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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 05-04-05, 10:32 AM   #1
CVB
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Convince me to bike commute again

Yesterday I biked to work for the first time. This would surprise the younger me, as I recall thinking at 21 when I bought my first car, "I hope I don't become one of those people who drives their car every day." I'm 33 now and think "how naive" when I remember that.

The basics:
4 mile commute by car or bike, takes 15 minutes by car, 45 by bike yesterday (each way). Bus would take an hour and involves sitting in a bus station downtown for 18 minutes waiting on a transfer.

My bike commuting route is fairly safe by my standards. Greenway about 1/3 of the way - and it's a nice greenway, although it's actually not quite finished in places. Yesterday's commute didn't reveal any hostility from motorists nor any areas where I was uncomfortable around them.

I'm pretty comfortable with vehicular cycling around cars, can fix a flat on the road side, and I'm in pretty good shape (for example, I'm not at all sore today).

BUT, I have a pretty harried lifestyle as it is right now, with kids, wife who works full time (she's a teacher who's off in the summers), house maintenance and repairs, etc. My biggest problem with the bike commute yesterday was the time. It adds up to an extra hour away from either home or work, which I can't really afford right now.

So, give me some pointers or encouragement to get me to do it again. I'd really like to for environmental and political reasons and for just plain enjoyment, but how do I justify it, especially the time away from my family? Among other concerns, I don't want my commuting choice to become a burden to my wife (maybe there's an angle - my choice to car commute is a burden on the environment and our military).

Suggestions?

BTW, the ride yesterday was beautiful. I saw 22 turtles on one log in the swamp along the greenway, saw a 16 inch long ring-necked snake (far bigger than any I've ever seen before), chatted in passing with fishermen, and just generally had a great ride.
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Old 05-04-05, 10:39 AM   #2
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If you keep at it your commute will shorten as your stamina incresses. My wife recently started commuting. Her first day took her about half an hour, a month later she had it down to 17 minutes.
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Old 05-04-05, 10:41 AM   #3
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Congrats on the commute. My first thought was that 45 min seems a little long for a 4 mi ride. Why so much time, long stop lights? In comparison, my 8 mi commute takes 45 min (sorry, not bragging, just trying to understand). Your time will probably decrease the more you commute, due to increase in fitness and familiarity with the route.

If time away from family is your major concern, do you work out at the gym? That is time away from family. Perhaps the commute could take a place of some gym workouts.

Bottom line is that bicycle commuting IS a lifestyle choice. You have to decide how you want to live your life, harried, or more relaxed. It's your choice. You probably already know the answer deep down in your psyche. Sometimes it just takes a little time to surface.
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Old 05-04-05, 10:49 AM   #4
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my almost 15 mile commute takes 45 minutes in the morning (downhil sorta) and an hour on the way back. you can take some serious time outta that commute as you get faster!!!

and not to sound bitter but, CONVINCE YOURSELF!!! your commute sounds nice why WOULDN'T you???
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Old 05-04-05, 10:55 AM   #5
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Keep at it, you'll be able to cut that time in half at least.
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Old 05-04-05, 10:55 AM   #6
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1) How far from your office do you park, and where would you put your bike? More directly, what is your total door to door time in each case? The time penalty of taking the bike may be significantly less than one hour. Also, 45 minutes for 4 miles is about 5 miles per hour. I'd guess you could easily cut your riding time in half after riding a while. At 10 mph. you would still easily be able to ride in office clothing. Now, we are talking about adding a half hour or less to your daily commute. In fact, over four miles, I would expect the bike and car to provide essentially the same door to door commute times, and would not be surprised if the bike were faster. My drive is 15 minutes and my ride is 35 -- howver, door to door time is nearly the same.

2) Short commute trips are not good for your car. You also expose it to the possibility of minor dings. During the winter, there the roads may be covered with corrosive salt. I spent $4,000 having salt damage fixed once. There may be some savings on gas, parking, and insurance. On days when your car is in the shop, you have a lot less hassle.

3) You may well find that riding is less of a hassle than driving. In any case, you will almost certainly find it more satisfying.

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Old 05-04-05, 10:59 AM   #7
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Your commute sounds similar to mine. Mostly a rail trail next to a lake through woods and some quiet lakeside neighborhoods. Plenty of animals to look at. 4 miles is nothing! Yes, why WOULDN'T you?

It shouldn't take you 45 minutes once you've been doing it for a little while. Maybe you need to get your bike set up to fit you better? Or tuned up? Something as simple as a seat height adjustment can make a big difference in efficiency.

