I'm Randy Mouri and this blog is about my quest to be an official finisher in the Race Across AMerica (RAAM), the toughest endurance race in the world. It's over and I became an official solo finisher in 11 days, 1 hour and 13 minutes! We continue to raise money and awareness on behalf of Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia (Habitat NoVa). If you would like to make a donation to Habitat NoVa, please visit my page on Habitat’s site. Endless thanks to our sponsors and all the folks that have made such generous contributions. Team Mouri would not have been able to travel so comfortably, which certainly may have changed the outcome of the race.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I've had some requests to elaborate on my bike setup for commuting.  Let it be known that these are my thoughts and preferences.  Many riders out there will have differences of opinion and this is apparent, if you've ever commuted and witnessed the wide range of gear displayed.  Differences in gear are based on (but not limited to) length of commute, style of riding, number of bikes owned and training goals from commuting.  Now this is the way that I see it.

The first and most important setup is not about the bike.  It's the mind-set.  Commuting is what it is!  It is not a race and if you treat it as such, you're going to get into an accident (spin there, spun that)!  I'm sure a lot of my old co-workers are laughing right now and could provide plenty of comments on my battered body (...if anything was on the trail, I was going to race it!)  I'm not saying that you can't push hard...you should, but limit it to sections.  Don't try to push hard the entire way.  Your personal best (PB) is only limited by how lucky you are catching the traffic lights through the city and how crowded the trail happens to be that day.  When you pick your spots to push hard, make sure it's safe for you and those around you.  Now that we have the mental aspect of the ride out of the way let's breakdown the setup:

THE BIKE:  Your commuter bike doesn't need to match the dimensions of your race bike.  As long as you have a proper fit you can use a mt bike, hybrid, fixie, etc., just ride.  You're doing a good thing by commuting.  You're the HULK!  Yes, I said the HULK!  You're turning green,...but happy!  That ever so popular color that will make this world a better place. 

TIP:  If you tend to be a pedal grinder with slow cadence and want to work on increasing your turnover rate, try installing shorter crank arms on your commuter.  You can easily cut 5mm, as a shorter crank arm has no ill effect on your setup.  You do lose a little leverage for steep climbs, but that's what the gears are for.

THE TIRES:  My favorite commuter is an old mountain bike and I do enjoy cruising speeds, so I have 26"x1.25" Performance City Slicks.  You can pump them up to 90 psi and go as fast as any road bike (with the exception of up hills).  If your rims are fitted for schrader valves, you'll want to pick up some rim adapters so you can run presta valves.  Schrader valves aren't designed for high pressure.  If you're running 700s, I suggest a minimum width of 23mm.

TIP:  If your commute takes you over an excessive amount of debris, you may consider tire liners (like Slime Liners).  It's an added layer of protection against punctures.

THE LIGHTS:  I use the Cateye TL-LD500-R, the Cateye HL-EL530 and the Planet Bike Blaze 1 Watt and the Planet Bike Blinky Super Flash.  I have multiple sets of each, because in the early season I'm riding 5 hours in the dark.  It's nice to have redundancy in your lighting in case one should fail.  Something I learned from the DC Randonneurs and it is also a requirement to ride in the brevet series.  I mount a Cateye HL and Blaze on the front bars and a Cateye TL on the back.  The Super Flash is clipped my vest for high traffic areas and for backup.  The Cateye HL has a magnetic switch and is completely waterproof.  It throws a long narrow beam (which some people don't like) down the center of a secondary wide beam.  I aim this light further down the path to spot deer when riding at higher speeds and for descending.  4 AA batteries will provide about 20 hours of usable light (it's rated for 90 hours, which it may do, but the light becomes too dim to provide any distance lighting.)  The Blaze in not water proof, but is good for light drizzle.  It throws a wide beam that is good for close range and has 3 settings (low, high and strobe.)  I use the strobe at dawn and at dusk and as a supplement to the Cateye, when conditions demand more light at close range.  2 AA batteries will provide about 8 hours of usable light.  The lens on the Cateye TL when not turned on is a CPSC approved reflector.  After installing batteries (2 AAA), I run electrical tape around the seal.  This makes the light almost as waterproof as the HL model, but if you're out there long enough I have noticed that moisture will work its way into the unit through the button switch in the back.  Flashing mode, which I use most often while commuting will last about 60 hours.  If you're not on the street you can run it til it dies.  The Blinky Super runs on 2 AAA and has a similar run life.  It's very bright, but has a poor switch location at the bottom of the unit and will fail if exposed to rain for a prolong period of time.  This can be protected with rain gear, since it's clipped to my vest.  If you read the post on the PA Fleche, three riders experienced this issue. 

THE RAIN GEAR:  Let's face it - with rain gear you're either going to get wet from the inside out (via sweat) or from the outside in (via leaky fabric or open areas like the neck and front zipper).  In most situations you should be able to regulate airflow through your jacket to keep you cool, and dry out any buildup of moisture (this is important in cooler temperatures).  I look for a double zipper, plenty of vents and adjustable cuffs.    These are key elements in regulating your body temperature as the heat builds up.  Shower Pass makes some of the best rain gear around.  If there is just a hint of rain, I throw a trash bag in my pack or a cheap plastic jacket that you can pick up for less than $20 at Performance.  And in most cases, in warm weather, I just get wet and dry out when and if the rain stops.  If you have an old nylon jacket, you can try spraying it with a water repellent treatment like ReviveX.  This should be ample to get you through a commute of 30-90 minutes.

Installing fenders will keep you and your bike a little cleaner in the rain.  If you plan on aiding in keeping your feet dryer you need to add mud flaps to approximately 2" from the ground.  Repeat that on the rear and those drafting will love you.

THE ACCESSORIES:   I don't like to carry anything on my back, though I have been adapting to a camelbak for carrying extra fluids on rides with limited control stops.  The first day I ride into the office, I try to bring several changes of clothes and stick them in a file cabinet or desk drawer (if your building doesn't have a locker room).  This leaves me with just the essentials to carry back and forth.  I do have a rack and still mount a rack pack.  I have the Jandd Pack, which is roomy and expandable.    It's easy to carry extra cycling clothes, etc. and keeps everything dry, should it rain.  If you're a minimalist you can carry everything you need for an overnight ride and more.  As essentials, I carry a Brave Soldier Crash pack.  It's light weight and has everything you need to treat minor cuts to road rash.  Two tubes, tire irons, patch kit, a multi tool, and a Road Morph Pump (highly recommended).  This pump works like a mini floor pump.  It will pump up to 120 psi and has a built in gauge, which works well.  This is one of those best buy items.  In my wallet, I have money (cash and credit), health insurance card, id and building passes/keys as needed.  If your commute is short you may opt to not carry some of these items, but there will be a day when you'll be wishing you had.  That's how I learned.  Stuffing grass in your tires when you're out of tubes and patches or CO2 cartridges is no easy task.  And the ride is horrible.  Oh it gets you home or to work at a fraction of the speed and on a very bumpy, unstable ride.  You're better off stashing your bike and shoes, stuffing grass in the bottom of your socks and running home.

Extra helpful items are the bell and the helmet light. A nice soft bell avoids having to call out that your passing every 20 seconds and the helmet light is useful for those early morning or late night mechanical problems.

I'll come back and post some pictures later, but want to get this up for those that have been waiting.  If you have something in particular that you wanted to know, please comment.  I'm sure there are others that are interested as well.  Again, I'm by no means an expert on the subject of commuting.  I can only share with you what works well for me.

Good luck with your commute and hope to see you out there some day...or evening!  It would be fun to exchange ideas over a cold one (and I don't mean sports drink).

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