How long is your commute?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    How long is your commute?

    Fellow Riders,

    Totally subjective question; What is the perfect bicycle commute length? I currently commute about 10 miles which takes anywhere between 45 - 60 minutes. I work 10-11.5 hour days, which means early in the week I don't mind the commute, but then later in the week, I begin to wish that my commute was a little shorter. I think thats a function of not having enough time in the day, and not the actual mileage/time on the bike I'm putting in.

    I'm thinking about moving in the next 3 months, and have been pondering the perfect commute length. I think its probably somewhere in the 30-45 minute range, which is probably about 8 miles or so in a city environment.

    Anyone else have an opinion about when the commute is "too long" for cycling, or maybe even a commute that was too short? Where is the sweet spot?

  2. #2
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    Difficult to say for me. In bad weather it cant be short enough, in nice weather it is never long enough

    So in general my commute is 35minutes average over the year. In summer a few minutes faster, in winter a bit slower, but I dont care about it. For me, its the way to work, not a race. And in most of the cases when I drive or take the bus, I always have a situation in which I think, on the bike would be better.

    I am satisfied with my commute. If it would be much further, I would probably get a roadbike, or even an ebike.

    I think in your situation, I would rather look for another job in which ~40hrs average is enough.

  3. #3
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    for me, it would totally depend on climate and whether it works for you to shower/eat at work.

    I would definitely commute 1 mile, or ~~10+ (currently doing ~12 each way on a fat bike, but only 2 days a week).

    somewhere in between that, i would just sweat like crazy and not get enough of a workout to justify the extra steps required to plan getting laptop/clothes (and shoes, i always forget the damn shoes ) to work early in the morning.

    I guess my metric - did i work hard enough commuting that I don't feel like i _need_ any more exersize (of course i would love to get out on the dirt, but time/family/etc)

  4. #4
    CB of the East
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    Mine is 10 miles the hilly way or 12 miles the flat way. Both take 30 minutes with my very best effort on a road bike to 45-50 minutes on a slower day and a mountain bike with 30-40 being pretty typical. I would say that this is almost ideal for me. It's long enough to so you can't get lazy and go straight to work everyday and still get a decent workout.

    I'd think shorter would be better. You can ALWAYS add miles on days where you have time.

  5. #5
    Guidosan
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    Okay here are my thoughts. In a very general sense, a commute of up to around 10 miles is about right. Convenient and not too long to make it a big ordeal.
    But for me, I try to commute more so to supplement my time in the saddle and help improve or maintain fitness for my weekend events. When I worked 5 miles from home, I would take a longer route just to get more miles in. I now work over 45 miles from home. So I drive about 30 miles to a parking lot and ride the rest of the way in. This way I get about 15 miles each way, but the trip home has the hills to work on.
    So to answer your question, 5-10 for general commuting and 15-20 or more would be doable to include a fitness component. But this doesnít take into consideration of things like road condition, weather issues, traffic or family and other commitments.

  6. #6
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    All good thoughts.

    I think I like the idea of having a shorter commute but being able to add miles.

    I live in the DC area, and consider myself to have about 2.5-3 routes that I can choose from; each hovering around 10 miles total, which is just a tad too long even when I'm in a hurry and "crush it."

    I find myself on a lot of nights that around the 8 mile mark I'm "ready to be home" so I wonder if that is the magic number for myself, or if I feel that way because of anticipation; If I had an 8 mile commute, would I ready to be home after 6 miles. Of course, as previously mentioned, I do work long days at work, so I'm sure that has something to do with it.

    Thanks for all the thoughts guys, on a totally subjective topic!

  7. #7
    jfk
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    Excellent, I get a chance to brag. My commute to work is 6 miles single track plus seven on the road. The ride home is about 8 miles on the road. I'm lazy in the evenings, plus the way home is more up hill, into the wind, and into the setting sun.

