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I decided to ride to my university which is 9km away from my home and it is placed on a foothill. I guess the route is 5degrees uphill steep.

I have ridden short routes before but not as long as 18 km.. I'm a beginner in riding, but physically I'm partly OK.

EDIT: This is the path's elevation profile from google earth: The average slope is 4.6% and max slope is 13.1% and altitude is 1224 ft. Elevation Profile From Google Earth

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Is 9km each way, 18km/day? – mattnz Apr 6 '14 at 20:29
yes 18km/day ! I thought it is easy to comeback the downhill ! :D – Mohebifar Apr 6 '14 at 20:33
I took a similar decision to cycle 20 miles everyday for work, and I felt fine, this includes a very steep hill at the beginning/end. It's worth noting that I play football (11-a-side) so my fitness is good – jumpingcode Apr 7 '14 at 12:11
Wow, It's a good experience. I will start riding tomorrow ! I play futsal too, twice a week. – Mohebifar Apr 7 '14 at 16:21
Have you considered using a Pedelec? – moooeeeep Apr 8 '14 at 10:21
up vote 21 down vote accepted

18km a day is not far, as long as you have an OK fitness level to start with and no health issues, it is certainly achievable, but...

You will not get any rest days. I was once told, you do not get fit exercising, you get fit recovering. If you ride 5 days a week, there's no recovery time. This could lead to problems since each day's effort is stressing your body. For the beginning I would strongly recommend not more than 3 days (with a day between) until you are sure you can comfortably do five days every week.

What I would suggest you to do is first thing in the morning measure your resting pulse rate. Do this for 3 or 4 mornings to establish a baseline. Start riding, taking it easy to begin with (for the first couple of weeks). Note how you feel and your resting pulse rate - if you feel bad and your pulse is higher than it should be, have a rest day or two. (Note - normally your resting pulse rate will fall as you get fitter, so your baseline will change.)

The trick is to have an alternative to riding available so you don't need to ride if you need a rest, but not so available that you use it all the time.

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Thank you so much that was a good suggestion. Unfortunately I cannot vote up your answer :( How much do you think bicycle's type (brand, price etc.) is effective to reach that ? – Mohebifar Apr 6 '14 at 20:48
@Mohebifar - If the route is really that steep you need a bike with low enough gears, but other than that (and not wanting anything too heavy or poorly fit) the bike won't make much difference. On longer rides you'd be more concerned about the quality of the seat, style of handlebars, etc, but these aren't so important for a ride that will only be on the order of a half-hour long. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 6 '14 at 21:16
Totally agree. You could even start with a test ride on a weekend. Try riding twice the first week, then thrice the second week. If that's feeling ok, step up to four times a week, with Wednesday off. As Daniel says, expect to feel it a bit after the first ride. – andy256 Apr 7 '14 at 0:38
Or start on a Friday assuming a normal working week, then tues+thurs, m+w+f etc. – Chris H Apr 7 '14 at 10:42
I think it all strongly depends on the pace. Riding at an easy pace is hardly exercise. In my view, the bicycle is just an extension to the body, and riding easy vs. racing is like walking calmly vs. running. – gerrit Apr 7 '14 at 13:35

Yeah, I would suggest that you not start out doing this daily, but do it every 2nd or 3rd day for a couple of weeks, taking care to take an extra rest day when needed. You will find that some days you are eager to get started riding and others your stomach churns at the thought, and you can kind of use that to adjust your frequency.

After about 2 weeks, if you're tolerating it well, you can increase frequency, but probably not more than 2 days on/1 day off for another month.

You'll likely be sore the next day for the first few days of riding, but the soreness should abate. If it doesn't then don't increase frequency, and maybe ease off a little. It is possible to cause serious muscle injury if you overdo in this sort of situation, especially if you're genetically predisposed.

(It wouldn't be quite so much a concern if the route were flat, but a 5-degree (9%) grade is pretty steep, and you'll be getting a pretty good workout even if only half the route is that sttep.)

