Bike commuting is the best way to get in two workouts when you arrive home from work. It gives you a sense of accomplishment, refreshes you mentally and physically, and helps you burn many calories. It can be a money saver too.
When you first consider the possibility of bike commuting, you may wonder if you could commit to it regularly or if it’s too far for you. Anyway, what’s a reasonable distance to bike to work?
Up to 10 miles each way is a reasonable bike commuting distance for a person of average fitness level. Riding 10 miles at a moderate pace in normal traffic conditions takes about 1 hour. For a person with exceptional fitness level, 15 miles each way commute is still doable.
|Distance||Difficulty||Best bike type|
|0 – 3 miles||Easy||Dutch bike (city bike)|
|3 – 6 miles||Moderate||Hybrid bike|
|6 – 10 miles||Difficult||Hybrid / gravel / touring bike|
|10 – 15 miles||Very difficult||Gravel / touring bike|
|15+ miles||Extremely hard||Gravel / touring / road bike|
In reality, the question of a reasonable distance for you is more complex than the number of miles. To understand whether you can commit to bike commuting, you need to consider a few factors specific to you: your fitness level, how hilly the terrain is, how much time you need to spend on the bike, the bike you need, and the gear that best suits your needs.Electric bikes built for everything and priced for everyone. Shop Rad Power Bikes, America's #1 electric bike brand. Get out. Go further. Ride Rad.
If you already have a bike but you can’t guess the distance you’re riding, you can use a free app like Strava or Endomondo on your phone.
How Fit Are You?
If you have done a 60-mile bike tour, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to do a 30-mile round trip daily. Daily commuters of 10 miles each way usually feel the first signs of fatigue, especially in their legs, when Thursday rolls around, and they’re happy to take one or two days off at the weekend.
But how do you know if you’re fit enough? The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the proof of the cyclist is in the riding. The best way to find it out is by doing a test ride from home to work. The best is to do this on a weekend when you don’t have any time pressure.
Don’t set a speed record on your bike; try to get a feel for the route and what a comfortable pace is for you. Doing this in the same clothes you will wear is typically recommended. If you can do this in less than 2 hours at a comfortable pace, your fitness level is good enough to do this regularly. Most people, even those who aren’t exceptionally fit, can do a 20-mile round trip within 2 hours.
If you can barely move from exhaustion after the test ride or it takes longer than 2 hours, it is probably best to look into other solutions. For instance, multimodal commuting combines cycling with another transportation mode, such as a train or tram. You can also buy an electric bike.
Record your route on your GPS on a mobile application so you can look at it later to see how you can tweak it. Since the very beginning, I have recorded my commutes on Endomondo every day, because I like keeping track of my miles and my progress, but I also like optimizing my route.
Notice how my riding distance has been reduced by over a mile, I have become much faster and my commute has become 25 minutes shorter.
Don’t worry if you aren’t fit at the beginning or your legs are sore. It is pretty normal, and it isn’t necessarily a sign that you aren’t able. When you ride regularly, your endurance will improve a great deal over time. You will get faster, less sore, and less exhausted. Concentrate on getting through the first few weeks initially. If you can be consistent for 4 weeks solid, you are 90% more likely to form a long-term bike commuting habit.
How Long Will Bike Commuting Take?
After your first test ride, you will know precisely how far you live from work and how long it takes to get there. An average rider goes at a pace of between 4 and 6 minutes/mile (10-15 mph). To ride 10 miles takes 40 to 60 minutes.
The time you spend on your bike is also affected by the terrain and the weather conditions. Going uphill slows you down a great deal and causes you to sweat more intensely. A strong tailwind can help you be much faster, and a headwind will greatly slow you down.
In general, cycling to work usually takes longer than driving a car, although cyclists are faster in peak-hour traffic in the city.
The good thing about bike commuting is that the travel time is predictable and isn’t affected too much by the traffic. My bike commute is about 40-45 minutes each way, but it is between 30-55 minutes by car. The morning rides usually take 10 minutes longer than by car, but due to traffic building up in the city when I come home, I can save 5-10 minutes by riding.
If you compare travel times to public transportation, cycling is usually faster unless your city has an excellent metro network. Having your bike also gives you the freedom to not rely on the bus or tram schedule. I save 25 minutes each way compared to commuting using public transportation.
