Reasons to commute by bike

Cyclists disembark Caltrain at Palo Alto Station on Bike To Work Day

“Recycled Cyclist” in Massachusetts writes that he commutes by bike for the wrong reasons — that is, he commutes by bike because — get this! — he actually likes to ride his bike. What a novel concept!

He doesn’t ride to save money, to save time, or to save the environment or to improve his health. “I like commuting by bike because it’s pleasant for many months of the year,” he writes. “ I arrive at work mentally refreshed, calm, and at peace. My energy level is good, and I have a better attitude and perspective on things thanks to 75 minutes of trees, pedaling, concentration, and free thinking, combined into a commute. Commuting by bike is fun. It’s purely selfish. I commute by bike for all the wrong reasons.

Seriously, I think most serious bike commuters ride the bike because they genuinely enjoy bike riding. I was a little shocked, in fact, when I found out a regular bike commuter I’ve known for a couple of years actually hates riding bikes. She gets around by bike because she’s a die-hard environmentalist. To her, getting around by bike is a real sacrifice.

How about yourself? Do you ride because you enjoy it? Or do you have a nobler purpose in mind?

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0 thoughts on “Reasons to commute by bike”

  1. Great topic, Fritz.

    I’m personally a little bit of both. I’m an environmentalist, I hate to drive a car, I love exercise and how it makes me feel, and I want to be a good example to my young son.

    I actually started mostly because of the first two reasons, but I’ve found myself loving the commute and wishing it was longer (ever heard a driver say that?). I’ve never been a fitness cyclist (the furthest I’ve ever biked in one sitting is 20 miles and I did that once), but the pure fun of cycling is growing on me.

  2. Tim Grahl says:

    Although I’ve been riding my bike to work off and on for awhile, I’ve recently forced myself into the habit by selling off my car and going to a one car family.

    I, also, have a hard time doing anything just because it’s good for me or the environment, but now three weeks into commuting as a main source of transportation, I find I look forward to the ride and am disappointed on the days I have to drive.

    Not to mention I’ve lost eight pounds…

  3. Mike in Florida says:

    I’ve been commuting by bike every day(give or take) since Halloween 2006. The clutch on my car went out and since my bike had been sitting idle I thought I’d start riding. My commute isn’t as long as the Recycled Cyclist, and I’m slower than him, but I feel great and I don’t want to drive again. I actually borrowed a friend’s car last week and driving just freaked me out. Everything is too fast.

    I’ve dropped 20 pounds since Halloween. Unfortunately, a lot of it was hard earned gym muscle, but them’s the breaks.

    Recycled Cyclist is FAST. My route is 19.1 miles in, and 18 miles home, and I do the ride in to work in 75 minutes ATM(actual time moving). He’s doing 27 in that time. Impressive.

  4. Fritz says:

    15 mph over 19 miles is pretty good, Mike, and that’s about the level I’m at. On group rides that places me about mediocre. Recycled is claiming nearly 22 mph average, which is at the higher end of the scale, especially at this time of year.

  5. Val says:

    I’m still having a tremendously hard time imagining the state of mind that would regard riding a bike as a sacrifice. Sacrifice of what? Does this person actually wish that she was in a car? I drove 25 miles each way, five days a week, for ten years, and I considered that a sacrifice. I was sacrificing my peace of mind and my health. I was sacrificing time that could have been spent riding, spending it instead sitting behind another exhaust belcher wondering when we were going to start moving again. I was sacrificing non renewable resources and the air quality around me for speed that should have been unnecessary. I was sacrificing my principles because I had allowed my life to be arranged in such a way that I could not afford the time to ride. I hated it. Now I drive once or twice a year, and it serves to remind me what an inferior mode fo transportation it is. Biking is fun, and good for your body and mind. It gets you where you need to be at a reasonable speed, and the only real drawback is a loss of some degree of comfort in some weather. We have come to expect too much comfort out of life, and the price is too high.

  6. Tom says:

    I have been commuting by bike for the past 18 months. I do it for all the reasons listed, but I really enjoy the ride. It gives me time to think, time to wind down from the day, and a nice little bit of exercise to boot. Now, being in the Bay Area, year round commuting is much more palatable.

