Bicycle Commuting Pt. 1

Wednesday was National Ride2Work day where Australians are encouraged to commute to work by bicycle. It’s a wonderful initiative to draw awareness to the possibility of riding a bicycle to work and to give people an opportunity to try it. There are breakfasts organised by local councils and bicycle associations, allowing commuters to meet along the way and share the experience of riding to work.

My workplace is at home. So commuting by bicycle to a workplace isn’t part of my life. I travel by bicycle to meet colleagues as much as I can but a commute to a regular workplace isn’t part of the picture. A friend joked that I could ride around the block to celebrate the occasion of National Ride2Work day. But… I really wanted to somehow join in. So I decided to create a more realistic experience of commuting to a workplace by bicycle. I decided to shadow a bicycle commuter.

This would have been an easy task if I picked someone who lives close to their workplace. But I didn’t. Instead, I was looking at a 27-kilometre commute (16.8miles). One way!

Commuting by bicycle needs a little bit of planning.

Commuting by bicycle needs a little bit of planning. In some very strange way, it reduces to food, shelter and water, plus direction.

When am I going to eat? Before I leave home? Along the way? At work? What food will I need during the day, given the ride will increase my body’s metabolic rate.

Planning for shelter is about what I’ll wear. Will it be hot, cold, windy, wet? Can I wear my clothes for the destination? Or will lycra cycling pants be more comfortable? Where can I get changed when I get there? What facilities are at my destination for that? What do I need to carry with me and how will I carry it? Backpack? Panniers? Basket?

Plus I’ll need to pack water for staying hydrated – and then keep hydrating. I’m sipping coconut water as I write this post. It’s a good source of potassium and magnesium for rehydrating.

Finally, what direction will I ride? What cycle ways and bike lanes exist? How can I avoid heavy road traffic, difficult intersections and hills! The answers to these questions will be as individual as each commuter. And although it seems like a lot to consider, once those questions are answered, it becomes easier. I commuted by bicycle for a few years when working at Southern Cross University, about 13kms away. It became a familiar rhythm to my working life and one that I enjoyed.

How long will the ride take?

Once I know my direction, I also need to work out how much time to allow. I use Google Maps, which has a bicycle transport option, to determine the distance. The other tool I use is a CatEye speedometer. It tells me statistics about my riding (there might be Smartphone apps for doing the same). The statistic I use here is my average speed. With it, I can calculate how long the ride will take me. So, knowing my typical average speed is 15kms/hr (when carrying a full pannier), the 27-kilometre commute is going to take about one and half hours.

So that tells me when I need to leave home. But how will I know if I’m ‘on time’ along the way? That’s where I use the CatEye again to keep my average speed at 15kms/hr (9.3mph) or more.

So with the planning done, the alarm was set for a 5.30am departure.

I was looking forward to the experience but not without some concern about the distance and the deadline of ensuring the bicycle commuter could be there for her 8am start. You see, this was the first time I’d ridden to this destination. It was also the first time for the bicycle commuter herself!

To be continued...


National Ride2Work day is an initiative of Bicycle Network that takes place annually.

Many local government authorities provide cycling maps to help with planning.

Many local government authorities provide cycling maps to help with planning.

The CatEye speedometer sits at the centre of my handlebars. When this photo was taken, I was riding 12.2 km/hr and had been riding for 21.22 minutes

The CatEye speedometer sits at the centre of my handlebars, telling me my riding speed, time and distance.

My yellow pannier for carrying things.

My yellow pannier for carrying things. It’s waterproof and I have one for each side of the bike.

20 Comments on “Bicycle Commuting Pt. 1

  1. you’d be welcome to accompany me on my daily commute 13.4km from Tugun to South Tweed. I have been doing this every week day for 6 years, and would like to share my experience

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Hugh. I’d enjoy doing that. I’ll email you to work out a time. It sounds like you’ve got the bicycle commute well integrated into your work life.

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  2. I can’t wait to hear how the commute went! Bike commuting does take some planning and thought, I was a bit overwhelmed when I started but it really isn’t bad at all-jumping right in and resolving issues as they come up is my mode of operation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, it’s best to work out as much as you can and then give it a go. It’s never possible to anticipate everything. I heard from one bicycle commuter recently that her bicycle commute is sometimes interrupted by a koala looking too cute to pass by without stopping to take a photo 🙂

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  3. My longest daily bike work commute was when I lived in Toronto and did it for 14 yrs.: it was a 32 km. round trip. So yes, I would leave home around 6:15 am and bike from the suburbs into the downtown financial core through a blend of ravine park pathways, lake beach waterfront and on road.

    BEst of luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s inspiring Jean. It’s great when the bicycle commute can become a familiar pattern; it develops an ease over time. Plus the incidental fitness from riding that distance so often would add to your well-being in so many ways. I imagine, over the years, the incentives to cycle become more and more obvious.

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  4. I’m waiting eagerly for the next post to see how it went! I know that commuting here is quite a difficult venture. There are some wonderful bike paths but it doesn’t matter how great they are if the short “links” are fraught with peril. I’m looking forward to the day when these nasty danger spots are improved so that more people can commute by bicycle. Another great post. Thanks, Gail! 🙂

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    • On the Gold Coast Jane, the council reports over 800kms of bikeways, however, this includes bikeways not suited to the needs of a safe, fast bicycle commute. They might be pathways winding through a park for a fun ride and also bike lanes that are narrow or at risk of ‘dooring’ because they adjoin parked cars. As you say, there are significant gaps in the continuity of the bikeways. It is improving, but we have some way to go to enhance the safety. I think this applies more broadly across Australia too.

      Canberra has the greatest cycling participation across any Australian city. And of course, it has excellent cycling infrastructure. These two – infrastructure that allows safe cycling and participation – go hand in hand.

      As for part 2 of the post… I have an ‘essay’ at the moment that needs significant trimming! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • We have a similar situation in Brisbane with the way the number of kms of bikeways are promoted. Many are just a painted line on a street with no protection from cars and are quite dangerous. It’s very encouraging to read about Canberra’s cycling infrastructure though and hopefully that will rub off on the other states… Looking forward to the ‘essay.” 🙂

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  5. 27klms! Whew, I feel tired thinking about it. And then back again?! And then all the decisions … that deserves another exclamation mark! I can see though the planning pays off. A little different from the days when I was a child. My bestie used to arrive for a play date (not called that then) on the upturned handle bars of her dad’s bike. No helmets and all that balancing; certainly no groovy little gadgets like the CatEye speedometer.

    I’m waiting for the next installment now. This post infers you survived although not in what condition.

    Liked by 1 person

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