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  1. #1
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    How much distance is too far...?

    I'm just curious on this. Among people who actually strive to be car-free or car-light, how much distance do you find acceptable to travel on a bike? Suppose you need to visit somebody at a hospital, meet friends for a picnic, or go to a nearby town to sign some papers, or, more simply, just run a whole lot of errands in different places?

    And: what do you do when you need to travel further than your legs want to carry you? I'm guessing most people in this forum try to structure their life so that doesn't happen very often. But, when it does, do you push some of your traveling back until tomorrow? Do you get people to meet you half way?

    Finally, how do people go about camping, hiking, and doing things like that, in a car-free manner? Suppose you lived in Seattle and enjoyed hiking in the Cascade range; Granite Mnt is about a 10 mile hike with 3,500 feet of elevation gain, and the trailhead is about 50 miles from here. Assume you can't do this hike and a century ride in one day. ( My answer has been to recruit a few friends for the hike, and then to car pool. )
    Don't believe everything you think.

  2. #2
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    you do granite as an overnight trip on the bike. you can get back to seattle in three hours tops from granite mountain, its less than 45 minutes by bike to issaquah down the I-5 corridor.

    how far is too far? its never too far, its only the time constraint.

    2 photos skiing chinook pass by bike in june; photo of a trip to leavenworth for the cascadeclimbers annual ropeup climbers party.
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    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  3. #3
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    A little more than eight miles is about my maximum comfort level for daily commuting. I had a job that far away. By the time I was nearing home or work the trip was starting to get to me. Maybe if I owned a slightly faster bicycle or just a more comfortable recumbent bicycle that number could change. On most days I would average just a fraction under fourteen miles per hour. I could do it faster but that would make it seem more like work instead of just transporting myself.

    My new job is fifteen miles away. I don't pedal there yet. I use my moped. The job isn't a full time position. It is as a relief worker who gets called whenever someone else takes a day off. I won't be moving closer to that location unless they make me a full time employee.
    Smallwheels

    Take my stuff, please. I have way too much. My current goal is to have all of my possessions fit onto a large bicycle trailer. Really.

  4. #4
    Dare to be weird!
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    For me, for a Monday-Friday year round commute in all weather, all conditions, no exceptions, flat terrain, mild to moderate traffic -- 23 miles round trip.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Spudd's Avatar
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    Well, my parents live about 200km away - I consider it too far to bike to see them (especially since I usually just go for the weekend!). Downtown is about 20km and I'll bike it if it's a weekend and I have the time. Otherwise it's subway all the way. I'd say anything within 5km is a sure bike, outside that it depends on time constraints.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    My answer is that, fortunately, most of the errands I need to take care of, can be done within several miles of my house. A few can't, though, and in particular, it's important to me to spend time outdoors. We have some gorgeous parks, and I can often see my friends at one of them. About 25 miles seems to be my max on a workday, and about 50 on a weekend day, for all trips combined. I can borrow a little bit from tomorrow's total today, but it washes out in the end.

    There's an seed shop about 8.5 miles from my house, a small place that grows organic fruits and veggies, and donates them to the food bank. I give them my business for that, and a few packs of snapdragon seeds are easy to bike, so this is an errand that I always use two wheels for.

    Quote Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post
    Maybe if I owned a slightly faster bicycle or just a more comfortable recumbent bicycle that number could change.
    Interesting ... can a recumbent be set up to carry groceries, laundry, or something that pops up on Craigslist as a great deal, but 20 miles away?
    Don't believe everything you think.

  7. #7
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    Nothing's too far, as long as I have time. Cycling somewhere instead of taking the train saves me a lot of money, so I often visit friends and family that live <40km away by bike. Occasionally I make 100km or more trips to visit friends or do some sightseeing combined with a sleepover.

  8. #8
    babylon by bike Standalone's Avatar
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    I ride 17 miles into work in some very hardcore urban traffic. I ride to century rides. I ride 15 miles round trip to go to church, church meetings, and choir practice.

    15-20 miles is a comfortable upper limit for social or work related activities. 40 or 50 miles to a trailhead? Sounds great for a weekend or summer trip.

