There are many good reasons to start biking to work, including health and monetary benefits.
But how difficult is it to make commuting by bike a serious priority?
Beginner cyclists will not have much difficulty biking distances under 5 miles. Experienced cyclists may find it more challenging to ride longer than 10 miles. The difficulty of biking to work reduces noticeably after just a few weeks of consistent riding due to increased stamina and fitness.
What do cyclists say about the difficulty of bike commuting?
We asked a community of cyclists about how difficult their bike commute is. Here are some of their responses:
The overall agreement amongst cyclists is that biking up to 15 miles (24km) to work is very doable for anyone. It just takes a bit of planning and mental strength to remember that the benefits heavily outweigh any inconveniences.
Below we’ll explain how you can make your bike commute more enjoyable and less difficult!
What are the challenges of biking to work?
There are several roadblocks that can make it challenging to bike to work for some people.
Here are some of the most common real-life challenges that many cyclists experience, as well as some of my own personal tips from years of bike commuting 26 miles daily from New Jersey to NY.
1. Arriving to work sweaty
Getting to the office sweaty is one of the biggest concerns people have when considering bike commuting. Luckily, there are many life hacks you can implement to minimize sweat and stink while still getting all the benefits of cycling.
But one of the BIGGEST roadblocks new commuters face is the fact that they will likely be sweaty and stinky by the time they get to work. And what’s worse, most people don’t have the luxury (or time) to take a shower before starting the workday.
I worked in a fancy NYC office for 4 years to which I biked 13 miles every day and never had a single complaint about my odor or cleanliness (I hope).
Here are 4 pro tips to freshen up after biking to work without a shower that only a seasoned bike commuter will tell. This does not have to be a big roadblock for you to bike commute.
Here are the most effective ways to freshen up after biking to works:
- Have a 5-minute cooldown ride right before arriving at the office
- Use baby wipes to wipe down your body
- Bring your work clothes with you or leave them at the office
- Wear breathable wicking clothes designed for cycling
You can read more about each of these tips in my full article on staying fresh while biking to work here.
2. Fear of having an accident
The potential risk of an incident is one of the biggest concerns for bike commuters, especially in large cities.
After years of commuting to my NYC job, there are a few important things I learned that kept me completely safe (I never had a crash!).
The bottom line is that cycling can be safer than driving or taking public transportation because of the health benefits associated with cycling. In other words, the benefits heavily outweigh the potential risks. If you apply the below tips and ride smart, you will significantly decrease the risk of an accident.
The best way to bike safely in NYC is to follow the rules of the road, use flashing front and rear lights, and avoid riding at night. Visibility is the most important factor of biking safely in NYC, so it is best to assume that people do not see you.
To read more about how to stay safe and never crash, read the article I wrote just for you here.
3. Physical difficulty and exhaustion
Another challenge that cyclists face when bike commuting is the exhaustion from daily commutes.
For a beginner cyclist, any distance under 5 miles can be done easily by anyone and should take less than 30 minutes. For intermediate or experienced cyclists, any distance above 10 miles will be a bit challenging, but still enjoyable. Distances farther than 15 miles would be a challenge for any cyclist, especially if done every day.
However, cycling is much easier on the body than is usually perceived. The reason for that is because cycling is a low-impact activity. In other words, the act of cycling with your legs does not put a lot of strain on the joints or muscles, so it is relatively easy for anyone to do, regardless of fitness level.
How to make biking to work easier
It only takes a few weeks of riding to figure out how to make your ride more efficient and enjoyable. But it takes years of experience to learn the below tips that will make your ride easier than you ever thought possible 🙂
1. Optimize your saddle height
Getting the current saddle height is the most important adjustment that can instantly make your ride easier on your legs and back. The key is to adjust the height so that your legs can transfer the most amount of power possible throughout each pedal stroke.
In order to find the optimal saddle height, place the heels of your feet on the pedals and try riding. Your legs should be fully extended and locked at the bottom of the pedal stroke.
Here’s a helpful video that shows how to find the perfect saddle height for maximum power.
2. Get the right gear for all weather
You might be hesitant to spend a lot of money on good gear. Trust me, I get it. But there are some pieces of gear that I wish I had years ago that would have saved me a lot of pain and suffering on my daily commutes.
I only recommend gear that is affordable and necessary for all-year riding.
Some of the essentials include cycling shorts, a cycling jersey, a cycling jacket, and gloves. You should read my entire recommended gear article here.
3. Stay motivated with Strava
Strava is the social cycling app that kept me motivated through years of brutal winters and blistering summers. You simply record your ride and follow other cyclists along the way. It’s really motivating to see other cyclists, beat your personal records, and even compete with others (if you want). You can upload photos of your ride and track your progress over time.
I highly recommend recording your rides with Strava from the beginning to see your progress. After just a few weeks, you’ll be getting faster and fitter.
How far is too far to bike to work?
How far you should commute by bike is a subjective question. “Too far” for some is just a warm-up ride for others. The length of your commute should match your level of fitness and experience.
Most bike commuters consider a commute of more than 10 miles to be too far for most people. This is because it can take too much time out of the day. However, commuting long distances by bike gets easier and faster after just a few weeks of daily commuting. The distance you choose to commute by bike is determined by:
- Your level of fitness
- The route’s terrain
- How long it takes
The distance of a bike commute needs to factor in many variables besides mileage. Read this article to learn more about these factors to determine an appropriate length for a bike commute.
Biking to work is doable for anyone
Regardless of fitness level, stamina, distance, or work schedule, biking to work can be implemented by anyone in some way. Even if your workplace seems too far to bike to, you can always do a hybrid approach and drive part of the distance and then bike the rest. Even if you can’t bike every day because of your work schedule, you can just bike a few times per week and that will be good enough to get a good workout and reap all the benefits of cycling.
In the end, biking to work has been a life-changing decision for me, so I hope you’ll give it a try (or keep on riding!).
My Recommended Gear for Year-Round Cycling on a Budget
It took me years of trial and error to figure out the best and most affordable setup for my daily bike commuting. I would only recommend the gear that is good quality for a good price. Here’s my full year-round gear recommendation guide.
Want to know how much your cycling gear should cost? Check out my guide with different budget options here.