What I Learned After Two Years of Biking to Work

“Why don’t we sell the house and move closer to your work?”

Those words came out of my wife’s mouth so easily I thought she was joking.  Or was she?

“Are you serious?” I asked.

“Well, why are we here? We don’t need to live in Seattle. You work in Everett and I work from home, and there is nothing here we can’t have there. In fact, we can have more house for less money, and probably pay less in utilities, daycare and groceries,” she said. And you know, she was right.

I was commuting daily (20 miles one way) up to my job in Everett, and the only reason we were still living in our house was because I was emotionally attached to it. Turns out, that emotional attachment was costing us a lot of money.

It was this conversation three years ago about commuting and whether or not to move that lead us to completely upend our life by going down the rabbit hole of financial independence and early retirement. Once we ran the numbers and saw how much money we would save by moving, we jumped in with both feet.

Two years ago we moved 4.6 miles from my work and I committed to year-round bike commuting and to being a one-car family. In doing so, we cut our expenses significantly.

We returned our leased Nissan Leaf and reduced insurance. We no longer had $400/month utility bills. We no longer had to worry about traffic and how long is it going to take for dad to get home. Many other savings snowballed as well. That one decision was transformational.

By simply moving closer to my work, we are saving roughly $8,455 per year! It still blows my mind that I was not able to see what the true cost of commuting was.  

True, there is a cost to bike commuting. You need a reliable bike, some basic equipment and clothing. All up I’ve spent approximately $2,300 total on my bike and related gear ($1,300 of which was to recently convert it to electric-assist). The ROI was less than three months!

That said, it did take a bit of time to adjust to riding daily.  What have I learned in the past two years of bike commuting?

10 lessons I learned biking to work every day

1. Keep a full set of clothes at work.  Needless to say, rocking commando at work is cooler, but not cool. I keep a full set of clothes in a bag at work so I don’t have to worry if I forget anything. This includes soap and a towel.

2. Don’t spare the spare (tube, that is).  I’ve only been caught twice (OK maybe three times) with a flat and no tube.  Fortunately, I have a bike rack on our car and an understanding wife.

3. You’ll save money on water bills because you are showering at work (assuming that is possible for you).

4. Safety first. Just like you would invest in safety measures with a car, make sure that you have lights on your bike. I’m in the Pacific Northwest and it gets dark early during the winter.  I spend roughly 5 months a year biking in the dark.

5. Winter-specific biking gloves are the bee’s knees.  Nothing can suck the joy out of a winter bike ride like numb hands.

6. Riding in the rain is kinda fun, assuming you and your bike are set up correctly!  I have fenders that keep the water off my back and full rain gear. Smelling the misty air on a ride into work is refreshing.

7. Counterpoint to #6, riding when it’s icy is not fun. I’ve only dumped my bike once after hitting a patch of ice, and honestly if it wasn’t for my years learning to fall off of bikes and skateboards as a kid, it could have been a lot worse (I legit laughed as I dumped the bike and slid along the street). Some days you just have to make the call to drive in.

8. Panniers are the way to go. During the summer months, wearing a backpack while biking can create an ocean of sweat. Panniers (or saddlebags) allow me to get the weight off of my back and allow air flow. I keep all my tools, first aid kit, and spare in one pannier and my work clothes in the other.

9. It’s fun being the weirdo.  When it’s in the teens outside and I come into work with a badass ice-crusted beard, you get compliments like ‘Seriously dude, I can give you a ride home’.

10. Going electric is AWESOME.  While not cheap, converting my bike to an ebike was a game-changer with saving time. I recently moved buildings and my commute got longer and hillier as a result. Instead of spending 35-40 minutes commuting, I’m down to 22.

I hope that this article inspires you to make the leap and try biking to work. If you already bike to work, what did I miss? What tips or lessons have you learned about bike commuting? Comment below!

17 thoughts on “What I Learned After Two Years of Biking to Work

  1. Abigail says:

    I’m a bit jealous of anyone who gets to jump on their bike twice a day. I wish commuting by bicycle was possible for me – but instead I take the bus… a 4 week travel pass works out as £2.85 a day, so it’s definitely frugal, I just need to figure out how to work out while on the bus 😉

    Like

    • Christina Merhar says:

      That’s awesome! Yes, for us, too, it’s been the way to only have one car (that and moving to a more walk-able/bike-able area)

      Like

  2. Eric Merhar says:

    After re-reading this post, I realized that the question I would ask is ‘where in the heck did he come up with that $8,455/yr in savings?’ So, like Kristy from Millennial Revolution says, let’s math that sh*t up:

    $3,120 Nissan Leaf Lease (annual)
    $1,200 Nissan Leaf Insurance (annual)
    $360 Electricity (annual, to charge the Leaf in Seattle)
    $200 Tabs (annual, tabs are hella expensive in Seattle)
    $1,200 Utilities (annual, this is for garbage, sewer/water, and natural gas savings)
    $2,375 IRS Mileage Cost (annual at $0.50/mile)

    All up? About $8,455 savings every.single.year!

    Like

  3. Laura Webb says:

    Awesome article!! I have been biking to work for a year now and love it. I would another thing I learned.
    11. Being outside exercising twice a day is a really nice way to commute. I enjoy the comute, get exercise, and get home at the end of the day happier and and healthier than I would be if I had driven or taken public transportation..

    Like

  4. B.C. Kowalski says:

    Very cool! As a long time bike commuter in the middle of Wisconsin, I know the ice beard all too well. Very good tips. My commuting diminishes in the winter too, but with my current gear set up I can do down to about 25 degrees when the roads are clear-ish. Layers are your friend!

    With ice, I ride different – take turns much more carefully, often with my foot out ready to catch myself. I’ve taken a couple of winter spills, but I’m usually fine though I’ve broken a shifter off my mtb. Funny story, I rode my bike to meet our city’s mayor (small city) and because the previous person in my position also bike commuted, he joked “what is a bike standard issue at you company?”

    Like

    • Eric Merhar says:

      Agree on riding in icy conditions, I’m much more cautious. I’m one of the only people in my 2,500+ person company that bike commutes year round. I honestly don’t get it.

      Like

  5. Deanna says:

    Congrats on making a decision which is healthier and makes you wealthier. I recently moved so that I can walk to work. Love it!
    Question, when you convert your bike to an ebike, can you use it intermittently? Meaning you can choose to pedal but also turn the motor on for hills?

    Like

  6. Timothy Eichmann says:

    I have been biking to work now as well for the last 5 years.All year round here in Sweden.

    But like you said, it makes it a lot easier if you have all the clothes to keep you warm during the cold and dark days. So the one thing I missed from the beginning were shoe covers for the wet and cold months. I waited 2 winters before I bought some and one of the best investments ever…..

    Like

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