Advice on cycling to work?

Dear Dopers,

After a prolonged bout of whinging and whining about the insidious spread of my waistline, I’ve finally decided to do something about it and have vowed to take up regular exercise.

After weighing up the options (gym too boring, jogging too hard on joints, swimming pool not too hygienic and not very accessible), I’ve decided to buy a bicycle and start cycling the 12 miles to work and back every day.

That should show my belly who’s boss! I’ll bet that after a few weeks of cycling 24 miles a day, I’ll be back to my former lean, mean physique, with thighs the size of hams and six-pack abs to make the ladies swoon…

After dropping by the bike store near my house and ogling the sexy gleaming machines on offer, I’ve got my eye on a nice sporty model with flat-top handlebars.

Not as expensive as I thought it would be, but the sheer amount of technical jargon and choice was a bit daunting. As the shopkeer was going on about “Derailleurs”, “rolling resistance” and “Sports geometry”, I nodded my head sagely and made vaguely affirmative grunting noises now and then.

Now bearing in mind that I haven’t ridden a bike for at least ten years and haven’t done any real physical exercise for at least two, the thought occurred to me that I might be just a tad overambitious.

12 miles doesn’t really sound like a lot, but when driving in to work this morning and checking out the route from a prospective-cyclist’s point of view, I’m starting to have my doubts. So here are the pros and cons as I see them:

Will increase cardivascular fitness and help burn unwanted fat

Will save me £40 a week on petrol costs

Will allow me to get more fresh air on the rather scenic route in to work

Wil help save the planet

May eventually allow me to sell my gas-guzzling sports car for something cheaper and more economical to use on the weekends

The resulting leaner, fitter body will get me more sex with nice young women

Will cost me about £300 for a good -quality bike (which means I need to use it every day for about two months before it starts offsetting fuel costs)

Will mean I have to wake up an hour earlier every day.

Will expose me to mortal danger in the form of traffic along some of the busier sections of the route.

The necessary safety clothing will make me look like a dork

I do NOT look good in spandex shorts

And finally, frequent bouncing and crushing of the genitals will lead to an inability to enjoy the aforementioned sex with nice young ladies.
So anyway, I thought I would turn to you, my faithful fellow dopers, for some solid advice. First of all, how long would it take a complete slob like me to cycle 12 miles? Not too many hills between here and the office, (no seriious ones, anyway) so I should be okay there, but I figure perhaps an hour. Should I work my way up to it?

Secondly, how effective would cycling be as a means of keeping fit and losing those inches? How soon can I expect to see results? Should I buy a bumper-size pack of condoms now to avoid the inevitable rush?

Finally, just what kind of bike should I get for commuting? I guess a mountain bike would be inappropriately heavy and chunky for road use, but I’ve also heard that the curved handlebars of a traditional road bike do not make for a safe upright riding position when weaving through traffic. Should I get suspension forks and and suspension seat to minimise the nad-crushing?

Come on all you devoted dopers cyclists out there, I need your help!


A good mountain bike should not be that heavy, perhaps 30 lbs. I like them because of the fatter tires and they can go most anywhere. There are different types of tires and some are more suited to road use. Most here are outfitted with a front shock. I also like the riding position better than a road bike. You don’t have to wear spandex either, there are all sorts of bike wear on the market and not all are tightly fitting. I have a nice pair of riding shorts that I wear without looking like bike shorts. Is there a place at work where you could wash off a bit when you get there? You are probably going to sweat. You may also need to change to work clothes once there so you will need some way to carry them. Beware though that your butt is going to be sore at the outset until you get accostumed to biking. My guess is that you can go 12 miles in about 30-40 minutes at the most. what brands have you been looking at?

