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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 06-24-09, 10:40 AM   #1
Gamecoug
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Everyday commute, or alternating days?

Ok, so i live in Seattle and my commute is about 13 miles in the morning, and about 17 miles at night (i go around the big hill/busy street on the way home). I've been going 2 or 3 times per week, but i have yet to commute on consecutive days. When I started this spring i was not in good shape, and though i've improved my average speed & time, my legs are still quite sore on off days (sometimes more than others). What i'm wondering is, is there benefit to pushing through the pain and going on consecutive days? Will this cause me to turn a corner and be able to go full time? I don't mind some extra pain if it means i'm really improving my strength, but I don't want to push myself too hard and wind up going backwards in my conditioning. What's your experience? Was there a big difference once you started biking every day?
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Old 06-24-09, 10:56 AM   #2
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I'm wondering if you sore is due to less than optimal sitting position? I know I used to have sores on legs, butt & shoulder. However after following a guide on sitting positions, I no longer suffer those anymore. My commute is similar length as yours. And no I don't ride everyday. I'm a fairweather bikemmuter.
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Old 06-24-09, 11:09 AM   #3
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Bike fit is really important. Also, the type of "soreness" is very important. If it's a deep sort of dull burn, especially noticeable when climbing stairs, you're likely rebuilding muscles that were perhaps neglected a while. If it's a more acute pain, you've maybe stressed something that needs to recover, which may mean some time off the bike.

If you wanted to do 2 days in a row, do it, but give yourself extra time on day two. You may find that you'll push through to the next level. But by all means, get your bike fit assessed. It can mean the difference between being miserable or having a great ride.
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Old 06-24-09, 11:10 AM   #4
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What part of Seattle do you live in, and where are you commuting to?
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Old 06-24-09, 12:19 PM   #5
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My commute's around 13 miles one way. To work is mostly downhill, which means, home is mostly uphill. Most of the hills aren't steep, but miles of gradual hills can really wear me out, so I alternate. Mon, Wed, Fri = bike. Tue, Thu = bus. Plus I like to read books, those two bus days gives me a nice amount of reading time.
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Old 06-24-09, 12:25 PM   #6
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^ Whoa Lando Calrissian! I thought your Millennium Falcon can do the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs? What's with the 13mile commute on a self-propelled contraption???
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Old 06-24-09, 12:42 PM   #7
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^ Whoa Lando Calrissian! I thought your Millennium Falcon can do the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs? What's with the 13mile commute on a self-propelled contraption???
Well, ever since Han won the Falcon in a Sabacc game, I have to find other means of transport.
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Old 06-24-09, 03:53 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Gamecoug View Post
Ok, so i live in Seattle and my commute is about 13 miles in the morning, and about 17 miles at night (i go around the big hill/busy street on the way home). I've been going 2 or 3 times per week, but i have yet to commute on consecutive days. When I started this spring i was not in good shape, and though i've improved my average speed & time, my legs are still quite sore on off days (sometimes more than others). What i'm wondering is, is there benefit to pushing through the pain and going on consecutive days? Will this cause me to turn a corner and be able to go full time? I don't mind some extra pain if it means i'm really improving my strength, but I don't want to push myself too hard and wind up going backwards in my conditioning. What's your experience? Was there a big difference once you started biking every day?
The answer is a big "it depends", really. Biking those distances on a daily basis requires you to be more fit than the average couch potato, but you don't need to be anywhere near Lance Armstrong to do it and not get sore. I should qualify that, though, because I've learned that people have different definitions of "sore". For a lot of people who aren't used to being active, the fairly minor discomfort that nearly anybody gets from exercise isn't so minor. I know what I mean by "sore", but I've got a high tolerance for discomfort -- and I also know how much discomfort (and what kinds) I can safely ignore and work through.

Short of outright injury, I don't think you're likely to "go backwards in [your] conditioning" simply by riding on consecutive days. Riding isn't weight training, and a modest ride shouldn't require a +24 hour recovery period. Depending on how you're riding, however, you might be turning your commute into something more than the modest ride that it should be. You talk about improving your speed and time -- are you getting on the bike and sprinting for 13 miles straight? If so, I'd suggest easing off and riding at a more modest cadence. The other thing to consider is recovery. A ride such as you describe doesn't require that you start woofing down a lot of extra calories in the form of protein drinks and energy bars -- all it requires is a normal healthy diet, but many people don't have that. A couch potato can get by on chips and soda; someone riding 30 miles a day, not so much. Likewise sleep: if you're sedentary, you can sleep 5 hours a night and slam the caffeine to get through the day, but not if you're active.
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Old 06-24-09, 03:55 PM   #9
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What part of Seattle do you live in, and where are you commuting to?
I live about 2 blocks from Gregg's cycles in Greenlake, and I'm commuting to Bothell. In the morning i go up over the hill on Lake City Way, and in the evening I go along the Burke Gilman until 25th ave, then climb parallel to Ravenna Park.

