Author Topic: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.  (Read 7506 times)

teacherman

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Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« on: December 01, 2012, 06:10:07 PM »
Good evening Mustachians! I recently discovered this community and have been poring through the MMM's articles as well as the forum. I love the philosophy that this group is working at together and I am super excited to take the Red Pill.

One of the first things that has jumped out to me as far as working on my own 'Stash is to cut down on commuting expenses. Problem is I live 17.4 miles (one-way) from my work. My wife and I are both teachers at the same school (which allows us to drive to work together every day). I drive a '04 Chevy Impala which gets about 25mpg. The commute is 95% on the highway.

Next (academic) year my wife is hopefully going to go down to 3-days a week at the school (we're trying to get pregnant with our first child). During the other 2 days I was thinking I could bike.

I have not been much of a biker in the past (in fact, I don't even own a bike yet--I know, I know, I'm working on it) so the idea of a 35 mile round-trip commute is intimidating. But if there are others out there who do such a thing and could encourage me that it's possible I would love to hear it!

Thanks!

iamlindoro

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2012, 06:17:03 PM »
My bike commute is closer to 9 miles per direction, but my hobby is Ironman Triathlon so I often will go extra distance past work on the commute to put in a good workout (and bike much longer distances 100+ miles on the weekend days).  If you start now (and don't toddle along, and ride a proper road bike) there's a pretty good chance that within a few months you would be able to do the commute in under an hour.  The fitness value is immeasurable, though.  If you're like me, you'll enjoy every minute (hopefully your commute route would allow you to really open up and not stop every block at a light) and you'll be able to eat lots and lots of delicious food with no regrets.  That's a big motivator for me, anyway :)

All that said, since you are not currently a cyclist and you don't own a bike yet, you have a huge opportunity here-- You work with your wife!!  Get her to drive to work, and you ride there.  Get a ride home.  Do this for a few weeks or a month.  Now you've established the fitness level to get yourself halfway through your daily commute.  Then you switch to riding both directions a few days a week.

Then you convince your wife to start biking to work too ;)

iamlindoro

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2012, 06:50:11 PM »
Oh, and do yourself a favor and get proper biking gear, even if it makes you feel a little silly at first.  It pays off in comfort.  A good, well padded set of bike shorts (bib style so that it doesn't "roll" down), a nice jersey that you like, A HELMET, and a decent pair of gloves.  Try to make some local cyclist friends.  Cyclists are, more than almost any other sport, enthusiastic about taking a new cyclist under their wing, bringing them into the social circle, and engaging you in the fun of the sport.

Russ

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2012, 07:28:13 PM »
What a badass! 19 miles each way is on the high end of bike commutes, but totally doable. I like iamlindoro's suggestion of biking one way and hitching back with your wife to ease into the ride (or driving there and riding home for less pressure to get to work on time). It might take a long time at first, but you'll work up to doing it in an hour or so eventually. That hour will go by super fast too, since riding bikes is so much more fun than driving! I wouldn't want to do 19 miles each way every day forever, but twice a week is totally doable and totally badass!

kudy

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2012, 07:30:59 PM »
I've been riding 1 day per week 13-14 miles one way - I was dead tired and starving the first day, but I am getting more and more used to it.  I bought a ridekick trailer so I have a motor assist which helps me get over hills faster, speeds up the overall commute time, and takes off some of the intimidation factor for me.

I will hopefully get to the point where I ride more than 1 day per week, and possibly where I don't even rely on the electric assist, but it takes a while to become that kind of badass.

bogart

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2012, 07:38:20 PM »


Next (academic) year my wife is hopefully going to go down to 3-days a week at the school (we're trying to get pregnant with our first child). During the other 2 days I was thinking I could bike.


(emphasis added)

Congratulations on your plans to grow your family, strengthen your finances, improve your fitness, and reduce your environmental impact -- all good stuff!