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Thank you so much ... It was very helpful. – Mohebifar Apr 6 '14 at 21:12

Yes, I say it's perfectly possible. In fact I've done something similar twice in my life.

1 - At 28 I decided to start cycling to work. I rode for leisure occasionally but this was a big change.

The commute was about 14 km each way and generally uphill on the way to work in the morning and downhill on the way home. The difference in altitude between start and finish was about 140 m so the ride had an overall gradient of about 1%. Note that this felt like a 'proper' challenge at the time and as much as you might think your ride is about a 5% gradient, that distance/gradient is getting on for a category 1/HC climb (the Alpe d'Heuz is 8% over 14 km) so I'd assume your ride is a good bit gentler than that! You can check altitudes at map locations with tools like this to get a more accurate idea. so your climb will be pretty challenging, fitness wise. (updated after your clarification!)

I was not especially fit or unfit at that time but managed this commute without too many problems. The main one was arriving drenched in sweat until my general fitness had improved a bit.

The bike I used was a GT Palomar - not an especially auspicious (or indeed light!) bike. It lasted well though and I probably put about 3,000 km on it commuting in that time.

It's worth pointing out that I was only using the bike in fair conditions, either taking the bus or car when the rain/snow/ice was too bad.

2 - The second occasion was just recently when, at 41, I decided I'd try and cycle every day for a month. Again, apart from a few leisure rides I'd hardly been on my bike for years.

Unfortunately I picked just about the wettest January the UK has ever seen to try this. I was significantly less fit than I was at 28 and probably carrying about an extra 5 or 6 kg too. I rode almost every day in January, averaging about 10-15 km a day for a total of about 400 km and lost most of the extra weight I was carrying. That I live in quite a hilly area helped as the overall gradient for all my January rides was over 1% (i.e. I climbed over 4,000 m in January).

Initially it was easy as I had a lot of motivation, despite the torrid conditions. Within about a week I was already noticing significant improvements in my segment times but then the weather worsened and it was a real struggle just getting out - there were so many flooded roads - but I persevered. Tracking my improvements helped a lot as I was able to see my personal best times tumble, in some cases I'm now doing some climb segments over twice as fast as I was in January and am in the top 20% on Strava - not bad for an old bloke on a XC MTB!

The bike I used was a Specialized Hardrock, a bit lighter than the GT but still nothing special.

I didn't suffer any real physical problems as I was careful to warm up/down and do lots of stretching. Padded shorts helped avoid any saddle sores. My thighs ached constantly for about five weeks, but I could almost watch the muscle being gained so it's no surprise.

I know that this isn't the recomended way to train and it is sub-optimal if pure fitness/training was the aim, but my goal was more of a holistic 'challenge to myself' and as such I knew what I was doing and that I could get 'fitter' by scheduling in rest days etc.

Now I've scaled my riding back a bit, but my month in the saddle taught me a lot about myself.

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Thanks for explaining your experiences. That was so helpful. You taught me many things. – Mohebifar Apr 7 '14 at 16:58
Wow, that is quite a slope that you've posted. You should still be OK though, it'll just be harder work! – Lunatik Apr 8 '14 at 6:18

You can definitely do it, the points about rest are good ones though.

If you are commuting every day, I think it takes a conscious effort to take it easy on most days, and "reward" yourself by letting your body just have at it on others.

The second part of that question is how you'll be presentable when you get there? Especially at first, you may sweat a lot going uphill. You may not smell it, but others will. :)

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That was a fine point :))) ! Thank you ! I think about it. – Mohebifar Apr 7 '14 at 16:42

I agree with most answers but I think they all assume you will ride in a sporty fashion, but you don't have to, at least not all days. Does a driver race their car everyday on the way to work or school? Commuting is totally different from bike racing or training, you can combine the two, but the purpose of commuting is "getting there on time", you don't really need to go fast all the time.

