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Old 01-14-13, 07:10 AM   #1
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What's the mileage "sweet spot?"

I just started riding further to work each day and I like it better with the longer distance. In July I went from 4.3 miles (6.9 km) one way to 4.5 (7.2 km) with a change in office location - and of course no difference other than the route at the end. Then I moved to another house and the commute is 7.3 (11.8 km) one way. For some reason this ride is more enjoyable even though the majority of the route is the same as in the past.

My guess at this point is that the longer ride allows a better warm up and better rythm than the shorter ride, allowing my body and mind to adjust better. Also, longer rides always feel more like an "adventure" on my way in and back, as opposed to a bit of a chore (i.e., utilitarian).

I know some of you haven't had to change your distances, but I'd be interested in your thoughts on your distance now and how you might like going shorter vs. longer. For those that have changed shorter or longer what have you noticed? What is your "sweet spot" in commuting distance?

(Note - of course our weather might have something to do with it as it is in the 60s in the morning and close to 80 in the afternoon - unusual for January even for Florida)
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Old 01-14-13, 08:39 AM   #2
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I can't really say there's a sweet spot, but I definitely prefer a route that is longer rather than shorter. Eg, a commute distance of less than 5-7 miles would hardly be worth the trouble for me unless it was quicker than driving or saved a lot of money from parking, gas. My commute distance was about 22 miles round trip for 4.5 years and increased to about 30 miles a year or so ago. The shorter distance was definitely more convenient due to the time factor -- about 30 minutes shorter -- but I enjoy the longer ride most days.

One problem with short rides is that it takes a while for your legs to warm up, so the ride is almost over by time you get warmed up. The surest way for me to get injuries is riding too hard when I'm not warmed up.
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Old 01-14-13, 08:57 AM   #3
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I personally wouldn't want to ride much more ten miles each way. Mostly time issues.
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Old 01-14-13, 09:01 AM   #4
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Perfect commute length for me: 10-12 km one way.
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Old 01-14-13, 09:06 AM   #5
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I have two answers to that.

First, in 2011 and 2012 I kept the tally on something called the Commuter Cycling Century Challenge over on BikeJournal.com. The goal of the challenge is to bike commute 100 days in the year.

In 2012 there were 80 participants. Everyone also posts their "MDAS" or "Most Direct And Safe" round-trip miles. It's not necessarily the shortest possible route, but the shortest safe route. The average MDAS in 2012 was 16.1 miles, or about eight miles each way. Many of us ride longer routes than our MDAS.

Second, my personal answer, is that it depends. My MDAS is 9 miles. When it's raining or snowing, that's just about the perfect distance for me. I don't want to be more than 20 minutes on the bike in bad weather.

In fair weather, I can take a 16¼-mile long loop to work (about one hour), or a 9½-mile hilly route (about 40 minutes). I really like that one-hour long loop to work. It's just right for me. The 40-minute hilly route is also nice, but it leaves me wishing for just a bit more. Before I transferred to my current library, I had a 21-mile long loop I used to that branch, and I found it a tad too long. I had to recover before I could start work.

Coming home, it depends on the season and the kind of day I've had. I really like the 40-minute hilly route home. It seems about perfect. But in EST I can't use it because the cemetery it cuts through closes at sunset. (Going around the cemetery is too heavily trafficked and cuts out all the hills in the cemetery anyway.) So in EST, in bad weather, or if I'm just plain pooped, I take the 4½-mile, 17-minute direct route instead.

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Old 01-14-13, 09:33 AM   #6
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I think a better question is what amount of time does everyone prefer?