    With a loaded Madsen, 15 miles R/t is the most I've done.
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  9. #9
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    In Lansing, a frequent day trip would be about 10 miles by bike to a park with MTB trails, or a similar distance to hiking trails, canoe rental, snowshoeing, and so forth. On short trips like this, it's feasible to ride the mountain bike, with a picnic in my backpack. I often went about 16 miles (one way) to visit friends who lived in the country, but they have moved. Also I hurt my hand so I need a good rest after every hour on the bike, which slows me down quite a bit. I work second shift, so I have lots of daytime hours for travel and fun.

    My family lives 200 mile north in a resort town called Traverse City. I visit there about once a month and I have a bike there that takes me on lots of good rides to the beaches, forest trails, and so on. I also use a relative's car to go to the Upper Peninsula about twice a year, usually just for a couple days. I take the bus to get to Traverse City, and then take it from there. This is what I've been doing instead of a conventional two week vacation for several years. But now that both parents are gone, this may change.

    For city trips, I don't consider any place too far to ride. Lansing isn't that big of a city. Since I live near to the center, even the suburbs are mostly within a 10 mile radius. I don't go to the far west side because it's ugly and sprawled out, and there's nothing there for me. I do go to the eastern suburbs fairly often, even though they're a little further from my house. Planning is the key. If I don't have time to go today, I'll go tomorrow. Also I'm carfree, but not a purist. Sometimes I hitch a ride with a friend or relative.

    For me, if the voyage isn't as much fun as the destination, I'm unlikely to even go.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  10. #10
    Wookie Fred chewybrian's Avatar
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    I may be the wrong person to answer, since I am car free and training for long distance rides. I rode 15 miles to work today, then left early to ride a 100 mile training ride, interrupted briefly by a stop at the bike shop and the grocery store. I often combine long training rides with errands.

    For a one time event, of a day or two, you can go a couple hundred miles a day if you are fit. Touring 75 miles a day for many days is reasonable. For everyday riding, commuting, I go 30 miles r/t. It would be tough to go much more than that along with full time work, if you want to have time for anything else.
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  11. #11
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    It depends.

    My commute to/from work is 8 miles each way. 95% of the time, I ride my bike both ways, from time to time I take a train which reduces the bike ride to 2.5 miles - I tend to do that more often if it is really hot, really wet, or if I am just not wanting to arrive at home too sweaty (brings a whole new meaning to a hot date). When going further afield than my bike comfortably travels, I either use public transit, or rent a car. If ZIPcar served my community that would be ideal.

  12. #12
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    In town I try to limit my trips to no more than 15 miles round-trip. If I'm leaving the city, 40 miles round-trip is where I top out about now. I am working on increasing my stamina.

    When I'm riding in town, 90% of the time I have both of my kids with me, and the extra hundred pounds of wiggling mess slows me down considerably. If I'm going somewhere out of town, my husband is always with me and I'm usually just required to haul my toddler, giving me a much larger range.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    Interesting ... can a recumbent be set up to carry groceries, laundry, or something that pops up on Craigslist as a great deal, but 20 miles away?
    Recumbents of many styles can be used for utility just as conventional bicycles. They're more comfortable and therefore easier to ride longer distances. Not all of them are faster than diamond frame bicycles. High performance recumbents are faster than high performance street bicycles due to aerodynamics.

    Visit this site to see several Lightfoot models that are mostly made in Montana: http://www.lightfootcycles.com/touring.php

    Visit this site to learn all about different recumbents. There are numerous styles. Some are long and some are short. Some are high and some are very low. Scroll down the home page just to see a few different types.

    www.Bentrideronline.com
    Smallwheels

    Take my stuff, please. I have way too much. My current goal is to have all of my possessions fit onto a large bicycle trailer. Really.

  14. #14
    Senior Member crazybikerchick's Avatar
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    How far? All depends on how much time I have. But generally if its (much) further than an hour to bike one direction it becomes a bit more of an event requiring planning than a routine thing. For errands its always good to economize the amount of travel being done. Next town to sign papers? Uh I'd probably get the papers to be sent closer

    Need to travel further than I want to bike? There's (depending on the destination) buses, trains, ferries (kinda moot I can't bike across water anyway.. hehe), float plane, plane, carpooling with others, and the occasional car rental (yes sometimes, but not very often, the car is the best tool for the job) Within city travel (when I was in a city) I always wanted to bike.

