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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 06-29-07, 09:38 AM   #1
DocNice
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Newbie Questions - Trying to get started

Hi all,

I just got a new job and moved to a new city, and on top of it just had my first kid a month ago. I'm really suffering on the exercise front, and I'm thinking that cycling might be the ticket to help me get back in shape.

Here's my problem. I'm pretty sure I would like doing this, but work is 17 miles away, and I won't know for sure until I do it a couple of times. I'm hesitant to drop $1,000 give or take on a road bike without knowing whether I'll want to stick with it. I'm guessing it will take me an hour each way to bike it, but I don't know what anyone's experience is with that (the road is quite flat).

Is there a way to rent a road bike? I live in Salinas, CA, an hour from San Jose and a half hour from Monterey. If I buy a new one, will I take a big hit if I want to sell it. And lastly, what's a good bike for this purpose? The bike shop recommended a Specialized Sequoia for $750 or so.

I would also love any thoughts on people's experiences with commuting: I have to overcome my own willpower to get up early and bike in, I have to overcome my wife's reservation about price and about leaving her alone a little longer than I would by driving, and I would have to find a safe place to lock the bike at work, and deal with showering and unwrinkling my clothes. Lastly, the road I would take is a flat rural road with few hills, but I hear drivers really tear along those farm raods. How can I look out for my safety?
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Old 06-29-07, 10:17 AM   #2
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You will get more responses in the "Commuting" forum.

My one-way commute is a meer 3.2 miles which takes me 10 minutes (includes wait time at traffic lights). I only do long range rides for recreation when commute time is not an issue.
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Old 06-29-07, 10:23 AM   #3
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A 17 mile commute is very easy once you are in shape. You don't have to spend $1000 on a roadbike either. Visit the commuting forums to see lots and lots of different bikes used for commuting.
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Old 06-29-07, 10:36 AM   #4
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I found that kid schedules (getting them to/from school/daycare) were the biggest impediment to taking the extra time to ride a bike to work. I never did solve a lot of the issues; I just drove until they grew up.
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Old 06-29-07, 10:40 AM   #5
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I assume you have two cars? otherwise you'd already be commuting.

If you decide to try it out, I'd recommend taking the bike with you in your car to work in the morning and bike home, then bike to work the next day. This way, god forbid something happens and you need to get home to your wife and baby, you'll have your car at work.

17 miles for someone who doesn't ride is not easy and unless you're in great shape, there's no way you can do 17mph.

How about this... combine car, bike, and public transportation/carpooling together. Instead of biking TO work the very next day when your legs are tired and your butt hurts, take the bus to work, take your car home, take your car with bike in it to work and ride home. If you ride "only" twice a week, say Monday and Thrusday, that's still 34 miles more than before and as much as many people commute all week long. My TOTAL commute for the WHOLE week is "only" 42 miles.

After a few months, you'll probably want to increase the amount you bike to/from work.

Chew on that and if you do want to commute, then spend the effort researching bikes.
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Old 06-29-07, 10:44 AM   #6
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Welcome! Check out the sticky "Advice for New Commuters."
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Old 06-29-07, 10:55 AM   #7
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Lots of questions - I'll talk about just a few:

Distance - You can start off doing a partial bike commute (driving part way and cycling the rest), or commuting only some days until you get stronger. There are plenty of ways to ease into the commute.

Price - Tell your wife that $1000 for a commuter bike will save 4 times that in auto costs in a year.

Safety - I always say that commuting can be safer than weekend riding because it is so regular that the drivers get to know you and expect to see you on the road.
There are riding methods that will improve you safety and help control how the drivers react to you. There is a GREAT cycling course sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists that I think should be mandatory for adult cyclists. I am amazed how much I learned and how much more I can control how I am treated on the road.
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Old 06-29-07, 11:04 AM   #8
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Welcome! Check out the sticky "Advice for New Commuters."
Thanks caloso. I saw that, but with 335 posts, and few relevant answers after 15 minutes reading, I lost interest.
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Old 06-29-07, 11:08 AM   #9
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If you can do the ride 2-3 times a week, that's something. The Sequoia is a good choice, I think. You might also look at cyclo-cross bikes. Specialized makes a nice one. They're rugged (not that the Sequoia will fall apart on you or anything), and have gearing similar to road bikes. Make sure you get some durable tires (Specialized Armadillos come to mind, but there are others).