That way, regardless of your fitness or prevelence of hills and wind you can transend these factors and just talk about time. For me I think 30-45 minutes is perfect. Long enough to warm up, get in to your stride, and burn a few calories.
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Old 01-14-13, 09:44 AM   #7
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When my commute distance was a little over 7 miles, I loved it. Then my office changed and I had a 17 mile distance one way. Eventually it got to the point that I wasn't riding to work at all anymore (although I'm planning on riding at least occasionally this year). 34 miles round trip was a little too much for me, but I've been riding more and that distance doesn't intimidate like it used to. The real reason I don't ride all the time is simply the time involved. Things are smoother at home when I get home earlier and go for a ride later in the evening.
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Old 01-14-13, 10:54 AM   #8
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My commute is 27.2 kms each way, in the summer it's perfect but living in canada on a few winter days I would cut it in half if I could.
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Old 01-14-13, 01:13 PM   #9
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When the days are longer, I my commute is 10 miles each way, and I have an option of a 12 mile route with less stops that only takes a few minutes longer. In the winter, when there's a good chance of rain and darkness combining, I drive to a Park and Ride and ride in the 7-miles from there.

I definitely don't enjoy the 7-mile commute as much, though that may be because this stretch of road is fairly boring. Between my two longer routes, I like the 12-mile route better when the weather is nice, but when it's cold or rainy I opt for the 10-mile route.
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Old 01-14-13, 01:28 PM   #10
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my shortest safe commute one is 10.8 miles and usually riding home I ride a different route to stay safe/ less traffic but longer ride.

I would not mind biking as much if it was closer to the time it took me to drive. 30 or so minutes to drive and 40 plus to ride 10-13 minutes changing before I ride.
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Old 01-14-13, 01:58 PM   #11
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You can always ADD miles to a commute. Much harder to fold space and time and shorten it. The route I choose is longer and more pleasant.
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Old 01-14-13, 01:59 PM   #12
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To me the shorter, the better. I have a 5 mile one way and would LOVE to get it under 2. I don't ride for the joy of riding though but because for me it's the best way to get around.

Now on the weekends when I'm just out I try to put in around 20-30 miles total.
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Old 01-14-13, 02:16 PM   #13
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To me the shorter, the better. I have a 5 mile one way and would LOVE to get it under 2. I don't ride for the joy of riding though but because for me it's the best way to get around.

Now on the weekends when I'm just out I try to put in around 20-30 miles total.
Right, that's what I thought at first, too. After all, who wants to have a long commute?
So let's say a commute of 4.5 miles wouldn't require much gear, might not require a change of clothes, wouldn't require much of bike - come to think of it.
If you like to ride more, ride more.

For me, for example my 7.3 miles are perfect in my particular situation, because I get around having to wear special clothes from Sept - May. I just ride in my business casual clothes. If my commute were 9 miles, I might have to change clothes at work. Any less and 7 miles, I wouldn't burn as much calories, and for me personally - I wanted to get around doing something (after or before work) just to get exercise.
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Old 01-14-13, 06:04 PM   #14
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I think a better question is what amount of time does everyone prefer?

That way, regardless of your fitness or prevelence of hills and wind you can transend these factors and just talk about time. For me I think 30-45 minutes is perfect. Long enough to warm up, get in to your stride, and burn a few calories.
This! In past discussions of this topic, "one hour or less" seems to be what most people like.
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Old 01-14-13, 06:24 PM   #15
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Struggling into the teeth of a gale , onshore blowing, Winter storm, to get home,
I'm glad I dont have to do it longer than I do..

the road kicks up the last mile too ..
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Old 01-14-13, 08:05 PM   #16
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Struggling into the teeth of a gale , onshore blowing, Winter storm, to get home,
I'm glad I dont have to do it longer than I do..

the road kicks up the last mile too ..
Yeah, weather can sure change your mileage sweet spot!
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Old 01-14-13, 08:37 PM   #17
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Ask me again when it's nice out. 13km in winter is no picnic when the weather sucks.
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Old 01-14-13, 08:39 PM   #18
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My sweet spot would be 1 mile so I could sprint the entire way and only be mildly exhausted. I wouldn't be too hot or too cold for too long. I don't enjoy commuting to work because I am on a time constraint with weather affecting my energy and speed. After work 3-6 miles is just fine.
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Old 01-14-13, 10:14 PM   #19
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My shortest commute was 2 miles - through a lovely community college, a park, and along a scenic bayou. But I often added miles before or after work.