    Since we like bike touring we go camping by bike - though its been too long that we've gone camping sadly For hiking if you can't bike to get there there's seeing what destinations are accessible by a bus (or combination of bike/bus) or join a hiking club and find people to carpool with. Cars are useful but should not be filled with their typical 1 person

  15. #15
    Senior Member crazybikerchick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    Interesting ... can a recumbent be set up to carry groceries, laundry, or something that pops up on Craigslist as a great deal, but 20 miles away?
    Depends on the recumbent style I guess (probably not what you are going to do with a carbon/titanium racing model) but I've carried a lot of stuff on my steel high-racer. With the rear rack and midship racks it can carry four good sized panniers plus a large back-of-seat bag. For more than that you could haul a trailer with a recumbent. How big is the item you are buying from craigslist 20 miles away anyway? Oh and is it relatively flat?

  16. #16
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    I agree with Bekologist: it's not the distance, it's the time. Fortunately, I have a lot of time. I have no real problem covering 200 miles in a day if need be, but that would be severely curtailed if I had slower riders with me or there were other constraints. When I visit my dentist (730 miles away), I ride my bike but it does take me a week to get to him. Tomorrow I am riding to the next town to pick up 150 pounds of tomatoes to can. After that I will ride to the next town in the opposite direction to deliver some of the sauce to a disabled friend. I suppose I see the time spent getting around on my bikes as my play time so it never seems like a burden.

    There are trips that I have chosen to not use my bike for. In 2008 I rented a car to take my son and a friend of his to compete in the State chess championship. The following year I rented a car to go to that same friend's memorial service; he had died in a car wreck.

  17. #17
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    You can reach almost any destination in Des Moines in a 15 miles roundtrip... at least any destination I care to make. Most trips are much shorter.

    I make a regular Sunday ride of about 50 miles or less.

    And I like to get away for the occasional camping trip... usually never more than 50-60 miles out and come back next day. We never talk here, nor does anyone on the Touring forum talk much about weekend camping trips... great getaways IMHO! I love camping.

    I have a plan to someday ride from Toronto to Montreal and maybe a 10 day trip across Newfoundland...

  18. #18
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    It will depend on a host of factors that include: your physical fitness, time constraints, type of bike, terrain and weather.

    For me a work commute would have to be under 10 miles one way, in the past they have ranged from about a mile to 6 miles one way.

    I want groceries the closer the better, current is 1.5 miles, but I also pick up field fresh veggies from farms that are on a 20 mile loop that I do on occasion. Other shopping is variable. FWIW I currently live in what used to be the country and outside of the grocery stores, every thing else is a 12 mile battle along narrow 2 lane roads with heavy traffic and inattentive motorists.

    I also spend some time in town at my parents house, there things are a bit more reasonable, groceries are 3 miles away, neighborhood pub 2 blocks, with a proper brew pub and plenty of boutique type shops just over a mile, the worst part is that they are all at the bottom of a long steep hill, so getting there is easy getting back sucks.

    Longer distances I make the ride the point, I have left out on a weekend with a few supplies and have put in over 150 miles and gone to various destinations. One trip I used to do occasionally was have a friend drop me off in a city a couple of hours away on Friday night, spend time with friends then do a 90 mile ride home on Sunday. Throw in some mass transit (if available) and lots of options open up.

    Aaron
    Webshots is bailing out, if you find any of my posts with corrupt picture files and want to see them corrected please let me know. :(

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  19. #19
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    My hometown is about 12 miles from city limit to city limit, along the major compass points. That's about it for a single-destination ride, although if I had several spots to hit, I'd just make a day of it, and do about 30-40.

    I can remember three times when i rode outside the city for "a purpose"; one was to the next COUNTY to visit my mother. Another was to visit my brother, the other side of the next town. The last was the inaugural bike tour of a local organization, who no longer does the ride.

    My personal best in one trip is 51 miles; don't think I'll beat that.......

  20. #20
    The Professor akohekohe's Avatar
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    Well, I live on an island and the furthest one-way trip I can go is 50 miles from my house. If I get tired I can always take the public bus (they all have bike racks). Sort of an ideal place to bicycle since the weather is pretty much perfect most of the time.
    The more you drive the less intelligent you are. - Tracy Walter as Miller in Repo Man.

