Whatnot to Wear

I don’t often ride in purpose-made cycling clothes anymore. This isn’t a political statement as much as a statement of personal preference; I simply no longer have a desire or need to wear specialized gear. And while I think there may be some merit to the idea that people riding bikes in street clothes present a positive image of bicycling to the general public, I certainly don’t look down on those who choose to wear cycling-specific clothing. I suppose when it comes down to it, I’m pretty much neutral on the Cycle Chic versus Lycra question.

I don’t often ride in purpose-made cycling clothes anymore. This isn’t a political statement as much as it’s a statement of personal preference; I simply no longer have a desire or need to wear specialized gear.

My routine in the winter and spring is to wear my work clothes and simply layer up over the top with various wool or fleece vests and coats. It’s usually cold enough when I leave for work in the morning, and I ride slow enough on my inbound commute, that I’m not concerned about perspiration. As the year progresses and the weather warms, I shed layers until I’m down to just a shirt and slacks in the spring.

When the temps approach triple digits in the summer, I switch over to a garment swapping routine that puts me in progressively lighter and cooler clothing as the day warms. On the morning commute while it’s still relatively cool, I wear slacks and a loose shirt (this could be a tech-T or a lightweight wool shirt ); then, when I arrive at the office I clean up and change into a work appropriate shirt; and for the ride home, I swap the slacks for a pair of lightweight, breathable shorts. On the few days of the year when we’re actually in triple digits, the work clothes are packed from the start and it’s shorts and a breathable shirt on both the inbound and outgoing legs of the commute – this is a close as I get to wearing full-on performance clothing.

We’re fortunate to have such mild weather here in NorCal; by mixing-and-matching the “normal” clothes in our closet (for us that’s a mix of cotton street clothes and all-purpose, REI-style “outdoor” clothing), we’re able to stay comfortable on the bike throughout the year.

What about you? Do you wear specialized, bike-specific clothing on your commute, or do you just wear the street clothes that are already hanging in your closet?

What type of clothes do you wear while bike commuting?

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Go Big

I have a suspicion that many people would enjoy their bikes more if they went to slightly larger cross-section tires and ran them at lower pressures than what they’re accustomed to. I typically ride at least 32mm tires for commuting and general utility riding, and I’ll often go up to over 40mm. Of course, the clearance around the fork and chainstays, as well as rim width, place limits on tire size. But still, I often see relatively narrow tires mounted on bikes that would accept wider rubber. And there’s nothing that says you have to pump your tires to the max pressure listed on the sidewall. I’ll often run my tires at 20% under the recommended max pressure to soften the ride; you’d be amazed how much this improves the comfort of any bike. If you’re running small cross-section, high pressure tires, you might be pleasantly surprised by the improvement in ride quality you’ll get from a wider tire run at lower pressure.

Rivendell has an excellent tire recommendation chart that breaks tire choice down by road surface and rider weight/load. View the chart here.

Which tire size do you prefer for utility riding?

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Thursday Morning Commute: Cooling

Thursday Morning Commute

We’ve had triple digit (or close to it) weather for the past week or so, but we’re looking forward to a forecasted cooling trend as we head into the weekend. This morning was absolutely perfect with temps in the mid-60s and a cool breeze out of the south. I have to admit, once the temps hit 100F+ my interest in bicycling withers. If I had to choose between near-freezing temps or high heat, I’d take the cold weather every time (those of you who regularly ride in extreme conditions can pipe in now and make fun of us weather-wimp Californians ;-)). I’m curious; given a choice, would you choose high heat or freezing temps for your commute?

Given a choice, would you choose high heat or freezing temps for your commute?

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Spoke Count

How Many Spokes?

Typically, if someone asks me how many spokes I recommend for city riding, I usually say 36 for the rear wheel and 32 for the front. For many years I rode mostly on 36/36 handbuilt wheels and I can’t recall ever needing to even true a wheel. In recent years I’ve had a couple of bikes with 32/32 production wheels, and the fact is, those wheels stayed perfectly true as well. Of course, the fact that a wheel is well-built has more bearing on its durability than the number of spokes.

What’s required of a wheel varies dramatically based upon the rider’s weight and how much cargo is being carried on the bike, but at least for riders of average stature carrying typical commute loads, it may be time to drop my recommendation down to a 32 spoke minimum for the rear wheel.

I’m curious to hear from you. How many spokes do you run for commuting and city riding? Have you had issues with wheels that have 32 spokes or less?

How many spokes do you prefer for city riding?

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Off the Beaten Path

Off the Beaten Path
Zoom

I enjoy taking the occasional detour onto a dirt trail this time of year. Most are too muddy in the winter, and they’re chock full of thorns on the summer, but in the spring and fall I find it a nice diversion to do a little off-pavement commuting away from the distractions of dog walkers, roller bladers, and automobiles.

How about you? Does your commute provide any opportunities for a little dirt riding?

How often are dirt trails included as part of your commute?

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It’s the Dress

It's the Dress

We took a casual ride over to a favorite restaurant for lunch today and along the way I couldn’t help but notice how much more courteous the drivers were being than usual. In two cases, drivers sitting at side streets waiting for us to pass actually put their cars in reverse and backed up a couple of feet to clearly signal that they weren’t going to pull in front of us. Neither needed to move out of the way; the moves were clearly a sign of courtesy.

When we arrived at the restaurant, I asked Michael, “Did you notice that?” She unhesitatingly responded with, “It’s the dress.” Her matter-of-fact response surprised me. Perhaps I’m just clueless, but I had no idea a person’s manner of dress on a bike could have such a noticeable effect on motorist behavior. Both of us were wearing sandals and riding upright bikes, which may have contributed to the overall picture.

We may be making some assumptions here, but Michael is 100% convinced that how she dresses affects how motorists respond to her. Whether or not this was the reason behind the courteous drivers we encountered today, one thing’s for sure; I never get that kind of treatment when I’m geared-up on my “serious” commuter bike. Who knows, perhaps there’s more to the British passing clearance study than I thought.

How about you? Have you found that how you dress affects how motorists respond to you?

Does how you dress affect how motorists respond to you?

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How Do You Roll?

Drivetrain

Since we’ve been discussing drivetrains, I thought it would be fun and interesting to set up a poll to see what types of set-ups our readers are running. I can’t possibly list every drivetrain combination out there, but I’ll hit the major (and a few minor) categories; feel free to elaborate in the comments.

What type of drivetrain are you running on your primary commuter/utility bike?

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