If you can save time compared to your current commute or don’t add too much time to it, you should try it. Since riding 15-20 miles each way would take 1.5-2 hours for an inexperienced cyclist, especially in an urban area, I think it is too far for most people.
This is why I believe that any distance up to 10 miles is a reasonable distance to ride. For some people, the extra time isn’t an issue, but people with a full-time job and a family would struggle to fit this into their day.
Prepare To Sweat
If you ride more than 3 miles, you will sweat. Fact.
3 out of 5 people tell me they’d love to bike commute, but they are worried they will sweat too much.
How much you will sweat depends on the distance and the intensity of your ride.
If you hate sweating but only have a short, 1-3 mile commute, you don’t need to worry. It’s fast enough that it doesn’t take too long, and you can pedal easily without putting too much effort into it. If you have a longer commute (5-10 miles) and don’t want to sweat, an electric bike can be an excellent choice. Many people choose electric bikes for their commute precisely for the same reason.
If sweating doesn’t bother you, but you’re concerned about body odor, then I suggest you read ‘How to overcome body odor as a bike commuter?’, in which I researched the most common causes of BO and what you can do about it.
Which Commuter Bike Is Best?
A commuter bike isn’t necessarily the fastest, newest, shiniest road bike. Comfort and reliability are the only two essential characteristics of every good commuter bike. Everything else you need in it depends on you, the rider.
The reasonable bike commuting distance also depends on how you feel at the end of the day when you get home. An uncomfortable bike can make you feel destroyed. It can give you aches and pains, not to mention that it can even be dangerous. A good bike makes you want to ride it whenever you see it, and comfort is essential to this experience.
Whether a bike is comfortable for you is determined by its geometry and size.
Several factors come into play in bike geometry. Without going into too much detail, the most important indicator determining how comfortable a bike is is the position of the handlebar relative to the saddle.
If the handlebar is higher than the saddle and doesn’t lean too much forward, it allows you to be more upright and offers more comfort. Bikes with handlebars lower than the saddle and leaning forward provide a more aggressive riding position, which is less comfortable.
Generally speaking, the more comfortable the bike is, the slower it is.
Since each bike model is available in different sizes, you need to find the one that fits you. This is an essential and often overlooked aspect, especially when you’re in the market for a used bike. It’s tempting to make a compromise on size because you’ve found a bicycle you really like.
A commuter bike should also be reliable and without needing constant adjustments. The more durable the components are, the less you need to worry about anything going wrong. Cheap bikes from department stores usually come with low-quality parts that break easily, so it’s best to avoid them.
If you don’t want to spend too much money on a brand new bike, then even a used one from a well-known brand, such as Giant, Trek, and Cannondale, for example, that has been kept in good condition, will last much longer. You can get a reliable used commuter for 200-300 dollars.
To find out what you need in your bike, you must have some experience. I suggest starting your commute on a bike you already own or can borrow from someone. Ride it for a few weeks and pay attention to how you feel. In the first month, you will learn a lot about your route, how your body reacts and adapts, and understand your specific needs. You may even find out that the best commuter bike is the one that you already own.
My favorite bike commuting products
Here are some of the products I love using for bike commuting. They make riding so much more fun and enjoyable.
Ergon GP5 Bar End Grips: These are super comfortable, ergonomic grips that offer me two extra hand positions on my flat bar bicycle. They also offer a much more comfortable grip that helps distribute my weight on the handlebar better.
Bar end mirrors: If you ride much among cars then a bar end mirror can make riding much safer. You don’t have to turn around every single time to check on the traffic coming from behind.
Bike lights from Cateye. This is essential year-round. I recommend going for a more powerful light than just a to-be-seen light. I like the 800-lumen ones from Cateye because they are affordable, portable, and still, give out plenty of light so I can see where I’m going even in pitch dark. The battery lasts for a long time too, and it’s USB rechargeable.
Bike rack. This bike rack from Dirza is great because I can put it on almost any bicycle regardless of whether they have mounting points for racks or not. I can leave it on my bike for commuting or take it off for weekend rides or whenever I don’t need a rack.
If you want to check out my full list of recommended products, you visit my recommended gear page.