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The Pros and Cons of Biking to Work
February 12, 2019
The average worker in the United States spends almost nine days each year commuting. That’s downtime for some, wasted time for others but a golden opportunity for many to fit almost an hour of cardio into their daily schedule. Biking to work offers the chance to reclaim independence, burn calories, and cut commuting costs. Making the switch from car to pedal can be easy, but it pays to weigh up the benefits before committing to the saddle.
When Biking to Work Makes Sense
You don’t have to be a trailblazer, road warrior, or fitness fanatic to join the cycle lane. Today’s bike commuter is more likely to be someone fed up with spending almost $9k a year operating a car, only to wrestle daily with gridlocked traffic and the hunt for a parking space. Cycling is even seducing car-loving California, with the state ranking fourth in the nation for commuting to work by bike. City and state legislatures have recognized cycling to work as a right. Portland, Oregon, leads the way with the highest percentage of bike commuters nationally, and many cities nationwide offer dedicated cycle lanes and bike share programs.
Commuting on Two Wheels in Safety
The city of Davis in California holds the honor of pioneering dedicated safe bike lanes in the United States, back in 1967. These cross-town networks give you a traffic-free route to work without having to jostle with cars for space on the hardtop. The remaining safety considerations are yours alone to address, starting with the right gear. A helmet, lock, lights, and a field kit for emergency repairs are vital for a safe ride. A breathable, waterproof jersey, a pair of polarized sunglasses, and panniers to store a change of clothes make for a comfortable commute.
The Benefits of Cycling to Work
There’s a reason spinning classes are so popular. Cycling burns between 400 and 1,000 calories an hour depending on intensity, so that 25-minute commute will build muscle and shed pounds as the weeks go by. You don’t have to be an athlete, either. Because cycling is low-impact, you can ease into it gently and build up stamina over time. Not ready for the longer or steeper stretches? Cities such as San Francisco make a hybrid commute easy by incorporating cycling into the Mass Transit System, so you can start by making cycling just a part of your commute if you’re not ready to go all in.
How to Prepare for Biking to Work
Your local city or cycling association should offer a downloadable map of established cycling routes in your area. If not, you can input your own into a smartphone or GPS and mount it on your handlebars. Cycling debutants might find it reassuring to pre-ride the route on a weekend to make sure you’re comfortable with the gradient and distance. Once you start, you don’t have to commit entirely to cycling. Try it one day a week until you’re ready to go full time.
The Cons of the Cycling Commute
Sometimes the car or bus is the better option. If, for example, you don’t have showers at your office or a gym nearby, cycling to work could limit your chances of presenting a fresh, professional appearance. Physical condition is also a factor. You can adapt quickly to a four- or five-mile commute without breaking a sweat, but you should seek medical advice first about any issues that might not respond well to cycling. There’s also the weather. Swapping the climate-controlled embrace of a car for summer sun or winter showers isn’t everyone’s idea of an alluring challenge.
We’re bombarded with messages every day telling us the car is where true independence reigns. Those who commute to work by bike would beg to differ, and more of us are falling in love with cycling again each year. If there’s room in your route for some pedal power, kit up, and try it out.
Written by Nick Marshall for Knockaround