Seriously considering a bike commute

To follow up on my gasoline consumption post, I’ve been considering buying a bike and commuting to work. I use to ride my bike a lot as a kid and rode to school off and on from 4th to 7th grade. It was my main mode of transportation growing up and was a good source of freedom. Since then I haven’t been on a bike much except for a couple rides down Mammoth. I’ve been researching bikes and figuring out some of the logistical problems a bike commute presents.

One of those problems is getting to work without being completely soaked in sweat. I don’t think there are any locker facilities available in our building and changing clothes in the bathroom doesn’t sound ideal. Not a huge deal so I’d just have to find what works best. If I leave early enough in the morning I doubt my usual casual business attire will be a problem.

A bike commute would also force me to bring my lunch, eat locally or go out with coworkers. Bringing lunch would be the frugal approach. I’d probably start bringing lunch and then eat out once a week.

My commute is convenient right now so I haven’t had a problem working a 5/40 schedule. Riding a bike would introduce a little more overhead into my daily routine and I’d probably switch to a 4/40 with Mondays off. This would force me to get into work earlier so I can still get home at a reasonable time. I’d end up with a whole day off and would accumulate holiday time since most County holidays fall on a Monday.

The more confusing part is figuring out what kind of bike to get and how much to spend. I’ve never rode a road bike and just a handful of mountain bikes so I’m really not sure what I need or what I prefer. From what I’ve read a road bike might not be best for navigating city streets and handling rougher spots. I also like the idea of doing some light trail riding so I’m leaning towards a hardtail mountain bike; no suspension helps keep pedaling efficient. Just have to go down to the bike shop and see what’s comfortable.

Last thing to consider is the cost of starting up a bike commute. Bike, helmet, lock and who knows what else could start to add up. As is I’m spending about $550 a year on gas to commute. If I started bringing my lunch and switched to a 4 day work week that number could be reduced by 60% so that digs into the savings. With that in mind I’m looking at a budget of $400 for everything to get started.

I’d see hard savings in fuel costs and maintenance, but more importantly I’d be getting exercise and opening up a new avenue for outdoor activity. Considering the cost of a gym membership this is easily worth a couple bucks a day to me. This could be the dropkick I need to reform my sedentary lifestyle and get into shape.

Anyone have bike commuting experience or general bicycle knowledge to share?