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Biking to work can help you stay fit, save money, and have better overall well-being. Thinking about it may seem daunting and you may have several concerns about it such as getting sweaty, where to keep your bicycle, having helmet hair, and all other things. Those are all valid concerns, but the moment you drop your car and you start riding on two wheels to work, you’ll find you’ll end up having a better overall quality of life.
Biking to work — or to school, the coffee shop, or wherever — comes with a ton of benefits that you may not be aware of. Well, we’re here to convince you why you should consider doing so, along with some tips to help you out in your journey. Here’s your beginner’s guide to biking to work!
Is Biking to Work Enough Exercise?
According to the World Health Organization, the minimum recommended amount of moderate exercise is 150 minutes per week for adults. If you ride your bicycle for 30 minutes a day (15 minutes to work, and 15 minutes to ride home), five times a week, you can meet the suggested threshold. This makes cycling a great form of physical activity and it won’t even eat into any ‘extra’ time of your day as it’s a part of your commute.
Cycling is one of the best cardio workouts out there. The exact amount of calories that one can lose varies between each individual and their speed, but on average, cycling burns as many calories as jogging. It is also considered an aerobic exercise as it strengthens your heart, while the cardio part of it improves your heart’s capability to pump more efficiently. Other health benefits of riding bikes include lowering your blood pressure, boosting your energy, building muscle, improving your coordination, and even alleviating the risk of developing cancer.
Cyclists, when compared to other commuters, showed a reduced risk of those health ailments and a lower risk of death overall. So yes, cycling for 15 minutes to and from work each day, or even longer than 15 minutes allows you to reach the minimum amount of exercise. While it’s just a minimum amount, it’s still a great form of working out your body and making a positive change to your lifestyle.
Does a Bike Commute Make a Difference?
From a 2017 study published in the medical journal The BMJ, it was shown that people who rode a bike to work gained significant benefits to their mental health and well-being. Apart from that, research has also shown that biking to work decreases an individual’s carbon footprint, lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
In short, becoming a bike commuter does make a difference. Let this beginner’s guide show you the positive impact that you can make when cycling.
Happiness and Mental Well-Being
We’ve already talked about the fitness benefits of biking to work, so let’s dive into its positives for mental wellness. Riding on crowded public transportation or being stuck in your car in endless traffic jams can be stressful and agitating for some people. Bike commuting can transform that stress into something better. According to numerous cyclists, biking has transformed their daily commute into a moderate form of therapy. Since they started riding a bike to the office daily, their stress has reduced, becoming overall much happier than car drivers.
Aside from reducing stress, becoming a bike commuter has also helped in alleviating symptoms of depression, improved their sleep patterns, and reduced their anxiety. Riding a bike has also been seen to help prevent cognitive decline, sharpen memory and learning, and improve overall brain performance. Those who bike to work are more productive, focused, and have more energy to tackle their tasks throughout the day.
Moreover, biking is, simply put, a fun activity. Some people look back on their fond childhood memories of biking, wishing for that carefree feeling in the midst of the demands of working life. When you ride a bike to the office, you can allow yourself to take in your surroundings, listen to the sound of nature around you, and even wave at fellow cyclists as you ride. And, let’s admit it, biking is way more fun than sitting in a car and being stuck in traffic.
Reduce Carbon Footprint
In the US, mass transit accounts for nearly 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions, with cars and trucks contributing nearly 1/5th of those emissions. The average North American solo driver contributes about 1.2lbs of carbon dioxide per mile. On the other hand, a cyclist releases only 0.7 grams through respiration. When you choose to ride a bike over a car, even just once a day can reduce your carbon footprint in a significant manner. When carbon emissions are reduced, the less pollution there is, and more fresh air will be able to circulate.
You may not believe it, but a bike ride to work can save you a lot of money. Sure, buying a bike and acquiring the appropriate safety gear with it can seem expensive, but think about it in the long run. You’re no longer spending money to buy gas for your car, or spending money on maintenance, repair, car insurance, parking, and the like. Or maybe, you’re longer spending money on commuting fees. When all of that adds up in a few years, you’ll find that the money you’ve used on getting a bike has made it all back to you, and maybe even more.
How Long is Too Long to Bike to Work?
The question of “How far is too far to bike to work?” is one that comes up often, especially when the person is one who has just started biking. The answer to that question depends on multiple factors such as time, fitness level, commute route, and even the type of bicycle.
A lot of people have the idea that biking to work is faster and saves time because they can skip traffic, but that may not always be the case. Cycling can sometimes take more time than driving a car, all due to how far and what kind of terrain you have to pedal through. You’ll want to be certain that you have enough time in the morning to bike, and also enough time to do so again after work. There may be times when you can’t commute to work by biking, and that’s alright too.
Your current fitness can also have a significant impact on the distance that you want and are able to cycle. The distance goes hand in hand with your fitness level as, for example, one day of cycling 40 miles can be easy for a fit person, but five days of cycling for 40 miles can be extremely challenging. If you’re a beginner bike commuter, you may need to build it up slowly so as to not shock your system at the sudden intense ride. If you’re an experienced cyclist, you have the capability to go faster and farther.