  21. #21
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chewybrian View Post
    For everyday riding, commuting, I go 30 miles r/t. It would be tough to go much more than that along with full time work, if you want to have time for anything else.
    I agree with this figure for daily riding. For me, 15 miles one way is usually my upper limit for daily, errand-running type riding. I've gone to parties that were 15 miles away without thinking too much about it. Further than that, and time constraints become a problem. In dense urban traffic, an average speed of much over 10 mph is hard to sustain, and most people simply don't have time to ride their bike more than a couple of hours a day. (Even that might be more than a lot of people can get by with...)

    For occasional, vacation-type trips, longer distances like those that Bekologist describes are doable. I've gone from Seattle to the San Juans (via Whidbey Island) a couple of times, and you can do it in a day if you're willing to suffer a bit, and easily in two if you're tying to have fun. (The distance from my house to the ferry at Anacortes is about 100 miles.)
    Last edited by bragi; 10-03-10 at 08:47 PM.
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  22. #22
    Recreational/Utility bjjoondo's Avatar
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    Has a lot with, the "circumstances", like I have good friends that live 25 miles for us, now if were talking, "daylight" riding, that's not a huge deal but say we wanted to use the "bicycles" to get to their place when we do our "Monthly Game Night" (board games), we don't usually start till 6 or 7 pm. and end at 11PM or 12 midnight, NOW that makes it a LONG and dangerous 25 miles by bicycle. Unless you can afford the "multi-hundard dollars lights", (which we can't) and even then, the "circumstances" make a HUGE difference in the distance safely to be covered by bicycle. JMHO, YMMV.
    Take care, RIDE SAFE, have FUN!
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  23. #23
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bjjoondo View Post
    Has a lot with, the "circumstances", like I have good friends that live 25 miles for us, now if were talking, "daylight" riding, that's not a huge deal but say we wanted to use the "bicycles" to get to their place when we do our "Monthly Game Night" (board games), we don't usually start till 6 or 7 pm. and end at 11PM or 12 midnight, NOW that makes it a LONG and dangerous 25 miles by bicycle. Unless you can afford the "multi-hundard dollars lights", (which we can't) and even then, the "circumstances" make a HUGE difference in the distance safely to be covered by bicycle. JMHO, YMMV.

    Why would you need multi-hundred dollar lights? I have routinely run with a ~$50 set of decent quality battery powered lights. Currently I do have a bit more invested in generator lights on the bikes I ride the most, but I consider these bikes to be my second car(s) and want them to be as convenient as possible. And even then a reasonable set up can cost under $100. If you depend on a bike for transportation why limit yourself to daylight hours only?

    Aaron
    Webshots is bailing out, if you find any of my posts with corrupt picture files and want to see them corrected please let me know. :(

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  24. #24
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
    Why would you need multi-hundred dollar lights? I have routinely run with a ~$50 set of decent quality battery powered lights. Currently I do have a bit more invested in generator lights on the bikes I ride the most, but I consider these bikes to be my second car(s) and want them to be as convenient as possible. And even then a reasonable set up can cost under $100. If you depend on a bike for transportation why limit yourself to daylight hours only?

    Aaron
    +1. I wonder how you could even use an unlit bike as transportation during winter months when there's only a few hours of daylight. Here it's dark by 5:30, so most commuters would be SOL without lights.

    Good thing the lights have gone down in price so much in the last couple years. For city riding, I find cheap LED lights are adequate, such as Planetbike Superflash and comparable from other companies, for $25 - $50 and even less for rear blinkies.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  25. #25
    Senior Member crazybikerchick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
    Why would you need multi-hundred dollar lights? I have routinely run with a ~$50 set of decent quality battery powered lights. Currently I do have a bit more invested in generator lights on the bikes I ride the most, but I consider these bikes to be my second car(s) and want them to be as convenient as possible. And even then a reasonable set up can cost under $100. If you depend on a bike for transportation why limit yourself to daylight hours only?

    Aaron
    How dark are the roads you are riding on with the Planet Bike lights? We are looking to upgrade our lights since moving away from the city. Primary concerns are an 80 kph highway with minimal streetlights, and closer to home pitch black roads (no lighting).

    As to Roody's comment, the original comment was made by someone wanting to visit friends 25 miles away - that's unlikely city riding. In the city your primary concern is being seen. On dark roads you really need bright lights to see where the edge of the road actually is.

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