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I need to trim 15 minutes from my 15-mile commute

Old 02-20-15, 02:06 PM
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67Vert
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I need to trim 15 minutes from my 15-mile commute

Can I trim 21% off my commute time with improved fitness?

I was just starting to ride to work late last year. Then my wife went back to work, leaving me with taking the kiddos to school (in the opposite direction). And it doesn’t leave me with enough time to ride to work.

My wife had today off and took the kids to school. I rode in and it took me 1hr 13 mins to get to work. I stopped to raise my seat, so I’ll call it 1hr 10 mins. But I still need to trim 15 minutes to do this regularly.

I currently do zero dedicated cardio or endurance conditioning. My only cardio comes from doing squats. I don’t see losing much weight either, maybe 5 lbs. So there’s not much improvement to be seen there.

There’s much room for improvement. But can I realistically expect to cut 15 minutes from my commute time?
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Old 02-20-15, 02:17 PM
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Pedal faster? What kind of bike are you using? Do you pedal the kids to school? How much riding do you do on weekly basis. Can you multimodal? Take bus or train part of the way? Electric bike? ( Don't hate on me, just a suggestion). My 18 mile commute take about an 1hr 20 min. Average weather( not 6' of snow with studded tires like now) Are you hauling 20 lbs of stuff every day? More info please.
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Old 02-20-15, 02:18 PM
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You want to ride 15 miles in 55 minutes or at about 16.5mph start to finish average speed. Depending on terrain, this is well within reach for a straight road ride. However many commutes involve traffic, left turns, lights, stop signs which can take quite a toll in time.

Figure that if you lose 5 or 10 minutes to stops, the riding average has to increase to 18 and 20mph respectively, which is day and night different than the 16.5 for an uninterrupted ride.

Note that difficult increases with the square of speed, so incremental improvement at the low end of the scale, is much easier than when speeds are already higher. So getting from where you are to the 16-17mph range isn't unreasonable, but not a given, and getting faster yet that more of a challenge.

To give you an idea, my typical open road speed is above 18mph for multiple hours, but completing my 6 mile urban commute in under 25 minutes (14.5mph) takes a big time effort.
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Old 02-20-15, 02:20 PM
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Can you use SamTrans or VTA for part of your route? If you time it well, you could just use the bus for some of your commute.
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Old 02-20-15, 02:25 PM
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I used to do a 8.2 mile trip to/from my ex down in levittown. It has a very unfavorable elevation profile and one extremely poorly signaled intersection plus a blind curve, yet i still got there in 50 minutes even stopping at wawa on trenton rd for a quick gatorade. This was on my old bike stuck in 1st gear that also had wide handlebars which in a few spots were definitely too wide.

Given all that, i'm sure you could trim time off depending on your ability to be in the right gear/ratio at the right time, learn the traffic & light patterns, and what kinda bike you're on & its configuration. Be sure you know the road surfaces as well, so you can avoid any hazards well in advance, that will allow your new higher speeds to not be a safety issue.

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Old 02-20-15, 02:32 PM
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Here is a screenshot of the route..... note the giant hill in the middle..... what it doesnt show is the narrow stone rail bridges on the start of the big climb heading away from newtown, no shoulder, often littered with debris.



- Andy
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Old 02-20-15, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Leebo View Post
Pedal faster? What kind of bike are you using? Do you pedal the kids to school? How much riding do you do on weekly basis. Can you multimodal? Take bus or train part of the way? Electric bike? ( Don't hate on me, just a suggestion). My 18 mile commute take about an 1hr 20 min. Average weather( not 6' of snow with studded tires like now) Are you hauling 20 lbs of stuff every day? More info please.
Trek 2120 road bike
I drive the kids to school, then drive to work
I currently do zero riding
I can do a partial commute if I get a bike rack for my Jeep. But I'd much rather do the full commute.
No new bikes, gotta use what I've got. E-Bike is out of the question.
I weigh about 165 lbs with clothes and back pack. Bike weighs 23lbs.
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Old 02-20-15, 02:45 PM
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taking the kids to school a bit earlier, is that possible?
I do not realistically see you trimming that much time off that ride anytime soon.
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Old 02-20-15, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
You want to ride 15 miles in 55 minutes or at about 16.5mph start to finish average speed. Depending on terrain, this is well within reach for a straight road ride. However many commutes involve traffic, left turns, lights, stop signs which can take quite a toll in time.

Figure that if you lose 5 or 10 minutes to stops, the riding average has to increase to 18 and 20mph respectively, which is day and night different than the 16.5 for an uninterrupted ride.

Note that difficult increases with the square of speed, so incremental improvement at the low end of the scale, is much easier than when speeds are already higher. So getting from where you are to the 16-17mph range isn't unreasonable, but not a given, and getting faster yet that more of a challenge.