    Bragging aside to your actual question: I agree that the 8 mile assessment is correct. I drew an eight mile circle around work and told my wife that's where we could move. However, I would choose your route carefully. My shortest path to work is 6.5 miles, but
    I divert as that path is dangerous and I'd probably get hit by a car if I road it every day. Also, if you can avoid riding into the setting sun, its good idea. Probably less of a DC problem.

    I used to live 2.5 miles from home and could ride home for lunch. I generally believe that having a short commute is effectively paying yourself more. That said, getting 6 miles of single track is repayment enough.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfk View Post
    Excellent, I get a chance to brag. My commute to work is 6 miles single track plus seven on the road. The ride home is about 8 miles on the road. I'm lazy in the evenings, plus the way home is more up hill, into the wind, and into the setting sun.

    Bragging aside to your actual question: I agree that the 8 mile assessment is correct. I drew an eight mile circle around work and told my wife that's where we could move. However, I would choose your route carefully. My shortest path to work is 6.5 miles, but
    I divert as that path is dangerous and I'd probably get hit by a car if I road it every day. Also, if you can avoid riding into the setting sun, its good idea. Probably less of a DC problem.

    I used to live 2.5 miles from home and could ride home for lunch. I generally believe that having a short commute is effectively paying yourself more. That said, getting 6 miles of single track is repayment enough.
    It sounds to me like that 6 miles of singletrack is optional? What kind of bike do you ride?

    Its funny that you mention that "having a short commute is effectively paying yourself more." No matter how much I enjoy my commute, because I have to bike 10 miles, it sometimes feels like part of work, and not fun. I suppose it's probably the same in a car. We're just using a different tool (a bike) that is typically more fun to get to work.

  9. #9
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    Typically I ride either 16.3 miles each way or 8.9 miles each way depending on whether I start from home or drive to the trailhead. I think you can get used to most things with enough repetition.

  10. #10
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    17 miles one way, 2-4 one way trips per week. Bike only takes 20 minutes longer than the car. Longer daylight after work rides sometimes are 20 miles with 8 miles of singletrack

  11. #11
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    Mine is about 35 minutes in, 40 minutes home (afternoon headwinds). Seems good. I would prefer it being longer at a stable speed without starting and stopping. I have a ton of stop signs and red lights with a short bike path.

    My commute for about 6 months before this was 45 minutes in, 1.5 hours home. That had a 1000' elevation difference, I went a longer route home, and had to make a stop to take care of the horses. That was bordering on long, but okay.

    My commute for about 6 months before that was 2.5 hours. 33 miles to work, 20 miles home as I typically took the train part of the way. Excellent training, but it was rough. At the time I was training for a full distance (140.6) triathlon, so I would also run at lunch and do a long run on the weekends, so the commute worked out. Not a lot of stop/starting either at 2:15am!

    If my wife isn't working, a LONG commute is fine because she can take care of all the home stuff, including the horses. But when she is working, most all of that stuff falls on me.

  12. #12
    jfk
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    Quote Originally Posted by swell6 View Post
    It sounds to me like that 6 miles of singletrack is optional? What kind of bike do you ride?

    Its funny that you mention that "having a short commute is effectively paying yourself more." No matter how much I enjoy my commute, because I have to bike 10 miles, it sometimes feels like part of work, and not fun. I suppose it's probably the same in a car. We're just using a different tool (a bike) that is typically more fun to get to work.
    The single track is optional, but I ride it more often than not. I ride a 2010 Gary Fisher Paragon (29er HT, 80mm fork) to work. I have city bike as back up.

    I agree with your mixed feelings on the commute. However, I will add that I am much happier person if I bike to work. Driving occasionally is fine, but I might end up in a road rage incident if I drove every day.

