Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through London

Commuting, Day rides, Audax, Incidents, etc.

Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby Slow Loris » Thu Jul 31, 2014 11:02 am

aspiringcyclist wrote:One more thing, when buying a bike can you exchange a saddle for a more comfortable one for you before buying? Or do you have to pay for the bike with the existing saddle and then buy a new saddle?


Assuming you're buying new – yes you can, and if it's done at the point of sale you might get a discount :) . I bought through the bike to work scheme a few years ago and, on my request, the shop very kindly swapped the saddle for a Brooks, the tyres for Marathon Plus and the quick release skewers for security skewers (requiring a specific key) for the wheels. These were all at additional cost, but they gave me a discount on the tyres.

Regarding lights – there are also USB rechargeable ones that can plug into your laptop during the day. This is the one I have, although I don't use tow tow paths/unlit roads at night. If I were, I'd be inclined to invest in a more suitable front light.

http://www.rutlandcycling.com/153500/pr ... light.aspx

Vorpal wrote:If your seat post has a quick release, replace it with a bolt that requires tools, or take the saddle with you and put it in a locker, or something. Same with any detachable lights or other equipment.


+1. I always take a quick release seat post with me if I'm in central London for the day - there's generally somewhere to store it, and I can be sure of a comfortable ride home 8)
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby aspiringcyclist » Sun Aug 03, 2014 11:52 am

Slow Loris wrote:
aspiringcyclist wrote:One more thing, when buying a bike can you exchange a saddle for a more comfortable one for you before buying? Or do you have to pay for the bike with the existing saddle and then buy a new saddle?


Assuming you're buying new – yes you can, and if it's done at the point of sale you might get a discount :) . I bought through the bike to work scheme a few years ago and, on my request, the shop very kindly swapped the saddle for a Brooks, the tyres for Marathon Plus and the quick release skewers for security skewers (requiring a specific key) for the wheels. These were all at additional cost, but they gave me a discount on the tyres.

Regarding lights – there are also USB rechargeable ones that can plug into your laptop during the day. This is the one I have, although I don't use tow tow paths/unlit roads at night. If I were, I'd be inclined to invest in a more suitable front light.

http://www.rutlandcycling.com/153500/pr ... light.aspx

Vorpal wrote:If your seat post has a quick release, replace it with a bolt that requires tools, or take the saddle with you and put it in a locker, or something. Same with any detachable lights or other equipment.


+1. I always take a quick release seat post with me if I'm in central London for the day - there's generally somewhere to store it, and I can be sure of a comfortable ride home 8)


Thank you. You've been very helpful.

Now I'm considering the beater bike as I don't see any safe place to lock the bike in the university with the little information available online and I can't exactly visit it as if I find a location it means it isn't secure from the public. I was wondering what good places there are to buy mechanically sound bikes and ones suitable for the journey without looking conspicuously expensive.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby aspiringcyclist » Mon Aug 04, 2014 8:15 am

Also, I would like to be able to try out the bike first so Ebay, Gumtree, etc. aren't options.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby Vorpal » Mon Aug 04, 2014 11:54 am

aspiringcyclist wrote:Thank you. You've been very helpful.

Now I'm considering the beater bike as I don't see any safe place to lock the bike in the university with the little information available online and I can't exactly visit it as if I find a location it means it isn't secure from the public. I was wondering what good places there are to buy mechanically sound bikes and ones suitable for the journey without looking conspicuously expensive.


You can try at http://www.stationbicycles.co.uk/

There are also some community organisations & Cycle hubs that are non-profits, set up to help people get cycling. I don't know the best ones in London, but maybe someone else on here does. There's a good one in Harlow, which isn't so far away by train.

You can also make a bike look a bit rough, if it doesn't already, with a little creativity. Touristy stickers, bumper stickers, spray paint... anything like that. Have a couple of friends with a little artistic interest? Let them have go. You can have a bike that is fun & interesting, and looks completely not worth stealing :)
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby aspiringcyclist » Mon Aug 04, 2014 12:48 pm

Vorpal wrote:
aspiringcyclist wrote:Thank you. You've been very helpful.

Now I'm considering the beater bike as I don't see any safe place to lock the bike in the university with the little information available online and I can't exactly visit it as if I find a location it means it isn't secure from the public. I was wondering what good places there are to buy mechanically sound bikes and ones suitable for the journey without looking conspicuously expensive.


You can try at http://www.stationbicycles.co.uk/

There are also some community organisations & Cycle hubs that are non-profits, set up to help people get cycling. I don't know the best ones in London, but maybe someone else on here does. There's a good one in Harlow, which isn't so far away by train.

You can also make a bike look a bit rough, if it doesn't already, with a little creativity. Touristy stickers, bumper stickers, spray paint... anything like that. Have a couple of friends with a little artistic interest? Let them have go. You can have a bike that is fun & interesting, and looks completely not worth stealing :)


Thanks for the source.

