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I'm curious about what is the maximum distance you can live from work so that it's a reasonable biking distance.

I am interested in biking about 30 minutes to work. It would be about 5 miles away. I have a heavy cruiser bicycle (Schwinn). It would be a leisurely ride.

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I'd say about 30 miles. I used to do 25 in the morning (taking a "short cut") and I'm a real wimp. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 7 '13 at 22:54
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Are you concerned about a specific maximum travel time or something else? (It sounds like it's not about safety as I initially read the title to imply.) If you can make your situation a little more specific, then it would be a lot easier to answer. –  amcnabb Aug 7 '13 at 22:55
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I would say there isn't really a maximum, but it really depends on what kind of shape you are in, and how much time you really want to spend commuting. I once had a 25 km commute, and I wouldn't want much more than that, but it's mostly because it took about an hour, which makes your day pretty long. I don't think I would have enjoyed doing 40-50 km like @DanielRHicks simply because it would eat up so much time out of my day. You'd be spending 3+ hours every day just commuting. I wouldn't like that no matter the mode of transportation. –  Kibbee Aug 7 '13 at 23:00
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From your edit, it sounds like you're asking whether a 5 mile commute is reasonable. It definitely is. –  amcnabb Aug 7 '13 at 23:22
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What aspect of "safety" are you concerned about? E.g. are you worried about "safely" making it to meetings despite the bike possibly breaking or getting a flat tire?If I were commuting, I would be concerned about the safety of whether I am stranded or not, and how long it would take to find and use and alternative method to get to work or home. –  PositiveK Aug 14 '13 at 19:28
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6 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

A good safe biking distance is the distance that one can enjoy the bike ride to work, get there a few minutes early to clean up or shower and after work enjoy another bike ride home and still spare some time to spend with family/ loved ones/have a life besides work and the commute.

I limit my bike commute to about an hour each way.

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One thing to note is Adel's profile says she lives in New Orleans, which means very hot, humid summers. Even 10 minutes on a bike in the summer in New Orleans can be unbearable. The flip side is that the weather is comfortably rideable during the entire winter. So I'd say the time limit will be dictated mostly by season. An hour in January will be fine, but an hour in August will be hideous. –  Carey Gregory Aug 8 '13 at 3:55
    
@Carey. I have edited accordingly. I merely meant to state my case. –  Akshay Aug 8 '13 at 6:49
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Traffic, weather, and geography would make a world of difference. On a dry day at 68°F, 10 miles would be great. If you have to take several pedestrian bridges to cross major arteries in hot, humid weather, even 1 mile could wear on you. I do 1.55 miles with pretty-much no traffic (crossing one semi-major road to get to work), but this Florida weather does makes it easier for me to make excuses during the summer.

Until recently, I was commuting by car about 53 miles to work one-way. I once considered doing the commute by bicycle on a Friday, getting up extremely early in the morning and coming home just-about dead. (We have a shower at work.) If you already have this job, maybe a one-day tryout would be the way to go, or you could try simulating your commute on a weekend.

Not knowing your other factors, I would guess 5 miles would be no problem.

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It would depend on a lot of things, such as terrain, weather, traffic etc. If you are not sure, simply ride a few kilometers and you would be in a position to guess. Safety hazards increase as you get tired, it will affect your judgment and reaction speed. You can get a guess on that by doing some trial riding.

One thing that is for sure is that the more you ride, the safer you will feel. Your body will adapt to cycling and you will feel less tired day-by-day, and be more confident about yourself on the streets.

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The distance is really up to the individual. If this is to be a daily commute, then you'll need to consider the weather at times. Five miles should be easy to cover with a cruiser type bicycle. It's just that at times when it's raining or the wind is blowing at 25mph, that five miles will seem like ten miles. The safety part will be determined by the condition of the roads traveled, the amount of traffic, and how you must dress for your commute. If the commute will be made only when conditions are acceptable as being "comfortable", then you should have no problem with using the Schwinn cruiser for the ride.

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Other answers have touched on this but not explicitly. The main safety point I would say is how you ride when you're tired. If you're exhausted and can't keep a straight line up a busy hill, don't think to look over your shoulder in time etc., that's bad and getting dangerous. tiredness can really hit your judgement and reaction times.

Otherwise it depends on your starting level of fitness and facilities in work more than safety. I started from an occasional leisure ride by riding the 9-10 mile each way commute once a week for a couple of weeks, then twice, but not consecutive days. Now I'll happily do 4 days in a week if it fits in, and would try every day but haven't had the chance.

I would say that the bike doesn't make that much difference at the scale of your ride or mine - with the obvious caveat that it fits reasonably well and isn't in a terrible condition or something weird. If it's OK on a cruiser it will be better on a road bike or hybrid (my choice for urban riding given the state of the roads/hills and the need to see over cars), but if you find it horrible on a cruiser, you wouldn't find it a pleasure on an unfamiliar road bike.

Of course, if you're at risk of heart attacks, recovering from an injury or whatever it's a different matter.

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This is not really a safety issue, but one of practicality and convenience. I commute a total of 6 miles each way, every day, rain-or-shine in a humid climate.

The most important thing to consider is not the bike, but your clothing and amenities at your destination. I use a backpack and carry a change of clothes and my laptop (using plastic bags for protection from rain). There is a shower at my work, but I don't use it unless I am truly soaked with sweat (only needed if I take a long "detour").

Even heavy rain is not a problem if you have a change of clothing.

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