That said, depending what you mean by the word "trying," it may be worth being aware that there exist concerns (not, as far as I can tell really proven one way or the other, see, e.g. http://jfprhc.bmj.com/content/28/4/211.long for a review article) about cycling and male fertility.  If you're just starting to try or planning to start and have no reason to expect problems, probably no big deal.  If on the other hand you've already been trying for a bit without success, maybe not worth adding one more possible source of problems to the mix. 

teacherman

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2012, 07:51:31 PM »
@iamlindoro: Thanks for the ideas! I'm definitely excited to start biking. I recently ran my first marathon (after being a casual, inconsistent runner at best) and have grown to love running! The ability to eat whatever I wanted during my training was a great plus! I'll definitely start the bike commuting by riding one way of the commute and driving back with my wife.

@kudy: My father-in-law has a motorized bicycle... They sure are fun!

@bogart: Thanks for the concern and the link ;) I'll definitely keep that in mind...

PJ

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2012, 08:23:05 PM »
When I started reading the thread, I was also going to suggest the "bike one way, ride with wife the other way to get prepared" idea.  Glad you're thinking of trying it.  My friend's husband rides a similar distance every day to work and wouldn't give it up for the world.  It does make him pretty tired though, which was a bit of a problem when they had a young infant and he would need to rest after getting home from work, just when she wanted him to pitch in and give her a rest from the baby :-)
'To be human you must bear witness to justice. Justice is what love looks like in public." 
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ehgee

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2012, 10:03:34 PM »
Oh, and do yourself a favor and get proper biking gear, even if it makes you feel a little silly at first.
That said, it's not necessary to go all-spandex, and with the right non-racing saddle padded shorts aren't necessary. I have a short commute now and just wear whatever, but when I was riding 20 miles round trip daily with a lot of climbing, I just wore a wool shirt and reasonably snug polyester shorts. You don't need anything skintight; plenty of people ride tons of miles dressed like this:

starfruit

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2012, 06:07:33 AM »
That's awesome, you should go for it. But you'll probably need to build up to it. My husband commutes 30 miles round-trip. He was already into extreme endurance biking (training for this race called the Tour Divide) but even so it took some training and some trial and error to get his system down. He rides a mountain bike so he can weave in and out of traffic, jump curbs, etc. He has these frame bags (specially made) that fit all his bike tools, food, etc. (It keeps him more agile than paniers, since some of his ride is off road). Of course you need your safety gear (lots of lights for night) and proper weather gear. If you're comfortable and have the right gear you'll be more likely to stick it out.

But I think you'll find that after a week or two of doing it, once you've 'adapted' you'll flip your mentality and wonder how in the world people can drive cars to work (and you might even start doing the ride everyday!).

You'll also find that at first, when people see what you are doing, they will think you are crazy and will ask you a lot of questions. They may even feel kind of threatened or criticized by what you are doing. But others will think it is really cool, and will likely be inspired (and perhaps adopt some changes themselves). So be prepared to be strong in your mind about what you are doing, and an ambassador of sort. It kind of thrusts you into a more visible role or position. This happened to my husband, and it also happened to me when I got rid of my chair and started standing up all day at work. Some fun conversations, but also some awkward and sensitive conversations.

Good luck and keep us updated!

teacherman

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2012, 09:02:33 AM »
Wow! Thanks for all the encouragement guys and gals! I am borrowing a friend's mountain bike tomorrow to have something to at least get out there with and get started. I plan on getting a bike as soon as I can but for now I'll use that. This sounds awesome!

frompa

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2012, 05:40:37 PM »
Hey teacherman, I have a relatively short commute now, but for many years I did a ten mile each way ride.  Try your ride on a mountain bike if you want, but be aware that the wider tires, lower pressure and heavy tread mean that you are working much harder per mile than you would if you were on a road bike with sleek, skinnier and higher pressured tires.  I use my mountain bike when I go off road, and I wouldn't trade it in for the world, but for a long road commute, you will be better served by a road bike.  Doesn't need to be a big expense, either.  Unless you are a really odd size, you should be able to find something suitable on Craigslist -- most bicyclists upgrade their steeds far more frequently than their steeds actually wear out.  As for clothes, I second the notion of a decent pair of bike shorts, but no need to get all lycra'd out; though if you are in a climate where you have rain or snow, nothing beats a really good, loose fitting, bright yellow water-proof and breathable outer layer, with a hood.  These are expensive, but worth their weight in gold, and they last pretty damn long, too.  And, last but not least, biking is so fucking fun.  HAVE A BALL!

teacherman

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2012, 07:02:40 PM »
Haha no I'm not going to do the 17 mile commute on a mountain bike :) I was just gonna get out on some trails nearby my house to get started.

focusaurus

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2012, 08:59:02 PM »
Hi Teacherman. Glad you are excited to start mustachifying your life. My advice isn't going to match most of the posts in this thread thus far. Hopefully you find these points valuable. I think there's some unbalanced and unthorough info being posted.

