Yesterday I Became a Bicycle Commuter

I wrote about commuting by bicycle a couple months ago, but it was too cold, and got dark too early to seriously consider commuting home from work in the evenings. With the weather warming up and the daylight lasting longer I’ve decided to tune up the bike, purchase a helmet and map out a safe route home. My wife will drop me off at work in the mornings with my bicycle and I’ll plan to ride home. Riding to work is not feasible now because I am in such horrible shape it would take me an hour to catch my breath, shower, change, cool down, etc. For now, I’ll stick to riding one way home because there I can collapse in comfort.

Fortunately, my job is only located five miles from home, but those are five miles of traffic-congested roads not particularly safe for the bicycle commuter. I’ve mapped out a route that will make for a longer ride, but offers a safer, residential alternative to crowded city streets. I would rather take a little longer to get home safe and sound. Besides, I could use the exercise.

My initial investment is a bicycle helmet and Cateye bicycle computer (I actually bought the bicycle computer last year, so maybe I can finally get some use out of it). I stay motivated when I see the miles rolling off, and I will make it a personal challenge to increase my mileage on the bike every week. I’m not buying any fancy clothes, just shorts, t-shirts and some comfortable shoes. I know from reading other biking blogs that bicycle shorts and shoes are recommended gear, but since I am not concerned with wind drag or other performance issues, I opt for comfort. Besides, spandex wasn’t designed for us endomorphs!

By eliminating the use of my second vehicle we should save about $50 a month in gas, plus additional wear and tear on my already older vehicle. Add back in some basic maintenance costs for the bike and I should see a realized savings of about $35-40. Assuming I can sustain this routine for nine months out of the year that is an annualized savings of about $300. As an added benefit, I expect to lose a little weight from this routine as well. Over time I may increase the mileage by taking alternate routes home. This should add to the cardio benefits of using my bike to commute from work.

image credit: stop.down

Comments

  1. Congrats! My husband went bike shopping last night. He can’t ride to work because he has 40 mile commute, but we both wish he could. We could totally get rid of our second car.

  2. Good for you!

    My husband commutes by bike. He has about a 12-15 mile commute, but most of it is bike path. When he has to drive, it makes him crabby. I think the daily exercise does wonders.

    He doesn’t wear any special “bike” clothes either. Totally not necessary.

    His big improvement was getting a good set of panniers so he doesn’t have to carry a pack. Actually, his big improvement was building himself a new bike last year — so I don’t know how much money we’ve really saved, but it’s certainly eco-friendly.

    I know he loves this site for bike parts, etc.– http://www.velo-orange.com

  3. @Allie – I may have to look at something like that at some point. I’m riding an old WalMart bike – a hybrid cruiser, and the thing just isn’t the best ride for city streets. And I definitely hate carrying a pack. By the end of the ride my back and neck are sore from the weight of my clothes, my pack, etc. strapped to my back.

  4. Kudos for this progress!!
    I used to bike about 5 miles to school when I was in college and that was through Chicago traffic, ye gods and little fishes! And I didn’t have on orange or helmet, lights Yeek!. We will be biking about two miles to work when we move to SD. I plan to build up to it and bike even in extreme cold. I figure if it comes on gradually, I can experiment with proper clothing and acclimate.

  5. I commute 3 days a week, 10 miles each way….and I love it! Most of it is on a bike path. Good luck on your commute! It feels so good to ride, esp. when I ride by gas stations!

  6. I’m jealous. I live too far to bike to work, but I’ve been considering using my bike to run errands into town. I just need to invest in a helmet.

  7. My best friend commutes on his bicycle when the weather is decent here in Iowa (sometimes, that’s rare). It really works for him – it keeps him in shape and is certainly cheaper than putting miles on his car.

  8. @Frugal Dad Make sure you are determined to ride in all weather conditions throughout the summer. If not your savings will be significantly less. Also, that helmet will save your life some day so take good care of it. If you go down hard spend the $40 for a new one, don’t trust a damaged brain bucket.

    @Roger I used to bike all winter long in North Dakota. I found with a good face mask and gloves -35º F was my limit. Also for snow/ice riding don’t go cheap by making your own studded/spiked tires get some Nokian studded tires.

  9. I wish my husband could do this, but he works on the busiest road in town :) I am so proud of you for doing this- I bet there will be tons of health benefits and other perks you will find from this type of commuting!

  10. I commuted by bike in Boston, about the same distance you will be (combined 10 miles round trip).The first area I lived in was great for bikers – Somerville/Cambridge has a bike lane most of the way, then a straight shot down the prettiest part of Boston, the Charles river, over the bridge to downtown. Now I tried commuting from Jamaica Plain to downtown. there is no bike lane, the “path” I’m on is not so good, and the cars…they could care less about recognizing bikers and sharing the road.

    tips -

    1. do not be in a hurry

    2. do not rush through stop signs, lights, or whatever

    3. always wear a helmet

    4. even if it is daylight, have a flashing back light on. anything added to draw attention to you via car drivers is a good thing.

    5. have a headlight too, in case you are riding home in the twilight

    6. follow all rules of traffic. you may not be a car, but unless you don’t want to get run over by one, you’ll act one :)

    Good luck!

  11. I use a combination of public transit and biking.

    The buses here have bike racks that hold 2 bikes. If both bike racks are occupied, Plan B is to drive that day. I haven’t worked up the stamina yet to bike the full 12 miles.