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Bike fit is really important. Also, the type of "soreness" is very important. If it's a deep sort of dull burn, especially noticeable when climbing stairs, you're likely rebuilding muscles that were perhaps neglected a while. If it's a more acute pain, you've maybe stressed something that needs to recover, which may mean some time off the bike.

If you wanted to do 2 days in a row, do it, but give yourself extra time on day two. You may find that you'll push through to the next level. But by all means, get your bike fit assessed. It can mean the difference between being miserable or having a great ride.
My soreness is a deep burn in my muscles, and feels like i'm building muscle. I think my bike fit is pretty good, though i have been reading a good bit about it recently and was considering going in for a fitting to make sure. I don't have any "sore areas", other than quads, and to a lesser extent, hamstrings & calves.

My real concern was about my sore muscles. I have been told in the past when doing weight training that i really shouldn't work out on muscles that are still sore from the previous day. But, I'm wondering if this is that same situation, or if I should be pushing through that pain to show my sore muscles who's boss. Would this be a positive, building additional muscle and improving my between-ride recovery time? Or would this be a negative, causing additional damage to already damaged muscles?
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Old 06-24-09, 04:02 PM   #10
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The answer is a big "it depends", really. Biking those distances on a daily basis requires you to be more fit than the average couch potato, but you don't need to be anywhere near Lance Armstrong to do it and not get sore. I should qualify that, though, because I've learned that people have different definitions of "sore". For a lot of people who aren't used to being active, the fairly minor discomfort that nearly anybody gets from exercise isn't so minor. I know what I mean by "sore", but I've got a high tolerance for discomfort -- and I also know how much discomfort (and what kinds) I can safely ignore and work through.

Short of outright injury, I don't think you're likely to "go backwards in [your] conditioning" simply by riding on consecutive days. Riding isn't weight training, and a modest ride shouldn't require a +24 hour recovery period. Depending on how you're riding, however, you might be turning your commute into something more than the modest ride that it should be. You talk about improving your speed and time -- are you getting on the bike and sprinting for 13 miles straight? If so, I'd suggest easing off and riding at a more modest cadence. The other thing to consider is recovery. A ride such as you describe doesn't require that you start woofing down a lot of extra calories in the form of protein drinks and energy bars -- all it requires is a normal healthy diet, but many people don't have that. A couch potato can get by on chips and soda; someone riding 30 miles a day, not so much. Likewise sleep: if you're sedentary, you can sleep 5 hours a night and slam the caffeine to get through the day, but not if you're active.
Great response, thanks.

Re. my pace, no, i'm not sprinting, but i'm also not taking it easy. I try to go hard enough that I can breathe easily through my mouth, not so much that i'm panting, but also not so slow that i can comfortably breathe through my nose. Does that make sense?

I guess the answer is that I should try riding on consecutive days and see if it destroys me. If it does, i'll hold off on going every day (or 2 on, one off) for another several weeks. thanks for the info.
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Old 06-24-09, 04:04 PM   #11
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I'm in the same boat. I let myself get a bit sedentary for a couple of years, then started hiking and trail running (ahem, jogging) to begin re-claiming lost fitness.
I started (resumed) Bike commuting this Spring, and, like you am enjoying a return to bike fitness - consistent improvement in strength, etc.

I'm breaking through to 4 days a week right now, and have had some luck. My method:
- Transition week 1-2 Ride monday, tuesday and Thursday. Still a 3-day week, but 2 days are back to back. then, go mon/tues and thurs/fri. this way, you are on 4 days a week, but never more than 2 days in a row.

I'm a middle-aged dude (43) so I have found some improvement with a simple fruit/soy/whey protein shake each morning before my day (and sometimes in the evening if I decide to ride hard on the way home).
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Old 06-24-09, 04:10 PM   #12
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Cycling isn't weight lifting (or at least it shouldn't be). I say go for it, and you'll be pleasantly surprised. One thing you may want to try if you haven't already is increase your cadence. This should help with the soreness. You have a decent hill there on the way in if you're going up over the hill to Lake City Way (are you going up the 5th Ave overpass?) so you won't get away from it entirely, especially since your climb comes right at the start without a chance to get the muscles going.

Another possibility to consider on the way home is taking the trail all the way around to University Way. You still have a hill, but I always found it more gradual, and more interesting if you like people watching. The bus traffic can be annoying, but most of the time it's not too bad. If you take this route you can stop in at Schultzy's and have a dog w/fries. mmmmmmm Schultzy's.
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