The Results of My “Bike to Work” Experiment

Ever since I picked up my bike I’ve been looking for an opportunity to attempt to ride in to work. I generally go in every Monday and Wednesday, and then every few Tuesday’s and the occasional Thursday or Friday. Since I head over to my parents after work every Wednesday, Monday was the day I decided to focus on. It’s about a 25 minute drive so I knew the bike ride would be over an hour each way. I needed to find a Monday that wasn’t crazy busy at the warehouse and where it looked like the weather would cooperate.

This past weekend I checked the weather and Monday looked perfect, so I decided I’d give it a go. I wanted to replicate a true biking commute as much as possible, partly to see if it’s something I could do regularly, and partly just to say I did it. So I packed up a backpack with my CR-48 (another great use-case for a cheap computer), including the charger and a mouse, my lunch, plenty of water, and the usual safety stuff you should have if you’re going for a long bike ride (pump, air pressure gauge, flat repair kit, etc). Let me tell you – it was heavy. No one thing weighs a lot, but added together it was more weight than I’d like to carry on a long bike ride.

Around 7 AM I took off. It was perfect out, roughly 65 degrees. I knew that the worst part of my bike ride would be the first mile. When you take a left out of my apartment there’s an unavoidable ridiculously steep hill that seems like it never ends. It’s one of those hills that you’re really anxious about driving your car on when it’s snowing. By the time I finished climbing it I was ready to turn around and head home. I had to stop, catch my breath, grab some water, and convince myself it was worth moving on.

The rest of the ride in was OK. There were A LOT of hills. I guess that’s what you get living in upstate NY. The scenery was beautiful though. I made it in to work a little after 8 AM.

Final stats for the ride in (according to My Tracks):

  • Total Distance: 11.36 miles
  • Total Time: 1:07:23
  • Moving Time: 57:39
  • Average Moving Speed: 11.82 mph
  • Max Speed: 21.7 mph

My main concern was that I would tighten up while at work. Unlike my setup at home where I have the option of a standing desk or sitting on a workout ball, all I have at work is a chair. I did my best to stay active in the warehouse throughout the day. My back was bothering me a bit from the backpack. I decided to be smart about the ride home and leave the computer back at work.

I thought the ride home would be more downhill, but other than that final mile it seemed just as physically exerting. Just lots and lots of hills. It was pretty hot out – around 85 degrees. With the sun beaming down in full force I was definitely sweating like crazy. I wore my sunglasses this time, which helped a ton. On the way in I ended up getting a few bugs in my eyes (as well as plenty of pollen).

Final stats for the ride home:

  • Total Distance: 11.48 miles
  • Total Time: 1:04:24
  • Moving Time: 55:13
  • Average Moving Speed: 12.47 mph
  • Max Speed: 23.94 mph

By the time I was home I was pretty physically spent. I’m much more in weight lifting shape than I am cardiovascular shape, so for me this was a big accomplishment.

The total distance for both rides was 22.84 miles. According to The True Cost of Driving, the current total direct and indirect costs of driving is $1.39/mile. Meaning I saved myself $31.75. That’s kind of cool. I can see how you could save a ton of money and get a lot of great exercise if you were in a situation where regular commuting by bike was more feasible.

Unfortunately, because of how long it took, how tired I was, all of the logistics around bringing food and my laptop, and the amount of hills involved, this doesn’t seem like something that would make sense to do on any sort of regular basis. The commute would have to be about half as long and much flatter to make it a realistic option.

Still, I had a great time doing it and I’m glad I was able to do it. I set a goal to try commuting to work when I bought my bike and I did it. It’s also great that despite how busy things have been at work lately I was able to flex my schedule around and do something like this.

Last Friday, Mike and I took off for the day and worked up in the city of Saratoga Springs, spending our morning at the Uncommon Grounds coffee shop and then wandering around the city, grabbing lunch, and working for a few more hours at a Starbucks. These are the types of things that I couldn’t do in a corporate environment. It used to depress me when I’d look outside and see a beautiful day that I couldn’t enjoy because I had to sit inside until 5 PM.

I try to appreciate how lucky I am to be able to do this stuff now.

8 comments on The Results of My “Bike to Work” Experiment

  1. Anthony says:

    That’s awesome. I really wish it was feasible to not own a car, period.

    P.S. Maybe you should get a Vespa!

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Haha yea I could see myself in a Vespa.

      I totally agree on wishing I didn’t have to own a car. There’s nothing I really enjoy about driving at all. I hope to eventually live near a downtown area somewhere so I can minimize my driving a little more (everything is really spaced out around here) but I’ll probably never be able to ditch it completely unless I live somewhere like NYC…which is a little too busy for me.

  2. Robert says:

    Love it. Great story. 11 miles each way! I rode the golden gate bridge the other day (vacation) and that was tough enough, cant imagine 22 miles.
    Inspiring story for us sitting in the cubes still. Thanks.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Thanks Robert. I’d imagine riding the Golden Gate Bridge was an amazing experience! The view alone must have been unreal.

  3. Tim says:

    Back in the day I rode my bike to work, it was a similar situation, 10 miles each way. It felt like it was uphill both directions, I was exhausted I tweaked something in my knee, in other words it was not enjoyable. To add insult to injury I was working a blue color job back then so it was a 1 hour ride, a 9 hour day of hard time and then an hour ride home. Now that I’m looking at moving I’m seriously considering getting a bike, there are a ton of things less than 4 miles away, so it’s a great way to get some exercise, saves some cash and be greener.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      That’s the perfect scenario. 4 miles is just far enough that it’s too far to walk but the bike ride isn’t too long and won’t tire you out. Plus you have better weather in NC than up here so you should get more days where riding is possible.

  4. Rob says:

    Looks like a nice way to get to work! Do you still go to the gym every day? Wouldn’t this be a cheaper & more practical gym substitute some days if you are?

    • Adam McFarland says:

      If it were a little shorter it would be. The total riding time was over 2 hours, and there was probably another 30 minutes involved in misc stuff like setting up my bike. On the average work day I don’t quite have that time to devote to my workouts. My schedule also just doesn’t work that well with it. Monday’s are generally really long days for us. Sometimes I’m out in the warehouse all day, which is exhausting in and of itself. If I was going in 5 days a week I’d consider doing another day. And then there’s the weather in NY. This time of the year it seems like it rains almost every day…something I don’t really want to deal with while I have a computer in my bag.

      Down the road if I move, or if the company moves, I hope it works out that I can bike/walk to work.

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