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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 05-28-14, 10:49 AM   #1
Steely Dan
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The pros and cons of a radically shorter bike commute.

with the birth of our 1st child due in 3 months, my wife and i have come to realize that our days of living in a small one-bedroom condo in a downtown highrise are soon coming to an end. we chose downtown because she works at a school down on the southside of chicago and i work up in north suburban evanston, so downtown was right smack dab in the middle, a perfect compromise, and downtown living is loads of fun anyway. with the new baby on the way, we're thinking that she may not work for an extended period of time, so that means we're no longer tied to downtown. we're also gonna need more space, which we can't realistically afford downtown if we drop down to just my salary.

so we're thinking of moving to a more affordable hood on the northside of the city that will be closer to my office in evanston and give us more space for less money. additionally, this potential move could RADICALLY reduce my one-way commute distance from 14.5 miles down to ~5 miles (depending on exactly where we end up, it would be in the range of like 4-6 miles). my current commute usually takes me about 1 hour, which is close to a 15mph average, so for a 5 mile distance, that would bring my one-way commute time down to roughly 20 minutes, giving me an extra 80 minutes everyday to spend with my wife and child, which would be HUGE!

but a part of me selfishly worries that a 5 mile commute is just gonna feel too short. i've been doing my 29 miles/day of downtown to evanston and back bike commuting for going on 7 years now, and i worry if such a big change in my daily exercise routine will cause me to balloon up. i suppose i could just watch what i eat more carefully, but that's no fun at all. also, my current commute route takes me along chicago's lakefront path for a good 7.5 miles, and moving would entirely cut that whole beautiful section out of the equation. i would definitely miss the spiritual rejuvenation of my daily ritual of watching the sun rise over the sparkling waters of lake michigan every morning.

but still, the potential to put well over an hour of time back into each and every workday to spend with my young family is probably gonna outweigh all the other considerations. all of my elders are advising me to really soak up and enjoy the early years of my child's life because they go by incredibly fast, so that extra time will likely prove more valuable than gold to me. so long selfishly long bike commutes and morning sunrise spectacles, it's been loads of fun, but i guess you could say my life is about to be blessed with much more important things. change is good.

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Old 05-28-14, 10:58 AM   #2
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As soon as that baby arrives, the length of your daily bike commute will be the least of your concerns. Enjoy the time though - babies are the best! Get one of those baby bike seats and enjoy the slow neighborhood riding for awhile.
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Old 05-28-14, 11:08 AM   #3
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I gave up bike commuting when my first child was born and did not resume until 17 years later at the age of 50 and bike commuted to work everyday approx 24 miles R/T for 15 years both in Germany and the U.S. until I retired. Desirable Home/school locations, child raising and family time trumped bicycle commuting during the week. Time well spent.

Now I bicycle about town for shopping and recreation everyday about 12 or 13 miles on the same bikes I commuted with.
It is all good.
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Old 05-28-14, 11:08 AM   #4
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As soon as that baby arrives, the length of your daily bike commute will be the least of your concerns. Enjoy the time though - babies are the best! Get one of those baby bike seats and enjoy the slow neighborhood riding for awhile.

As the father of two, ^^this. As someone with a leg of a commute that is 5 miles or so, just use it as a training ride. Sprints, rests, higher cadence, higher top speeds, etc.
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Old 05-28-14, 11:12 AM   #5
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I have a 6 mile one way commute, which is what I do in the AM, using one of 3 routes of roughly equal length. But I have and use the option to make a ride of it on the way home, with various loops running up to 30 miles. I decide based on mood, weather, and whatever errands I might have along the way.

IMO, this it the best of both worlds, nice short 20 minute commute, and nicer longer commute if I feel like it.
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Old 05-28-14, 11:24 AM   #6
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I also have a short, 5.5 mile one way, commute. As mentioned above the good news is it can be as short as 5.5 miles or as long as I care to make it.

I have fun with the short distance and my Garmin. I'll run the Avg Speed up to about 18 MPH, the game is to keep current speed above average speed for the trip. Of course average speed is constantly going up so you work harder. Another one, probably not very smart, is my driveway to driveway challenge. No warm up, just see what's the highest average speed I can do from driveway to driveway.