Ok, first, it's great that you are going to try commuting on bike. Hurray! You should absolutely try it. The cost of trying the bike commute is very low and the direct personal experience you will gain will far far outweigh any amount of information you read online.

Now, I'd like to say that you are setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. This change is too drastic and significant given your circumstances. There are many changes you could make in other areas of your life that would save you more money and not require the very high level of willpower and dedication taking on a 17 mile bike commute w/o distance biking experience. In short, I would rather see you rack up 3-5 smaller mustachian wins that in retrospect you can look back on and think "holy crap, that was so easy, I can't believe I didn't do that earlier". For example, after I canceled my landscaper and housecleaner, I never looked back. Mowing my lawn by push mower takes less than 20 minutes and saves me $50. It takes a long time on a bike to save $50 of gas.

Set yourself up for success. An attempted badass who fails and reverts to the old ways is not the goal here. Badassitiy has to be developed like a muscle like MMM says. You don't bench press your bodyweight on your first day at the gym. A 17m bike commute is too tall an order IMHO given you are still strengthening your badassity and frugality muscle. It's like if you tried to suddenly go from restaurant meals 20x a month to Early Retirement Extreme $80/month on groceries. Not going to happen. Not a good plan. Tackle a problem you can solve with a good balance of effort vs reward. Then tackle a slightly bigger one.

So my advice would be to drive/bus/carpool the bulk of your commute, say the first 12 miles, then switch to your bike for the last 5. Do that for a week, then gradually start biking further as you feel able. Biking there and driving back is a very good idea. Only trying this once or twice a week is also a good idea. Anything to give you more likelihood of long-term sustainability and positive change.

Some points based on my experience biking between 9 and 12 miles each way about 3-4 times a week for about a year.

Get good but cheap gear to start. Don't get anything fancy. You need personal experience to find out what you really need. I waited about a year before upgrading from a $20 headlight to a $175 headlight. I did the commute on a mountain bike with commuter tires for a few months before I finally got a real road bike. It was fine.

Take all the timing numbers you see in the posts here and completely erase them from your mind. Just time yourself. The numbers here seem off by a lot to me. I have very high physical fitness and can bike 20 miles without blinking an eye, but my 12-mile ride takes me a full solid hour. I am highly dubious that your 17-mile commute will ever be completed in the ballpark of an hour. People post better numbers, and maybe it's because I'm short and have short legs or something, but let me just say the timing numbers here look optimistic and not by a small amount. Tack on a significant amount of time on each end to deal with dressing and setup/teardown of gear. There are clothes to don, batteries to check, things to pack, etc. The changeover time does decrease with routine, but it's always going to be more than just hopping in the car.

Yes, your fitness will increase, but that's just a nice side-effect. There are ways to get much better overall fitness in far less time than riding a bike for 2+ hours a day.

Your time is valuable. Mustachian decisions often depend on the exact numbers. If line-drying your clothes took a week, it wouldn't be nearly as compelling. 2 hours is a good portion of your waking day. If you love your ride, hurray, more power to you, but perhaps there are other more enjoyable things you could be doing with that time than riding alone on your bike.

Hedonic adaption works both ways. You may miss your car in the beginning, but soon enough you will like the ride. I particularly enjoy my nighttime return trip rides with the roads to myself and the moon shining down. I've also made myself almost allergic to driving with even the tiniest bit of traffic. It is now infuriating after enjoying the free-riding bike ride. However, just like grinding away in a car commute month after month gets old pretty darn quick, riding for an hour can be every bit as tedious and annoying. It's not some magical fun machine when you have a lot to get done that day and it's cold and you just want to get where you are going already.

