Slightly Less Relaxing, Infinitely More Rewarding: Why I Started Commuting by Bike
How switching to a two-wheeled commute completely changed my daily routine and made me more fit, focused, and efficient.
As a longtime resident of Philadelphia, I’ve identified as nearly every type of commuter: The Driver, the Uber-er, the Subway Rider, the Walker-with-Headphones-On-Who-Gets-Reprimanded-by-Turning-Cars, and at one point I was even The Rollerblader (with neon helmet, sans fannypack). I saw cyclists of every age cruising by me on everything from a carbon fiber road bike to a beach cruiser with streamers, but never did I imagine I’d ever have the confidence to ride a bike through the busy city.
But when my parents were moving and sent me a photo of my old bike with “keep or throw?” in the text, and I soon realized I now had a viable means of two-wheeled transportation in my apartment, I decided to make the switch, little by little introducing this seemingly-insane idea of bike commuting into my daily life.
Switching to a two-wheel commute to work, the gym, networking events, the grocery store, or even the bar has made me more fit, transformed my morning routine, and has substantially increased my savings.
Adios, Monthly Subway Pass!
Don’t get me wrong: public transportation is amazing in so many practical, environmental, and economical ways, but breathing fresh air via bike far outweighs the common smell of someone’s cheesesteak “wit” onions open for all to get a whiff of in a cramped subway car. When I started riding a bike to work each day, I ditched my monthly subway pass, which ended up saving me more than just the monthly transit expense.
When I commuted by train, I’d really relish that time I had to myself. I’d often stop by Starbucks on my way to the subway station, where I’d spend, and indulge in, more than necessary on a coffee and the occasional muffin, easily racking up $5 or more on each visit. It became a habit that, while great for the whole “me time” aspect, proved to be impractical and an added cost to my daily commute by train.
Commuting by bike is fare-free, and while stopping for coffee en route to work is still an option, it’s one that I now avoid. With my shift in transportation came a much-needed shift in my daily morning routine, too.
The Inconspicuous Daily Workout
The best workouts are those unassuming activities that you don’t even realize are burning calories in subtle, effective ways. The average bike commuter, riding at an easy speed, burns about 100–200 calories for every half hour they spend on the bike. The faster you ride (read: the later you are to work…) the more calories you burn.
I was curious how many miles I covered on a week of bike commuting and was amazed by the results. Using Vea Fitness, an app that rewards you for working out with monetary incentives, to track my rides, I discovered I was riding between 50 and 60 miles each week without even realizing it. I was having too much fun commuting around the city (“fun” and “commute” in the same sentence?!) to ever consider it “working out.”
Bike commuting is really the ultimate form of multi-tasking: you’re burning calories and working out while commuting, and when I use my Vea Fitness app, I’m technically profiting from my ride by earning rewards and discounts as I ride. The daily physical benefits of bike commuting are the perfect complements to my regular weekly fitness routine, and a hidden source of extra calories burned each week.
Running by my Own Timetable
Before I started biking to work each day, I would have to plan my mornings around a subway timetable or rush hour traffic. I built my daily morning routine around a very specific time frame that was out of my control and left up to the traffic gods and train conductors to get me to work on time.
Being on my own schedule, that doesn’t depend on trains, cars and Uber Pool, has completely transformed my morning routine in the best way possible. I make my coffee at home each morning, which not only saves me money that I’d typically spend at Starbucks, but also gives me the jolt I need to function like a proper human before I even leave the house. I have time to get caffeinated and make a healthy breakfast at home, like my daily protein-packed, high-fiber bowl of oatmeal and peanut butter, giving me the energy I need to pedal to work and stay full until lunchtime.
Being in control of my mornings and not relying on a predetermined timetable or working around traffic has given me the freedom I need to make my mornings healthier, more efficient and more organized.
When it’s time to leave the house, I’m fueled, full and ready to hop on my bike and cruise down the bike lanes, passing those rush hour drivers sitting in traffic while I pat myself on the back for opting for two wheels instead of four. Being outside in the fresh air and getting my heart rate up is such an endorphin rush, too — by the time I get to work, I’m totally energized and ready to start my day.
Take the Plunge: Get on a Bike!
For me, the decision to use a bike as my primary source of transportation around Philadelphia was life-changing. I’m more active than ever, save a ton of money (and calories) by creating a healthy and practical at-home morning routine, and I get around the city quicker and more efficiently than I ever did driving or taking the train.
Want to make the switch but don’t know where to start? Talk to your local bike shops or cycling communities and ask for advice on the bike to ride, the helmet that fits you best, and recommended routes around the city. You’d be surprised how much you can learn just by striking up conversation with fellow cyclists.
A couple of tips:
- Always have the essentials with you when you ride: a Fix-A-Flat kit, and some Fix-Your-Hair items. I carry a spare tube, tire levers and a small bike pump in my backpack, and with the help of many “how to fix a flat” lessons from friends and YouTube, I can fix a flat on my own. And since helmets aren’t always ideal for having a good hair day, I always carry some hair products and a hairbrush (plus deodorant!) with me to quickly freshen up when I arrive at my destination.
- Download the Vea Fitness app to track your bike rides and earn free stuff, discounts and other incentives. You can sync your miles through your FitBit, Apple Watch or other wearable and transfer them to the app, making your commute even more rewarding.
- If you buy a bike on Craigslist, take it to your local bike shop first for a tune-up. They’ll make sure your new ride is running in tip-top shape for all those miles you’ll be covering!
- Have fun and enjoy the ride. The best part about riding is that you get to be outdoors, feel the wind in your hair, breathe in fresh air, and just live simply. As they say, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.”