Commuting bike - £300

12 mile ride to work - 1 hour a day each way

The resulting leaner, fitter body that will get you more sex with nice young women - priceless

In all seriousness though, it is a great way to get in shape. Just remember to take off the safety gera before meeting aforementioned “nice young women” :wink:

As far as a bike goes, what they call a “hybrid” might be a good choice - kind of a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike -upright riding position like a mountain bike, but skinnier tires, etc, to make it more efficient on the roads. They would also probably have a wider range of gears than a dedicated road bike, which would be good if you’re just starting out. Most important thing is to ride a bunch of them (try road bikes, mountain bikes, “hybrids”) to see what the differences are and how you like them. You’d rather ride a bike that fits well and is comfortable to ride than one that has some special new technical feature that the shop guy can’t stop talking about. Specific are entirely up to you - shocks make the ride more comfortable, but would really only be important if you have a really bumpy ride to work, IMO.

As far as safety concerns, well: gential crushing, I’ve never found it to be a problem myself, and they make plenty of “ergonomic” saddles to take the pressure off the more sensitive areas. Danger from other traffic, well that’s quite a legitimate concern, but staying observant of your surroundings and being careful will go a long way towards preventing any disasters.

As far looking like a dork, well, that’ll only last until you have the svelt lean body. Then you won’t have to worry about it because you’ll look good no matter what you wear :smiley: And as ** Toddly ** said, there are plenty of options besides spandex.

To start out with, you could always ride to work two or three days a week until you get comfortable with it, then increase the frequency if you wanted. 1 hour to go 12 miles sounds perfectly reasonable for someone who hasn’t ridden in a long time, and that should quickly increase as you get better. I’d recommend against immediately jumping into to riding all 5 days every week, as you may just discourage yourself. Best to ease into it.

Hope that helps ya!

Most important point: bike seats have changed so that they no longer apply pressure at regions very important to your having sex with nice young ladies. Or even mean old ladies.

I ride a mountain bike, because I ride through moutanious terrain. In other threads, people have recommended recumbnant, ah, recumbnent, ah whatever, bikes. I think cars have a real problem seeing you in them, but you know your route better than I. There are also hybrid bikes, which sound like the right option for you.

Bike clothes don’t have to be dorky. Invest in a good light, it could save your life.

12 miles is a long way for starters, especially if your path is hilly. I had a similar distance to ride for a few years, and it was hard on me, and I am in great shape. But, my ride home started at 5900 feet and ended at 6700 feet, so the climb was noticeable. You might want to start by driving part way, or by riding on weekends until you can reach a comparable distance.

12 miles is a long way if you don’t even own a bike yet. I don’t know where you live, but if there even small hills, they will kill you before you get half way if you don’t get in a bit of shape before hand.
The good news is, if you’re serious, you can get in shape pretty quickly, although it takes a long time to get rid of the flab. Try riding half way to work on a weekend, then come home. If you feel OK, do the same the next day. If you can ride for 30 minutes or so after you get home during the week, you’ll soon build up some stamina. After a month of doing this, you should be fit enough to try manage the ride to work. If you can come up with an emergency plan such as having a friend giving you a lift home, that’s a plus.

Your best bet for a bike is a hybrid. Road bike wheels with a comfortable geometry and flat handlebars. Hopefully mud guards too. If you can find one with a Shimano Nexus gear (ask the bike shop, they’ll know), you’ll have the ideal bike. Don’t bother with suspension, it makes the bike a lot more desirable to thieves, makes the bike heavier and provides little benfit on tarmac. A suspension seat post is a good idea, though.

Other thoughts. Your office does have showers, right?
Lycra shorts aren’t necessary, but investing in cycling underwear is a must. Wear them under your normal clothes, and change into fresh when you get to work. Unless having a sweaty smelly crotch is desirable in your line of work. :smiley: Don’t travel along main roads if you can help it. Look at a map and explore the side streets. They won’t slow you down much on a bike, but avoiding the traffic is always a good thing. Get a helmet and gloves. You might look like a dork, but better I’d rather be a living dork than a dead fashion model. I can send you the pictures of my last accident. My helmet probably saved me from a fractured skull.