Hopefully this tempers the exuberance of the thread a bit. Start small. Win small.

kudy

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2012, 09:30:02 PM »
I thought the times were a bit optimistic as well, it takes me a bit more than an hour to get to work with the ridekick helping me.

iamlindoro

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #15 on: December 02, 2012, 09:36:02 PM »
A 17 MPH average is not at all unrealistic-- admittedly, he shouldn't expect to do that out of the gate, but an fit cyclist on a flat to rolling route with few red light interruptions can easily do 18-21 MPH, eg:

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/211410227

It may take him months to be able to do so, but 17 MPH is neither unrealistic nor even really exceptional.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2012, 09:39:03 PM by iamlindoro »

focusaurus

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #16 on: December 02, 2012, 09:51:51 PM »
A 17 MPH average is not at all unrealistic-- admittedly, he shouldn't expect to do that out of the gate, but an fit cyclist on a flat to rolling route with few red light interruptions can easily do 18-21 MPH, eg:

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/211410227

It's about setting realistic and balanced expectations and the info the OP needs now is realistic numbers for him. You are setting him up for disappointment. Let's give some pessimistic, statistical average, and best-case numbers. But I guess my main point is there are too many variables here and we should probably say nothing more that A) time it yourself and B) you will get faster as your ability rises and equipment gets optimized.

My personal experience average speed is much slower than yours. Both are equally realistic. I'm trying to add balance here. There is no way for me to reach my 12-mile destination in the 34 minutes your 21 MPH average would predict. I'm riding pretty hard and only dealing with a handful of lights and stop signs. I'm not even sure I can hit 25 MPH at all even on a straightaway going flat out, but I'm damn sure I can't sustain it for an hour nor would I like to do that every day. A google search and reading a few other forum threads points much more as 15-17 MPH being good averages for experienced riders on commutes. That 6 MPH difference between 15 and 21 is a lot.

teacherman

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #17 on: December 03, 2012, 06:15:18 AM »
@focusaurus: Thank you for your post. I really do appreciate what seems to be such a helpful community already! I certainly don't want to burn out by biting off more than I can chew right away.

I think I should clarify my plan a bit. Regarding riding 17 miles to work: I was planning on doing this starting the academic year of 2013-2014. I have no pretenses of being able to do this distance right out of the gate! I am not the most athletic person in the world but if I put my mind to something I am willing to work hard to accomplish it. My intention for the original post was to see if others do this sort of a distance. I figured if I had the support or motivation of others, I would be a lot more excited to start building up to that goal.

I was thinking I would take this winter/spring/summer to get into cycling and work up to the goal of 17 miles 1 or 2 times per week beginning next school year. I have access to a mountain bike now that I'm going to use just to get out there and start enjoying biking. We have plenty of trails and roads I can bike on around my house. I will pick up a good, basic bike (I plan on researching my options and trying things to see what type I'd like to get) for commuting along the way some time.

I have no idea how fast I will eventually be able to travel but if it's something I enjoy I don't really care how long it takes. I can get up extra early 1 or 2 days a week in order to do this.

I really appreciate the input you have all given already. Thank you!

StarswirlTheMustached

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #18 on: December 03, 2012, 08:04:21 AM »
When it comes to training for distance rides (which your commute is, though not large by such standards) a rule-of-thumb I've heard is to not increase distance by more than about 30% at a time to give your body time to get used to it. How far can you comfortably bike in a day right now, without sore joints? I'm sure some will disagree and say "no pain, no gain" -- but if you go slowly to work up to this without hurting yourself you're much more likely to keep with the routine. If you do cause pain, ice immediately and wait until it subsides to get on the bike, etc. The key thing is not to hurt yourself. Achy, burnt-out muscles are fine and a good sign, but if its your joints that hurt that's another thing all together.
 9 months ought to be plenty of time to prepare, even if you're starting out at only a mile or two's endurance. Depending on climate, though, you may find it hard to keep up a regular riding regime (especially just for training) over winter. If that's the case, you'll need to train in a gym or, better, since you can find them for like 50 bucks and they last ages, on a resistance stand.

