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My work is 17 km (10.5 miles) from home and I am wondering if it's possible to commute daily by bike. I live in the Netherlands so the roads are bike-friendly. Google predicts it takes 52 minutes (one-way).Do you think it's an accurate prediction?

I am 25 years old, weigh 80 kg (176 pounds or 12.5 stone), and I am 183 cm (6 foot 0 inches) tall.

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    I would suggest that one weekend you sit on the bike and try out the route. That would provide you with much better answer than asking people who do not know you, or your capabilities. – Davorin Ruševljan Oct 17 at 11:18
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    inner city or suburb commuting ? – Max Oct 17 at 12:53
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    Are you going to commute in your working clothes or in sporty clothes and shower there? On a city bike or a sporty bike? That affects the time a lot. I am able do 22 km in an hour around Prague (one climb, but mostly flat), but in a very sporty manner, passing people on e-bikes, impossible without changing and showering. I could not do it daily. – Vladimir F Oct 17 at 14:15
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    Be aware that Google (or any other travel time estimator) pretty much ignores all traffic lights. I'd say you need to add somewhere between 0.5 and 1 minute per traffic lights that you need to cross (each individual light that you may need to wait for, which may be several per intersection, more if you'll always need to wait). And you need a few minutes to get on/off the bike and to park/secure it. – cmaster - reinstate monica Oct 17 at 17:51
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    Possible duplicate of 35km commute possible? - we have a number of commute distance questions. While the distance varies, the answer does not. – mattnz Oct 18 at 2:30

14 Answers 14

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That's similar to my old commute (a bit further but flatter), and I didn't cycle regularly when I started. The Google estimate is probably reasonable for the second time you do it, though may not reflect rush hour traffic. The first time will probably take longer due to unfamiliarity (a trip when it doesn't matter if you're late is helpful) and eventually you could be noticeably quicker.

You might get away without a shower in winter, if you're prepared to set off cold, but in summer it's another matter. Mild wet days are also sweaty. Is there a shower available?

When I started bike commuting that sort of distance it was quite tough. Having rest days in the first few weeks helped, and I found that a protein bar or flapjack immediately on arrival in the morning made the return leg (and the day in work) easier

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    At first, it may also be a good idea to only do one leg of the commute by bike and the other by train/bus. Of course, that requires that you are able to leave your bike at work for a night, or be able to take it with you into public transport. 34km a day is pretty tough if you are not used to any. 17km a day is a nice challenge for someone not used to riding but otherwise fit. Once the 17km look easy, you are ready to switch to full, double-leg commute. – cmaster - reinstate monica Oct 17 at 17:44
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    I too did a similar commute (13km) by bike for half a year (during summer). I started off pretty much without training. There were no showers at the place of work so I resorted to going slow. Without breaking into sweat, I could make the distance with +15 minutes (which is arguably the time I would need for the shower). I deliberately chose a route through residential areas, parallel to the main streets. Much less traffic helped me achieving a consistent time of travel. Good luck! – Hermann Oct 17 at 20:43
  • @Hermann that's certainly an option. Mine finished with a steep hill - already down to walking pace. Without that it might have been possible to avoid a shower except in the height of summer. – Chris H Oct 18 at 5:38
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Yes, you can ride that distance daily. You might find it hard at first but it should definitely be doable.

I can't say if the Google estimate is any good - it will depend on how fast you ride and delays at intersections and road crossings.

Try riding the route on a weekend to get an idea of how hard you find it and how long it takes. Then try at regular commuting time which will probably take longer due to longer waits at intersections and greater car traffic.

  • It can be based on weather... When the morning and evening are warm and bright, the sky is pretty, there's some cool fog, be in a habit of leaving early and going on bike. Don't bother when the weather is icy or rain. Go slowly, don't race. 1 hour is fun. – com.prehensible Oct 18 at 12:49
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Medefietser hier.

I live in the Netherlands, too, and I work 13 km from home.

It's doable, and it will get better with practice. When I started using the bike instead of the car I needed about 1 hour for the single trip, now I can pull it out in 35 minutes. Google prediction is more on the well-used-to-it side.

