Open thread: Ask the experts

Trust me, we don’t lack for material to write about here on Commute By Bike — the main limitation is simply time.

However, to ensure we’re meeting the needs of our readers I want to ask what you’d like to know about. Rain riding tips? Night time riding help? How to get started? Fear of riding in traffic? What about mechanical or maintenance issues? Route finding?

Comment away and let us know what you’re looking for.

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0 thoughts on “Open thread: Ask the experts”

  1. Charlie D. says:

    I’d like to know how others best deal with and/or educate motorists who harass bicyclists.

  2. Brent Shultz says:

    I’d like to see some talk about winter commuting, particularly where dealing with snow and ice is concerned.

  3. Jen (SLC) says:

    Since the weather is turning colder, I’d like some tips for commuting in rain and snow.

  4. Marrock says:

    I’d also like to see more about winter commuting, specifically cold weather clothing and gear, shoes, goggles, gloves, that sort of thing.

  5. Dave says:

    This might be a little out there, but what about self defense issues? I commute through some sketchy parts, and I’d like to know how other have kept themselves safe.

  6. Ghost Rider says:

    Cold weather tips and self-defense tips sound like great topics to cover…otherwise, keep on doing what you’re doing — you’ve got a good formula going!

  7. Adam says:

    I biked around campus a lot in college, but have only started to commute here in Tokyo. I think Tokyo is actually a commute friendly city for a few reasons, mostly because of the attitude of motorists regarding cyclists. I read a lot of horror stories about people commuting in the US (and elsewhere). I would like to see some “reviews” or reports of people who commute in places that are not necessarily commute friendly. For example, I couldn’t imagine commuting in my hometown of Detroit for any major distance. I could see around Ann Arbor or short trips of just a few miles, but I like to read stories of people who have longer commutes in cities not really designed for it. I find that really teaches me some things I can use in my daily life.

  8. Mike Myers says:

    Along with cold weather comes darkness. Living in Florida we do get cold temperatures(sometimes in the 20s in the morning) but no snow or ice. It gets dark here real early, and I’d be interested to know what folks think is the best nighttime setup.

  9. Quinn says:

    I would like to see more menchanical clinics, and more about cold weather commuting, particularly, this time of yr when there (atleast here in Reno) is a Big temp difference day to night), and since I have a 500 ft elev. difference, I’m Not a weight weenie, but due to that elevation difference I ride a lighter bike(23lbs), befor 1 be-seen headlight and 1 tail light and water bottle, Where do I put the extra clothes?

  10. Matt says:

    1. Rain tips
    2. Route-finding
    3. Commuter-specific equipment reviews. (lights, panniers, etc.)
    4. 3. Security (how to not get my stuff stolen)

  11. Patrick says:

    I am about to convert my Fuji to a fixed gear. Since I am putting in a fair amount of money, I would like to know which locks I should consider buying to protect my investment.

  12. BSR says:

    +1 to Matt’s 4 suggestions — mirror my own pretty well.

  13. red says:

    for me, it’s night-time tricks and behaviour that I would like to see discussed, as well as good lights, batteries, how to charge them properly, cost of various devices etc..
    for instance I tend to think that when it’s dusk, a blinking light is good but in pitch black blinking lights are not so good because the distance to a blinking light is hard to establish, hence danger for the cyclist. but that’s only my impression, has there been a study?

  14. CJ says:

    Another vote for Matt’s list of topics.

    BTW, I find that during the winter all one needs for the torso is a good Tek tee (long sleeve). I buy the tek tees from Target and Kohls. A very nice mid layer that is fairly breathable. I have an Adiadas merino wool and fleece pull over with a 1/4 zip and high coller. And then a wind proof outer layer to break the wind. Again I have a cheap Target brand wind breaker. I plan to buy a better wind breaker this year, at least some thing that is more bike specific.

    As for your legs, I suppose insulated tights would work. But I just wear insulated warm up pants like what professional basketball players wear. I just don’t buy the ones that rip off.

    For feet, you must, must buy decent wool socks. They make a huge difference.

    Hands, ears, and face are a mix of wool gloves, and fleece stocking cap (under my helmet) and a fleece face mask for those really cold days.

    Peace out

  15. SuperCommuter says:

    As a beginner, I am really interested in info on bike maintenace, how to info, as Quinn said.