  7. Val says:

    Not meaning to monopolize, here, but I just remembered a day recently when I was preparing to go home from work, and looked outside to check the weather. “Oh, it’s raining again,” I said. Our receptionist tried to commiserate: “And you have to ride your bike.” “No, no,” I said, “you have it wrong: I GET to ride my bike.” From the heart.

  8. Fritz says:

    Val, the person I know lives in Canada. And yeah, she’s told me that “having” to ride a bike is a drag.

    Tom: I guess you recognize the train in the photo.

  9. Drew says:

    Commuting by bike actually turned me into an environmentalist. Sort of. I have always kind of leaned that way, but for some reason I had a fairly large truck. When I started to ride my bike to work, I noticed how much more smelly the area around the bigger trucks and suv’s is. I sold it and now for motorized transport I have a small car.

    But I don’t ride my bike because it is good for the environment. If that is your thing, you need to be lobbying Washington, because the few of us that ride make no difference in air quality at all.

    I ride because I love it.

  10. Al says:

    Same with me, people always feel bad for me when I “have” to commute in the rain/snow/sleet. I laugh at them and tell the they have it wrong, I get to ride my bike in the rain/snow/sleet. We moved to our current house mainly because it made it “easier” for me to commute by bike. My commute can take anywhere from 1.5 miles to 20 miles one way. I love having the choice of routes from which I can choose from depending on whether I am running late, have an early morning meeting, weather condition, etc…

  11. Jett says:

    Wrong reason? Right reason? It’s all good no matter what the reason.

    I do commute by bike because I enjoy it, I have a choice of routes from 3 miles on up, and it’s a great way to build exercise into my daily schedule. I feel like I am the change that I want to see in the world.

    I can’t say that I’ve lost weight, but I have kept the same waist size during the 25+ years I’ve been commuting by bike.

    And then finally, riding the bike makes it a lot easier for me to speak my mind about people who give no thought to how wasteful automobiles are — I do save a good bit of money.

  12. Paul of N.W. GA says:

    For me, I have very few reasons to drive a car, and lots of reasons not to.

    When I canceled my auto insurance, I asked them if there was any reason I needed to own a car. I told them I would list ten reasons against for everyone they could. They listed speed and distance, it was too easy” : /

    As for when people say it must be hard on me, I tell them they have no idea what they are missing, and they don’t.

    If anyone is wondering, the Fort Oglethorpe Police have backed down under pressure. Yesterday, I rode in front of the police station as the police chief was leaving, after about a mile I was were I was going, he was also going that way. When I realized it, I slowed down to make sure he was the car behind me before I turned off….. : )

  13. Noah says:

    “I actually started mostly because of the first two reasons, but I’ve found myself loving the commute and wishing it was longer (ever heard a driver say that?).”

    Yes, but they’re driving Corvettes, Vipers, or Elises and they could afford the gasoline to fuel their habit even if it was $20 per gallon.

    All that aside, I’m not an environmentalist. I started because I USED to like riding and it’d been 10 years since I was on a bike. My car was acting odd and the replacement part was on back-order. I figured I could get a bike and try riding to the bus. 3 Miles each way? No biggie. I ended up liking it, but not as much as I loved the flexibility of having my bike with me in downtown KC, MO.

    I actually rattled off the top 10 things I like about my bike commute on my own blog a while ago. It’s ever-changing though and my list today would probably be different. While I enjoy cycling, I’m not even sure it’d make my top 10 things I like about my bike commute.

    In the end, whatever reason you choose is fine with me. Kudos to those who view it as a sacrifice; I could not ride by bike every day if I didn’t like to.

