Location: Libertyville, IL
Started bike commuting: 2009
Commute distance (one way): From 9.6 miles (on the roads only) up to 12.5 miles (using some or all of the bike path)
Describe your commute: If I take the roads, I take some neighborhood roads, some back roads that can have heavy traffic at times(one of those roads has a paved bike path along it), and one main road that has a paved bike path along it. Most of It is a pretty ride, as it goes through some forest preserves. These roads are well-traveled by cyclists and even feature several “Share the Road” signs, so the drivers tend to be kind to those on a bicycle.
If I take the bike paths, it is a longer, but more leisurely and pleasant ride through several forest preserves. The well-maintained limestone path winds its way along the Des Plaines River to Chicago’s North Shore. If I have the time, I prefer to take this route.
Both routes are flat. Rain, snow, sleet, hail, heat, cold, humidity, and wind are all a part of northeastern Illinois.
Describe your bike and accessories: Up until a few weeks ago, I was riding a 1982 Mongoose mountain bike with some nicer accessories that I had added. But my wife just bought me a new 55cm Trek Belleville (not the mixte version), and I am now using that. I replaced the Tektro brake pads with Jagwire Basics Comp Road, added a Bontrager Glo headlight and a Planet Bike Superflash tail light, replaced the kickstand with a Velo Orange Porteur Double Kickstand, and added a water bottle cage and a bell. Otherwise, everything else is stock.
A note about the Belleville: it is certainly not the Real McCoy, but if you appreciate it for what it is instead of disliking it for what it isn’t, it is a pretty darn good bike at a good price. My wife got mine on sale for $565 (including tax). It is a solid commuter bike with tons of extras at a reasonable price.
I normally carry a cycling backpack and use my panniers when I need to carry more. A helmet, sunglasses, and appropriate clothing for the weather are all part of the package too.
What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?: Bicycling to and from work is a great way to start and end your workday. When I need my car at work for meetings away from the office, I miss biking to and from work. I feel sluggish and tired. When I bike to and from, I feel great. It makes the whole day better.
Also, bicycle commuting is–by its nature–a blue collar activity. Embrace that! There is no need to spend a lot of money on a commuter bike and accessories. You can get a solid bike and all the appropriate accessories for less than you think. Don’t feel like you have to have a high-end bike and gear to commute by bicycle.