thick last week. It seems the winter is the best time to buy a left over model from the year before.
Cool. If you wanted to borrow a bike I definitely have something you could use, heightwise. Or use one of cburches, doesn’t matter.
Another thing to keep in mind, if your bike is spending it’s day parked outside in Oakland, or might need to be left overnight in an emergency, “new and shiney” is not going to be the best of all options.
“new and shiney” is not going to be the best of all options.
So also make sure you get a good sturdy U-lock and chain.
+1 on the accessories. I would add riding goggles with a warm tint for the rain/snow/dark. Inner wicking layer, middle warm layer (fleece/wool) and outer weather resistant shell. Layer up or down for cold or heat. Go with light/bright/reflective colors so you stick out in low-light situations.
For eye protection, I use $8 roofers safety glasses from home depot. I think someone else here recommended them, too. They have UV protection.
“Not to get too personal, but what’s your leg inseam length?”
The new: “so, do you come here often?”
@edmunds – you can build up to that:
i was a runner before i started to bicycle and when i did start, i had a very easy time. i was better at hills and faster overall than i am now that i have quit running.
welcome, and i hope everything goes well for you and that we see you soon on a group ride.
Though not open until March 8th, there is an opportunity to volunteer this Saturday:
“Hope you are enjoying your winter…
In preparation for moving later this year, Free Ride is doing an inventory. We intend to document every bike and frame, starting with whole bikes this Saturday the 29th from 11am to 4pm.
We’ll be using the shop computer, but if someone has a laptop with Excel or Numbers or the Open Office Equivalent or whatever that might lessen running back and forth. Absent that, we’ll use paper and pencil. People might work in pairs, one examining and the other recording. Will and Carmen have come up with a basic system to use.
There are a lot of bikes. We could make use of a few people. It’s also supposed to be a heat wave Saturday in the mid-30s so the shop should be pretty pleasant.
Get to know the bikes in the shop!
Discover your EAB!
Earn volunteer hours in the off season!
Feel free to bring food or lunch for yourself or to share, cookies, pie, chips, whatever; of course no food is OK too! Please note there is no drinkable water in the shop now, though there’s a tea kettle and tea if you bring a bottle with water and a mug.
Feel free to contact if you think you might attend, or just stop in.
See you Saturday or sometime soon…”
I know there are a couple of essentially “good to go” suitable rides for your size available for purchase. Nothing spectacular, mind you, but they are decent.
Though I realize you are a runner, let me quote SB:
“A cyclist who is out of cycling shape from being off a bicycle for a few months or more, will start out strong, but the legs will tire rapidly. When the legs tire, the rider sits harder on the saddle, and that’s when the trouble starts. Many saddle complaints are actually traceable to fatigue caused by starting out the season with a longer ride than you are ready for.
If it has been several months or more since you rode a bicycle regularly, you can expect to be sore if you ride any serious distance.
If you are coming off of a layoff of months or years, start with very short rides, maybe a mile or two, no more. Only gradually should you increase your ride distance. This may seem frustrating, but it does take a while to re-accustom your derrière to cycling. Anybody in decent shape can hop on a bike and ride 15-20 miles, but you’ll be a wreck afterwards if you haven’t accustomed your body to cycling first.” from http://sheldonbrown.com/saddles.html
Hope this is helpful. Good luck!
Anyone have an opinion on the Trek 7.2 FX? I checked out Iron City and Trek last night. At Trek, I think the guy (who spent over an hour with me answering questions and switching out components!) finally decided I need a women’s large (19in) or a slightly tweaked men’s large (20in). Women’s medium was way too small, men’s medium (17.5in?) was still small (I’m long), and the men’s large was better but I barely had clearance over the top rail. He had to switch out the stem to help my reach a little too. Does this make sense? If I go into a store and they ask me about sizes should I say 19? And should I limit myself to women’s frames?
**Sorry for all the crazy questions
You must be logged in to reply to this topic. Click here to login.