Training on a mountain bike is actually a good idea-- the skinny road bike tyres on pavement will feel so much easier. You may have trouble with your wrists and/or back when you make the switch due to the more aggressive posture than what you've become used to, though. Lower back exercisers over the next nine months could prevent that, though, or get a hybrid bike with a more upright posture.

JourneyingJon

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #19 on: December 03, 2012, 08:20:10 AM »
I hear you on the long commute! I'm riding 27km  (~17mi) one way to work and it's easily the best part of my day. Admittedly in the winter I'm driving halfway and then riding in since the cold and snow just makes it unreasonable.

This summer I videoed my ride to work and I've posted these in other threads. They were done in nice sunny weather so maybe there is inspiration here:

Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScUezOgPQGs&feature=plcp
Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gus4e-CeIqk&feature=plcp
Part 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouzV1vecYgE&feature=plcp

Clips from the fall http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuOYtgrp_Vk&feature=plcp

The biggest improvement I made this year was to get a nice fast road bike. It increased my enjoyment of the commute by an order of magnitude and has really helped me to keep going even when the weather wasn't great.

jpo

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #20 on: December 03, 2012, 09:29:48 AM »
A 17 MPH average is not at all unrealistic-- admittedly, he shouldn't expect to do that out of the gate, but an fit cyclist on a flat to rolling route with few red light interruptions can easily do 18-21 MPH, eg:

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/211410227

It's about setting realistic and balanced expectations and the info the OP needs now is realistic numbers for him. You are setting him up for disappointment. Let's give some pessimistic, statistical average, and best-case numbers. But I guess my main point is there are too many variables here and we should probably say nothing more that A) time it yourself and B) you will get faster as your ability rises and equipment gets optimized.
I rode my bike 9 miles to work last week for the first time. Average speed ~7.7mph. I'm not an experienced cyclist and there are some rough (for me) hills, plus I am riding 90% on a mountain bike trail.

Not everybody goes 20mph. :-)

trammatic

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #21 on: December 03, 2012, 10:52:31 AM »
Any possibility to move closer to work?  It's great that you're going to start biking, but a 2-hour daily commute can really take a chunk out of your life.  Especially as the amount of quality sleep goes down with the addition of a newborn.

teacherman

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #22 on: December 03, 2012, 11:45:23 AM »
I have really thought about moving closer to work but the problem is we really like where we live. We're in the middle of our work and our family (who we spend a good amount of time with) and I'm already getting a pretty good deal on a living space (by subletting a condo from a family member who doesn't use it). I hadn't thought about the lack of sleep though...

Any recommendations for buying a used bike to commute on? I've been doing some research and am getting bogged down in the options. I'm mostly not sure if I should ultimately look into a road bike, touring bike, cyclocross, flat handlebars... Cheap and used is my style so I want to know what I should keep my eye open for on craigslist.

mlipps

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #23 on: December 03, 2012, 03:13:51 PM »
You should do some digging to see if there's a bike coop in your area. Here in Chicago, we have one called The Recyclery. Other cities seem to have something similar; great place to get a cheap bike, learn maintenance, etc.

StarswirlTheMustached

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Re: Long bike commute... Need inspiration.
« Reply #24 on: December 04, 2012, 04:29:27 PM »
+1 to bike co-op.
I would suggest a road bike, if you're primarily going to be on hard pavement. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, consider something else.

Do you get winter where you are?
  - Skinny tyres are great on dry pavement, but will kill you on slush, snow or ice. Get a hybrid so you can swap in off road or snow tyres for the messy months.
Do you have problems with pain in your wrists or lower back?
  - Get something with a more upright riding posture until you've beefed up those areas. Holding yourself up on an aggressive road bike is hard. That said, you can stick taller handlebars on fast road bike and be fine-- especially an old-style threaded stem (threadless don't adjust very well). If you're going craigslist, that's what you'll get.
Do you like going off road/ are their trails that you can encorporate into your commute?
  - Your speed advantage with a road bike goes right out the window if you don't have good pavement.

Do you plan on carrying heavy loads?