How Far is Too Far to Cycle to Work? [COMMUTING ADVICE]

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If you’ve been asking yourself this question, the chances are that commuting to work by bike will be a new experience for you, and you may be wondering if your fitness level is high enough.

Alternatively, you may not be a complete beginner but your cycling experience to date might be leisure rides, and you’re wondering how achievable it will be to cycle to work five days a week.

Whatever your fitness level is now, cycling regularly will improve it. Distance is of course a factor, as is the type of terrain you’ll be travelling on. But you’ll be surprised at how much distance it’s possible to cover if you’re prepared and you’re using the right type of bike for you and the journey.

You can also start with perhaps two or three days per week, allowing rest days in between until you build up fitness and stamina. The last thing you want is to discourage yourself by arriving at work in a wrecked and sweaty heap. And don’t worry, there are ways to avoid sweating, or at least reduce it.


How Far Can the Average Person Cycle?

Statistics tell us that a person of average fitness can cycle approximately 10 miles per hour. In a day, an average person should be able to cover between 40 and 50 miles if they take it steadily and have breaks.

But 50 miles is clearly not a reasonable commuting distance by bike. Let’s face it, there’s really no such thing as an average person. You might be reasonably fit and active but just not used to cycling. Riding a few days a week is different to heading out on an occasional weekend.

a person of average fitness can cycle about 10 miles per hour

Whatever your motivation, if your cycling experience or fitness level is low, then you need to start slow, and build up. Pushing yourself too hard and too soon won’t be a pleasant experience, and will understandably make you want to give up.

Electric bikes are a great option for commuting, making journeys easier if there are hills or if it’s too far to comfortably cycle. Studies do show that people who use electric bikes often ride for longer and further than those on regular bikes.

Oh, and please ignore the sceptics – you will still be getting fitter on an e-bike. Most people are surprised to learn that riding an electric bike burns only 25% less calories than riding a regular bike. It’s not a huge difference.

What is a Good Distance to Cycle Daily?

Anything between 5 and 20 miles can be a good distance to cycle daily, but of course it does depend on how hilly the route is, and how fit you are. A beginner might manage a 10 mile commute, taken steadily. But it could take a couple of months to build up to commuting five days a week.

As an approximate guide, the table below shows the level of difficulty for different lengths of commute.

0 – 5 milesEasy
6 – 10 milesManageable
11 – 15 milesDifficult
16 – 20 milesVery difficult
21 – 25 milesBordering on insane
25+ milesTotally insane

Assuming that you’re in the first two groups here, think about how long the journey is going to take you. Before you start commuting, cycle the route at the weekend to see how long it takes and (importantly), how it feels.

If you’re in a city, the chances are your cycle commute won’t take that much longer than by car or public transport, and it may even be quicker in rush hour. But if your drive to work takes 10 minutes on open roads, then your cycle commute will take around five or six times longer.

Also, if you try the journey and it feels difficult and too long, you could continue to practice on the weekends, with maybe a couple of shorter rides after work too. Over a few weeks it will get easier. Then you can start cycling your commute a couple of days a week. Over time, you’ll be able to increase this as your fitness improves.

Is a 10 Mile Commute by Bike Too Long?

No, a 10 mile commute by bike is not too long, as long as you leave enough time. The rule of thumb is that an average rider can cycle 10 miles in approximately one hour. If you’re a beginner, I would suggest allowing a little longer.

But if you’re going steady, using a bike that is good for you and the terrain, ten miles is very doable. Taking it slow is the key here, and building up to it. You won’t want to be launching into a five-days-a-week commute of ten miles.

The type of bike you use is hugely important. You need to be comfortable, and when choosing your bike, you need one with gears. You’ll be able to cycle comfortably, for longer and further than you think if your gears are low.

When you try the journey out (ahead of your actual commute), you will quickly and intuitively discover which gears are right to maintain a steady and comfortable pace. You’ll soon know if you’re pushing yourself too hard. Simply lower the gears and see how it makes a difference.

a 10 mile commute is not too long but make sure to leave enough time

Is 15 Miles a Long Bike Ride?

15 miles isn’t a long bike ride in itself. You might go out at the weekend and do this quite happily. But it is a long regular commute if you’re a beginner cyclist or your fitness level is low to average.

Cycling to work can have a profound effect on your mental health, and really change your day for the better. We know that a healthy body can nurture a healthy mind, and there are many studies that link the two. Exercise can help with stress, insomnia, or even depression and anxiety.

there is approximately a 20 to 30% lower risk of depression and dementia for adults participating in daily physical activity

However, at the risk of sounding like a self-help guru, you also need to be fairly kind to yourself. If your ride to work is too long (such as a daily 15 miles), then this could seem more like a punishment than a positive choice. If you’re dreading your commute, it’ll probably do more harm than good, physically and mentally.

Commuting by bike is a great decision, but if the journey is simply too long there are options to help you. We’ll look at these below.


Is 20 Miles Too Far to Cycle to Work?

Basically, yes. This would be a huge undertaking. An experienced cyclist with a high fitness level may manage this easily, but for a casual or beginner cyclist, this is pretty ambitious. Undertaking such a long commute would be challenging, and could quickly lead to giving up.

But if this is the distance you need to travel to work, then don’t be discouraged: multi-modal transport is an option. By this, I mean cycling some distance to a train station or bus stop, and taking public transport for the rest of the journey. I must stress that I do NOT mean trying to cram your bike on a rush hour train, where it’s hard enough to even squeeze a body on.

If you choose the multi-transport option, it’s important to think about where you’re leaving your bike and how safe it is. I would advise investing in extremely good locks, preferably more than one and by different brands.

If your journey is too far to be comfortable, my best suggestion would be to use an electric bike. It will make the distance attainable and manageable, and you’ll still be getting fitter and healthier. 

for 20 mile commutes, multi-modal transport is an option

How Far Can You Travel on a Bike in an Hour?

Someone with reasonable fitness can cover around 12 to 15 miles per hour on a bike. A beginner can cover around 10 miles per hour – but if you factor in hills, wind-resistance and stopping at junctions or traffic lights – a more realistic figure might be around 8 miles per hour.

The terrain you’re cycling on makes a big difference to the journey. It can take about two or even three times as long to go up a hill, depending on the gradient.

Weather can also play a huge factor. Wind resistance can slow you down significantly, with a headwind slowing you down by approximately half of the wind speed. If it’s raining, you’ll be cycling more slowly and carefully.

Using an electric bike will speed up your commute. It’ll make short work of hills (if they feature on your journey), and even if it’s an urban route and you’re stopping frequently, you can still cruise comfortably at 15 to 20 mph.

a reasonable bike com,mute is one that is achievable, comfortable and gets you to work safely.

How Long is a Reasonable Bike Commute?

This is a little like asking, “How long is a piece of string?” A reasonable commute is really one that is achievable, comfortable and gets you to work. But generally, for a beginner, anything from 3 – 10 miles / 20 – 60 minutes, could be considered reasonable.

And this will differ for different people, depending on your fitness level to begin with, the terrain of the journey, and the kind of bike you’re using. It’s worth stressing again that you should cycle the journey beforehand, so you know exactly what you’re dealing with and how to prepare.

Remember that in spite of the obvious benefits to bike commuting – such as improved health, weight loss and being kind to the environment – the overall goal is to arrive at your destination. Whereas it may be part of a program to get healthier, you also need to function well throughout the day without feeling exhausted.

But remember also, that as your fitness does improve, you will find that a ‘reasonable’ length becomes longer over time.

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