  14. b3ksmith says:

    16 Reasons To Bike Commute

    1. Driving a car in traffic is not fun.
    2. Biking to work is fun.
    3. Driving a car is not good exercise.
    4. Biking is good exercise.
    5. When a car blocks the right lane, a car must wait to pass.
    6. When a car blocks the right lane, a bike can hop onto the curb and pass.
    7. If there is a trail along side your car commute, you can only gaze longingly.
    8. If there is a trail along side your bike commute, you can take it.
    9. If your car gets a flat, its a pain to fix and you block traffic.
    10. If your bike gets a flat, its a quick fix on the sidewalk.
    11. For the price of many car repairs you can buy a new bike.
    12. Bike repairs are infrequent and cheap.
    13. For

  15. Warren T says:

    Amen to all the reasons above. I started CBB’ing again, about 3 years ago, after a 19-year-old in a catering truck rear ended me at 35 mph while I was stopped at a red light. I was fine, other than ending up a full inch shorter than I was before the accident (weird), but the mini van was totaled. Since the office was ~4 miles from home with all but .7 miles on a bike path that winds along next to a creek – I hopped back on the bike. I’ve yet to replace the mini-van.

    It may be strange to those who don’t do this, but on the days where weather conditions are the worst, I feel like I’ve accomplished some great feat by the time I get to work and am raring to start the day.

    Here is a link to a nice, short post about how bicycling saved someone’s life:

    [Its on topic and saves me from creating another post…]

  16. hooligan_cyclist says:

    I miss my 7 mile commute to work. Now i have about a 1 mile ride in. The other day I rode down to the post office which is about 1.5 miles the opposite direction. the ride to work after that was soooo nice. space out and watch the trees go by, relaxed a bit more….made me miss my commute… I am thinking about moving further away just to ride more.
    I have a car but I am fortunate that virtually everything I need is within a 3-4 mile radius of me so I rarely drive except to take a pretty girl out on a date, and sometimes we go for rides as dates.

  17. jd says:

    There are several reasons why I choose commute by bicyle, but I began commuting about a year ago because I like to ride my bicycle. I also HATE traffic. I hate sitting in traffic. I hate driving in traffic. I hate highways. I hate waste that cars produce, and I hate paying for things that go into a car. (car insurance, gas, tuneups, license fees, parking tickets, etc.) So I figured there had to be a better way.

    Now I have better peace of mind, I am in the best shape of my life, I’m not stressed out when I go to work, I live a simple life, I’m not in a hurry, I meet more new people everyday, and I save a lot of money. Bike commuting has made me realize that simple living is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. Everyday I realize how little I need, and it has helped me to become less of a consumer. I also bike commute because I believe in the community and local businesses. As far as the environment goes, some would say that it makes no difference or impact if we commute by bike or not, but that is just the attitude that got us into this mess in the first place. So it’s more of a principle thing for me, rather than “am I making a difference in greenhouse gases?”

  18. sasquatch2 says:

    Environmentalism and gettin’ a leg up on the competition at weekend races are my dealmakers!
    I saw a soldier carrying a helmet and bags walking up to the front door of a house that has a “support our troops” banner yesterday morning, I felt like clapping for him and saying thank you for doing your part to protect me, I’m doing my part to protect you! Decided to not get in the way of of his homecoming tho.
    My 45 minutes a day has made me a stronger weekend warrior too, you can’t beat that with a bat!
    Responses from co-workers are pretty universal from what I’ve read online. co-workers feel sorry for ya asking if you’re broke and can’t afford gas or saying what a drag it must be to ride. nothing is more of a drag than sitting in traffic belching out smog and paying for gas/repairs. I have a response for “you biked in THIS weather?” I ask ” you DROVE???” Safety is a big concern for most drivers I’ve noticed, afraid of being hit by a car. Car accidents suck too, 1 dork crashed her SUV going “like 20 mph or sumpthin” on the thruway in a torrential downpour. She got mauled by the airbags, luckilly she has a much bigger SUV now! that’s better than learning how to drive.


  19. Chuck says:

    I had a love-hate affair with biking. I loved the freedom of biking, but I hated neck pain, wrist pain, and, ahem, other pain. Last spring, I went from being a recreational biker to a full time commuter. The neck and wrist pains got worse. I stopped riding recreationally, but kept commuting (paying for parking is a disincentive to drive). I found a used recumbent on Craigslist a few months ago and started riding that to work. Wow! It was like being a kid again, my 8 mile one-way commute became 15 and 20 mile commutes just for the fun of riding. I can’t wait for summer to do some tours.

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