To give you an idea, my typical open road speed is above 18mph for multiple hours, but completing my 6 mile urban commute in under 25 minutes (14.5mph) takes a big time effort.
I want to shave 15 minutes to get to work on time. Avg Speed, top speeds, etc are not of concern.
Terrain - residential roads, MUP, and 3 1/3 miles of dirt/gravel.
Map my Ride reports 1hr 8 mins with the autopause on. So ~5 mins lost to stops. But that includes the seat adjustment that I made.
I hit a long red light this AM. I could've probably turned left and made right at another intersection and maybe saved a couple minutes. But then I got a green at another light that I normally had to wait for in the past.
Part of the MUP runs along side a road with a bike lane. I can pick up a few minutes there if I use the bike lane.

Most of any improvement is going to have to come from the engine.

Thanks FBNY
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Old 02-20-15, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by treadtread View Post
Can you use SamTrans or VTA for part of your route? If you time it well, you could just use the bus for some of your commute.
I can use the caltrain. And I might. I really would rather do the full ride though. I want to do this to improve on my fitness. I cannot bring myself to do any other form cardio.

Last edited by 67Vert; 02-20-15 at 02:59 PM.
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Old 02-20-15, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by TransitBiker View Post
Given all that, i'm sure you could trim time off depending on your ability to be in the right gear/ratio at the right time, learn the traffic & light patterns, and what kinda bike you're on & its configuration. Be sure you know the road surfaces as well, so you can avoid any hazards well in advance, that will allow your new higher speeds to not be a safety issue.

- Andy
I'm riding an old road bike, a Trek 2120.
There's definitely some room to improve on gear selection. I'll get a feel for this eventually.
Thanks
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Old 02-20-15, 03:03 PM
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It is for you to find out if it is possible. We can't know.

If you maximize the route for speed potential, then it is a matter of time to get into the fitness level you are asking about, or to find out you can't do it.

I wouldn't count on a quick fix here. So maybe incorporate mass transit or driving until you gradually build up your speed/endurance.

Keep in mind that if you really have to struggle to make it, it will be tough to keep that up day after day, both mentally and physically. Actually, that sounds like a recipe for injury to me.

Good luck. Be patient and smart about the attempt.
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Old 02-20-15, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by 67Vert View Post
Trek 2120 road bike
I drive the kids to school, then drive to work
I currently do zero riding
I can do a partial commute if I get a bike rack for my Jeep. But I'd much rather do the full commute.
No new bikes, gotta use what I've got. E-Bike is out of the question.
I weigh about 165 lbs with clothes and back pack. Bike weighs 23lbs.
It's going to depend a lot on how many intersections you've got to deal with and other things you might have to slow down for. It's definitely possible to do on the open road.

The problem I see is that any kind of delay means you won't make it and the stress of getting there on time may make the whole thing more stressful than it's worth.

Do you have a lunch break you can use to get some cycling time in? After you've had a chance to gain some speed then try it out on the weekend and see how it works.

Last edited by tjspiel; 02-20-15 at 03:07 PM.
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Old 02-20-15, 03:05 PM
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What's the total elevation gain of your commute? You can do it under 55mins if can average 18mph + 5 mins of stops/lights....it's pretty doable.
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Old 02-20-15, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by scroca View Post
It is for you to find out if it is possible. We can't know.

If you maximize the route for speed potential, then it is a matter of time to get into the fitness level you are asking about, or to find out you can't do it.

I wouldn't count on a quick fix here. So maybe incorporate mass transit or driving until you gradually build up your speed/endurance.

Keep in mind that if you really have to struggle to make it, it will be tough to keep that up day after day, both mentally and physically. Actually, that sounds like a recipe for injury to me.

Good luck. Be patient and smart about the attempt.
I'm looking to do this 2X week, 3X max. I gotta leave something in the tank to hit the iron.

Thanks
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Old 02-20-15, 03:16 PM
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I'd say the stopping (for lights, etc) is going to be as much of a hindrance as your fitness. There is not just the time spent stopped, there are also the deceleration and acceleration, which cost you speed. I'm lucky that my commuting route is almost entirely on a bike path that has almost no intersections with motor vehicles. There are a few red lights which I can almost always ignore as there are no hazards to avoid. So given that, why do I end up averaging 13 mph? Don't answer that.
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Old 02-20-15, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by 67Vert View Post
I'm looking to do this 2X week, 3X max. I gotta leave something in the tank to hit the iron.

