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4 Not So Obvious Benefits of Bike Commuting

I Love Riding My Bike More Than Driving

Disclaimer: I live in a city with a centralized population in the most walkable area with lots of access to public transportation. It’s a lot easier for me to argue in favor of biking over driving when I literally live in front of a biking trail.

I’ve always thought bike riding was fun. In college I had a Fuji Mountain Bike and every morning at 7:30am (8am classes suck) I would take an off-road path to class popping over curbs, going off jumps, and riding up directly to the door of the Business School flying past some of my friends who were walking from the parking lot.

This also involved switching t-shirts and wiping sweat off of my face in the bathroom, but every morning felt like an adrenaline rush and a way to challenge myself. I was invigorated in my first class and I’d feel a sense of pride because it was my body that pushed me to class – not some car.

3 years later I still ride my bike everywhere and have noticed a lot of benefits compared to driving.

There are obvious benefits like staying in shape, having fun, saving money on gas, being green etc. but I figured everyone already knew that. So, here are four benefits of riding a bike around town that are not obvious!

 

You’ll Probably Save Money

Believe it or not, the average American spends $350-$500 per month on car payments, and then another $100 per month on the gasoline that they put into the car.*

(I’m being conservative with my estimate. If someone drives 1,250 miles per month and drives a standard American commuter car which gets between 25-30 mpg, they’re likely filling 50 gallons in their car at an average cost of $2 per gallon*)

Compare this to the one time fixed fee of a quality road bike which ranges anywhere between $600-$3000 and you can own one for life at the same cost of a nice car for a couple months. This doesn’t even take into account the compounded costs of car maintenance, new tires, parking fees, or speeding tickets (guilty).

Obviously there is a good reason why cars cost more. A car can transport 5x the people, it can move faster, travel on major highways, it moves further, and you can show up for a hot date without messy hair or a sweaty t-shirt. However, for many individuals, you don’t necessarily need to own a car for those tasks*.

(I’m going to make a separate article going in to more detail of the true expenses of car ownership*. To summarize, simply using Uber/Lyft, public transportation, or even renting a car often mitigates cost)

Now this all might sound fine and dandy on paper. But soon, you might think back on lots of trips you took in your car to meet at a friend’s house to hang out, or load up your car with groceries where you know you couldn’t have done it with just a bike! But that’s why…

You’ll Appreciate Small Moments More

Have you ever noticed that whenever you take time to create something – a painting, furniture, a birthday card etc. you seem to enjoy that thing more than if you had just bought it from Walmart?

If you’re a really talented artist, carpenter, or writer it could be because you’re able to create awesome stuff. However if you’re like me and lack those talents, you probably enjoy them more because you experienced the time and effort that went into making the product.

There’s a similar effect when you ride a bike somewhere.

Say you and your S.O. want to have a picnic at the park a few miles away. You each have a backpack filled with a light blanket, sandwiches, a bottle of wine etc. You ride through town, peddling hard uphill, downhill, and through that one cool neighborhood. When you finally make it to the park and sit on the grass, your heart rate is high, adrenaline is slowing down, and that sweet, sweet serotonin is starting to kick in. The weather feels nicer, sandwiches have never tasted better, and damnit you earned that glass of cabernet!

If you drove to the park it would probably still be nice, but it’s going to feel more casual than if you had to put in hard work to get there.  The car might have gotten you to the picnic sooner, but it’s like this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

It’s An Efficient Way to Stay Healthy

This one is pretty obvious, but hopefully I can give some unique perspective on the health benefits.

I spoke with a friend about walking/biking places compared to driving. Her main complaint with walking or biking places isn’t getting sweaty or tired. It is the amount of time wasted walking or biking compared to driving.

This is a valid argument for driving. If I’m meeting friends for dinner at 7pm a few miles away, it’ll take them only 15 minutes to drive whereas it takes me a solid 25 minutes. If you did this a few times in a day round-trip, you could calculate an extra 45-60 minutes of your day was time wasted pedaling your bike.

It seems pretty inefficient. Until you realize that there are millions of people who spend hundreds of dollars a month doing cycling classes at the gym on a stationary bike.

An hour of cycling per day can burn anywhere from 400-800 calories depending on the intensity and a person’s weight. If you incorporate that time into your daily life, you’ve redistributed that hour of cardio at the gym into a 30 minute round trip bike ride to your friend’s house on the other side of town.

A lot of people only go to the gym to do cycling/running. You could eliminate the need for your gym membership organically just from riding a bike for errands.

Speaking of riding your bike through town…

 

You’ll See Your City from A Different Point of View

Driving a car is all about getting from point A to point B. Hop into your personal car bubble, put the address into the GPS, and travel the path of least resistance to get to your destination quickly. Even though you’ll get there fast, you’ll miss the small things on your journey.

Biking around lets you move pretty quickly through town, but you still move comfortably to take the time to smell the roses.

I’ve discovered so many hidden gems in various cities including my own that I never would have seen if I was driving. Random bottle shops, locally owned stores, tiny parks with bike paths, and hell sometimes literally roses.

You might think you need to get in your car and drive 20 minutes away to get to the good things, but there might be some amazing stuff all around you – you’ve just got to look for it!