Long-Distance Bike Commuting: How to Ride More Than 15 Miles


Long-distance bike commuting can save money and help you avoid public transit and traffic jams, but how far is too far to commute on a bike? Some consider 15 miles too far to commute on a bike, but some commute much further daily.

Commuting 15 miles or more on a bike successfully is all about knowing the difficulty level you can handle and making gradual increases to challenge yourself. You can make bike commuting fun with a few activities or changes during your ride. Read on to see what is considered a long commute for most people and how to challenge yourself on a long ride.

Is a commute more than 15 miles considered a long commute?

Biking 15 miles would be considered difficult for beginner cyclists and can take up to 2 hours. However, as you get used to the distance, it can take around 1 hour to complete a 15-mile commute for an experienced cyclist.

For some, a 15-mile commute is too difficult, but for others, double that is not enough for them. Let’s look at some factors that could make a 15-mile commute a long one.

1. Consider your current fitness level

If you have never biked 15 miles, then it would be a good idea to determine your fitness level before giving it a try.

Here are some important questions to ask yourself:

  • What is the furthest I have ever ridden before?
  • Do I have a Plan B if I cannot make it the entire 15 miles?
  • Do I have the extra time to take my commute slowly?

Ask yourself these questions before attempting a 15-mile commute, and your answers should tell you if it is too long or will be a breeze.

2. What is the furthest distance you have ridden one-way?

Ask yourself this question and answer it honestly. If you have only ridden a five-mile distance one way and it was difficult for you, then a 15-mile commute one-way may be too long for you.

If you have ridden ten miles one-way and felt alright afterward, then a 15-mile commute may not be considered a long commute for you. You could likely complete a 15-mile commute easily.

3. Do you have a Plan B if you are not able to complete 15 miles?

If you have determined that you want to try to commute 15 miles, you should have an alternate plan in place before setting out for the first time. 

  • Folding bikes – Folding bikes (like these on Amazon) can be a great Plan B if you become exhausted in the middle of your first-long commute. Folding bikes can fold down and fit into the back of an uber or cab. You can also carry a folding bike to a bus/train station and onto a bus/train with you. 
  • Arrange someone with a bike rack to be ready to pick you up if you cannot complete your commute.

Having a Plan B is essential when asking yourself whether 15 miles is too long of a commute or one you will complete. Have a backup plan if you find that you cannot complete this long commute. Otherwise, you may find yourself walking the rest of your commute, potentially making you late!

4. Do you have the time to take your commute slowly?

If you do not have an option for backup transportation but still want to attempt a 15-mile commute, give yourself the extra time to take breaks or ride more slowly than average. 

If you have already calculated how long this 15-mile commute will take you, add in multiple 10-minute intervals to rest periodically, especially if this is the first time you are making this commute. Read ahead if you have not calculated how long this commute will take you, and we will discuss the average time it will take a beginner to ride 15 miles. 

Also read: Bike Commuting Distance: How Far Is Too Far?

Is it difficult to ride 15 miles?

The difficulty of a 15-mile bike commute depends on your fitness level and the terrain you are biking. Ask yourself a few simple questions to gauge whether you are ready for a commute as long as 15 miles. 

How your fitness level determines the difficulty of your commute

To determine how difficult your 15-mile bike commute will be, determine your fitness level directly correlated to bike riding. 

  • Have you biked a one-mile distance before?
    • How long did it take you?
    • How difficult was it?
  • Have you biked ten or more miles before?
    • How long did it take you?
    • How difficult was it?
    • Did you have to stop to rest?
  • Have you walked or run 15 miles before?
    • How difficult was it?
    • Did you have to stop to rest?

These questions are examples of how you can determine whether a 15-mile commute will be difficult for you or not. If you haven’t commuted 15-miles before, ask yourself if you have walked or run that distance before and how difficult it was. If the answer to these three questions is no, a 15-mile commute will be difficult for you. 

The terrain you are riding on will determine the difficulty

If you live in a city, the terrain on your commute could be different and affect the difficulty of your commute. Biking over curbs and around cars will add both time and difficulty to your commute. Give yourself some extra time to complete your commute or extra time to rest if this is the case.

If your commute is through a neighborhood or on a long stretch of road with a clearly marked bike lane, your commute may be less difficult and therefore take you less time. Determine the specific variables of the terrain of your commute and plan accordingly.

How long does it take to ride 15 miles?

As a general rule, biking 15 miles will take a beginner commuter 1.5 to 2 hours depending on your fitness and skill level. Whether you are experienced or are a beginner, there are some average speeds that bike riders can reach, and these will allow you to calculate how long a 15-mile commute might take you. 

Average speed for beginners

The average top pedaling speed for beginners is around eight to twelve miles per hour, making a 15-mile commute at that top speed, 1.25 hours. 

If you are more experienced, this may be the low end of your spectrum, but for beginners, plan for at least one hour and 15 minutes to complete your commute. If you haven’t ridden a distance of at least five miles before, plan on giving yourself around three hours. 

How to make a long bike commute easier

Though a long commute can be difficult for some, there are ways to make it easier, even if you are not experienced. For some, scenery or music can distract you from the difficulty of your commute and can keep you going.

Change your daily route

Changing your daily route can keep you interested in what is around you and not as focused on the difficulty of your commute. Choose scenic routes, but if you are still a beginner, be sure not to choose a more challenging route. 

Bike through a park or down a different street to distract yourself from your commute with what surrounds you. If you have the option, choose a path through nature. Just be mindful that you shouldn’t choose a more difficult terrain.

Listen to music

Music can be the ultimate distraction and even save you time. Cycling to the beat of an upbeat song could increase your speed without you realizing it. Choose a cardio or upbeat playlist to get the most benefit. You may find yourself upping your top speed and cutting the total time of your commute. 

Conclusion

A 15-minute-long bike commute can prove difficult for some or a breeze for others. Be sure to determine your fitness level and how far you have biked before beginning this commute. Calculate the time it will take you with the average beginner’s top speed, then add time to rest if you need it. Be sure to have an alternate way to finish your commute in case you become too exhausted to keep going. Use music or a change of scenery to make these commutes easier to complete. 

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Benjy Suzaki

Hi, I'm Benjy Suzaki and I love cycling with my kids. Biking has been a big part of our family life ever since I decided to bike everywhere instead of drive, including to my job in NYC from New Jersey. BikeTrailerPlanet.com is all about how to make biking a priority in your daily life through bike commuting, bike maintenance, and riding with kids.

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