Bike Commute Day 1

I got my rack and pannier bag installed last week and ended up riding to work today. The bag I got works great, more than enough room for a change of clothes, shoes and lunch. Felt a little weird walking into the building in shorts and sandals. My team lead comes in later than me and leaves earlier so I’m changing in her office. I kept a quick pace coming in and got a little sweatier than I wanted so I’ll just have to take my time. I’ll post a picture of my complete commuter setup.

I’ll probably end up really liking a bike commute. At 6:40am the streets are pretty quiet and peaceful which makes for a nice relaxing start. I’ll be forced to bring my lunch more often so I need to start exploring lunches more exciting than PB&J.

Expensive Car Month

July is a huge reminder about just how much money we spend on automobile transportation. The planets seem to align when insurance and registration for both of us come in at about the same time. This year I got the added joy of renewing my drivers license and smogging the RSX for the first time (I kid you not it took about 3 minutes for them to test it). All that on top of two car payments is a nice little sum of money vanishing in a short period of time. The monthly cost might not seem bad, but it all adds up to a significant portion of our income.

I’m one step closer to my bike commute though. I bought locks, rear rack and trunk bag last night which means I might be ready to make the switch in a couple weeks. The Topeak rack and bag are pretty sweet since they have a slide on mechanism for easy installation and removal. Ordered from Tree Fort Bikes which had everything I wanted at very competitive prices. Still contemplating if I want to put fenders on.

Jumping on the bike wagon

Two big problems have developed in my life: gas prices suck and I haven’t had any significant exercise in about 5 years. The former makes my wallet lighter and the latter has made me heavier. The solution to both of these problems is a good old fashioned bicycle. We went over to Pat’s 605 Cyclery to pick out a beach cruiser for Sarah and I asked about what would work for starting a bike commute. I was pointed towards the Trek “hybrid” bikes that where close to my budget.

I had done some research on bikes and knew the major differences between road bikes and mountain bikes, but didn’t know a whole lot about hybrids. Hybrid bikes are just that, a hybrid of the two that combine the skinnier, smooth tires and gearing of a road bike with the frame and seating position of a mountain bike.

I grew up riding fairly generic street bikes and rode mountain bikes a couple times up in Mammoth, but besides that my bike experience was pretty limited. I was looking at the Trek 7.2 FX and went in for a spin around the parking lot and I was sold almost immediately. I’m pretty out of shape and it was fun just riding around in circles.

Sarah’s beach cruiser was ready to go home and I couldn’t let her ride alone so I went ahead and bought it right there. Good thing I did because the next bike they would have ordered was going to cost $70 more because of price increases for rubber and all the components getting passed to the consumer. At $480 after tax it wasn’t cheap, but I see it as an investment that will reduce my gas bill and help me get into shape. Instead of driving Saturday morning, we road 8.5 miles around town so the savings have already began.

I’ll post more on all of this, but this will definitely bring some big changes in my life.

Quick specs

  • 20″ aluminum frame
  • Shimano shifting components, 18 speeds
  • 700cc x 35mm wheels

And Sarah’s beach cruiser

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?

Breaking down my gasoline consumption

With gas prices at their current levels people are hurting at the pump and even my 2.5 mile commute adds up. I usually go home for lunch so I’m driving 10 miles a day. Compared to the 50 miles I was doing one year ago I should be grateful my gas bill is as low as it is. The savings I’ve seen with a shorter commute aren’t quite as large as you’d think. The increased price of gas and lower mileage from city driving has doubled my cost per mile.

Gas prices have gone up considerably; here’s my data I’m collected over the past 2.5 years:
Price of Gas

Higher prices mean it costs more to drive a mile, no question there. Here’s my mileage over that same time period for my 2005 Toyota Tacoma 4 cylinder automatic:

When I started at the County last August two things happened: a tank of gas started lasting longer and my mileage plummeted. The short trip to and from work means my engine is operating at a less efficient temperature for a larger proportion of my commute. Coupled with stopping and idling at traffic lights I saw a 7-8 mpg decrease, that’s a very significant ~30% drop in mileage. My historic cost per mile looks like this:
Cost per mile

The double whammy of increased prices and lower mileage hurts. With my current cost per mile it costs me $2.20 to drive to work everyday. Doesn’t seem like much, but that adds up to about $550 per year. That’s just to get to work, that doesn’t include driving anywhere fun.

I’m going to go through a series of post analyzing my energy costs and figuring out ways to reduce them. What’s your daily commute cost you? Simple formula to calculate it:

Commute cost = (price of gas / MPG) * miles