  13. #13
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    I commute with my kids to drop them off. We live on the country and have 8 km (5 miles) to school. They are 4 kids in the ages 6-12. This takes us 22-24 min. The fastest time was recorded on a very rainy day - weird in a way.
    This commute, the excercise, gives them a lot of mental energy. They are very happy when arriving at school. When I pick them up they just get on their bikes on we go home. Not once have they complained.
    Within a few weeks we'll be moving and the commute will increase to 10 km, plus winter adn riding with winter tires. At the same time they are getting stronger, and their bikes are being adjusted (by me, chain rings, cranksets, etc) so perhaps the average speed will increase a little.
    We'll see :-)

  14. #14
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    18 miles approximately each way, 90 minutes +/-5 there, which is up hill (gradual) and 65-75 minutes home. It's nice to ride down hill pretty much all the way home. Half of it is on a dirt trail (not fire road, not single track, with a few interesting sections), half of it is on paved or gravel trail. Very little involves roads to get to the trail (like a mile on either end of the trail part). It's a nice commute, mostly without cars. I try to do it 2X a week. When it's cold, I do it less, but I'm hoping foot warmers change that this season.

  15. #15
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    I used to be ~3 mi from work and generally rode ~10 round trip. Now I am < 6 mi from work and would say that anything under 15-20 round trip is optimal (for four-season riding ranging from ~10 F to 100).
    【ツ】 eDub 【ツ】

  16. #16
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    Iíve had a lot of different commutes over the years, ranging from 15min to 50mins. To answer the OPís question, I back up and re-iterate the 4 main reasons to commute: 1) Save $, 2) Save time, 3) Reduce emissions 4) Improve fitness. In some case, time isnít saved, so that is subjective.

    Iím content to save $ and time in my 15min commute over 5kms. I can do this distance 5x a week, no problem. All the folks with 40min+ commute are typically doing <5x week. I could only manage 3x week without feeling a bit burnt out when I had my 50min commute. Thereís always the exceptional commuter warrior type that will do the 10h+ of saddle time commuting in a week, but Iím guessing that person needs to pack double size lunches and keep on top of bike maintenance on regular basis.

    For the folks with school-aged kids, I doubt youíll hear any of them desire more than 30min of pedal time. Otherwise, your kids arenít seeing much of you during the week, and you wonít have much time outside of work for anything beyond laundry, cleaning and meal prep.

    For me: after 15mins I want to get changed before riding, which adds more time. So 15mins turns into 25min when I factor in all the hassle changing and packing clothes. So Iíd want the pedal to be at least 30mins of decent riding to justify getting changed, otherwise give me 15mins pedal. The 30min each way commuter isnít likely saving time once the change (and perhaps shower) are factored in, but they do get to save $ and improve fitness. YMMV.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by islander View Post
    For the folks with school-aged kids, I doubt youíll hear any of them desire more than 30min of pedal time. Otherwise, your kids arenít seeing much of you during the week, and you wonít have much time outside of work for anything beyond laundry, cleaning and meal prep.
    YMMV.
    This is one of the best "answers" I've ever read. Why? Because you're not saying "do this, do that". You're not stating something that you don't know. And that's not very common. You're painting one picture that might be correct for some ppl, but not for all. All families work in different ways, and how anyone wishes to solve things in their everyday life, or how to make their weeks work is up to them.
    Me, for example, I'm a single dad with 4 kids every other week. That is one week at my house, and one week at their mother's. I work full-time, but I only need to work every other week - of course I work the week I don't have the kids. So I'm completely off from work the week I have the kids which means they have 100% of my time and attention. Etc, etc. I wouldn't have it any other way. Showing and teaching my kids to ride/commute by bike gives them a great deal of freedom since we live on the country with miles to their different activities. Also, the oldest girls' commute time gives them some time off from the chaos at home with two smaller brothers. Mental freedom.

  18. #18
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    My trip is a very short 3/4 mile commute. It works well for me since it's quick enough to keep me from getting sweaty- no place to shower. It gets me warmed up and ready for my active job, and I feel good getting on the bike every day. It also allows me to ride the single speed or fixed gear bikes that I enjoy more.

    I used to have a 3.5 mile commute and although I enjoyed the distance and exercise portion more, I didn't enjoy the extreme sweatiness that I created.

    Time is also a factor and my 3/4mi commute is as fast or faster than my truck from door to door. Winter may be a challenge this year, but I'm planning to ride daily - we'll see!


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