Congratulations on the baby! Life is about to get amazing.
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Old 05-28-14, 11:32 AM   #7
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my 2 cents: your current commute is perfect. 5 miles will be meaningless, just skip it. move closer to work and walk.
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Old 05-28-14, 11:36 AM   #8
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I understand where you are coming from. There's nothing stopping you from adding miles when you feel like it. Having an infant probably means you won't much.

Start looking at bike trailers (would make a great baby shower gift) so when the baby is old enough you can take them for rides and supplement your exercise that way. A bike trailer was one of our best child related purchases. A Baby Bjorn and a Kelty child carrying backpack were right up there too. Those are things that let you be active while carrying the little one.

If your wife likes to get her exercise in, give her time to do that (by taking care of the baby) and she'll likely reciprocate. Actually, whether she exercises or not, she'll benefit from some time to herself. Make sure your doing your share and she'll not object to your getting some time too.
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Old 05-28-14, 11:36 AM   #9
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my 2 cents: your current commute is perfect. 5 miles will be meaningless, just skip it. move closer to work and walk.
Meaningless? Nah. Between work and family commitments, 20 minutes on a bike can be a little mini-holiday twice a day. Like the other posters said, stretch it out longer if you've got a bit of extra time.
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Old 05-28-14, 11:41 AM   #10
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You will thank heaven for that extra 80 minutes a day in August~September Enjoy it while you can!! Oh and congratz to you two!!
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Old 05-28-14, 11:43 AM   #11
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Old 05-28-14, 11:45 AM   #12
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My commute distance from home to office is 2.2 miles. However, my commute distance from office to home varies between 6 and 20 miles, depending on the demands waiting for me at home. No one requires us to take the shortest route.
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Old 05-28-14, 12:22 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andyprough View Post
As soon as that baby arrives, the length of your daily bike commute will be the least of your concerns. Enjoy the time though - babies are the best! Get one of those baby bike seats and enjoy the slow neighborhood riding for awhile.
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My commute distance from home to office is 2.2 miles. However, my commute distance from office to home varies between 6 and 20 miles, depending on the demands waiting for me at home. No one requires us to take the shortest route.
Best answers as I see it. Enjoy your time with your child/ren (could be twins or triplets you know, ), get them involved in cycling early, be available as soon as possible for your wife and child/ren by going the short route and take a longer route when time allows it.
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Old 05-28-14, 12:24 PM   #14
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Move to Lake Forest. You can't give it up!
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Old 05-28-14, 12:28 PM   #15
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Best answers as I see it. Enjoy your time with your child/ren (could be twins or triplets you know, ), get them involved in cycling early, be available as soon as possible for your wife and child/ren by going the short route and take a longer route when time allows it.
Agreed ... and +1 on the twins thing ... happened to me

That said, I'd keep commuting, and if time/committments allow, extend your ride once a week or so.

I've never regretted "giving" time to my children at the expense of my own desires. The past three years or so I volunteered to coach my son's little league team ... and that seriously impacted the amount of riding I was able to do from April through June. But I loved it, and now that he switched to lacrosse, and I don't coach, I miss it. But I make up for it commuting now. And now, all three of them have an understanding of why I love to ride, and they like to go on short rides with me
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Old 05-28-14, 12:31 PM   #16
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As others have mentioned, there are plenty of other ways to burn the calories. Take the baby for walks in the stroller. Join a gym and go to it before or after work on a couple of days a week. Walk or take a ride at lunch.

Enjoy the baby! They do grow up fast.
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Old 05-28-14, 12:42 PM   #17
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With each state we've lived over the past 12 years, my commute has gone down. From 15 one way, to four states later, four one way.
I love it. Having the extra time is nice. Not arriving at work a steamy mess even on the hottest days is nice. Not having to carry anything is nice. There are lots of benefits to it
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Old 05-28-14, 12:53 PM   #18
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My wife and I have no children nor immediate plans for any, but we live just a little over two miles from my job. Hers is a bit further, but still only about four miles. That means that, if I take it very, very easy, I can get from door to door in about 15 minutes. If I only take it pretty easy, it's more like ten minutes or less, depending upon how I hit the traffic lights.