Thanks
Be realistic. This isn't a black/white, all or nothing, make or break deal. Odds are you can get significant improvement with the 1st 5 minutes shaved fairly easily. The next 5 will be tougher, and the last 5 much tougher. So the real question shouldn't be can you ride 21% faster, but whether you can shave some time off the ride, and find the rest elsewhere.
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Old 02-20-15, 03:30 PM
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My commute is about 15 miles one way. The amount of time it takes can easily vary by 15 minutes depending on the weather, traffic lights, the load, the bike, and how tired my legs are. Wind is the biggest factor affecting my average speeds, followed closely by how tired my legs are, and then traffic lights. On a good day, I can ride to work in 50 minutes with a tailwind and mostly green lights. On a bad day, it can take as long as 1:10, but I can shave that time by 5-10 minutes by changing the route. Have you looked at your route on Google maps to see if there are options for shortening the distance? I can easily increase or shorten the distance of my route by 2-3 miles by taking different streets. However, if you are commuting into a headwind, it's gonna slow you down regardless. Red lights suck and are the biggest wildcard in commuting times.
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Old 02-20-15, 03:31 PM
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I've been riding 11 years now on a 12 mile course. I'd say if you've already gotten into halfway decent shape, trimming that kind of time off is going to be difficult. I can just breeze in to work and do it in 42 minutes, if I hammer it and arrive exhausted, it's about 38. Switching to a road bike made more difference than expending an effort with the old hybrid. My all time record on that route was 34 minutes but I had a steady 40 MPH straight up my back tailwind.
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Old 02-20-15, 03:32 PM
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I know you said you'd prefer to do the whole commute, but given your fitness and time constraints, I think you should consider a partial commute. Could you load the kids and the bike, drive them to school, drive part way to work, and work up to it? You'd be improving your fitness while giving yourself some cushion.
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Old 02-20-15, 03:32 PM
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Yeah, I do what you are asking, in a slightly shorter commute. 9 miles in 30 minutes. I cruise at 21mph, and my average speed (with stops) is 17-18mph. That is a fast ride on flat ground though. That would put me at 50 minutes to do 15 miles.

Or, I put an electric motor on one of my bikes for days I’m feeling lazy, and do 24mph with even less effort. ;-)
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Old 02-20-15, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by 67Vert View Post
I'm riding an old road bike, a Trek 2120.
There's definitely some room to improve on gear selection. I'll get a feel for this eventually.
Thanks
That is a good looking rig on paper. You should have no problem trimming the 15 minutes, but it may not be immediate.. the key is riding a lot, which conditions your body to do that work & it will become less of an effort.

Originally Posted by PIPO_VV View Post
What's the total elevation gain of your commute? You can do it under 55mins if can average 18mph + 5 mins of stops/lights....it's pretty doable.
Agree, the elevation profile & traffic pattern as @noglider said can be the key. If you can unlock the traffic pattern, you may end up shaving a lot more time off than you think is possible.

Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
Be realistic. This isn't a black/white, all or nothing, make or break deal. Odds are you can get significant improvement with the 1st 5 minutes shaved fairly easily. The next 5 will be tougher, and the last 5 much tougher. So the real question shouldn't be can you ride 21% faster, but whether you can shave some time off the ride, and find the rest elsewhere.
I agree totally & think conditioning and state of mind can play a huge factor. If you "think you can" you may find that "you do"...

- Andy
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Old 02-20-15, 03:36 PM
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One problem, though, is that even if you manage to reach (or come close to) your speed goal, it doesn't leave time for things to go wrong. And things will go wrong. The tighter your schedule, the more something will throw you off. You ought to have some slop in your schedule if getting to work on time is important. A lot of this depends on the nature of your job. If you're a school teacher, it's a problem. If you're a programmer, less so.
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Old 02-20-15, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
I'd say the stopping (for lights, etc) is going to be as much of a hindrance as your fitness. There is not just the time spent stopped, there are also the deceleration and acceleration, which cost you speed. I'm lucky that my commuting route is almost entirely on a bike path that has almost no intersections with motor vehicles. There are a few red lights which I can almost always ignore as there are no hazards to avoid. So given that, why do I end up averaging 13 mph? Don't answer that.
yeah, complete stops a killer of time. I think I only have 3 traffic lights, and one stop sign that is a definite hard stop. But I do slow down for the other stop signs too.

Almost half of my route is on an MUP with no lights. And now that I'm thinking about it, some sections I'm not sure how much faster I can go and not be a ******bag.

Crap! Regardless of my fitness. A big portion of my ride I am topped out
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Old 02-20-15, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
One problem, though, is that even if you manage to reach (or come close to) your speed goal, it doesn't leave time for things to go wrong. And things will go wrong. The tighter your schedule, the more something will throw you off. You ought to have some slop in your schedule if getting to work on time is important. A lot of this depends on the nature of your job. If you're a school teacher, it's a problem. If you're a programmer, less so.
I would even aim for 18-20 minutes. Heck, ive decided to pack my spare thicknthin so part way thru my trip, or just on the way home, i can swap out the sweaty one for a dry one. The increase in comfort has seemingly helped me shave a minute or two off a route ive done hundreds of times. Taking the panniers off for a light or simple trip reduces the "sail" effect & i slip through winds way easier, 3 minutes on one of my longer routes.......!

- Andy
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