I have considered doing just that but how effective is it? I would assume that opportunistic thieves are unlikely to break good locks but more professional thieves would see through artificial age and it wouldn't stop them from stealing. Is there any evidence for this? Plus having a bike stand out may not always be to your advantage.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby mjr » Mon Aug 04, 2014 1:58 pm

It is pretty effective I think. Anything distinctive makes it more difficult for the pros to fence or for the opportunists to use. They would rather take that plain Spesh Allez nearby. It is an unpleasant truth that you do not need to run faster than the bear. Just faster than someone else.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby Vorpal » Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:34 pm

I think it works fairly well. I only have anecdotal evidence to support it, but as mjr implies, the more commen a bike is, the easier it is to get rid of.

Professional thieves want something easy to sell for reasonable cash. If they cannot immediately identify a bike or it's value, they will go on to something that is more sure for them.

A combination of of uncertain value or distinctive markings, and better locks than an easily recogniseable bike will normally 'protect' your bike.

If you can get secure cycle parking, by all means use it. Don't just rely on the university website, either. Contact the university. See if there is a BUG (bicycle users group) or similar. Ask where the cycle parking is, how many spaces, if you need to arrive early to ensure that you get one, etc. Someone is bound to know that sort of thing. It might be best to call and ask. You also might be able to leave a lock there.

There are a number of previous threads on locking bikes. Here's one of them viewtopic.php?f=1&t=56076
You can use the search tool to find others.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby Slow Loris » Mon Aug 04, 2014 4:06 pm

Just to add to the good advice above:
A tatty looking fixed or single speed bike can be less attractive to thieves but for your commuting distance, I'd stick with gears :) . Opportunists usually just want the easiest pickings so two D locks and replacing all quick releases for bolts would make your bike harder work. Additional tactics are locking up next to a better looking bike, and avoiding leaving your bike in the same place each day. As mentioned upthread, a folder can be taken with you and is more versatile for a longer commute, but I appreciate this is a more expensive option.

Vorpal wrote:There are also some community organisations & Cycle hubs that are non-profits, set up to help people get cycling.


London Bike Kitchen in Hackney may be a good source for you. They run drop in workshops and maintenance courses – I've found their staff very friendly and helpful:
http://lbk.org.uk/

aspiringcyclist wrote:Also, I would like to be able to try out the bike first so Ebay, Gumtree, etc. aren't options.


Don't rule out second hand, as there are some good quality bikes around that look suitably 'worn'. If you're unsure of what to look for, perhaps someone could accompany you? Any seller should allow you to inspect and test ride one, including those on Gum Tree. As well as the CTC classifieds section here, you could also try sellers in these two forums:

http://www.cyclechat.net/forums/classif ... rvices.20/
http://www.lfgss.com/ (Seems to be undergoing migration at the moment. Despite the name, you may find a suitable geared bike for sale.)
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby aspiringcyclist » Mon Aug 04, 2014 8:05 pm

So I visited the university again and saw practically all the bike facilities on the site. I'd say any outside the university is filled with cheaper bikes and the facilities inside the university, but still outdoors and available to the public, had the expensive bikes together; their riders purposefully group the bikes in each area based on perceived cost, apparently. It seems these are the better places to park your bike, although a couple of the areas that had racks with expensive bikes were almost completely secluded from crowds (not that it matters too much).

I found that lockers are available on first-come-first-serve basis; could be somewhere to leave a folding bike, saddle or wheel, or some things from the pannier. Leaving locks on the bike stands is officially not allowed but I don't think it matters and I saw some being left like that. I could leave a chain lock. Finally the gym for students is much cheaper than ordinary gyms which means I could use as a shower if I found I needed it.

When I mentioned Ebay and Gumtree, I didn't mean I was against second hand bikes per se, it is just I want to find something that fits me comfortably for a 15 mile commute and I (wrongly) assumed that it wouldn't be possible to try the bike when buying online.
Last edited by aspiringcyclist on Thu Aug 14, 2014 6:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby LondonBikeCommuter » Sun Aug 10, 2014 6:42 pm

aspiringcyclist wrote: It would be from Waltham Cross, so 13 - 15 miles depending on the route. Now I have found possible routes that largely ignore the main roads but it does go through the tow path next to River Lea for roughly 9 and then quieter roads for the remainder. two alternatives: using the A1010 and A10 or navigating the complete mess of roads to the west of them where possible. The latter has to include parks and alleyways of questionable safety as there are no quieter roads connecting them.

Can bikes more suited to roads handle a tow path? I have ridden on it but with a (badly maintained) mountain bike and have never had any other type of bike so I don't actually know how they would fare. Is my avoidance of busier roads justified?

