Location: Palo Alto, California, USA
Started bike commuting: On and off since 2003 when I moved to Palo Alto from Venezuela
Commute distance (one way): 16-19 miles based on route taken
Describe your commute: My preferred option now is to take ride from my house on bike lanes to Shoreline Park where I then get on the San Francisco Bay Trail and ride on dirt roads along the bay to the Guadalupe River Trail in Sunnyvale, again on dirt/gravel, and get off on Trimble, just a mile or less from my work. I prefer to do this in the morning when I usually have a tail wind. Then on the afternoon I ride 5.5 miles on the Guadalupe Trail, half gravel and half paved, passing by the San Jose Airport to the San Jose Caltrain station where I take the train back to Palo Alto and then ride home aproximately 2.5 miles.
Doing it in reverse means riding back home with a head wind that sometimes is quite strong. Depending on seasonal route closures, I need to take detours that increase the mileage up to 19 miles. It takes me about 90 minutes to ride the 16 miles.
Most of the time I take the train both ways, which results in about 7 miles per way with the train ride in between. I’m trying to do the long ride a couple of times a week and slowly increase its frequency as I lose weight and improve my fit on the bike to continue to reduce shoulder and neck pain as I spend more time on the saddle.
Describe your bike and accessories: About 1.5 years ago I discovered Rivendell, its bike fit approach and its philosophy. I’ve embraced it now as it has provided me with a much more comfortable ride and I’ve been able to almost completely eliminate pain while riding.
I now commute on a 61cm Rivendell Atlantis which I’ve just configured with Nitto Moustache bars to see if I can get a bit more comfortable compared to the Noodle bars I’ve been using. I also have a set of Nitto Trekking bars on order to see if that further improves my fit and comfort.
The Atlantis is set with a Shimano 9 speed drivetrain, bar-end shifters, XT low-normal rear derailer so the bar-end shifters point in the same direction for low or high gears, Sugino triple crankset 24-34-46 and 12-36 rear cassette. Paul Neo-Retro front and Touring rear brakes with salmon pads. Schwalbe 50mm Marathon Supreme tires on 36 spoked Dyad rims and 60mm Berthoud steel fenders. Son front hub with Edelux light. Nitto front and rear racks that usually carry Rivendell Sackville front and rear saddle bags. I sometimes carry a front basket as well, usually in the winter when I find myself carrying more clothes and stuff. Berthoud Touring saddle. Shimano SPD pedals with Keen Austin shoes that are very comfortable on and off the bike.
What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?: I used to ride with padded shorts, but now I’ve discovered the pleasure of riding unpadded wih the leather Berthoud saddle. It’s actually more comfortable for me and allows me not to have to fully dress up in cycling gear every time I want to go for a ride. It also facilitates integrating your ride with your regular life a lot easier. It was a big mental block for me to overcome.
There is no way to avoid sweating on this length of commute options. While I can carry clothes on my Sackville medium saddlebag every day, I leave clothes for a week in the office and now have the option of taking showers as well if I want to. What I find is that if you take a shower at home in the morning and wear wool, you just need to allow 15 minutes or so to cool off when you get to work before changing into your work clothes and there is no need for another shower. Morning temperatures are quite cool and with the AA, the sweat just evaporates and you’re fresh in body and mind. The other advantage of wool is that you can keep wearing the same jersey or under-layer for several days and it absolutely doesn’t smell! It makes a big difference in terms of number of garmet items you need to be able to commute almost every day.
Finally, transitioning from driving a car to commuting by bike or bike/train is more about overcoming your mental blocks than by the actual commute itself. That is usually what takes the longest to do.