New Commuting Setup

This winter I spent some effort getting a more comfortable commuting setup for riding my bike to work. Since I no longer have a scooter, my only other viable method for getting to work is to drive our van and I’m really not that keen to do that. It chews up a fair bit of gas and money, and more importantly I would like to reduce my personal pollution as much as possible.

I had decided a bit before Christmas that I was ready to bike to work again. My leg and overall fitness were doing well, and I was finally comfortable enough with my shoulder to ride my bike on the streets. However, I didn’t want to wear a backpack and I was tired of being cold and wet on soggy winter commutes. I decided to switch to pannier system for the commute and get a decent gortex cycling jacket since I needed a new outdoors waterproof jacket anyways. As well, my accident chewed up my rainproof pants so I opted to get some waterproof/breathable cycling pants. I asked Santa (my wife) for some new panniers for xmas. I’ve always had panniers from MEC and so I got another set. I didn’t keep them for long though, the rack hooks fell off on one bag and I decided I didn’t want the hassle of fixing them or worry about them. The hooks didn’t really fit my rack either and it was going to cost another $20 to get larger ones. The cost savings of the MEC over the Arkel T-28 wasn’t very much after the new larger hooks were factored in, so I decided to get a pair of Arkels from Bikes On The Drive. The Arkels were obviously made better and it’s great to buy products that are manufactured in Canada.
Arkel T-28 Panniers

My first attempt to put the new panniers on my rack didn’t go so well. In engineering terms it turns out that they “didn’t fit.” It was at this point that I realized that the Axiom bike rack I had was an incredibly stupid design. In order to fit a bike with disc brakes, Axiom designed a cheater bar that keeps the main part of the side rack above the brakes. This is dumb for two reasons. First, the side rack is really short and therefore doesn’t fit a lot of panniers that rely on a longer side. Two, it has extra parts and screws that can fail. So I went back to Bikes On The Drive and got a new rack from Topeak. This rack just uses a couple of welded standoffs to keep the rack away from the disk brakes. It’s simple and it works.
old and new rack

I should also comment on my Rocky Mountain RC50. I’ve had this bike for almost 3 years now and I’m still really happy with it. It has required very little maintenance, which is a testament to it’s competent components as well as the bike’s suitability for commuting. The disc brakes are u√ęber-fantastic for commuting because they don’t require adjustments and fiddling with fenders and they don’t wreck the rims. Having said that, if there was one thing on the bike that I would upgrade at this time it would be the brakes. They work well and stop the bike as good as is needed, but they don’t feel nice. Higher-end disc brakes have a better feel to them, and give the user better feedback. However, the brakes on the RC50 work fine so I’ll keep ’em.
RC50 commuter

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