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Considering Commuting: How far is too far?

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Considering Commuting: How far is too far?

Old 08-03-13, 07:05 AM
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Majahonke
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Considering Commuting: How far is too far?

A bicycle commute for me would be a little over 17 mi one way. Most of this (12 mi) would be on a multipurpose trail. The rest would be city streets. Is this too far for a commute? From what I can find it appears most people that commute only have 4-5 mi trips. I guess I'd like to know if 17 mi is excessive for a commute. Huh, just realized 17 is also the mileage my truck gets from a gallon of gas (~$4).
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Old 08-03-13, 07:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Majahonke View Post
A bicycle commute for me would be a little over 17 mi one way. Most of this (12 mi) would be on a multipurpose trail. The rest would be city streets. Is this too far for a commute? From what I can find it appears most people that commute only have 4-5 mi trips. I guess I'd like to know if 17 mi is excessive for a commute. Huh, just realized 17 is also the mileage my truck gets from a gallon of gas (~$4).
From a fitness standpoint it might be something you need to work up to depending on your current level of conditioning. For me the biggest problem with that kind of distance is time. I moved closer to work so that I wouldn't have to spend 2+ hours on the road a day, but I have young kids and that may not be the case for you. I know people who ride to work 20 miles each way.

A couple of other options if the distance turns out to be too much (at least for every day) would be to drive or take public transportation part of the way. Other people with that long of a commute will ride two or three days a week and drive the rest of the time.
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Old 08-03-13, 07:45 AM
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This is a frequently asked question. The general consensus is, it depends.

Yes it's doable. What depends is how often, your condition, and the time commitment.

My direct route to work is 4.5 miles of city streets. I use that only when the weather is bad. Which in here in Western NY, as you know, is most of December through March. The rest of the time, I take a longer route.

This time of year, my preferred route is 16 miles. I head for a suburb six miles in the wrong direction, (Pittsford) and double back on the Erie Canalway MUP. All my bikes are variations on the theme of road bike. I ride at a pretty good clip. My par time on a "pure" roadie is 57 minutes ride time. On my "commuter" roadie with fenders, rack and panniers it's about nine minutes more, 1:06 ride time. (Ride time is time-in-motion as measured by my cyclometer.)

For stop lights and in case of a flat, I allow 1:15 to 1:30 total time to get to work, and plan to arrive about a half-hour before starting time for cool-down, cleanup, changing to work clothes and eating. The eating part is important because I've to a whole workday ahead of my after a bike ride.

So you see, the time commitment adds up. It's at least 2 hours a day for me, three hours if you count similar cool-down, clean-up and changing when I get home. I also ride every workday. Added up over the course of my four-day workweek, it's a 10-12 hour a week time commitment.

That's what limits most people: Not the physical or technical aspects, but the time commitment.

That said, of all the routes available to me, I like the long, one-hour route the best. I feel fantastic on arrival at work, and it's plenty of time to clear my head coming home.

For the record, an hour of bike commuting really puts you into the ride-in-kit-and-change category. I know that my co-workers really appreciate that I don't ride in work clothes.

Last edited by tsl; 08-04-13 at 10:57 AM. Reason: I can do math, I can, I can
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Old 08-03-13, 08:01 AM
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My first bike commute was 13 miles, mostly downhill, catching a bus on the homeward trip until I has lost about 10 pounds and got a little more fit. It depends on you. My current commute is 5 miles in the AM, and up to 30 or 40 in the afternoon.

Originally Posted by tsl View Post
So you see, the time commitment adds up. It's at least 90 minutes a day for me, two hours if you count similar cool-down, clean-up and changing when I get home. I also ride every workday. Added up over the course of my four-day workweek, it's an 8-hour a week time commitment.

That's what limits most people: Not the physical or technical aspects, but the time commitment.
I have adjusted to the time thing, though it took time and planning. My current commute involves public transit-mainline commuter rail-otherwise it would be about sixty miles each way. The 55 minute train ride lets me catch up on some rest in the morning and socialize with the other regular bike/train commuters on the way home.

Last edited by CommuteCommando; 08-03-13 at 08:09 AM.
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Old 08-03-13, 08:14 AM
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My usual commute is 15 miles each way, which takes 45 minutes to an hour. About 150 miles a week. Next two weeks, upping to 25 miles each way for four days a week, with a 170 mile overnight on the weekend. 570 miles over two weeks. It's a lot, but riding in the summer is easy. Winter riding takes more out of you.
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Old 08-03-13, 08:34 AM
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How much longer do you want your work day to be? in addition to the hours you are paid? add 2, or 3?

X 5 thats 10 or 15 hours..
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Old 08-03-13, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Majahonke View Post
A bicycle commute for me would be a little over 17 mi one way.
I had that same commute for 18 months. 17 miles - 10 on MUP, 7 on streets. I used all of my bikes over the course of those 18 months - road bike, ATB, folding, touring, and fatbike - no problems. That is...no problem making those miles. I grew tired of the extra hour both ends of my workday.