There's a whole lot of stuff you could buy (a whole lotta stuff), but I would start with cycling shoes and clipless pedals, water bottle cages and water bottles, a helmet, a spare tube, a frame pump, a floor pump for home, a patch kit and tire levers (these are really cheap), and some cycling specific clothes such as gloves, shorts or bibs (bibs are better), and a jersey. A hi-vis vest is not a bad idea. And lights because lights are better than reflectors. Not everything on this list is necessary, but most of it will make your commute nicer.

Learn how to change a flat. And ride the route at least once before you decide to commute.

A commute of 17 miles should, depending on weather and hills and stoplights and things, take you about an hour. And commuting is a great way to burn calories, avoid spending extra time in the gym, and slough off stress.

Clothes - there's a couple of ways to deal with this. You can leave extra clothes at work if you have a place to stash them. I leave shoes at work. Sometimes pants as well. Rolling your clothes prevents wrinkles, or at least it's better than folding. If you drive a couple of days a week, take extra clothes with you and bring old ones home. Pack your stuff the night before.

Sweat - if you have showers, fantastic. If you don't, or you don't have time, baby wipes are great. Leave extra deoderant and whatnot in your desk. Showering before your commute helps too.

Danger - cycling is not dangerous. You have to be aware of your environment, of course, but it isn't dangerous. Heading over to the Advocacy and Safety forum can be dangerous, but only for your sanity. There is plenty on the forums here to suggest ways of coping with traffic and idiots.

Family and time - my commute isn't that long, so my wife doesn't care how I get to work as long as I go to work. We don't have a second car, so we save money that way. All in all, I think it's worked out in our favor, even though I do spend a bit on bike stuff. We don't have kids, and obviously I'm not married to your wife, so I don't know how to help you there. If she's got something she wants to do, let her have her time, I suppose. Maybe make sure she understands that your not doing this to avoid responsibilities at home. Make sure she understand this by actively and happily taking care of your reponsiblities at home. But you know that.

There are lots of reasons to bike commute - it's fun, a great way to lose weight and get in shape, burn off stress, help save the planet, etc. Not all of these reasons will motivate you, but I do hope you get out there and try it.
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Old 06-29-07, 11:08 AM   #10
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Thanks caloso. I saw that, but with 335 posts, and few relevant answers after 15 minutes reading, I lost interest.
So the other two posts in this thread held no value?
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Old 06-29-07, 11:11 AM   #11
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If you buy a 1 or 2 year old bike on your local Craigslist, the seller has already taken the big hit on price. Should you decide to resell it in 6 months, you'll probably get the same $ you spent.
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Old 06-29-07, 11:11 AM   #12
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Good point. We ought to do a wiki-type thing.

Anyway, let me see if I can answer your questions directly. I don't know if you can rent a road bike in your area. I'd suspect that the only rental bikes are cruisers and mtbs at the tourist traps in Santa Cruz. If you know what you're looking for, you may have good luck with finding a lightly used bike on Craigslist or eBay.

I agree with some of the other posters that a split commute is a good way to start: either drive in part way or alternate. Zero to 34 miles a day is a huge leap.

There's a fairly high initial investment but the rewards are great and bike commuting pays for itself fairly quickly.

On the clothes thing: If you have a place to keep clothes, you can bring in what you need once or twice a week.

And then there's the question of lights, blinkies, locks, etc.
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Old 06-29-07, 11:18 AM   #13
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Hi Doc,
I like your thinking, now as for making it work, a little creativity will get you there. That's quite a distance to just jump on and go. Lots of ways to break that up and keep the peace at home. Let's look at the most important equation in married life first:

If she's happy, you're happy
If she's unhappy, you're unhappy

Possible answers to get the equation to the happy side:
Leave your bike in the office, and ride on lunch.
Find a Park-and-ride spot to ditch the car at the half way point or less. 5 miles a day is a good starting mileage, it will give you two 20 minute aerobic workouts each day, not bad at all.
You'll need your wife's help picking out some dayglow shirts or a reflective vest at safeshirts.com, so she knows you're being safe and healthy for your family.