Think about the money you'll be saving... Gasoline, for one. If you ride all the time, you can truthfully drop your insurance to "recreational use only" for some good discounts. If you pay to park, there's another savings. Not to mention the annoyances of rush hour driving.

Ride!
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Old 05-04-05, 11:03 AM   #8
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Thanks for the responses so far. I should have said it's a four mile commute by car - I think it's significantly longer by the route I chose, because I drive on 4 lane thoroughfares that are not safe or topographically logical for a bike.

The door-to-door time is a good suggestion. I'll check it out. I don't have to park far away - only about 150 yards, but the bike rack is 10 feet from the door. If I walk to my car really slowly, I bet I can make the bike commute more competitive.
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Old 05-04-05, 11:04 AM   #9
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Of course, some of that extra 30 minutes involved watching the snake and turtles and chatting with the fishermen, didn't it? Offhand, I'd call that time well spent.

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Old 05-04-05, 11:07 AM   #10
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Dude, if you're counting turtles on a log and chatting with fishermen, the problem is not the bike.
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Old 05-04-05, 11:08 AM   #11
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More -
As for "Convince yourself," I understand, but I figure I'll be more likely to do it if I'm not in this alone.

Also, to encourage myself to keep it up, I'm going to do it again on National Bike to Work Day (if not sooner), weather permitting (I know weather shouldn't be an impediment, but it's early yet in my commuting). If weather won't permit, I'll pick a substitute day.

In other words, you've convinced me I should keep trying a few more times at least. Thanks.
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Old 05-04-05, 11:10 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by halfbiked
Dude, if you're counting turtles on a log and chatting with fishermen, the problem is not the bike.
LOL. In my defense, the turtles were straight ahead of me, so I counted as I rode. And I didn't stop to chat with the fishermen, just talked as I passed. But as PaulH noted, time well spent, regardless.
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Old 05-04-05, 11:15 AM   #13
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I agree with everybody else. Your commute sounds nice, sounds like you can cut your riding time significantly within a few weeks.

One thing I have to add. You say that time away from your family is one of the major stumbling blocks. Get up earlier to either spend time with them or get to work earlier (if your job has a flexible schedule like that) or you can think of it as banking 30 mins a day of family time that you will withdraw at the end of your life, when you're retired and babysitting grandchildren. The short-term health, well-being and financial benefits are so significant that sometimes we forget about the benefits of a lifetime of exercise.

If I lived within 20 miles of your house, I'd personally ride to your house, ride with you to work (your route sounds like fun), then I'd ride to my job. I'm lucky to have a flexible schedule that allows me to do this kind of thing.
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Old 05-04-05, 11:16 AM   #14
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Assuming you can cycle at a leisurly pace of 10mph, 4 miles will take less than 1/2 hr without getting too athletic.
That 1/2 hr is the recomended dose of daily excercise. You dont have to budget extra time to excercise or spend extra money on gym fees. By your 30s you have to do something to maintain your health or you will slide into poor health which will need medical fees or more expensive insurance to cover.
The alternative is to use your car for lots of short runs, on a cold engine. How much will this cost you. How are you going to pay for this? By working more hours.

Cycling will save you time and money so screw the environment and take the selfish choice.
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Old 05-04-05, 11:17 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by halfbiked
Dude, if you're counting turtles on a log and chatting with fishermen, the problem is not the bike.
That was my thought, too, though I'll stick a wink on it.

I do a 14 mile commute in 45-50 minutes, through urban sprawl and lots of lights. Keep at, and that commute should be down to 15-20 fairly soon. But you'll have to focus on the biking part of the commute for awhile!
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Old 05-04-05, 11:20 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CVB
LOL. In my defense, the turtles were straight ahead of me, so I counted as I rode. And I didn't stop to chat with the fishermen, just talked as I passed. But as PaulH noted, time well spent, regardless.
I hope I didn't sound harsh. Sounds like a nice commute actually.
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Old 05-04-05, 11:20 AM   #17
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Ditto what everyone else said about increased efficiency the longer you do it. Sounds likely that your bike route is significantly longer than the 4-lane car route. Maybe there are yet other routes which would be a compromise between the short car route and your current (longer?) bike route? Maps are your friends!