I had a job that was VERY forgiving if the weather was ridiculous i.e., lightning, street flooding (10 miles on that MUP was very exposed to lightning). I could show up very early (I had keys and alarm codes) or show up at lunch. I could even blow off a whole day, although I think this happened only once. I could look at the radar, pick a gap in the weather, and leave work early if need be. So the only stress regarding my commute was physical and time. Never had to stress about being late for work. This made a huge difference for my success and I assume would be the same for most people too.

Given you have a vehicle I assume you could bail out on miserable days and drive or Park-and-Ride? Just start out riding the nicer days to get a feel for it? I wouldn't ditch the truck just yet for sure.

I solved my problem by moving closer to Downtown. Otherwise I think I would have opted for a job closer to home. I got really tired of 2 hours mandatory riding every day. When I was younger I had an 8 mile commute that STILL took most of an hour to cover due to a trillion stop signs and large highway crossings (waiting for traffic signals). I managed that for 8 years, but I had a car and a motorcycle as backup for hateful weather or oversleeping. That job required promptness at a very early hour so I had to leave extra early to have time to repair a flat if need be and still get there on time.

Hope this helps.

Last edited by JoeyBike; 08-03-13 at 09:00 AM.
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Old 08-03-13, 09:03 AM
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Seventeen miles is not too far to commute. I agree that it really come down to a time issue. Typically Mine is 22.5 miles, about 17 on a path and the rest on city streets. Takes an hour and 15 minutes on the bike and 20 minutes to shower and change.

If I took public transit, that same trip would take 50 minutes. So basically my decision to cycle to and from work consumes about an hour and a half additional time in my day. What I've gotten in return for that time are improved fitness, weight loss, and better stress management.

Took me a few months to work myself up physically to five days commuting, but now that's the routine.
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Old 08-03-13, 09:06 AM
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My commute is 15 miles each way, all on a state highway, mostly 2 lanes, with varying shoulders (good to non-existent). The ride takes about 70 minutes to work and 60 minutes home. If I drive, it takes 35 to 45 minutes depending on traffic. So I look at it as getting 2 hours of riding squeezed into 45 minutes. I figure I saved a tank of gas in the month of July. And I enjoy it.
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Old 08-03-13, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Majahonke View Post
A bicycle commute for me would be a little over 17 mi one way. Most of this (12 mi) would be on a multipurpose trail. The rest would be city streets. Is this too far for a commute? From what I can find it appears most people that commute only have 4-5 mi trips. I guess I'd like to know if 17 mi is excessive for a commute. Huh, just realized 17 is also the mileage my truck gets from a gallon of gas (~$4).
I would probably do it 2-3 days a week and drive on the other days, unless traffic was so bad that it was consistently faster by bike. I feel tired enough at the end of a 100 mile week, I'm not sure I could keep up with much more.
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Old 08-03-13, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
How much longer do you want your work day to be? in addition to the hours you are paid? add 2, or 3?

X 5 thats 10 or 15 hours..
Depends how you wanna look at it.

You could see it as, "Work ends when I step out the door and sit on the bike.". Work is over. My private home life begins at that point. Just going for a daily bike ride. I want to ride everyday anyway. And for me it is harder to get myself motivated to go on recreational ride loops from home, just to be riding. I like riding to destinations though, be they restaurants, work, back home, a friend's house, etc. So I do not consider my commutes part of work, but my private time.

It could be suggested that commuting by bike actually is saving you time over driving home first, and then fitting a recreational ride of the same distance as your commute into every evening after you get home from the car drive home.

Someone on this forum once said that work is just a thing between two bike rides.
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Old 08-03-13, 09:20 AM
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There have been a few comments about biking adding to the work day. I see it differently. I see it as a way to work more time for riding into the week.
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Old 08-03-13, 09:27 AM
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Work: The eight hours between bike rides.

34 miles a day is doable, you would be looking at least an hour each way and if that fits your schedule and lifestyle, and your in good enough condition to maintain this daily it would be great.

You can also pace yourself and if it is too much drive that truck a few days of the week... saving $8.00 a day on fuel will really start to add up and the money you save can be used to maintain your bicycle and to buy more bacon, or whatever fuel you like to run on.
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Old 08-03-13, 09:40 AM
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Drive to work in the morning with your bike in your truck, then bike home. Bike to work the next morning, drive home. That could limit your daily time commitment but still get you riding every day.

BTW, I commute about 2 days a week, 22 miles round trip.
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Old 08-03-13, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by CommuteCommando View Post
There have been a few comments about biking adding to the work day. I see it differently. I see it as a way to work more time for riding into the week.
Bingo!

