Back when I lived in Raleigh, NC I was able to live close enough to my office to justify selling my car and commuting by bike. I always remember that time fondly, especially after leaving Raleigh to deal with the New York commute that was at least an hour each way daily. When we moved to Dallas I was a little bummed since this city has a reputation for being nothing but 8 lane highways, so I didn’t consider an alternative to commuting by car until I came across this crazy article about a lawyer commuting by bike in Houston. This prompted me to do a quick google maps search for cycling routes to work, and low and behold there are bike paths the whole way from my house to my office. After a couple of weeks of trying it out and researching how to do it best, I thought it’d be fun to post what I’ve learned and experienced. This post doesn’t really have anything to do with e-commerce or business though, so if you’re not interested in commuting adventures I’d stop reading now.
The thing that really made me consider this seriously initially was the fact that I’d spend less than half a mile on actual roads. When I commuted in Raleigh I was on regular roads the whole time. Eventually, I had a lady on her cell phone run me off the road and I decided to switch to a motorcycle so that I could stay with traffic instead of being passed. You may want to check google maps too before you say you can’t do that. I had no idea the amount of bike paths around me in Dallas. I’m discovering ways to get to new areas by bike daily. You may have the same luck!
The first doubt that crept into my mind was distance. I live 8 miles from work. That seemed far to me as someone who doesn’t ride bikes. I did some research and discovered that actually, that’s pretty lightweight. It’s very common for people to commute 20 miles each way in Dallas by bike. My 8 miles takes me 35 minutes, 5 minutes longer than my car commute. I’m in relatively good shape, but I haven’t ridden a bike in years. I suspect I’ll get that commute time under 30 minutes in a couple months. Most importantly, I didn’t find myself fading halfway though or anything along those lines. When I need a breather I just coast for a second. Cycling just isn’t as strenuous as running when you’re not doing it for a time trial, and that’s great news!
The next doubt was the shower situation. I can’t show up to work after cycling 35 minutes in 105 degrees. I read some articles about working professionals that would just throw on a dry shirt when they arrived, or use wipes to freshen up real quick. That just won’t work for me. I don’t want to be the smelly hippy in denial. There’s no shower in my office building, but there is at the gym in the next door office building! So I now leave home earlier than I used to since I don’t need to shower, then I go to that gym and shower and get into my work clothes, and come into work without any issues. I also shower once I get home which became my next concern.
Two showers a day is not supposed to be good for your skin. As if that’s not extreme enough, I also go lift weights 2-3 times a week during my lunch break, so on those days, I’m showering 3 times! This was an obvious concern so I started researching the harm from too many showers. Don’t take my word for this because I’m not a scientist or doctor and my research was entirely websites, and exactly 0 sources will be cited here, but what I was able to gather is that warm showers and traditional soaps are the primary reason your skin will get dried out from too many showers. Body washes and cold showers apparently do not have this effect, and cold showers apparently even have the opposite effect because they contract your pores causing them to retain more of their natural oils. Again, This is waaaay out of my wheelhouse and just based on google searches, but it seems if you are willing to go with cold showers you can take as many as you want each day. This also has the effect of getting you in and out of the shower in no time, so if you take a 10 minutes shower each day you might take 2 5 minute showers and see zero issues. I certainly haven’t seen any.
The next doubt was about the weather, but just last week I rode home in 107 degrees. It really wasn’t an issue since I made sure I was well hydrated beforehand. Since you’re on a bike you have a constant breeze to keep you relatively cool. You’re of course going to sweat, but at no point did I feel so hot that I needed to take a break or slow down or anything. I have no concerns about the winter having grown up in Austria and riding bikes through several feet of snow. It’s all about what you wear at that point. The rain also isn’t an issue since I’m showering as soon as I get to my destination. I just can’t bring my laptop with me on days it will rain, so I leave it in the office those days. Even that would be an easy fix though if I bought a waterproof laptop bag.
Next up was the gear. Before I started I had a list in my mind and it’s entirely different from the list I had after doing it for a bit. I thought I needed all these special workout clothes, a fancy helmet, and real nice backpack. All I care about now is the quality of the bike. Before I bought anything I rented a bike for the day and commuted on the weekend, just to time it and see how it went. After that, I went out and bought this Walmart bike. I bought a $20 Walmart helmet and I’m wearing typical dad-gym-clothes. I’d recommend you start with a cheap bike as well, just to make sure you really want it. I have no plans to upgrade the helmet, backpack, or clothing though. I actually just bought a bunch of $10 Champion shorts and that’s good enough for me. As far as bikes go, I plan to go with a $500 Giant bike at my local bike shop. There are several online stores that have good reviews such as Nashbar.com and FortifiedBike.com, but I’d like to support the neighborhood shop and also make sure they tune everything for me without sneering at my web bought bike in the future. I’m also so new to all this stuff that I really need to rely on an expert to guide me.
Successfully bringing my work clothes to work took research too. I wear jeans and dress shirts so really my only concern was wrinkled shirts. I looked up how to roll them in a way that they don’t get too wrinkly in my backpack, and I’m slowly switching my shirts over to Mizzen & Main shirts, which don’t wrinkle, don’t require ironing, and don’t require dry cleaning, but do cost a lot. I also just leave my shoes in my office instead of lugging them back and forth each day.
Finally, here is where people think I’m really nuts. I’m selling my car and plan to commute only by bike. Obviously, on days where there are significant storms, I can have my wife drop me off, or take her car, or just Uber, but we just don’t need two cars in our family if I’m commuting by bike. Think about it, cars are an objectively bad investment to have money tied up in. They go down in value, require constant maintenance, keep you idle, and at least if you’re in a city and not in some mountainous region, bring you no real joy. This is obviously easy for me to say since my wife will still have a car so on weekends there will be no hassle, but consider how cheap Uber or Lyft is now. Here’s a fun exercise – find out what your Uber cost to commute would be and multiply it by 40. Is the total less than your car payment, insurance, and gas for the month? There’s a good chance it is. That doesn’t even take into account the mileage and wear and tear on the car. I suspect in the coming years it will become more and more the norm to just live without a car, even in a city such as Dallas.
Now if you have a wife as awesome as mine, who is always willing to support my crazy experiments, you might even be able to sell the family car! In our case, my wife’s SUV is worth twice what my car is worth. This means higher gas expenses, higher maintenance, and higher insurance. She’s agreed to take my sedan and let me sell the SUV. Since we only have one child the SUV is not actually necessary. This is next level stuff though. My wife has been enduring my crazy ideas for over 10 years, so she’s developed a certain tolerance level that most others wouldn’t have.
So I’m hoping to convert some people in my office to this idea and hopefully, some of you readers might give it a thought as well. The benefits are obvious, better health, more cash, a more peaceful state of mind when you arrive in the office, possibly even greater humility as you cycle out of the parking garage in your ill fitting helmet along side your coworkers!
Have you considered this before? What doubts do you have that I haven’t covered? Anyone more experienced than me that can provide some corrections or feedback to my thoughts?