Okay, putting on my Serge hat (if you don't know what that means, stick around! No offense, Serge! ): When you say that the 4-lane car route is neither safe nor logical, why not? If it's a restricted access highway where bikes are not allowed, okay. But otherwise, it might be more do-able than you think, if not quite yet, maybe after you get more used to riding in traffic. From your description, I'm going to guess it's a divided boulevard with no shoulders and lots of traffic, maybe with a lot of hills, overpasses, or curves, if that's what you mean by topology. Of course only you can decide if and when it's something you would ever feel comfortable trying on the bike, but if you give us a bit more detail, maybe we can discuss things that might help a cyclist, whether you or someone else, to ride on it.
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Old 05-04-05, 11:43 AM   #18
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I also meant to say that I have the same family concerns as you. My kids are 5 and 7. The older one usually makes me spend some time playing computer games with him in the morning before we both start getting ready for the day, and I try to be home by 6 for supper with them. I've been doing my 5 mile (each way) commute for almost 3 years, and I can usually do it in just over 20 minutes, and I don't think I'm in any fabulous shape compared to some of the long distance people here. So I'm just saying it's possible, so don't be discouraged. (I've seen quoted here "It doesn't get easier, you just go faster." Attributed to Lance, maybe?)

I think part of bike commuting at this particular point in history is a need to explore and push its limits for a wide variety of people in a wide variety of life circumstances, not just young single people with minimal responsibilities. Not saying there are no limits, but they may be further out than we think, and it's up to us who are already doing it to help blaze the trail for a future that is less dependent on petroleum, whether by choice or necessity. How's that for idealistic? (And I'm 39!)
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Old 05-04-05, 12:06 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
I think part of bike commuting at this particular point in history is a need to explore and push its limits for a wide variety of people in a wide variety of life circumstances, not just young single people with minimal responsibilities. Not saying there are no limits, but they may be further out than we think,
That's the one thing I try to impress upon people when they tell me things like "Good for you for riding, but I could never do it". It's easier than you think, and it gets easier as you go. Reading these forums have shown me that the limits are way farther out than I even thought. We see posts from people who are almost 300lbs who ride to work, people who ride 10, 15 or 20 miles one way, and even people who have beat diabetes. It's just hard to tell people all these things without sounding like you're preaching or trying to make yourself sound like you walk on water because you ride your bike to work.

I'm going to offer to ride to work with any or all of my coworkers that choose to ride to work on bike to work day. We'll see how many take me up on my offer. Many live within 5 miles.
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Old 05-04-05, 12:21 PM   #20
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I would suggest that you try to stick with 3 days a week for a few weeks or even a month. It can initially be hard to get started but after a while when you're better conditioned and you've got the route dialed in, it's just so much fun and you miss the ride when you can't.
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Old 05-04-05, 12:30 PM   #21
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To me, commuting by bike isn't an all-or-nothing situation. Any commuting by bike is better than NO commuting by bike. I also have family commitments and scheduling is important to me (and to my wife especially), as we have 3 kids (the oldest is 4 years old).

As a result, I commute by bike 2-3 days per week, and only in nice weather. To me, its better than driving full time.

Keep at it, the first week or two is the hardest, then it just gets easier and more enjoyable.
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Old 05-04-05, 12:36 PM   #22
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Think of the exercise as something you owe yourself, your wife, and your kids. Put it on the same priority level as food, sleep, and sex.
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Old 05-04-05, 12:37 PM   #23
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If I didn't spend a little extra time riding my bike to work, I'd waste that time some other way instead. (In my case it takes 10-20 minutes by car, 20 by bike).

Riding my bike to and from work is very mentally relaxing to me. It helps me focus and think clearly throughout the day.
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Old 05-04-05, 12:39 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CVB
takes 15 minutes by car, 45 by bike yesterday (each way).

BUT, I have a pretty harried lifestyle as it is right now, with kids, wife who works full time (she's a teacher who's off in the summers), house maintenance and repairs, etc. My biggest problem with the bike commute yesterday was the time. It adds up to an extra hour away from either home or work, which I can't really afford right now.

chatted in passing with fishermen, and just generally had a great ride.
1. You will get faster, not just because of improved stanima, but because it will be a routine.
2. You (meaning everyone) need the excercise, 1hr on the bike each day is one less hour in the gym or wherever.
3. 'harried lifestyle' - You need the stress reduction that comes with the exercise and the 'great ride'. You will be more effective for the time you are at home. You will sleep better and have more energy to deal with life.
4. You don't need to stop and chat with fishermen if your wife is waiting for you

Al
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Old 05-04-05, 01:01 PM   #25
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Another thing you might try to make your commute easier is to drive in once a week to carry in your office clothes and a week's worth of food. I do this every now and then to have unwrinkled clothes and a lighter bag on my way in. Also, prep everything the night before, put out your riding clothes and get your bike ready so you'll have one less excuse not to go.

One other benefit to commuting in is more consistent travel time as you are more immune to traffic. Here in LA my driving time can be 15 or 45 minutes, but my ride is always less than 30 and much less stressful.

Finally, your kids will be happier with an active father who takes them for fun bike rides on the weekend. Good luck and keep at it, it gets easier.
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