If the road bike could handle the tow path then I would be able to cycle quickly virtually unobstructed with at least have a month's training before it gets too dark and I have to travel on the road. If not then it is between choosing one that can and sticking to the quieter areas when the tow path becomes unavailable -as I would say that keeping up at a reasonable pace on a 30mph road would be more difficult - or choosing a faster bike on the busier roads and training on these during the summer.


I regularly use the the Lea Valley tow path for running between Tottenham Hale and Enfield Island Village. I don't see you having any problems on a bike providing you cycle at a sensible speed and be respectful to other users. on the path With a decent set of lights and an appropriate speed you could use the tow path year round no problem. If I were to use the road I'd come down the A1010 (Hertford Road) as far as Seven Sisters Road then up to Manor House along to Camden town and bloomsbury. Although the A10 is a quicker route I've always found that drivers tend to drive too quickly and don't pay too much attention which for a cyclist can be deadly.

A lot of this also depend on the times of day your likely to need to travel.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby ArMoRothair » Mon Aug 11, 2014 9:58 am

Vorpal wrote:I think it works fairly well. I only have anecdotal evidence to support it, but as mjr implies, the more commen a bike is, the easier it is to get rid of.



I can support that anecdote. I've locked my Sunn (small time French producer) mountain bike all over London for the last fourteen years and the only thing which has happened to it is having its CatEye rear light unscrewed when left overnight at Waterloo station.

They're looking for something they can eBay quickly.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby aspiringcyclist » Thu Aug 14, 2014 6:34 pm

LondonBikeCommuter wrote:
I regularly use the the Lea Valley tow path for running between Tottenham Hale and Enfield Island Village. I don't see you having any problems on a bike providing you cycle at a sensible speed and be respectful to other users. on the path With a decent set of lights and an appropriate speed you could use the tow path year round no problem. If I were to use the road I'd come down the A1010 (Hertford Road) as far as Seven Sisters Road then up to Manor House along to Camden town and bloomsbury. Although the A10 is a quicker route I've always found that drivers tend to drive too quickly and don't pay too much attention which for a cyclist can be deadly.

A lot of this also depend on the times of day your likely to need to travel.


Oh, so there is no issue with night riding on the towpath? That would simplify things for me considerably. Could you also tell me if it is possible to use a road bike on it as well, perhaps with slightly larger tyres?
Thanks.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby Slow Loris » Fri Aug 15, 2014 1:41 pm

LondonBikeCommuter wrote: I don't see you having any problems on a bike providing you cycle at a sensible speed and be respectful to other users. on the path With a decent set of lights and an appropriate speed you could use the tow path year round no problem.


Agree. The Lea is a good surface overall and should be useable all year round on any bike – just good lights and consideration for others required. It's some while ago, but I remember riding from Tottenham to Hertford East on a folder with no problems. A 'beater' road bike would be fine. I would try out the route in advance to see if you're happy with it, as I think the main issue will be keeping your speed slow when you have a 15 mile commute each way. After a few evenings when you're tired, you may prefer a quicker way home by road. Also, for all season towpath use it's best to be prepared for muck in wet weather, ice in winter and all manner of debris, including broken glass, at any time. As mentioned before, it's well worth considering a bike with sufficient clearance for full length mudguards, slightly wider tyres with good puncture resistance, and clearance for ice tyres should you need them. Marathon Plus tyres are rated as highly puncture resistant but if you go for these, do not get the narrowest width – I made that mistake and they are a complete PITA to get off :evil: .
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby Vorpal » Fri Aug 15, 2014 2:28 pm

aspiringcyclist wrote:Oh, so there is no issue with night riding on the towpath? That would simplify things for me considerably. Could you also tell me if it is possible to use a road bike on it as well, perhaps with slightly larger tyres?
Thanks.


I use a road bike for commuting, but only spring through mid-autumn. Most road bikes will take maximum 25 or 28 mm tyres, which is fine for good and moderate conditions, but not enough in winter. Also, no road bike will have clearance for winter tyres. If you want something with drop handle bars that you can use year round, you probably need to get a touring bike. Drop handle bars have the advantage of better rider aerodynamics, so they will probably make your journey less tiring, and may make it a bit quicker, as well. However, visibility is a bit better from a more upright bike, so you will have to weigh you preferences and decide which is better. You could also try test riding some from a bike shop if you aren't certain.

You still need to ask about the tyre clearance. Most touring bikes will take a non-studded winter tyre, like Top Contact, but some will not take studded tyres. There are a couple of threads on here about winter tyres...

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=70034
viewtopic.php?f=5&t=72049
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=72376
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby aspiringcyclist » Mon Aug 25, 2014 4:22 pm

So I rid up to the point of leaving the towpath on my commute route and was completely drenched. I'd say the biggest problem were the puddles which occupied the entire width of the path. Mudguards helped, but not enough. Making the commute practical will be difficult in those conditions.
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