Commuter Bike Case Studies: Phil's Jake the Snake

Commuter Bike Case Studies: Phil's Jake the Snake


Commuting: Me & My Bike - Phil

The Bike: A 2002 Kona Jake the Snake Cyclo-Cross Bike

Adaptations for commuting include flat bars, and bar ends, v-brakes, mudguards, commuting tyres, lights, saddle pack.

Underlying Philosophy:

Basically I wanted a bike which could handle a lengthy and varied year-round commute. My commute is a 23 mile each-way ride over Pennine A-roads and urban roads. I also mix it up with a bike-train-bike commute which involves approximately 8 miles of riding each way. The bike has to be light and as quick as possible, but robust and providing good weather protection.

Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes

Starting with a trusty and light Kona Jake the Snake Cyclo-Cross bike, I set about converting it for commuting without losing the flexibility of quickly converting it back to ‘Cross usage.

Long mudguards and lights took care of bad weather and winter nights. A pair of Shwalbe Lugano tyres provide an acceptable compromise between decent rolling and puncture protection. This winter I've only had two punctures, though the tyres wear pretty quickly. I'd already fitted flat bars and more powerful V-brakes, which I prefer for ‘Cross racing. I like the more upright riding position and the greater control of flat bar and the extra braking is handy too in heavy traffic.

Gearing is take care of via a 12-34 mountain bike block and Deore rear mech. The front chainset is an Ultegra triple with the outer ring removed, leaving 42 and 22 rings. Again, the bike's other incarnation as a ‘Cross bike influenced this arrangement. The gearing covers all on-road situations, but also allows me to use the bike like a thin-tyred MTB bike as well and has served me well whilst using the bike in the Three Peaks race.

The MTB style transmission I've fitted to this bike uses the same rear mech and rear block arrangement as my other Cyclo-Cross bike and my Mountain bike, so there are benefits to be had from standardisation.

Spares and Repairs

I almost always commute carrying a medium sized rucksack and the bike also has a mini seat pack. In these I carry the following:

Rolled up lightweight 700c tyre
Axiom Mini-pump
Rubber solution & 2 patches
Mobile phone

Saddle Pack
CO2 cartridge tyre inflator
2 x spare inner-tubes
Power link for chain

The spare tyre is very light, rolls up very small and is a godsend on the very rare occasions you wreck a tyre. I've included rubber solution and patches as I have, on one occasion, picked up three punctures in a day. It's a belt and braces approach, but again the weight is tiny. The CO2 inflator might seem like a luxury, but on occasions it's great to be able to change a tube in 5 minutes instead of 15! The power-link is a recent addition and along with multi tool including chain tool it pretty much covers chain failure issues.

Break-Downs and Rescues

I've been very lucky in 10 years of commuting in that the vast majority of my problems have been limited to punctures. My bike has been rendered unrideable on only a couple of occasions. Firstly I picked up 2 punctures on my MTB bike one evening. My second spare tube had picked up a wear hole in my saddle pack (I now pack all tubes in small plastic bags to protect them). MTB bikes don't go well with flat tyres. I called home to be rescued and my wife drove 20 miles to collect me.

In the meantime, I'd experimented and by cutting both failed tubes in half and knotting the ends. The shorter one I half inflated and fed into the tyre. The longer half I fed into the remainder of the tyre and inflated properly via the valve. I was able to produce a soft-hard tyre which stayed on and enabled me to make slow but safe progress until I was collected. The second time my bike failed me was when the rear hub gave up the ghost. The freewheel refused to engage and I was left without drive. Luckily I was half a mile up the road from home at the time and was able to roll back.

Commuting Ups - Why do I commute?

It keeps me fit. It saves a lot of money. It impresses my couch-potato friends. On warm summer evenings it's also the finest way to relax after a hard day at work - I arrive home chilled and happy.

Commuting Downs

Strong winds and ice are my main bugbears, much more so than rain. I also hate the way punctures seem to come in clusters.