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Check out this resource, it's a good overview.
Weather-if you prep correctly, not a major issue, just takes some planning to deal with the logistics. Fenders are great, btw.
Theft-locking skewers including a hex bolt seatpost plus decent locks (read not a cable for anything but your saddle and maybe front wheel)
-+1 to what Giant Steps said, you can get a relatively cheap rear rack pannier combo, but plenty of people commute w/ backpacks/messenger bags, just personal preference.
Safety-plan accordingly, make sure your travel route is well lit, not deserted, that you won't have to climb major hills in a sketchy area (other cyclists/commuters can provide you with valuable input on routes), but to be honest, get fast. A fast target is hard to catch, and in some very select cases, some cyclist I know will "go dark" and turn off their headlight in very select, specific areas where there have been problems, but that is a very specific tactic that I personally would only use if I HAD to travel a very specific path where there had been prior problems, otherwise stay lit.)
Realistic? Depending on your fitness and planning, no problem, unless you have some freaky commute where it's 6000 ft of climbing both ways, or something.
Pain is weakness leaving the body.
How do you eat an elephant?
I will not fail.
Commuting is a great way to squeeze in some more miles and to help the environment in the process. While I currently can't commute I did so for many years so here is my advice.
As far as weather goes you will need some gear. I got a cycling rain parka from Campmor years ago that was awesome but they no longer sell it. There are some good rain suits that will keep you comfortably dry. For winter riding don't forget to keep your hands and feet warm. No mater how warm the rest of your body is you will be miserable if your hands or feet are cold. Snow isn't bad but ice is very treacherous. Try to go straight across patches of ice because you won't have any traction for turning or stopping.
Get a "beater bike" to commute on. A beater bike should be ugly so it isn't attractive to thieves, cheap so you won't have to worry about it but still ride nice. There are lots of unloved bikes a little past their prime out there that are just begging to be ridden that can be picked up for a song. Do you really want your good bike to get rained on and chipped up locked in bike racks? All the years commuting I only lost one handlebar bag to thieves.
The best way to carry heavy books is in a panier. You don't need the huge paniers campers use; small ones should work fine. Also, your bike will ride just fine with one panier. The weight that low won't unbalance it.
For night riding reflective tape is your friend. Use lots on your frame, crank, fork, and back of pedals if they lack reflectors. Remember you want to be visible from front, back and side! Everyone who saw me on the road told me I was lit up like a Christmas tree. There are some incredible bike light systems out there but you probably won't want to put $500 lights on a $100 bike. Go with basic lights and lots of reflective tape.
I can't help you with the personal safety issue. I wouldn't ride at night through an area where I feared violent crime. Your best defense would probably be a "rape horn." Get one of those 125 db aerosol horns people blow at athletic events. They are ear piercing and startling to attackers not expecting it and attract the attention of anyone nearby.
I have been slacking pretty bad on my riding lately for various (crappy) reasons.
I am going to a new school in fall, and it's pretty close. About 7ish miles away. I CAN drive, but I prefer not to. It makes me nervous and I don't have a decent car. I thought 'Well hey 7 miles one way is not THAT bad' I even mapped out a safer bike route that avoids the major roads
However, I have never done any sort of bike commute. What are some commuter concerns?
Some obvious ones that spring to mind are
-Weather. What do i do when it rains, or snows? Despite keeping my person dry, I'd rather not leave my bike out on the rain chained to a rack.
-Theft/Vandalism. I have a high quality U lock and a cable I use with it. I am less worried about someone taking the bike, more worried about someone getting mean and popping my tires or walking off with the saddle (this is college there ARE jerks like this)
-Carry load. I am not a full time student, but I will be there at least 3-4 days a week with some number of books.
Also, I will more than likely be taking evening classes. I have a basic headlight and taillight, my helmet AND bike are white so I am pretty visible, but I will be riding partially through a less than favorable area of town. What do night time riders do to protect themselves?
So give it to me straight, is this realistic? To wanna ride 15ish miles a day on commute 3-4 days a week at night with a bag of notebooks?
"It is possible to commit no errors and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life"-
Captain Jean Luc Picard
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