You can definitely build up your fitness level and stamina by consistently biking to work. It’s important to start slow and, over the course of the weeks, you’ll notice that you’ll become faster the more you get used to it.
Biking to work doesn’t mean that you need to have the latest bike. Your bicycle should be able to fit your size, be comfortable for you to ride on, and be one that isn’t too heavy for you. Having the right kind of bicycle will allow you to cover a little more ground when commuting to work.
With all those factors combined and more, most cyclists have concluded that 5 to 10 miles is the most reasonable distance to commute via biking. Depending on your route, it should take you 30 to 60 minutes of biking. Most cyclists have agreed on this being the optimal stretch for biking to work as it’s far enough to feel like you’ve given yourself a great workout and it wouldn’t cause you too much time.
Is Biking to Work Worth It?
With all those benefits, it’s easy to see why biking is absolutely worth it. You get to exercise your body daily, shed off calories, keep your heart and blood pumping, improve your stamina, and keep diseases at bay. You also get to set aside some money and even contribute to the betterment of the planet. Plus, it’s definitely more enjoyable than just sitting in your car.
Tips for Biking to Work
A Beginner’s Guide to Bike Commuting
If you’ve decided to commit to becoming a bike commuter, congratulations! Deciding may only be the first step, but it’s an important step to take. The next thing to do is to learn about bike safety. Of course, as a beginner’s guide, we won’t let you leave this article without giving you tips on how to make your commute better. Here are some useful tips for beginner cyclists!
Invest in Gear
There’s no need to go all-out and buy every single gear out there. There are just several essentials that you need. If you live close to work, you can get a commuter-specific bike. If you feel that you can get into the habit and see if cycling is something that you want to stick with, you can get yourself a mountain bike.
If you’re riding long distances, you may want to consider an e-bike. A cargo bike would work too if you carry a lot in your day-to-day life or if you’re running a small local business for deliveries. If biking and being car-free is something that you want to commit to year-round, perhaps you can have more than one bicycle to have a backup in case something breaks.
Aside from your main ride, it’s important to have safety gear. These are essentials to prevent you from getting injured when biking. A helmet is a non-negotiable gear as it lowers the risk of serious head injury in any potential crash. When it comes to buying a helmet, it’s vital that you find one that’s comfortable to wear, extremely durable, and designed to reduce concussion risk. Every time you ride your bicycle, it’s imperative to wear a helmet.
Get light and reflectors as you need to be visible to cars, especially if you will be riding at dawn, late into the night, or winter where nights are much longer. Other essentials to have are a gear rack, bike lock, and fenders. You can ride with your backpack on, however, you’ll end up with a sweaty back, and that’s something you wouldn’t want. Investing in a gear rack will take that load off your back and keep you comfortable.
A good lock is a must to protect your bicycle and make it extremely difficult to be stolen. Always make sure that you leave your ride in a well-lit busy area that has a lot of pedestrian traffic. If the place has security cameras, that would be good as well. Lastly, if you’re planning to cycle around during the rain, fenders are a must to keep dirt and grime off you.
Prepare Your Office
Stashing extra clothes, toiletries, and snacks on your office desk will save you from having to carry a lot of things when riding. Always keep a spare set of dress shoes, suit jacket, and other office wear for you to easily change into once you arrive at work. Next, consider having a kit that can help you freshen up. Stock it with baby powder, dry shampoo, baby wipes, an extra deodorant, perfume, a comb, or even a tiny hair straightener.
Have a towel too if you arrive at work drenched from sweat or rain. You can take it home with you on Fridays for washing.
Map Your Bike Commuting Route
The route you drive to get to work may be the best and fastest when you’re using a car, but it may not be ideal for your two-wheeled ride. It’s imperative that you separate yourself from cars as the less you are near them, the safer you will be. You need to figure out what trail will work best for you.
Stay on roads that are quieter, have minimal traffic, or have a bike path. You can practice your route on weekends where there’s less transportation on the roads and less pressure to arrive at a certain time. That can also give you a lot of buffer time to find alternate routes in case a street or a path may be problematic.
Be in Touch With Fellow Bike Commuters
Other cyclists are your greatest allies in finding cycle-friendly routes or better gears to have. Regular riders know every inch of the city, including bottlenecks, school driveways, shortcuts, and the like. You can seek out nearby cyclists by searching for cycling advocacy groups or organizations dedicated to biking. It’s also nice to have buddies to cycle with.
Most importantly, you should do your best to stay safe when biking. You always want to be paying attention to your surroundings. Watch out for pedestrians or other riders. If there’s a parked car, take note if there are people as they might be ready to swing open the car door which can potentially hit you.
Sometimes, there are bad weather days that are not ideal to ride in. Staying safe is more important and if the safer option is taking the bus or driving, don’t guilt yourself for missing a day. Many city buses now have racks for bicycles on them, and some subway systems allow bicycles as well. You can take a cab too if the others aren’t viable options.
There you have it! We hope that this beginner’s guide to biking was able to help you a lot or convince you into switching from four wheels to two. Remember to be safe and take it slow, it’s not a race to get to work. Start small, and work your way up from there. Biking to work on some days is better than not doing it at all.