My current commute is 5 miles (shortest route) but I sometimes lengthen it to 15 miles before or after work.

My longest commute was 18 miles each way for a year and a half. Even though I could do it in one hour flat, it was too much time to commit every day. I was also lucky I did not get any overuse injuries in the process. Thankfully, 10 miles was a bike path with no stops or street crossings so I could really let 'er rip. I got in GREAT shape!

If I had to pick a "sweet spot" I would say 8 miles. I worked a job for several years back in the mid '80s and biked 8 miles each way without desire to ever add bonus miles before or after. The ride was quite comfy - half on a bike trail and half in quiet neighborhoods. So lets say an "easy 8 miles" would be my perfect commute.

I really do like my current commute of 5 miles as I can really kill it with speed in 15 minutes or choose to add as many miles as I want before or after work at any pace.

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Old 01-14-13, 10:36 PM   #20
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Struggling into the teeth of a gale , onshore blowing, Winter storm, to get home,
...and loving it!
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Old 01-14-13, 11:03 PM   #21
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I don't ride full time, but 7 miles each way could be a nice everyday distance. I've done it sick a few times and not had to bale.
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Old 01-14-13, 11:55 PM   #22
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I know some of you haven't had to change your distances, but I'd be interested in your thoughts on your distance now and how you might like going shorter vs. longer. For those that have changed shorter or longer what have you noticed? What is your "sweet spot" in commuting distance?
About 12 flat miles one-way. Barely enough to ride 3x10 minute or 2x15 threshold intervals on the way home since you're already warmed up enough from the morning to start immediately on the first one and not far enough to feel oppressive for an early meeting or ride in the rain.

Cutting back to an unfit level of riding would take driving which is harder psychologically than riding.

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Old 01-15-13, 09:23 AM   #23
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I just moved. I used to be 26mi from work, and it was 2hr+ each way. I enjoyed the riding, but the sheer amount of time it took only permitted me to bike-commute maybe once a month. (I like spending time with my wife and kids!)

The number one priority in the move was to get within biking distance to work. I was aiming for 7-8mi each way, because I thought that would replace my current ~1/2hr each way car commute time. The place we did eventually get is 5.6mi ea. way. Sadly no bike paths for me, but at least the roads have nice wide & clean bike paths. (The worst spot is crossing I-15 (from both directions), the bike lane jumps from the shoulder, to inside of two right-turn only lanes for cars to get on the freeway entrance. All the cars want to slide right, and I have to dodge them to get to the bike lane. Still learning how to best make that transition)

Anyways, turns out at my current level of fitness, this 5.6mi ea way almost exactly replaces my previous commute time (usually 35min uphill to work, 25min back down -- depends on the lights). As I get more fit, the times should slide down a little (one morning I got to work in 30:17, I'm sure I'll crack half an hour soon enough!). Maybe in better weather I'll take more scenic routes to work, but given my business and laziness, I frankly don't see it happening that often.
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Old 01-15-13, 09:52 AM   #24
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For me, 25km round-trip is perfect in an urban area.

With that distance, I get one hour of exercise per day and get to see a fair bit of the city (markets/festivals) and get to do fresh grocery shopping every day.

In addition, 12.5km per direction runs about 30-35mins with red lights, meaning that it's not more time consuming than public transport. The subway takes 22 minutes and I usually wait 5 mins at the beginning of the journey for the correct subway to show up and walk 3 mins on either end from the door to the platform and the platform to the office, and vice versa.

Also, I assume that I burn roughly 500kcal/day, which is quite nice and not too excessive.

I wouldn't want a longer commute. In Stockholm, it was shorter, from Fridhemsplan to Frescati is roughly 5km, but I'd make more stops for shopping, so it was similar in time.

Who wants to spend more than 45mins going to and 45 mins from work (with shopping every day)?

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Old 01-15-13, 12:24 PM   #25
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I think 30-45 minutes is perfect. Long enough to warm up, get in to your stride, and burn a few calories.
I agree.
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