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    • CommentAuthorSweetEnnui
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2015
     
    I hesitate to post because I'm not some biking badass and I fear the mockery!

    I drive around 30 miles a day to UCSD from South Park. When I lived in Little Italy, I was a bike commuter (to Mount Hope, through downtown and up Market Street) on a commuter Specialized hybrid bike. I loved it. My job is now at UCSD and my commute time is starting to increase and increase (more students, more traffic, more headache) and now it takes me 45 minutes to an hour to get to and from work. I figured if I am spending this much time commuting, I would rather be on a bike at least some of the week. Maybe I am kidding myself but I think I could work up to it by going up (or back) one way in the car and biking the other leg.

    The issue is that the hills around UCSD are killer and I think I'll probably need a lighter, more "road bike"-like bike in order to tackle them successfully. But I have NO experience on a road bike and I don't even know what to look for. I had a tri bike right before my daughter was born and I loved how easy it was to go up hills but man, I felt every bump in the road! Is this just going to be the experience and I need to get used to it?

    My last issue is that I'm a plus size woman -- I'm super athletic but every time I go into a bike shop I feel like I am being shoved into the hybrid/mountain bikes. Perhaps I'm not being vocal enough but I feel like when I talk about wanting to get up hills, they tell me it has granny gears and leave it at that.

    Any help or suggestions would be welcome.
    • CommentAuthormfutch
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2015
     
    Hi SweetEnnui

    Welcome to the discussion board! I think you'll find that everyone here is mellow and there won't be any mockery for whatever type of riding you like to do. We're all cyclists!

    I used to commute between North Park and UCSD regularly and one great option is to take the shuttle from the hillcrest medical center one way and then bike the other way. It keeps you from needing a shower upon arrival and still lets you get a good workout. The elevation is kind of U-shaped, so you have a hill at either end regardless of which direction you go. Just make sure you get good lights for your bike because Rose Canyon is super dark and low powered lights will have you going less than 5 mph at night. Although I have heard that since UCSD stopped providing a free MTS bus sticker, more people are using the shuttle in Hillcrest which means arriving early or waiting for a shuttle with an empty bike rack.

    My recommendations for a commuter bike are:

    Plenty of gears (triple crankset)
    Room for wider tires (lots of potholes and cracked pavement out there)
    Rack and panniers (way better than a backpack)
    I also like traditional road drop bars because you can move your hands to lots of different positions

    There are plenty of bike shops around that would be happy to listen to your needs, so don't waste time with a shop that doesn't. I think the folks at Cal Coast are great and North Park bikes too (they have older frames so you could get a commuter on the cheap there).
    • CommentAuthorsynthetic
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2015
     
    tri bikes are probably one of the worst for hill climbing and handling... so you will do fine
    •  
      CommentAuthorbilld
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2015 edited
     
    mfutch:My recommendations for a commuter bike are:

    Plenty of gears (triple crankset)
    Room for wider tires (lots of potholes and cracked pavement out there)
    Rack and panniers (way better than a backpack)
    I also like traditional road drop bars because you can move your hands to lots of different positions
    I agree with all of this but want to point out that bars are a personal preference for commuting. I also prefer drops but I can completely understand people who prefer other types.

    I would add that if you want to ride when it rains, fenders are a good thing to have. Having a rack with panniers is vastly superior to wearing a backpack.

    I used to commute from Golden Hill (28th & A) to Campus Point Drive on the north-east side of UCSD. The hills don't actually have to be too bad if you take a more coastal route. My preferred route north was to ride B St to Pacific Highway or India St and take one of those north and then at Taylor, cut over to Morena and take Morena to Balboa where I would cut over to Santa Fe and take the Rose Canyon bike path up to Gilman/La Jolla Colony. None of the hills going that way are terribly steep for very long. Getting back up the hill to south park can be a bit steeper. If you're having trouble with the hills and you've run out of low gears, Market St is a bit less steep, though obviously that adds a bit of extra distance. You can cut back over to G st once you get east of I-5.

