“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!