Good luck!
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Old 06-29-07, 11:21 AM   #14
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As a father of 3 kids, right now is not the time to bike commute to work. Your wife is working very hard to take care of that baby... you can bicycle commute when the kid is a couple of years old. Right now should be not only about her and the baby but also getting your *** home so you can not miss out too much on all the events a baby goes through that when you miss em... that's it... they are gone.

If you are overweight, you can count calories (see calorie-count.com) and lose weight easily just doing that. To get in shape without spending a ton of time (and 17 miles for a newbie to this would be easily an hour and a half regardless of hills unless there are no stop signs or lights on the way. Averaging 17mph is a challenge for me and I ride some serious miles... but just a couple handfuls of stopsigns and the time/speed average changes dramaticly)... but anyway to get in shape without spending a ton of time (or money) you can learn to run. There's a learn to run thread over on the exercise forums of calorie-count that took me from never running much in my life for any decent distance (even as a skinny teen) to being able to run 4 miles non-stop. So you could get into shape, not miss out too much on things with your baby, not piss your wife off too much being gone so much extra nad not helping out as much with the baby... and probably be a little happier in the long run.
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Old 06-29-07, 12:31 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by DocNice
Here's my problem. I'm pretty sure I would like doing this, but work is 17 miles away, and I won't know for sure until I do it a couple of times. I'm hesitant to drop $1,000 give or take on a road bike without knowing whether I'll want to stick with it. I'm guessing it will take me an hour each way to bike it, but I don't know what anyone's experience is with that (the road is quite flat).
Flat is good. How about traffic lights and intersections: are there many or almost none? That makes a huge difference to your average speed.

As others have suggested, you can drive partway and bike the rest of the way (at least at first).

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Is there a way to rent a road bike? I live outside Salinas, CA, an hour from San Jose and a half hour from Monterey.
I know of one place that rents a road bike in Toronto for about $40 a day. So places like this exist, but I don't know if there are any in your area.

One idea to consider is getting a used 10-speed in decent shape. They can be found on craigslist for pretty modest sums. Use it to try things out, and if you like it, you can get a new bike and keep the ten-speed as a back-up/bad weather bike.

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If I buy a new one, will I take a big hit if I want to sell it?
Depends on the market, but there is definitely depreciation going on. You might be able to sell the bike for 2/3 of its original price or a bit higher maybe. Or you might not - I don't know how hot the bike market is in your area.

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And lastly, what's a good bike for this purpose? The bike shop recommended a Specialized Sequoia for $750 or so.
Any road bike that fits you well should be good. Sequoias are meant to have relaxed geometry (good, since it's more comfortable but still plenty aerodynamic for your purposes). However, if you're going to be carrying lots of stuff, I'd recommend a bike that can handle a rear rack. I don't think Sequoia (or most road bikes) have the eyelets. You might want to look at cyclocross or touring bikes instead.

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I would also love any thoughts on people's experiences with commuting: I have to overcome my own willpower to get up early and bike in
If you enjoy biking, you will not mind getting up a little earlier. Bike-commuting is pretty addictive.

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I have to overcome my wife's reservation about price and about leaving her alone with our new baby a little longer than I would by driving
But commuting time will double as exercise, which means you will not have to spend time in the gym away from the family. So in fact you'll be spending MORE time with the family.

Of course, it always helps to be good to your wife and help her with the kid.

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and I would have to find a safe place to lock the bike at work
Many places allow you to bring the bike inside and park it right next to your desk (assuming you work at a desk). Some will have designated bike parking inside (but don't assume it's necessarily secure - lots of parking garages are accessible to anyone and have a puny bike rack tucked away in a dark corner...). Sometimes you can find a little-used nook or broom closet or something and store your bike there. If I had to lock the bike outside in a big city, though, I'd probably just use a refurbished ten-speed. Leaving a 1000-dollar bike in the same location outside day after day is just taking way too much risk, in my opinion. Even if you do use good locks. (Unless you can see the bike right out the window and can run out fast as soon as anyone starts mucking with it. )

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and deal with showering and unwrinkling my clothes.
Is there a shower at your workplace? That's awesome! If not, you can arrange to shower at a nearby gym (ask them for a reduced price for a "shower" membership - lots of gyms agree to that arrangements). Finally, you can just clean up in the washrooms - many people on these boards do so with great success (baby wipes are your friend!)