    If you don't want to ride Morena, you could stay on Pacific Highway until it leads you through Mission Bay park and take the bike path behind the golf course to make your way to Santa Fe and the Rose Canyon path.
    • CommentAuthorbossvoss
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2015 edited
     
    mfutch:
    My recommendations for a commuter bike are:

    Plenty of gears (triple crankset)
    Room for wider tires (lots of potholes and cracked pavement out there)
    Rack and panniers (way better than a backpack)

    As a plus size man who also carries up to 40 additional pounds in cargo, I also would add a recommendation for Chromoly (steel) touring bike. Steel is more forgiving and a touring bike has more relaxed geometry and a longer wheelbase which makes descents safer (and faster - got to take advantage of that weight when you can!)
    • CommentAuthorPetteri
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2015
     
    mfutch:Plenty of gears (triple crankset)
    Room for wider tires (lots of potholes and cracked pavement out there)
    Rack and panniers (way better than a backpack)
    I also like traditional road drop bars because you can move your hands to lots of different positions


    I generally agree with mutch's suggestions too; basically I think you'd want a (light) touring bike. Tourers can carry tons of stuff with them on a daily basis, and the bikes are designed to handle large loads and be comfortable for extended rides. Touring bikes don't tend to be the lightest things around, but my logic is that if I'm carrying all my commuting crap with me and I'm not exactly the smallest rider myself, trying to shave off a couple of pounds from the bike isn't really worth it, especially at the expense of comfort or durability.

    In addition to the local uptown shops listed, I'd recommend Cycle Quest down in Sorrento Valley too. They sell a lot of high-quality commuter and touring bikes, and the owner Erik is a long-time bike tourer (and not a small guy himself either). Not sure what your budget is, their bikes aren't the cheapest around, but definitely worth talking to. Just make sure you have plenty of time if you get Erik talking. :)

    My setup is a Surly Cross-Check built mostly as a light touring bike. Fenders, rack, super-sturdy 32/36-spoke wheels, 32mm slick-ish tires, built with a road compact double drivetrain and integrated shifters. Surly's own complete build comes with bar-end shifters which I didn't like, and I don't think a triple is necessary with modern compact cranksets. 7000 miles and I've broken one fender and one cable plus worn out some things. The wheels haven't needed any truing at all! My only real complaint is cantilever brakes; I'd definitely look for discs now or some of the new linear pulls that are designed to work with STI levers.
  1.  
    Another option is to ride downtown and take the city bus - I have a UCSD professor friend who lives on Ash and that is how he commutes. And on the way home if you want to ride some but not all of the way, you can catch the trolley at Linda Vista or Old Town and ride to Imperial. From there it's only 2.5 miles to SPark. My commute is SPark to downtown and I generally take J Street over I-5 and cross the 94 on 22nd. I would add MJ Cyclery to the list of bike shops to check out.
    • CommentAuthorCurtis
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2015
     
    SweetEnnui,

    Higher volume tires (30mm plus) can soften your ride considerably. You may want to experiment with handle bars. When I moved from drops to more up right bars my biking experience changed for the better. The addition of racks can really improve the functional aspects of your bicycle as you can move the load to the bicycle. I spend little time thinking about the weight of my bicycle. The engine on my bicycle (me) has a much greater mass then the bicycle.
    Enjoy the ride as it is not a race.

    Ride Safe
    • CommentAuthorerik
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2015 edited
     
    I do HIllcrest to Torrey Pines pretty regularly. I think a modern hybrid with a good rack is great for that route, but if you really want a road posture I would agree with everyone suggesting a touring bike. I would definitely not get a bike with fewer or higher gears than your hybrid. You might get a little bit faster on a competitive style of bike, but you will be making the hills harder, not easier. If you want something that has that competitive styling, but is more suited to commuting, you might have more luck with a cyclocross bike, not a triathlon style.

    If you are not currently using a rack, definitely consider one to get the weight off your body (it helps a lot with the comfort). Carrying the same load on a rack instead of your back changes the feeling of effort quite a bit.

    If you just feel like you want to stretch out more when climbing, you might consider trying some bar ends for your hybrid. It is a cheap upgrade that will get you a bit of stretch and change the angle of your hands. When I ride flat bar bikes over 10 miles or so, I like to have the posture option that bar ends provide.

    (In case you are not familiar with bar ends, here is a handy picture to demonstrate: Bar Ends)
  2.  
    For multimodal commute, I would suggest folding bikes that have integrated carrying system such as Brompton, Tern, and Dahon. It gives you the flexibility of mixing bike riding, taking the train, carpooling, or car share. Metro Cyclery on Morena blvd carry all the brands I mentioned above. Also look into ebikes with geared motor hubs or mid drive e-assist. Be-Cycle in San Marcos is one ebike store I really like because they focus not only recreation but also bike commuter accessories.

    Online, check out the folding bike folding ebike thread on this forum and brompton mafia,
    • CommentAuthorSweetEnnui
    • CommentTimeJan 27th 2015
     
    Thanks for all the feedback.