Cycling on a well maintained bike, adequate tires properly inflated, with a moderate gear and a moderate pace is an effort that is comparable to a fast walk. So if in flat terrain you pedal at, say 15 kmh, you will make the one way trip (9 km) in 36 minutes. Then your body gets to rest during your school day and then you'll have another 36 minutes. How do you feel about walking fast for 36 minutes two times a day every day?

Doing the same but riding at 20 kmh is similar to running, but it takes only 27 minutes. Take it to 25 kmh and you'll get there in 22 minutes. You get the idea. So if you are used to everyday physical activity, you'll be able to do the commute just fine.

My whole point is if you keep a low effort during your commutes you may be able to commute five days a week right from the beginning, having a short period to fully adapt your body to the new routine.

In order to keep your effort low I suggest:

  1. Keep the bike on top performing order, no matter if it is a top of the line road racer or an old beater steel mountain bike. Specially ball bearings on wheel hubs, pedal axles and bottom bracket.
  2. If your commute is on paved roads but you ride a mountain or hybrid bike, install slick tires. Tires without knobs roll much easier allowing higher speeds with less effort.
  3. Keep your tires properly inflated. An under inflated tire takes more effort to be rolled.
  4. If you have a multiple gear bike use them to gradually accelerate and try to maintain a steady pace, avoid sudden accelerations. Choose a gear that allows you to pedal on a "rhythm" slightly faster than your "decided walking". Start on easy gears and change them progressively as you accelerate.

Since you are commuting to an environment with some sort of a dress (and smell) code you may find this question useful as well:

How to ride to work without sweating?

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As it seems you've found, since there is no way to compare Beginner A and Beginner B to one another, there is only one way to find out: give it a try. That said, maybe not every day at first.

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Get a bike fitted to you for this. Seriously, go to a good bike shop in your area and have them do a proper bike fitting for you. They do this for free if you buy a bike with them, if you don't you should expect to pay about $30,-. If you don't buy the bike there make sure you know how to check if a bike fits you.

A bike that has the wrong fit can lead to undue strain on knees, hip, lower-back, shoulders, neck... no issue if you ride an hour on the weekends, but a big issue if you spend more than an hour on that bike each and every day!

I have an answer about buying a bike for commuting here that is mostly relevant to your situation, though you should pay more attention to the low-end of your gearing. In the lightest gear you should be pedalling at a comfortable rate (about 80-90 rpm) at about 8km/h (maybe slower). Too heavy gearing at the low end means you will be killing your knees and lower back going uphill.

Fitness wise you should be fine if you get a bike with proper low gearing. This question has a lot of good advise for first-time bike commuters.

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18 km is very manageable. You might feel it for the first few days, but you'll quickly get used to it.

Make alternate plans for the rainy, or just not feeling up to it, days.

Be prepared to change your mind just as you're about to leave the door... So have those bus tickets ready.

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Depends on how sore your butt gets. If you are in lots of butt pain, you won't ride again the next day. You'll need to buy a but soreness meter first, or you could be in a lot of trouble on the way home.

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The distance is not so great that butt soreness should be a significant issue. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 7 '14 at 19:38
Everybody will react differently depending on age, physical condition, conditioning, and quality of the bicycle seat. Saddle soreness is probably one of the most common issues for anyone going a longer distance than they are used to. – Sandy Good Apr 8 '14 at 0:32
To whatever idiot down voted me, I just edited the original posters spelling and grammar, and got points for that, so I'm back to where I started. – Sandy Good Apr 8 '14 at 1:11
I didn't downvote you but whoever did voted on your answer, not some edits you made that they probably knew nothing about. I would recommend less use of words like "idiot" and "stupid" in your posts here. – Carey Gregory Apr 8 '14 at 2:10
Thank you for explaining why the person down voted me. You are brilliant. I never would have figured it out. I never thought that they down voted me for some edits I made to the original post. That's trivial, but it shows the extent of understanding you have. Keep up the good police work, the future of the world is now assured to turn out just fine thanks to the efforts of people like you. – Sandy Good Apr 8 '14 at 5:38

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