Few advices:

  • the first weeks will be tiring, if you are not already a consumed cyclist. Don't give up.
  • wear suitable clothes and don't overdress, your physical activity will keep you warm. These very days I cycle wearing a T shirt and a wind jacket.
  • If allowed by your work place, bring change clothes and the necessary for washing yourself: nobody likes to be sweaty in the office.
  • don't use cotton for the ride: either wool or technical fibers. I have learned this lesson after a couple back muscle sprain.
  • keep your bike in good working condition: a poorly inflated tire will make a huge difference on your fatigue, and you don't want mechanical inconveniences midway.
  • don't be afraid of rain, het regent bijna nooit! Have rain gear at hand for when it might be needed.

So far I am assuming you are going to use only your legs. Many colleagues, for distances above 15 km, are opting for an e-bike. That's a call for you. In my case I still enjoy the exercise and the saving on not having to go the gym, while my body has no issues on pedaling.

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    I can echo this. I personally do 18km single trip. I must say that I end up biking 3 days a week, using public transport for the rest. It's pretty convenient to have that as backup, if you don't feel well, weather sucks, or you need to be home quickly. – JAD Oct 18 at 7:33
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    More of the same here; 12km work-home in just under 30 mins, average speed of 25 km/h in urban environment. Some points I'd add: if you don't want to spend too much time on maintaining your bike (like me), go with a Gates carbon drive and hub gears which require next to no maintenance. Also, hydraulic brake cables. Efficiency: a Rohloff is basically the holy grail if you can afford it, otherwise I'd advise an Alfine 11, Nexus 8 premium or Alfine 8; wind costs a lot of energy, go for a sporty body position, not perfectly upright, that saves a good bit of wind. Consider bicycle shoes. – aross Oct 18 at 9:35
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    I can confirm all of these points, commuting about 9km one-way, 4 times a week. The Google maps estimate is optimistic at first, doable once you get used to it. – marcvangend Oct 18 at 13:40
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I am wondering if it's possible to commute daily by bike.

Easily. I used to do almost 60 km round-trip daily.

Well, it'll be easy after a while. If you're not used to riding every day, it'll be pretty difficult at first.

Google predicts it takes 52 minutes (one-way). Do you think it's an accurate prediction?

That depends on you. 17 km in 52 minutes isn't even 20 kph, though, which is pretty slow on flat ground for a fit rider on a good bike. A fit rider on flat ground with a decent bike can likely sustain close to 30 kph or even more for a long time. And your bike doesn't have to be very expensive to be good enough to commute at those speeds.

And if you ride every day, you'll get really fit pretty quickly.

If your ride isn't going to be flat, though, and you pile a lot of gear on your bicycle, that time might be optimisic. While going down hills can be fast, hauling a lot of weight up hills is slow, and because of that it takes a long time.

When you start commuting by bicycle and if you're not used to riding multiple days in a row, be aware that you'll likely feel OK for the first few days, then it will get really hard to the point you might have to skip a day occasionally to recover. But don't get discouraged, because after a couple of weeks your muscles and cardiovascular system will start adapting to the stress and it'll start getting easier.

Also, the rides home in the afternoon/evening will be a lot harder than the morning rides, especially when you first start.

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    There are a lot of people commuting by bike in the NL, so the speed will not be as high as you would normally do on an empty road, so 17 is not that unrealistic. – Max Oct 17 at 12:51
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    "A fit rider on flat ground with a decent bike can likely sustain close to 30 kph or even more for a long time." That requires uninterupted piece of road. Accelerations takes a lot of time and strength. Once you have intersections, corners, speed bumps, it all counts. Even if I do 35 km/h on the 2 km uninterrupted segment I have, I can only come in an hour for the whole 22 km ride (55 min moving time). I don't recall being overtaken. In many parts doing 30 would be very unsafe when the cycling track is shared with slower riders, children or even some pedestrians. – Vladimir F Oct 17 at 20:42
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    30km/hr is a decent average for open-road sport cycling, but completely unrealistic for commuting in any kind of built-up area. – Ben Hull Oct 18 at 0:33
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    I used to commute 17 km each way, and with 13 traffic lights and several other heavy-traffic intersections, taking less than an hour is not realistic. – gerrit Oct 18 at 7:25
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    “If your ride isn't going to be flat” OP lives in the Netherlands ;) Biggest obstacles will be headwind, traffic and intersections. – Michael Oct 18 at 8:23
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Yes this is achieveable. To expand on other's points:

  • Mix up your route, if possible. Riding the same roads over and over gets a bit old. Add 5 minutes and go a little out of your way for some variation. You might even discover a better route.