    I love the commuter specific product reviews that I have seen, please keep those coming.

    Dealing with unfriendly people in vehicles is also a problem here in North Dallas, nor are the roads bicycle friendly. I have learned a lot from posts here – please keep these up as well.

    I would love to see a way for bikers in the same area to link up, so that they could share area-specific advice, stories, etc.

    Love this website – it’s what finally convinced me I could do this!

  16. Marrock says:

    To add to my previous comment…

    I’d also like to see some more info on lighting systems that include pricing information.

    At the moment I have three bikes, my own and two family members, that I need to kit out for night-time riding since it’s getting dark earlier and all.

    So help in finding lights I can afford that actually work would be most appreciated.

  17. Jim says:

    I’d like to hear about winter commuting, and some info about what kind of repairs I should do myself and which I should leave to the experts (and how difficult it is to *become* that expert.)

    Great blog!

  18. Ken says:

    All of the suggestions are good. I would like to second Super Commter’s idea to link up peple who commute in the same areas. I commute in North Texas (Denton) and sometimes wonder if I’m the only one out there.

  19. Fritz says:

    Thanks for all of the suggestions and keep them coming. I was going to do some additional bike and gear reviews, but with the coming cold weather and shorter days I think I’ll focus on cold weather cycling and night time safety info.

    Self defense — wow, I don’t know. I might have to defer to Mike “Dirty Harry” Meyer for that one 😉 Seriously, I’ll research this and see what I come up with.

  20. Seamus says:

    Novice Nube wants to put together
    a commuter bike based on a 1971 Schwinn Racer
    Replace the S.A. 3 speed with either the new
    S.A. 8 speed or the Shimano Redline 8 speed
    Which rases the issue of new rims since the original
    ones are pretty rusty.

    Can one put a 27″ rim on these bikes
    that came with 26X1 3/8ths & still clear the fenders
    AND looking at the gearing on the two hubs
    – which would make a better commuter
    in a rural environment – farms
    tractors & combines, poorly paved roads
    14 miles and a mid-western winter?

  21. CJ says:


    I am not an expert, but I do commute year round in Nebraksa. I don’t use contry roads either. But if you have the money I would suggest a 29er with some sort of a geared hub. If you don’t run really fat tires then you can get fenders for a 29er. And the bigger wheels will allow you some comfort on old gravel and minimum maintence roads and such. I commute on a SS, but my commutes are around 3-5 each way. So a SS is very doable. If I was riding more like 10-15 mi each way then I would want some form of gears.

    Peace out

  22. CJ says:

    That should read “country roads”.

  23. Quinn says:

    CJ, and everyone,

    I it commute for a while on my 29er, Watch your tire size, I tried a 38c on my XXIX, which didn’t even last a month before I blew the side wall, if your going to use a narrow tire the smallest I would use is a 42.

  24. CJ says:

    Thanks quin. I don’t use skinny tires on my 29er. I have an Exi front and Nano rear. I don’t run fenders. So I don’t do much rain commuting. That is why I would be interested to hear what others have done to work out some sort of fender for bike/rider protection on their 29er. I was under the assumption though that some smaller 29er tires could be run with fenders. Am I wrong?????

  25. Dr. Logan says:

    Regarding self defense: I ride through two really rough areas regularly and have received my fair share of hoots and hollers as a response. My method of dealing with it is to ignore it and maybe ride a little faster. On the occasions that people have persisted and followed me I’ve simply pulled out my cell-phone and faked a 9-1-1 call. That’s been the end of it. If they were to persist further I would make the call with one hand while pulling my U-lock out with the other. It’s big and dangerous looking and most unarmed people don’t want to mess with it. Most people that harass cyclists are cowards. That said: it’s never a good idea to challenge a vehicle driver unless you have a quick out. That car is as dangerous as a gun.

  26. Quinn says:


    Any 45c/1.8 should acommodate fenders nicely, also it depends on the bike, my XXIX can Barely fit a 2.35, on the other hand, a Surly KM can fit those FAT 2.55 Weirwolfs.

  27. CJ says:

    It appears that Twenty Nine Inches already answered my question. I just needed to do a google search to find it.

    Looks like I could run my Nanos fine, but the Exi would be a tight fit.

  28. Steve says:

    I’d like to know how people deal with salt. I commute in Minnesota winters and my poor bike suffers. Any way to rust-proof a bike?

