Bicycle commuting premiere



A while back I convinced myself bicycle commuting was a feasible alternative to driving for me, and started preparing to giving it a go. The plan wasn't to give up driving entirely, but to start going by bike maybe once per week or so, to introduce some much needed exercise into my life.

My preparations mostly consisted of some light bicycle maintenance, installing new lights and replacing the gear shift cable and housing, as well as browsing for racks and panniers and drooling over the beautiful photography over at Bikepacking.com. I also started using the bike to run errands in the village where we live, but the weather felt a bit too rough still to start commuting by bike. Of course I could have done it, it was by no means impossible, but part of my plan was to make at least the first few rides a positive experience, to lay the foundation for a new habit. The weather remained pretty bad for a while, then the entire family got the flu, and a few more weeks passed.

Just do it

Once I felt recovered and ready to give bicycle commuting a go, spring was in the air, and most days the weather was pretty decent. Ironically the days were also long enough that I wouldn't need my newly installed bike lights for the commute, but having them surely doesn't hurt.

Reviewing the weather forecast early in the week, the Friday looked like a good day to start. It was going to be windy, but no heavy rain like on the previous days. I don't have any rain clothes, so rain is currently a bit of a hindrance.

Reading the news the night before my maiden voyage, I saw warnings for storm gusts along the coast, which put my plans in jeopardy. Friday morning was indeed pretty windy, but the weather app on my phone showed winds from the south the entire day, which means a crosswind both ways of the commute. Battling a really strong headwind in either direction would probably have been a bit too much for my first attempt, but crosswinds I could live with. Also, I had sort of set my mind on going, and I was excited to finally give it a try.

During my research phase I thought a lot about a perfect setup, with panniers for my computer, spare clothes, a towel etc, and maybe even a bike trailer to take the kids to preschool. On the other hand, I knew that if I had to have all of that in place before riding to work, it would probably never happen.

So, I cleared my mind of all the cool adventure bikes from the internet and just put my computer and notepad in my trusty backpack, chucked a spare t-shirt in there for good measure, and that was it for packing. I dropped the kids off at preschool using the car, and then drove home and changed vehicles.


And just like that, I was off. We live at the top of a hill, so heading out on the bike is always easy. Still, even going down the steepest part of the hill I could feel the wind holding me back. This could be challenging.

I tried not to push too hard, as I didn't want to arrive at the office all sweaty. At the same time I didn't want my commute to take too long, since I had a pretty busy day ahead of me. I found a pace and cadence that felt sustainable without being too slow, and just chugged along. The first 2/3 of the distance is a very straight bike path across open fields, and the wind was always present but actually not that annoying. It slowed me down I'm sure, but it didn't stop me.

One stretch of this open part of the commute felt surprisingly boring. I first thought it was because there were no good mental milestones in sight. You could see pretty far ahead, but there was nothing to look forward to. When I drove into town with the family the day after I could clearly see that the boring part is also slightly uphill, and I'm sure that contributes to the tediousness. Still, it's only an 11 km commute in total, so it's by no means endless. Once I had pedaled through the boring part and pushed up a short but somewhat steep hill, I found myself in the city. Here I expected to be slowed down by traffic lights and other people in general, but I had an almost comically good timing with the traffic lights and hardly had to slow down at all. At this point my legs were letting me know that they were not used to this much pedaling, so I probably wasn't going very fast anyway.


After exactly 40 minutes I arrived at work. I haven't timed my car commute (which includes a ~10 minutes walk from the parking garage), but I did get to the office a little bit later than usual. Maybe on a day with less wind the ride would have been a bit quicker, but the biggest time saver in the long run is probably just getting used to the commute and getting more fit.

I wasn't sweaty after the ride, so once I got into the office I could just grab a cup of coffee and get to work as I always do. This very good, as a change of clothes or a shower would have made the bike commute less viable from a scheduling perspective.

Heading home

Last summer I did a test-ride, going almost all the way to work and then back home again in one go. On that day my legs were getting pretty sore on the way back, but with an entire working day between the ride there and the one home, my legs would have had plenty of time to recover, right? Wrong.

Jumping on the bike in the afternoon my legs started complaining almost immediately, and the ride home felt much tougher even though the crosswind had shifted slightly to give me a tiny bit of tailwind.

Going up the steepest part of the hill up to my village, I acutally jumped off the bike and walked a couple of hundred meters. I could have made it on the bike if I really wanted to, but I'd rather take a short break and get home with a positive impression of the adventure. Again, building a new habit is the long term goal here.


Commuting by bike is a very feasible alternative for me. With some good rain clothes and waterproof shoes I could probably ride in almost any weather without too much hassle, but I'll try to stick to nice days to begin with. I'm very happy that I just got going instead of waiting to have the perfect gear and perfect weather. It was a bit risky to get sucked into articles and videos about bikepacking and adventure bikes when in reality I have very modest needs. It's not like I'm crossing the African continent or anything, I'm just riding my bike to work.

I'm not opposed to the idea of upgrading my equipment, but doing it after a number of rides makes for a much more informed decision. It's also very satisfying to buy something that you know will improve your life, rather than spending a lot of money upfront and then ending up with half of the stuff gathering dust in some closet anyway.

I'll try to commute by bike at least once per week, and I'm pretty tempted to do it on Monday already. I'm also well aware that I have a tendency to overdo things in the beginning, so taking an extra rest day or two certainly won't hurt.

The ride was a bit tough, but it was a very positive experience all in all. I could see myself going all-in on bike commuting in the future, but we'll see. A little bit is certainly better than nothing.