An hour sounds about right. Maybe a little more, as you don’t want to turn up to the office completely wasted. Your commute time will drop as yuo get used to it

Yeah, I’ve been thinking about the washing and clothes thing a bit as well. I’ll undoubtedly work up a sweat, and our restrooms at work only have the usual sinks, urinals and toilets - no shower. I guess if I bring along a towel and a can of deoderant, I should be respectable enough in the smell department to avoid getting fired.

As far as clothes are concerned, it sounds like I’ll have to bring a backpack with regular work clothes - jeans and t-shirt (we’re casual unless I have a meeting with clients). If I just sling everything in there and get washed/changed in the restrooms when I arrive, I should be fine, right? Do any of you commute to work by bike on a regular basis? If so, how do you deal with the sweat and clean clothes issues?

I used to bike to work on occasion. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Road bike vs. Mountain bike: Get what you want, unless there’s trails that you want to bike on between you and work. If there are, get a mountain bike. Mountain bikes are somewhat more comfortable than a road bike, but a road bike that fits you well shouldn’t be uncomfortable. If you do get a road bike, look for one that’s more like a touring style bike than a racing bike. Touring bikes tend to be a bit more comfortable, have slightly wider tires, and are more likely to have eyelets for you to attach a rack to. Which brings us to the next point:

Get a rack and a set of panniers. Biking 24 miles a day with all your work stuff in backpack on your back isn’t fun. Life will be easier with panniers. Before you buy a bike, make sure it has the necessary eyelets and such to attach a rack; some bikes don’t.

Clothing: there’s lots of cycling clothing that looks like normal clothes. Lots of bike shorts nowadays look just like normal shorts - they just have the padded lycra part as a sort of liner underneath the normal shorts. Normal T-Shirts work just fine for biking. If it’s cold, throw on a sweater. Just make sure that whatever you wear, it’s fairly bright and easy to see.

An hour each way for a 12 mile commute sounds about right for a mountain bike. You’ll go faster on a road bike. The more you do it, the faster you’ll get.

I’d work your way up to the ride. When you first get the bike, go out for an hour on the weekends to see how that feels. If that feels good, take it to work one day, then take a day or two off. Your butt WILL hurt. Get used to that idea. It stops after a couple weeks, though.

Suspention forks/seat: Most mountain bikes nowadays come with at least front suspension. I’d stay away from back suspension unless you’re going to be doing heavy duty trail riding. No experience with a suspension seat, so can’t comment there.

Keeping fit: Cycling is excellent for getting and staying in shape. That bumper-sized box of condoms might be a good idea. I’m female, and I already feel drawn to you just talking about cycling.

How soon you can expect to see results depends on how much you ride, whether or not you eat a lot of extra food to make up for the calories burned while riding, your age, general fitness, and all that. If you ride hard enough to sweat at least an hour every day, I don’t see how you couldn’t start losing some pounds. Just stay away from the donuts, and you’ll lose weight.

Traffic: traffic sucks. Investigate alternate routes to work that avoid traffic. Find roads with LARGE shoulders. Remember that you’re invisible; take no risks. Fights between cars and bikes always result in the bike losing, even if the biker is following the road laws.

More ramblings on bike buying: Buy a bike from a real bike shop. Fit is very important, and the clerks at the local department store are not going to fit you to your bike correctly. If I’m correct on the exchange rate, 300 British pounds is around US $600.00. Don’t spend LESS than that on a bike. You do get what you pay for.

Wear a helmet.

Buy a light for your bike if there’s a chance you’ll be riding after dark. Buy lots of reflectors. Be visible.

Crushing of genitals: there’s seats out there now with cut-outs or soft areas where the pink bits go. Get one of those. You’ll like it.

The current issue of Bicycling Magazine has a nice article on bike commuting. I’m about 21 miles from my office, and did the round trip one day last fall. I’m planning on at least once a week this year … if the snow ever goes away.

  • it’s a great workout, but if you’re not in shape, you should probably work into it - perhaps start with 2 or 3 days per week ?

I used a traditional roadbike, with the curved handlebars and all - mountain bikes simply have too much friction. Get Kevlar tires, they cut down on the flats. You can keep a decent pace on one of those, especially if your route is level.