  29. Quinn says:


    a few ideas-

    spray/paint on bed liner on the bottom side of the down tube.
    Rust-proof primer, or have the frame powder-coated
    Price Point sells a DIY stick-on clear coat. (whole bike or patch jobs)

  30. Mike Myers says:

    Self-defense? For those who have concealed carry permits and a firearm which is easily carried on bicycle, it’s a good idea. Anyone who goes through the licensing procedure for CCW should know when lethal force is acceptable. That being said, carrying a firearm on a bicycle is not easy, and carrying enough firearm is even more difficult.

    Pepper spray is awesome. I carry a can of “cop strength” pepper spray in a bike mount. I bought it from this place, which was the ONLY place I found a bike mount.

    I highly recommend buying the practice can of spray, which is filled with water. It’s a good idea to become familiar with how to use the spray, in case you have to. Pepper spray works better than stun guns—because you have the advantage of distance. Carry your cell phone, of course. But breaking out U-locks or impact weapons requires you to get too close. Spray ’em, get to a safe place, then call the police if you wish. Or don’t.

  31. Mindy says:

    I like all the ideas about discussing weather issues and safety and equipment. I’d like there to be more general discussion about the commuter experience. I chose to sell my car and ride my bicycle nearly everywhere I go, and I’d like to know who else rides places other than work. I’d like to hear about others’ best and worst commuting experiences. Being a new commuter of only 3 months, I’m interested in stories from those of you have been at this for years. I’d like to know how others deal with good-hearted naysayers, you know….the widened eyes, the concerned exclamations about how daaaangerous it is to ride a bike on the streeeeet! I want to know what your families think, and if others in your families commute. I wouldn’t even mind a “how did your week go” discussion every Saturday.

    Mindy in Tucson

  32. Beeks says:

    I like your reviews of gear that we might not have heard of or is a little out there. The magnet light review was great. And how about an article about the difference between HID and LED lights? And the difference in light batteries?

    Seasonal stuff is good. Riding in the rain and snow and cold. For instance, my feet just freeze but I don’t want to put any of those hot things in my shoes. The rest of me can be warm, warm, but I can’t keep my feet warm. Tips?

    Riding in traffic ideas is always good too.

    And then just some encouragement to keep commuting is always good!! In my town, there aren’t many of us.

  33. […] recently asked your opinion on things you’d like to see discussed and there were several requests for a post on winter […]

  34. […] safety while cycling was one of the more common requests in my “Ask the Experts” open forum. I’ve been researching this issue and will have an article on this topic completed soon. […]

  35. Matt says:

    Unfortunately bikers seem to be appealing targets for thugs so I would add another request for safety and self defense info. Just this past summer in Minneapolis, which is otherwise a very commute-friendly city, one bicyclist was attacked and beaten by a group of teenagers and in a separate incident another biker was killed. This hasn’t deterred me from riding but it does make me wonder what I would do if attacked.

  36. Fritz says:

    Hi Matt, I’m actually researching that right now and have gotten some input from police officers and self defense experts. I hope to have an article wrapped up by the end of the week.

  37. Mike Myers says:


    The most important thing is to stay alert and avoid being attacked, of course. If someone is after your money and bike, you have to assess just how valuable those items are to you. If you think giving someone what he wants will allow both of you to remain alive and unharmed, then that may be the best choice.

    However, there’s no guarantee that a simple robbery won’t escalate into a violent beating or worse. “Dead men tell no tales”, and all that. I recommend that EVERY cyclist who is legally allowed to carry some sort of non-lethal defense product. Pepper spray is the best, IMHO. Pepper spray gives you a margin of error AND it allows you to maintain distance from the attacker. As a deputy told me—you pull the spray and tell the perp you’re going to spray him, and if he persists–SPRAY HIM. Then you haul tail and call the police on your cell(or don’t).

    People will tell you to carry batons, tasers, knives, and a bunch of other impact weapons. Those are a surefire way to get yourself hurt unless you’re willing to spend a lot of time practicing.

    I carry a firearm AND pepper spray. If the spray doesn’t work, the 9MM will.

  38. Tractors says:

    Lawn Tractors Safety…

    Lawn tractors are probably the most powerful tool you might offer to any garden. They are the best solution for advanced landscapers….

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