It can also be viewed as time you don't have to be in a gym.
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Old 08-03-13, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Majahonke View Post
A bicycle commute for me would be a little over 17 mi one way. Most of this (12 mi) would be on a multipurpose trail. The rest would be city streets. Is this too far for a commute? From what I can find it appears most people that commute only have 4-5 mi trips. I guess I'd like to know if 17 mi is excessive for a commute. Huh, just realized 17 is also the mileage my truck gets from a gallon of gas (~$4).
I think where you live, thats a serious commute and could get old after a while.
I did 14 in and 14 (28) back in the hills of SEPA for a while and 12in/12back, single speed/fixie in very hilly vermont for a few years, and I dont think I would do that again.
I realized I want to commute for quality of life, not to be a zealot. Thats only me though, there are many people who feel 40 miles might be fine.
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Old 08-03-13, 11:42 AM
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My commute is typically 21 miles each way (though this year it's 23 due to reconstruction of my normal Mississippi river crossing). I make that ride in right around 90 minutes. As far as whether or not you can do the miles goes, "it depends" is the correct answer without knowing your starting condition. If your legs are up to it then yes, no problem. A good idea would be to ride it on a Saturday to get a feel for it & to find out approximatly how long it takes.

For me the time factor is taken into consideration regarding my family (I have two young kids). Nobody really misses me in the morning, but In the evening my absence is noted. I balance swimming & running along with cycling so in the interest of spousal harmony I limit my commutes to two per week. The gas savings and all that is nice but truth told I do it just because it's fun.

Last edited by Surrealdeal; 08-03-13 at 08:07 PM.
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Old 08-03-13, 11:50 AM
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For me, time is the biggest limit. An hour's pedaling is about the most I care to do daily. Commutes of 1.5 hrs leave me wondering if I should be doing something else.
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Old 08-03-13, 12:00 PM
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To answer the original question generally, it depends more on time than distance. I'm basing this on surveys I've read and general statistics more than personal opinion. It turns out that when the commute each way takes more than around an hour, or even 45 minutes in some cases, that it becomes less tolerable for most people and they seek out alternatives or ways to mitigate it. So the cut-off between normal or usual and onerous is about 45 minutes to an hour.

That's mostly in reference to driving but it seems to hold up for other modes as well. I think we could extend that time at least a little for bicycling because we tend to enjoy it, which often can't be said for rush-hour driving. Seventeen miles is near the top end of that range, probably a bit beyond for most cyclists who may take an hour and a half for that distance (more with the hills). With your 12 miles on the MUP that's mitigated, it's going to be easier than 17 miles in traffic all with stop lights and hills.

I commuted for a year 10.5 miles each way, every day. That's considered a medium length commute, and frankly wasn't arduous at all after I got used to it. Over 10 to 15 starts to become a "long" commute. Mine is a wimpier 7.5 now, to me easier than driving when all things are considered. I think you could work up to that 17 mile commute, either half-commuting as has been suggested or starting with one or two days a week and building up, and eventually do it without difficulty.
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Old 08-03-13, 05:57 PM
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I just started commuting by bike this year. I have a 22 mile one way commute. It now takes me about 1 hour 20 minutes each way. When I drove, it took from 45 minutes to 1 hour each way. When I drove I used to work out for one hour (riding a bike or running). So, time wise it is now a wash for me (if you add commute time plus workout time) but I now get close to 3 hours of exercise per day. When I first started it was a bit of a strain. But now it is nothing. One caveat. You need to work into it. I started with one or two days a week and worked up from there over several months.
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Old 08-03-13, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Surrealdeal View Post
FThe gas savings and all that is nice but truth told I do it just because it's fun.
+1. I now get depressed, cranky, and just intolerable when I can't ride to work. The only reason I don't bike to work now is when I have to attend some work related event that just makes biking impossible. Happens about one day a week and p$%sses me off.
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Old 08-03-13, 09:51 PM
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I do 30-32 miles RT and I think that is about the limit I can commit in time during the long summer days. This is on about 60% prairie path trail, 40% road. If you plan to commute outside the summer, you will be hit by the shorter days and may not be able to make that commitment. But certainly if you are in halfway decent shape this is certainly doable. One other thing to consider is that, depending on the traffic on the trail and hence how fast you can go, it may take a bit of time. Try it!

Good luck, hope it works out.
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Old 08-04-13, 08:23 AM
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Not much more to say except that only you know your time and fitness limits. If you question your ability to round-trip it, experiment a bit to see where your comfort level lies. Maybe drive your truck to work on the weekend and ride home. Then, Monday, ride in to work, and drive the truck home.

Or, figure out ways to bail if it is just too exhausting one day. Do you have a coworker that lives decently close that you could snag a ride with if needed, or an SO who would be willing to come get you if a day beats you up?

Good luck!
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Old 08-04-13, 08:42 AM
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I agree with everyone else that time is the main thing. One other consideration, at the end of a week of commuting 34 miles/day, do you still want to go for a fun ride on the weekend? Maybe give it a go a few days a week and see how it goes. Also, is there public transportation that might reduce the total mileage?
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Old 08-04-13, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Hairy Legs View Post
I would probably do it 2-3 days a week and drive on the other days, unless traffic was so bad that it was consistently faster by bike. I feel tired enough at the end of a 100 mile week, I'm not sure I could keep up with much more.
I commuted 5 miles each way for 10 years and averaged 200 times a year. Now that my commute is 15 miles each way I manage 100 per year. I have only done 5 in a week a couple of times. Weather is a factor for me in addition to time and fatigue.
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