Figuring about an hour is probably not much off - you’ll become faster - but remember to calculate time for the mechanics of turning from a spandex-clad athlete to a professional looking co-worker. Would you be so privileged as to having shower facilities at your workplace ?

I found it a great workout and it supplemented my then intensive running regimen very nicely. I didn’t lose any weight, but then I’m underweight from nature’s hand. I did notice thighs and abs getting seriously toned.

Useful stuff: I’m rather unorganized, so I kept a spare set of work clothes by my desk for when I forgot to pack something. And a small tube of grease solvent, to clean my hands when I’d had to fix my chain or a flat or something along the way - rare occurence, though.

Flats happen. Kevlar tires make them happen more rarely. A spare inner tube and some composite tire irons make fixing them really easy.

Rain sucks, but if you dress for it, you’ll be comfy enough. You’ll get wet, though. Just figure on a little longer to change.

Have a backup plan for when you suddenly need to haul a 20-inch monitor or 25 pounds of paperwork.

Keep something edible at your desk - you may get hungry.

Oh, and the old nads worked perfectly.

Have fun! - and be sure to enjoy the view from the moral high ground when driving by the cars stuck in traffic.

Good Advice …then after about 2-3 months you are going to be doing some of this

I bring a change of clothes to my office on Monday if I am planning to ride my bike that week. You could also take them back. (I don’t ride every day. ) We have showers, with lockers, so I keep shampoo, etc in the locker, but I have used a desk.

I’m going to disagree with the wisdom of the board here.

I commute regularly to and from work on a bicycle (from Brooklyn to Manhattan). Not sure how many miles it is.

I advise that you spend a LOT less than 300 pounds/600 dollars. The best commuting bike ever invented is the old-fashioned British (or British-style) three-speed bike. You can find nice cheap used ones all over the place. Nice, upright seating position so that you can see everything all around you, comfortable seat that won’t do any damage and prevent you from enjoying all the sex you’ll be getting soon, fenders and a chain guard to keep you clean, and all the gears are internal, so they won’t get you dirty.

Unless you live in a really hilly area, three speeds are all you’ll need. A headlight and, even more importantly, a taillight, are essential if you’ll be riding after dark. A rack is a necessity, 'cause carrying a backpack sucks on a bike.

Enjoy! I love riding my bike to work. It really wakes me up in the morning, and on the way home it’s nice and relaxing.

On reading what other have to say, I’ll amend my earlier comment about “only” riding to work two or three days a week to start. Starting out slower, on the weekends and after work, is probably a much wiser idea than jumping right in and riding to work immediately. I’ve been jaded by years of racing and many many miles, so I’m probably not a good person to take advice from in terms of riding frequency for a beginner :wink:

I used to commute to work at an old job. My commute was only 8 miles each way, but had some hills, and I was doing it in 17-20 minutes depending on lights. I would arrive pretty sweaty, especially since it was during the summer. It was nothing a towel and change of clothes couldn’t cure. Then again I don’t really have smelly sweat, and I was just working in a research department at a university, so it wasn’t a very formal setting. I’d carry the change of clothes in my backpack - but the backpack defintely added to the sweatyness. A rack would have been nice (none of my bikes had that ability though).

The current issue of Bicycling Magazine has a nice article on bike commuting. I’m about 21 miles from my office, and did the round trip one day last fall. I’m planning on at least once a week this year … if the snow ever goes away.

The 12 miles isn’t that big a deal. You may have to start off with afternoon rides for a while. Once you are up to the point where a six-mile ride is routine (a couple of weeks should get you to that point unless you are a total couch potato), you should be able to extend it and start riding the 12-miles to work without too much trouble.

Lots of good suggestions from Athena and Spiny, but I’ll add a few more.

First-- see if you can find a touring bike. This is fairly upright (like a mountain bike) but designed for heavy commuting.
Whatever bike you get, make sure it has slicks-- road tires. If it’s got knobbies, take 'em off and put some road tires on. This will speed up your commute immensely, and make the ride more comfortable.