    I hadn't considered some of the routes that people were suggesting -- I know at one time I remembered about the bus but that makes a lot of sense, especially in the beginning. I am not too worried about sweating at work -- who cares about coworkers! (Kidding, I have a shower here though). But I think for someone starting out, this is a really good option.

    Touring bikes! Yay! I totally forgot about those. That new Surly Straggler is awfully fine but I should probably stick to a used bike (BUT SHINY!).

    I also appreciate those store suggestions. I have a toddler so going from store to store is a bit hard so I appreciate you helping me out and I knew considered that there might be stores that carry used bikes. Best of both worlds.

    Shopping for bikes is so dangerous. I just want to sell all my belongings and go cross country!
    •  
      CommentAuthorSigurd
    • CommentTimeJan 27th 2015
     
    Your commute from SP to UCSD is quite pleasant if you choose the right route, and it will keep you in shape, for sure.

    A ton of good advice here. I would add, from someone who commutes by bike rain or shine: I can't emphasize enough to splurge on waterproof panniers. I've had experiences when I have arrived at work with sopping wet clothes inside the panniers - not fun.
    • CommentAuthortecno
    • CommentTimeJan 28th 2015
     
    Just 5 months (and ~2k of commuter miles) ago, I asked this question in the introductions thread and got some awesome responses. Now I do the North Park to UCSD commute about 4 times a week (and bike to the Hillcrest Shuttle the rest of the time). You can see some routes people use on the SDBikeCommuter strava page but I'd recommend these since they have the least interaction with traffic, in my limited experience:

    ( ft stockton -> presidio )-> e.mission bay dr. -> "bum trails" -> santa fe -> gilman
    or
    ( bachman -> hotel circle dr. -> san diego river bike path ) -> e.mission bay dr. -> "bum trails" -> santa fe -> gilman

    IMO, Presidio is the easiest ascent back up to the top of Mission Hills but I recommend taking Juan when it's dark out since drivers can see a biker at any point of the hill from the bottom.

    I ride with a backpack on a steel racing bike on 25's. I don't think you'd need any bigger tires, especially not if you ride gatorskins. Also, if you join the UCSD pedal club, I believe you get 1 free "emergency" ride per semester in the event that you get stranded somewhere.

    Oh, and Rose Canyon is pitch black at night - be ready for crazy people without headlights coming the opposite direction.
    • CommentAuthorJSnook
    • CommentTimeJan 28th 2015
     
    I have done long commutes, up to 39 miles one way, and here is my take on it (with my rationale below if you care to read that far):
    - Get a light road bike, forget all the fenders, racks and stuff. Keep the bike as light and fast as possible.
    - Absolutely start by riding one-way if that's what it takes.
    - Don't even bother trying to ride that distance in street clothes. Suit up in lycra or whatever riding gear you prefer, and change in the office.
    - Buy some "shower to shower" sport or whatever version of that you like (I got mine on Amazon) and with some of that, dry clothes, underarm and a quick wash of the face and comb through the hair most people will be fine and not need to shower at the office (but by all means do shower if that's better for you).
    - Carry as light a load as possible in a backpack. Consider leaving some work clothes and shoes, belt etc. in the office if you have somewhere to store it or bring in something from container store or whatever so you don't have to haul your stuff each day. Hopefully you can leave your bike in an office or something and not have to haul a heavy lock(s).

    Here is my rationale...if you are going to commute 15 miles each way there is no sense in lugging extra weight up the hills. The lighter your bike the faster you can make the trip and the more fun and maneuverable your ride will be. I have commuted 19 miles each way from Kensington to Sorrento Valley, and more recently did a 39 mile commute one-way about 3X a week between Kensington and Carlsbad and would regularly see a lot of other distance commuters on racing bikes like mine. I outfitted my race bikes with tubeless wheels and 25mm wide rubber which rolls fast but prevents pinch flats and is plenty comfortable once you toughen up your bum a bit. Get some lightweight lights like Exposure Diablo/Blaze combo which is plenty for the Rose Canyon path in pitch black and general visibility, can recharge via USB at your desk and can be moved from bike to bike in a matter of seconds.

    My philosophy on commuting distance is to keep moving fast and have fun. For errands around town like going to Vons I take a heavy duty bike with baskets and stuff. If I could only have one bike it'd be the racer for commuting and for sport use - and I would run my errands in the car.

