Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bike Commuting in Vancouver; a low budget beginners guide

Recently my brother-in-law asked me what it takes to become a bike commuter in Vancouver. Now there are many "guides" out there that help with this, but Vancouver is a bit different, it rains here -- it rains A LOT here.

So I thought I would put up my own list of what I think it takes to commute here. I also thought that I would put together two lists, a low budget list ( this post) and a "if-I-had-all the-dough-in-the-world-list"(in a later post).

Low Budget List

1. Full fenders -under $20.00 at MEC, fenders are at the top of the because they are the MOST important piece of equipment on any bike in the rain. I add a mud flap to the bottom of both my front and back fenders.

2. Poncho -- I prefer a jacket, but on occasion I have used a poncho. Poncho's are great if you don't go too fast. The faster you go though the more likely hood of you turning into a parachute that will either slow you to a crawl or lift you into the sky -- be careful. I have a poncho I got for free at some event or another. It is great. I have used it for climbs from my house up into the mountains in torrential downpours. The advantages of a poncho are that you are cooled by the air coming up from underneath and you are kept dry from the rain coming down. The down side is that if you don't have fenders water from your wheels comes up (with the cool air) and soaks you. If you are climbing slowly they work great. A friend of mine got the MEC Poncho. He sowed thumb loops into it so that it stays over his hands and handlebars and doesn't flap around.

3. Lights. As many as you can afford. I run my light almost all of the time. Blinky lights that keep you seen by other road users are cheap! There is no reason for everyone that has a bike and is out on the street not to use these. I recently purchasesd a Planet Bike Super Flash. I also have a 5 beamer on the front and another blinky on my helmet. The total set up for flashy lights was about $30.00. Once you have your lights replace the batteries periodically. Although manufacturers say that they have 1000 hours of run time they really don't. I replace my batteries once a month or so. I have followed many a commuter who has flashing lights, but the batteries are long overdue for replacement -- batteries are cheap too!

4. Plastic bag shoe covers. If it is really raining it is nice to keep your feet dry. something as simple as plastic bags over your shoes with rubber bands to hold them up can slow the inevitable soaking of your feet.

5. Shower cap. I used to use these sometimes. These are the caps that are in hotel bathrooms. They fit perfectly over helmets. The only problem I found with using these is that if you sweat, the sweat seems to concentrate inside the terrarium like confines of helmet/cover combo. When the sweat drips down into your eyes it stings like the venom from some sort of tropical mankiller. So be warned!

Total cost of these commuting additions that make a real difference in how comfortable you are, about $50.00. You can get to work dryer and safer. Be careful out there.

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