For me personally, my commute isn't an opportunity for recreation, it's just getting to work and back. I get plenty of riding in when I'm not commuting, so I don't need to add miles there. The big benefit I get from such a short commute is flexibility. It is always possible to add riding time if you want to do that, whether by taking a long route home or by riding more at other times. It isn't really possible, though, to subtract time from your commute when you want to do that. If I find that flexibility valuable with my relatively low-commitment lifestyle, I can only imagine how valuable it would be if I had a child on the way or already in the house.
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Old 05-28-14, 12:57 PM   #19
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Agreed ... and +1 on the twins thing ... happened to me
Me too!
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Old 05-28-14, 01:07 PM   #20
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First off. Congratulations! You are about to have the best day of your life. Enjoy it!

I have one in high school and one in college (at Loyola Chicago, right on your commute!) Time will soon be your most precious commodity and IMHO life is all about increasing your choices. Any option you can incorporate that will give you more of a choice over how you spend your time is a good option. And when it comes down to it, the most important thing you can give children is your time.

Having that extra 80 minutes a day might mean you can be home in time for a pediatrician appointment or to coach a little league team, to help with homework, or use it to take an extra long commute. You won't need less time as the child grows I promise you that. You will find ways to ride and stay in shape if it is important to you, and by the time they get to be teenagers you won't see them much anyway. They become teenagers literally over night so at that point you can ride all you want.

good luck!

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Old 05-28-14, 01:22 PM   #21
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.. by the time they get to be teenagers you won't see them much anyway.
The curse of having kids. When they're little they seem to take so much focus and attention that you enjoy the little breaks you get here and there. When they get older, you relish what little time it seems you get to spend with them.
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Old 05-28-14, 01:33 PM   #22
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Yeah, I had a 4 mile commute, and didn't do it much because it wasn't worth the effort to get sweaty for such a short commute.

I do like the option of making it a longer commute when I want to or a shorter commute when you want to. Right now my 9 mile commute takes 30 minutes, which is just right! But some days I make it an hour commute to go home if the weather is nice.

I did buy a fixed gear bike to maximize the exercise I get in the 9 mile commute though. No coasting for me! :-)

Enjoy the family time!
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Old 05-28-14, 02:42 PM   #23
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Congrats, on the newly expected!

You won't balloon up, if you start to focus more on your diet. Just avoid sweets, carbohydrates, starches, and fruit juices. Eat more leafy green veggies, meats, and fruits. Reduce consumption of fried foods as much as possible. Join the Y and get on a basketball team. When you're not playing basketball, you could be swimming.
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Old 05-28-14, 02:55 PM   #24
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thanks for the advice and congratulations everyone.

as for the common theme of stretching a commuting run a little longer if/when time allows, that's certainly something to consider. however, riding around on city streets at rush hour isn't always the most fun way to ride, it can be extremely "trafficky". i'll still be in a very dense and urban environment when we move to the northside of the city, but maybe there will be a way to figure out a 10 mile run utilizing the bike path that runs along the northshore channel just to the west of evanston. that might work for a more stress-free route when i have a bit of extra time.



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Yeah, I had a 4 mile commute, and didn't do it much because it wasn't worth the effort to get sweaty for such a short commute.
but what was your alternative for not biking those 4 miles?

i don't own a car (and have no plans to get one), so if i don't bike, then i'm on transit, and from our new neighborhood, i'd be looking at a potential 30-35 minute transit commute (a 5 - 10 minute walk to the nearest station followed by a train to train transfer). seems to me that ~20 minutes on the bike is going to win just about every time.



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Move to Lake Forest.
LOL! does anyone have a spare $1,000,000 that i could use for a down payment?

i might pay it back.

but i probably won't.



who am i kidding, i probably couldn't even afford the property taxes on a house in lake forest, let alone come anywhere remotely close to affording the $10,000/month mortgage payment. besides, i'm still way too much of a city boy. i'm not quite ready to have my soul entirely crushed by a move to the burbs. leaving downtown will be challenging enough as it is.

Last edited by Steely Dan; 05-28-14 at 03:19 PM.
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Old 05-28-14, 05:08 PM   #25
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this potential move could RADICALLY reduce my one-way commute distance from 14.5 miles down to ~5 miles (depending on exactly where we end up, it would be in the range of like 4-6 miles).
I experienced a very similar transition a few years ago (which lasted a year, several transitions since then ). I simply shifted more riding to weekend workout rides, with a good measure of pub/shopping trips thrown in. Life was quite tolerable. Now I'm in my preferred situation again, wherein my daily commute, weather permitting, gives me all the exercise I need. When weather interferes, I make it up with running, or, eventually, weekend workout rides.
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