Second-- Panniers! Spend the money and get some saddlebags, and stick everything in there-- work clothes, fresh underwear, spare food because you’ll get hungry en route, extra water, emergency repair and first aid kit.

Third-- Waterproof! You live in England and it rains-- nothing wrong with rain, I like cycling in it, but you’ve gotta be prepared. Get fenders for your front and back wheel, get a breathable waterproof jacket (gore-tex-- can be cycling specific with stripes et all, but I like something I can wear while walking around town ) and waterproof pants (at least halfsies, ie. goretex front spandex in back, depending on how wet it is). And gloves that’ll keep your hands warm if they’re wet, like those Thinsulate fold-over mitts/gloves.

Fourth- lights! Headlight, tailight, maybe a generator (makes it harder to pedal, but you don’t need rechargeable batteries…)

Fifth-- You haven’t cycled in years, so this is gonna be some work. Let me suggest you take it easy riding in-- stretch that ride out to 75 minutes so that you’re always operating at a comfortable pace (you don’t want to be breathless). Then ride hard on your way home. That way you won’t show up to work bloody exhausted and unable to think.

Sixth-- you can do a lot with a towel, a flannel, and some extra deodorant at work. You may want to consider some astringent to help with your sponge bath.

Here is a website with more info.Bikers Wanted

So Athena, how you doin’? :smiley:

Seriously, though, it sounds like a hybrid is the way to go. I think I’d prefer a lightweight, breathable backpack over panniers, but I’ll try it out first and see how it goes.

It also sounds like I’d better work my way up to this. Don’t want to collapse with cramp every morning as soon as I arrive…

It’s not the crushing of the genitals, its the pressure put on your perineal nerve which could lead to reduced sperm count and worse case scenario, impotence. However, a good riding position and saddle will alleviate most of this problem. The worse case scenario would apply to the hard-core and professional cyclists, who spend hours in the saddle per day.

I use a backpack, but I’m offroad. No problem with the pack. I just contains water and clothes I might need for the ride home - such as gloves.

A word of confidence. I’m no flybynight; I have never raced for a living. I am a good runner; people significantly better than me in my age group are generally former elite runners. On a mountain bike on a dirt trail with some pavement commute, but the occassional traffic stop, I can do 12 miles finishing with a climb of 800 feet in the last three miles in about 50 minutes. On a hybrid bike on a road that is anywhere near level you should be able to average better than 10 miles an hour right off the bat. If there is any kind of grade at all, you will be able to coast at that speed for brief respites. (That’s why running is better for your cardiovascular fitness!) You should have no trouble at all. In fact, within a few months you may be averaging 15 mph.

Let’s get the important things out of the way first,

Tapioca Dextrin How do you do that thing on your sig line, my envy is greenness itself !


£300 may seem like a lot to spend on a bike but actually it is toward the lower end.
The machine will be plenty functional but may need a little more maintenance to keep in best working order.
You do not provide any location so I do not know if I can help you out directly, but if you have any friends who are club cyclists you would be better off buying second hand, using their expertise to help you out.

12 miles is nothing at all in a car or on a bike, but cycling is another matter altogether for the inexperienced.
It would take a reasonably fit rider(race fit that is) around 40 minutes if they were taking it stady and around 35 minutes if they were going for it.
It will take you at least an hour, it will depend upon the terrain of course, and the wind.You may get to work faster than this, but then you will take longer to get home due to some tiredness and the wind will probably be against you.

Do not ride with a backpack on, it is totally crap, you will sweat and it will chafe, as well as catch the wind, make you a bit more top heavy and will make looking backward over your shoulder for safety checks that much more difficult.

I would advise you ride two days a week and one day in the weekend, this will get you reasonably strong enough to consider riding to work up to 4 days a week, don’t aim for all five days as you need to give yourself time to recover.
On the days you do not ride to work, those are the ones you should carry stuff to work.

I can give you all the detail you want, I’ve been riding and racing for over 20 years in just about all forms of the game, email me and I will help you out.