Bike commuting revisited: Six things to know

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I’m a few months into this whole bike commuting thing. Thus far, I’ve done all the things I’m supposed to do — get a reflector vest, lights for the bike, and so forth. It seems to be going decently.

Like I said before, I’m doing this out of necessity. I’m sure it would be really admirable if I was all about saving the planet, or finding yet another way to squeeze in even more fitness and outdoors stuff in my life. No need to have me fitted with a cape and shirt with a big “S” on it, though. I’m in it because I don’t want to pay for downtown parking, which would run me anywhere from $400 to $1,200 a year, depending on how I managed it.

But has it been worth it? I’d say yes and no. But mostly yes. The best way to explain it is to go over what I’ve learned. So if you’re thinking about a bike commute, here are my observations…

Be prepared to spend some money to save some money. This assumes you’re buying a bike on the cheap like me. You can spend hundreds of even thousands of dollars on bikes — something I wasn’t prepared to do. I spent $150 on mine. But while it was in good shape, it still needed some tweaks to get it road worthy. I also had to buy all that gear I mentioned earlier, plus a few other things. All told, I think I spent as much or more on bicycle gear as I did on the actual bike. And there is still more work that can be done. Budget accordingly.

The logistics of bike commuting can be a real pain in the butt. It usually means packing a backpack with my food, my work clothes, and all of the other stuff I’ll need for the day. There is also getting the gym clothes I wear during the ride. Putting all this stuff together — packaged and folded so it will fit in the pack — takes about 30 minutes. That’s about 25 more minutes than how it used to be when I was in walking distance from my office, and maybe 20 minutes more if I were driving. Logistically speaking, walking and driving are easier. Biking takes more prep work, and it can be annoying after awhile.

There will be days when you don’t want to physically exert yourself to get to your job. The uphills get old. The downhills are easy — though not quite as easy as plopping your duff in the driver’s seat, turning on some tunes and motoring your way to the office. The physical commitment involved with driving is pretty much nil, and nil is what I feel like some days.

Check with your office or job site about their policy on where you can stow your bike. It would be a real bummer to gear up for bike commuting only to be told you had to lock up your bike somewhere else for the day, out of sight, and left to the elements — and opportunistic thieves.

Be prepared to see an immediate benefit to your legs. Even a short daily commute is going to work your legs more than other forms of commuting. The muscle underneath will be a little firmer, the quadriceps a little better defined, and so forth. Pumping those pedals to get to work is really a rad form of multitasking — arriving on time to work while getting a mini workout.

Enjoy the savings that do come. Because they will. Gas is cheap right now, but not using gas is cheaper. In fact, all the costs associated with using your car every day go down when you leave the car in the garage or driveway most of the week. I usually drive two or three times a week, max. That’s it. I gas up my car maybe once a month, and normally only half way. Cycling also means fewer oil changes, less tire wear and so forth.

So there you have it. My first post on this subject touched on some other things, so check out that link and see if this is something you might want to do.

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Bob Doucette

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6 thoughts on “Bike commuting revisited: Six things to know

  1. I live about 6 miles from my office. I pay $275/mo to park in a garage in Cambridge and it’s going up to $300. When I get my last pay stub of the year and see the total for my parking expense it makes me sick.
    I’ve thought about jogging or riding to work but decided not to because of the clothing issues and risk involved.
    By the time I’d get to work I’d need to shower. I can never pack clothes well enough that they would not look like they needed to go into the wash when I got to work and put them on!
    Some of the roads I drive are treacherous in a car. Then there is that Boston weather.
    I commend you for doing this and wish I could summon the courage to do the same.
    Cheers – Andy

  2. Inhad a prof in college who would commute about 20 miles in on his bike and then take the bus home. 20 miles is a long way, but that seemed like a great way to deal with the distance if he really wanted to bike.

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