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Lastly, the road I would take is a flat rural road with few hills, but I hear drivers really tear along those farm roads. How can I look out for my safety?
If traffic is sparse, it's ok even if drivers do go fast. Be aware of what's around you, wear bright clothes, use bright lights at night, ride predictably in a straight line on the right side of the road (if there is a wide shoulder - great, if not - still ok). Many people like using a mirror on country roads to see if anything's coming up behind you. Some prefer helmet/eyeglasses-mounted (try Take-A-Look), some attach a mirror to the handlebars (work better with flat bars rather than drop bars on a road bike, but it might be possible with drop bars too, depends on the model and your ingenuity).

Search this forum for a wealth of info about all these concerns and questions. Have fun!
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Old 06-29-07, 12:37 PM   #16
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If you are overweight, you can count calories (see calorie-count.com) and lose weight easily just doing that.
Yeah, and a lot of that weight loss will come from losing muscle. If you don't exercise, muscle IS what goes first when you limit your calory intake.

Quote:
To get in shape without spending a ton of time (and 17 miles for a newbie to this would be easily an hour and a half regardless of hills unless there are no stop signs or lights on the way. Averaging 17mph is a challenge for me and I ride some serious miles... but just a couple handfuls of stopsigns and the time/speed average changes dramaticly)...
Yes, averages do drop dramatically... but time doesn't increase that much. It's just that the average speed is very adversely affected by even a few minutes of going slowly. But it is only a few minutes, and time is what counts.

Plus there is always the option of driving partway, if 17 miles is too long (it will be too long at the beginning, I predict, especially since OP is new to biking and somewhat out of shape generally). He also doesn't have to ride every day.

Quote:
but anyway to get in shape without spending a ton of time (or money) you can learn to run.
So you'll still be away from your family while you're running. Combine that with the time it takes to drive from work, and there isn't necessarily any extra time spent with the family...

Anyway, I am not saying that the OP must do the commute. Just pointing out that it is possible to do that without compromising on family time.
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Old 06-29-07, 12:45 PM   #17
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All replies are right on. Use a cheap bike to begin with, only commute part of the way to begin with, and give yerself plenty of time to begin with.

Think like a newborn: baby steps, man.
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Old 06-29-07, 12:59 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by DocNice
If I buy a new one, will I take a big hit if I want to sell it?
Yes, you will. The last six or so bikes I have purchased have come from ebay and they've all be no more than 50% of retail, in nearly-new condition. When I've sold them I've gotten as much ( and typically more ) than I paid for them.

If you have an idea what you want, check the used market. You'll either save yourself some cash, or get a much better bike for the money.
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Old 06-29-07, 01:07 PM   #19
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Combining riding and driving sounds like a great idea for starting out. Even if there isn't a park and ride within reasonable distance of your most direct route, there should be someplace you could park your car. Maybe in mall parking lot someplace, or ask the owner of a restaurant if you could park in an out-of-the-way spot (buying a coffee to go or other drink on occasion might help so it doesn't seem like you are freeloading).

Maybe look into a bike rack for your car, probably can find one used to save some bucks. Unless you have a big hatchback car, and getting the bike in and out would be quick and easy (just don't lay it on the side that has the derailleurs!).
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Old 06-29-07, 01:16 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chephy
So you'll still be away from your family while you're running. Combine that with the time it takes to drive from work, and there isn't necessarily any extra time spent with the family...

Anyway, I am not saying that the OP must do the commute. Just pointing out that it is possible to do that without compromising on family time.
I run during my lunch break. My car commute of 17 miles is 30 min... so 1 hour a day. My bike commute is 1:30 each way... which is 3 hours out of my day. Do the math. He's got a very similar distance to go as I do. He could run at lunch time and not lose any more time than what he's already spending at work and in his driving commute.

Even if I ran BEFORE work, I could do that before my kid even wakes up where as after a long day with a new baby your wife is going to seriously start missing you when you don't show up until 6:30. Running is an every other day activity as well. M/W/F... not bad.