    Rainy days are a catch-22. There are so few it's tempting to blow them off and just drive - but traffic on the freeways can be the worst! I would typically ride if it wasn't raining too hard, since I am changing clothing at the office anyways. I commuted with a lightweight Shimano backpack that didn't bother my back even on the 39 miler, and at most I'd have a laptop, some clothing and stuff to fix flats. If it was raining hard which is even more rare, I'd usually just drive as typically when I'd get caught out on the bike in a torrential downpour it would be so sketchy since the roads tend to flood easily around SD.

    Anyways, that's my $0.02 - hope to see you on the road!
    •  
      CommentAuthorSmorg
    • CommentTimeJan 28th 2015
     
    Ditto everyone about having good lights on the bike especially if you'll be riding Rose Canyon. Not only are there invisible (until they're way too close to you) lightless bikers using that path, you'll also want to see that puddle-prone bit of the road after the blind curve from the reeds to the rail track (heading north) before you get to it and know if you'll have to use the bumpy dirt bank detour or not. :oP That thing was still a good size puddle (as in completely covered the path) a full week after the last rain. It just doesn't seem to drain anywhere!

    Now that they seem to be done with road construction on Morena Blvd I like heading north that way (especially in the dark) to the Garnet Ave exit (and then a quick right onto Santa Fe Ave). But then I'm in North Park, so I go downhill on Texas to Cam de la Reina and then thru Fashion Valley to pick up Friars to Morena (no freeway style ramps to deal with that stretch of Friars).

    If you head up to UCSD really early in the morning along Mission Bay and get to De Ana Cove while it's still dark out, though, I would just get on the main road (Mission Bay Dr to Damon St to Santa Fe Ave) thru Pacific Beach rather than continue onto Rose Creek path. Traffic (merging in from I-5 off ramp) isn't dangerous yet that early in the morning. I wouldn't want to flat a tire on broken glass or thorn in the dark on Rose Creek Path.
    • CommentAuthorsynthetic
    • CommentTimeJan 29th 2015
     
    JSnook:I have done long commutes, up to 39 miles one way, and here is my take on it (with my rationale below if you care to read that far):
    - Get a light road bike, forget all the fenders, racks and stuff. Keep the bike as light and fast as possible.
    - Absolutely start by riding one-way if that's what it takes.
    - Don't even bother trying to ride that distance in street clothes. Suit up in lycra or whatever riding gear you prefer, and change in the office.
    - Buy some "shower to shower" sport or whatever version of that you like (I got mine on Amazon) and with some of that, dry clothes, underarm and a quick wash of the face and comb through the hair most people will be fine and not need to shower at the office (but by all means do shower if that's better for you).
    - Carry as light a load as possible in a backpack. Consider leaving some work clothes and shoes, belt etc. in the office if you have somewhere to store it or bring in something from container store or whatever so you don't have to haul your stuff each day. Hopefully you can leave your bike in an office or something and not have to haul a heavy lock(s).

    Here is my rationale...if you are going to commute 15 miles each way there is no sense in lugging extra weight up the hills. The lighter your bike the faster you can make the trip and the more fun and maneuverable your ride will be. I have commuted 19 miles each way from Kensington to Sorrento Valley, and more recently did a 39 mile commute one-way about 3X a week between Kensington and Carlsbad and would regularly see a lot of other distance commuters on racing bikes like mine. I outfitted my race bikes with tubeless wheels and 25mm wide rubber which rolls fast but prevents pinch flats and is plenty comfortable once you toughen up your bum a bit. Get some lightweight lights like Exposure Diablo/Blaze combo which is plenty for the Rose Canyon path in pitch black and general visibility, can recharge via USB at your desk and can be moved from bike to bike in a matter of seconds.

    My philosophy on commuting distance is to keep moving fast and have fun. For errands around town like going to Vons I take a heavy duty bike with baskets and stuff. If I could only have one bike it'd be the racer for commuting and for sport use - and I would run my errands in the car.

    Rainy days are a catch-22. There are so few it's tempting to blow them off and just drive - but traffic on the freeways can be the worst! I would typically ride if it wasn't raining too hard, since I am changing clothing at the office anyways. I commuted with a lightweight Shimano backpack that didn't bother my back even on the 39 miler, and at most I'd have a laptop, some clothing and stuff to fix flats. If it was raining hard which is even more rare, I'd usually just drive as typically when I'd get caught out on the bike in a torrential downpour it would be so sketchy since the roads tend to flood easily around SD.

    Anyways, that's my $0.02 - hope to see you on the road!


    yea i used to be anti lycra and what not; but carrying weight, and wind causing drag is a big deal