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Thread: Article: How Far is Too Far to Bike to Work

  1. #1
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    Default Article: How Far is Too Far to Bike to Work


  2. #2
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    I'm in the 11-15 range one-way. (I'm not sure how that fits into the chart, because it doesn't specify one-way or round-trip.) I can do it, because I've been gradually increasing my distance for years. Before I started commuting, I was biking about that distance once a week--although as they say, it was still initially tough to do it five days in a row.

    But I think the limiting factor for me is time, not distance. My current commute takes me only a little longer than car or public transit in the mornings, but quite a bit longer in the evenings. (It's all uphill back to Bethesda.) If it were much longer, I just wouldn't have time to do it on top of the long hours I work.
    Last edited by cvcalhoun; 02-27-2017 at 02:05 PM.

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  4. #3
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    As someone who had not been biking seriously before I began commuting, it took me quite some time to work up to doing my 10 mile commute comfortably, several times a week. If my commute had been much longer than that, I don't know that I would have persisted to this point.

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    The general listing provided in the article is good. Many years ago I was 2 miles from work, and that was easy - even with the up-hill both ways (there was a ridge between me and my office). Now I am a bit under 9. It is do-able, but the time (I am not super fast), including the changing clothing time, adds up. If I need to be at the office early, then I am frequently not riding because I would have to leave so early and thus get no sleep the night before. I would be much happier with something more like 5-6 miles - enough to get some exercise, but not so much time. I would still do 40-80 miles on my Sunday rides.

  6. #5
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    I agree with the article overall. I'm at the 14 mile mark right now, and we bought our house in this distance range because I refused to look at a bike commute further out than 15 miles because that's the limit of what I felt I could handle as a daily commute. It's definitely hard, but do-able if you're dedicated.

    I agree with Cvcalhoun's point too. Once you get past a certain mileage other forms of transportation end up looking better due to time constraints. When I lived 4 miles out, biking was faster than driving or metro. When I lived 8 miles out, biking was about equal. At 14 miles out, driving is by far the fastest way to work (by about 20-30 min or so if you leave early enough in the AM). I think right now, from waking up to getting to my desk, biking takes me roughly an hour longer than when I drive. I expect it to drop to 30-40 min in the warmer months since I wont have to spend as much time in the AM layering up and de-layering at work for cold weather and fidgeting with lights, but we'll see.

    I also found gear/bike needs changed when I moved further out. I went from a flat-bar bike that I loved for the 4-8 mile range, to really relying more on my road bike for commutes. For the hour long commute, the drop bars are way more comfortable. The flat bar bike is now just my poor-weather bike. I also had to invest in more bike shorts and shirts, since the longer commute meant more sweat, and there's only so many days in a row I can handle the same shorts/shirts without grossing out everyone around me.

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  8. #6
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    I think the article is a good start at attempting to answer the question, but it by no means comes close to the answer. There are 2 major factors that popped into my head as I read it that were never addressed: topography (hills!) & infrastructure.

    The topography around one's home and work plays a key role in determining distance ability. Throw a few hills (especially steep ones) into the mix, and even short commutes become much harder.

    Infrastructure also factors heavily into the ability for one to easily and quickly get to work (convenience). Biking on a road with 50 mph traffic gets more bearable when one has (preferably) separated infrastructure to use, and trails (especially those passing through parks/forests/nature/etc.) and calm streets can make travel much more accessible by being less stressful.

    I didn't think of this when I read the article, but another factor is family. Kids have appointments/games/trips to the hospital/etc., and one needs to have more flexibility to adjust to unexpected (remember when I said kids?) occurrences. Also, one wants to be able to have time to spend with family after a regular work day, so long distances can take up a lot of time.

    Again, it's a good start, but there's a whole lot more that factors into deciding what distance is too far for bike commuting.

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  10. #7
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    My own sense is that 12 miles is the point at which the alternatives become attractive again. 10 miles is the sweet spot in my book, as it's also the distance at which you're roughly as fast as a car in rush hour.

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    Wait, was he serious about wax in his hair? Is that some British term for hair gel or mousse or something?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crickey7 View Post
    Wait, was he serious about wax in his hair? Is that some British term for hair gel or mousse or something?
    Either that, or a throwback to the early 1960's...

    Click image for larger version. 

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  14. #10
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    I'm in the 11-15 (with the occasional 10.5), and it can get get hard in ways that are different from the 600-800 feets of climbing each way:

    • It takes an hour-ish each way, which is quite a bite out of the day in the peak of winter.
    • Even if there's just light rain, it's definitely enough distance to breach at least one piece of gear (I know, I know, better gear, but still)
    • If I go to bed late, I pay a high price - I'm sluggish getting to work, and generally slow the rest of the day. And those hills don't go away...
    • I could start in dry weather, and realize as I cross Lake Washington that my workplace is having a rainy day instead.
    • If I'm tired, it's still the same distance. My commute from Falls Church to Tysons could be cut down to 5-ish miles if I wasn't feeling up to it (or needed to be somewhere)


    But I get to see mountains on the clear days, and breaks even with transit, so there's that.

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