As for calorie counting, you don't lose a lot of muscle. That's a misconception right there. You might lose some but as long as you are eating enough then you will lose fat mostly. I know, I measure as well as weigh myself. If you eat too little then your body goes into starvation mode and it starts processing muscle at a rapid rate. So there's a ballancing act... but it does work and there's no gimmicky crap to it... it's a real life change learing to eat right and not overeat because portions are way out of control.

Being a parent and having a mathematics minor to go with my cs degree... 3 hours of bike commuting 2 to 3 times the amount of time needed versus car commuting & either running during his lunch break or before work.... I can't see how anyone can say he'd be spending the same time away from his wife & kid. It just doesn't compute.

You only get 1 chance to be there for the first time that stuff happens... let alone 1 chance to keep your wife as stress free as possible during postpartum and other stuff that follows having a baby. Mom's need breaks too. Dad not being there is going to build some resentment and stress.

I'm all for bicycle commuting (hense why I'm here) but I don't think it's worth it in this sinario at this time. Two years down the road... ok... maybe then... unless that's about the time baby #2 is coming
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Old 06-29-07, 01:36 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by nightc1
As a father of 3 kids, right now is not the time to bike commute to work. Your wife is working very hard to take care of that baby... you can bicycle commute when the kid is a couple of years old. Right now should be not only about her and the baby but also getting your *** home so you can not miss out too much on all the events a baby goes through that when you miss em... that's it... they are gone.
I'll have to disagree. As a father of 5, the importance of Daddy down time is right up there. An hour and change isn't going to break the daddy-baby-experience bank. The commute would be a great way to unwind from work, de-stress, and get some exercise and that's not including gas savings that will definitely be needed for diapers/wipes/clothes.

I am far from being the most patient and tolerant of people and my bike ride home has been a great asset in physically reducing stress and mentally being able to cope with chaos a house full of kids can bring.
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Old 06-29-07, 01:37 PM   #22
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nightc1, I tend to agree with your general point that perhaps he shouldn't do something that will result in several hours a day not spent at home with his family since the kids are so young. I can't see why he couldn't at least do part of his commute by bike tho. Especially if there is a portion where riding wouldn't be a huge difference time-wise from driving, like through an area with lower speed limit and/or heavy traffic he could filter through.

Also, I am sure the stress relief from riding, and being in better health, would make him more effective in his parenting role.
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Old 06-29-07, 01:42 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by nightc1
I'm all for bicycle commuting (hense why I'm here) but I don't think it's worth it in this sinario at this time. Two years down the road... ok... maybe then... unless that's about the time baby #2 is coming
Being a grandpa, I gotta disagree. Not everyone is you nor is their situation the same. I commuted on my bike through all my kids. Making exercise a part of your day, rather than having to make time for it, gives you more time with your family in the long run...it's not a mathematical equation because there are too many variables. Plus, dad's need exercise, time to themselves and a way to work off stress too...riding is a great way to do that.
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Old 06-29-07, 01:48 PM   #24
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Is commuting right for me?

short answer: yes

long answer: yyyeeesss
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Old 06-29-07, 01:56 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JR97
I'll have to disagree. As a father of 5, the importance of Daddy down time is right up there. An hour and change isn't going to break the daddy-baby-experience bank. The commute would be a great way to unwind from work, de-stress, and get some exercise and that's not including gas savings that will definitely be needed for diapers/wipes/clothes.

I am far from being the most patient and tolerant of people and my bike ride home has been a great asset in physically reducing stress and mentally being able to cope with chaos a house full of kids can bring.
That can work if you're willing to go solo with the kids for a while while Mom gets a break. However, telling the guy with a 17 mile (1.5 hour) commute that he can stick his wife on her own with the kid for 12 hours, I don't think that's fair to her. At the least, she should most certainly get veto rights on that plan. I'm guessing she wouldn't be too cool with that. When does Mom get to unwind, de-stress, etc?

I started bike commuting in part because it gave me more time on the bike, but my commute is short (6 miles), and our traffic is so dysfunctional that commuting by bike is only about 5-10 minutes longer (and that's with a route that's 2 miles longer than by car). Before that, I also rode on my lunch hour. I just can't leave her on her own with the kids (two in diapers) for hours at a time. Not fair.
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