Name: Jim Thurber
Location: Mountain View, CA
Started bike commuting: I began about six years ago
Commute distance (one way): From home to school about 4 miles – returning at least 20!
Describe your commute: I leave the house pretty early in the morning heading through downtown Los Altos (to pick up coffee and a paper) before heading up into Los Altos Hills for a day of teaching 4th graders. The advantage of riding a bicycle is that you have indoor parking – right in the corner of the classroom. It’s a good lesson for the students too – it is possible to be nearly 60 years old and not spend too much money on gasoline.
Coming home I spend at least an hour riding into Los Altos Hills helping get a bit of exercise and relieving the stress of a day full of 4th graders. Several miles of 7 to 10 percent grades followed by a blast downhill and a fresh cup of coffee ends the day.
Describe your bike and accessories: My primary commute bike is a SOMA road framed bike but equipped with wide ratio mountain gearing – SRAM 11 x 36 cassette with a compact crank gives me the ability to climb “almost” any grade in the hills (Page Mill Road an exception). Drop bars and excellent lights permit me to ride year round. A lightweight rack (Tubus Luna) carrying a set of Ortlieb Panniers enable me to transport clothing, books and my laptop to / from work. Although a Cargo rack would give me greater load capability the SOMA frame is pretty lightweight and with 20 to 25 pounds on the back it’s at the limit of its flexibility issues, especially when “bombing” downhill at 44.3 mph!
What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?: Most new bikes are equipped with very narrow gear ranges – go wide! Make it possible to bicycle up hills as well as down. Weight is not terribly important – the best (most expensive) bicycles weigh a lot when a couple of water bottles are fastened on – so don’t sweat the weight. My personal “boxed” choice of a commute bike would be a Novara Safari from REI or perhaps a Trek 520. They’re ready to go . . . right out of the box.
Most of the Civia bikes are also outstanding – especially the Hyland, complete with a front dyno and light. Remember to . . .
. . . think about darkness. Include on your commute bicycle a really good set of lights – they’re not very expensive anymore and make a huge difference when it comes to avoiding the “commute” driver, anxious to get home after a difficult day at work.
And don’t think you have to bike commute everyday. Take a day or two off occasionally and drive the car. You’ll find if you truly ENJOY your commute . . . you’ll do it more often!