    Riding the bus takes me an extra hour in the morning due to the bus schedule and the time I have to be at work. Lately, I’ve been using that time to catch up on household chores and time with the baby. I am thankful for the option to commute via bike, at least part of the way.

  12. recommend the panniers. I have some that I use all the time for groceries and other errands.

    Also, if you don’t already have them, get some “street slick” tires. Off road tiers provide to much resistance. For $20-30 these are well worth the expense.

    Bike pants don’t need to be spandex. I use mountain bike pants that look like normal cargo shorts. The advantage of these is the padding. Get them on sale at pricepoint.com.

  13. @Andy: Thanks for the idea on the mountain bike shorts, and the panniers. I definitely need to look at changing out the tires. They aren’t knobby offroads, but they are wide and have a deep tread that feels like it is really gripping the payment and slowing me down. A heavy rider on a heavy bike doesn’t need any more drag!

  14. These aren’t the bike bags that I use, but I have been dreaming about them ever since I stumbled on them:

    http://xtracycle.com/

    They are pricey. I figure that in gas costs it would take me 18 months of using them back and forth to the grocery store to pay for them – with these I could do the weekly shopping. I am 99% sure I would use them as since putting on my panniers and a bike light, I ride to the store all the time. Now I hate it when I have to drive.

    Here is what I use:

    http://www.jandd.com/detail.asp?PRODUCT_ID=FGBP

    These work great. Easily carry 2 bags of groceries, or all the gear needed for a trip to the park with the kids.

  15. Awesome! I’ve added a mile walk to my bus commute home from the library (when I take the bus, which depends on the day). Unfortunately, the price isn’t any different, so the benefits are entirely personal.

    I discovered that the bus route curves around in such a way that I can walk half a mile before catching my bus and still catch it on time and then I can walk an extra half mile getting off the bus early and still make it home at the same time. No commute time loss and a great walk. Or if it’s raining I can just wait inside for the bus and walk the half mile from the bus stop.

  16. Good for you! While my husband doesn’t commute by bike, he did convert an old kid bike trailer to a cargo trailer for me, so the kids and I tool around town rather than driving.

  17. You know i see so many benefits in getting rid of that car and riding your bike to work.

    Here a list

    1) You healthier for it. Gets you juiced and up and awake in the morning

    2)Better for the environment

    3)Save yourself valuable time

    4)Saves you more money than you realise

    5)Set a great example to other people

    Well done and great idea!

    Young Investor

    http://www.investmentrealty.blogspot.com

  18. Congratulations on the new commuting strategy! Another added bonus to biking home is that you don’t have to build in time for an exercise routine after work.

    Words to the wise:

    If you’re going to ride in the rain you might want to invest in a back fender to avoid tire spray from wet roads and get yourself a good rain jacket. It doesn’t have to be fancy “biking” gear, just something light and well fitted.

    You’ve probably already considered this, but make sure you know how to change your tire and bring a spare tube with a patch kit and 2-3 tire wrenches. Walking home because of a flat tire is no fun.

    I commute about 7 miles round trip and it’s definitely the highlight of my day (even if there’s a little fist shaking at oblivious car drivers). Happy riding!

  19. I commute by bike to the gym that i work at part time. Eventually I will bike to my regular job but it is not light enough in the mornings yet (I have to be at work before 0630 and the roads are not lit AT ALL.)

  20. Awesome to hear another commuter is out on the road. As a pretty active cyclist, don’t get your hopes up too much about how much money you’ll save. The cost of additional food you’ll be eating probably will add up…but at least you’ll be healthier!

  21. I’m confused about something. If your SAHM wife drives you to work and drops you off in the morning, then drives home, then what is the real savings? My husband and I carpool to work 15 miles each way. His office is about 1.5 miles from mine. Our a-ha moment was when we would call each other on our cells in traffic to see where the other one was stuck.

  22. @BB: My SAHM wife drives me and the kids to school (I work less than a mile from their school). She drops me off at work with my bike and I ride home. It was a way for us to cut down on using two vehicles without her having to come back to work to pick me up in the afternoons. You’re right, that would not generate much cost savings. Thanks for commenting.

  23. I’m confused on how riding a bike one way home from work can actually save on gas money. If you were to drive everyday, it would be one round-trip drive (to and from work). But in this case, your wife is dropping you off, so she’s still making the daily round-trip commute from home to office and back, exactly what you would have done had you driven yourself each way.

  24. I know I’m late to the party, here, but thought I’d give some food for thought, anyway: shorts designed specifically for cycling aren’t just intended to cut down on wind resistance or “performance” issues; it’s a matter of comfort, as well. In addition to the extra padding, the seams are placed differently than on normal pants so they don’t dig into any extra sensitive places on your person while riding. It’s more of a problem if you’re on the bike for a long time at once – it probably wouldn’t make a huge difference for you, since you’re only going 5 miles at a time, but for someone else who has twice as far or more to go each way (i.e., me), a good pair of cycling pants makes the trip a lot more bearable.

  25. Hi;

    I have never used any sites such as this to ask questions, but here goes. My 25 year old son and I went to a bike shop today to start shopping for a bike for him to use on campus at college and for personal use. He wants to ditch the car and just use the bike. We saw a bike called a half-something but I can’t remember the second word. It folded up in half and could be taken on a train or put in the dorm room and locked up. We thought it was very cool but don’t know anyone who has one and would just like some feedback. Thanks

    Susan

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>