  • The good days are great. The bad days, less so. If you have no alternative to get home, then imagine riding at night in the worst storm you can remember, and its a headwind. Can you do it?

  • Also, expect your weekend rides to drop off over time. There's less interest in riding for fun after ~10 hours on the bike through the weekdays.

I'm lucky that my job lets me work from home occasionally, when the winter weather is just too much. I don't abuse the privilege and try to limit it to once or twice a month.

Spare clothes and a shower at work absolutely help. I personally keep a spare bike at work, and carry a full emergency tool kit on each bike, with two spare tubes and stickers for that third puncture. A small first aid kit can come in handy too.

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Yes

If the roads are bike-friendly, then it sounds like what you are trying to achieve is definitely possible. If you don't want to have a hard time of it and have to shower at either end, you could even just get an ebike that would do most of the work for you. It isn't cheating if you aren't racing; you are just trying to get to work.

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Assuming you have an alternative mode of transportation between home and work that is acceptable to you, and that you can safely leave your bike at or near work, you could also 'split the difference':

I had a colleague aged over 50 who on average cycled to or from work every day, on a route that was around 40km one way over a 600m mountain (600m gain and 600m loss of elevation each direction). He was able to maintained this for many years.

A key point is that usually he only cycled in one direction each day. He also had a motorbike, and paid for an indoor parking spot for it near our office. This allowed him to alternate the use of the two. Monday: Bicycle to work (if the motorbike was at the parking spot near work over the weekend); Motorbike home, leaving the bicycle at the office. Tuesday: Motorbike to the parking near work; Bicycle home. Etc, etc.

Sometimes he would bike in both directions on the same day. He mentioned that he was typically overtaken by someone in his 70s, who did this route in both directions every day, so I think that helped him stay motivated!

Other times he would take the motorbike both directions. For example if he had an injury, or his 5 kids did not let him sleep well, or scheduling did not leave time for cycling. I liked the flexibility this gave him. Of course, the journeys had to be planned in pairs: If he cycled home, he could not go by motorbike into work the next morning.

So assuming acceptable alternative transportation, you could use this strategy either temporarily to prepare for biking both ways every day, or permanently, or as a fall-back.

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Very much so - I've done a 30 km each way commute over terrain that was half hills, half flat, for two seasons. It can be practical or not, depending on what you're comparing it to (underground is always quick, public transport I usually out-ride). Either way it was only 5-10 minutes more than a car in city traffic, and often I found myself repeatedly overtaking and getting passed by a notable car throughout the trip.

When I started doing it, I've been off the bikes for a few years. This had a toll, as the fatigue limited my schedule to Monday-Wednesday-Friday. I could do two days in a row, but it was difficult not to get bonked on the hills on the second day. The hills were the only problem - on flat terrain, it's plain fun throughout. Later I advanced to 4 days a week, still leaving one at choice to rest.

17 km each way over flat terrain should be nothing for a healthy 25 year old with basic cycling experience. You can do it even without carbs along the way, though water is still nice to have.

Google Maps is one of the less reliable services for cycling, and its time estimates have poor correlation with reality. It tends to plot longer routes that necessary, ignoring some opportunities to cut out mile-long loops by making just one pedestrian crossing. Maps.me and a number of other services are more practical.

A beginner on a road bike should be able to maintain 25+ km/h over flat terrain even with some start/stops, so 40 minutes is a good estimate for the ride. Add 5 minutes for parking and locking/unlocking the bike, though.

  • Although 17 km each way is doable, I can't agree with saying that it is "nothing", and find this advice slightly dangerous. – gerrit Oct 18 at 7:27
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I would say 17 kilometers is around the limit. In Denmark around Copenhagen where it might be slightly more hillier than the flatter parts of The Netherlands, it is not uncommon for people cycling 17 kilometers to and from work each day. However, for such distances, the cyclist will usually have a good fast bike (light racing bike, not an ordinary city bike), dress up with cycling clothing, shower at the employer and change clothes. Another possibility would be an electric bike.

  • Yes, I just want to highlight, your last point: Take a Pedlec (assisting E-bike), I am going only 20 km a day, but it avoids having to take a shower, when I arrive at the office, esspecially if you have to dress waterproof. – Martin T. Oct 18 at 15:06
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Absolutely, yes! I'm riding 25km each way (in Melbourne AUS). Normally takes me less than 1 hour each way - I average speeds of 25km/h most days with strong headwinds. You might want to confirm you will have end of trip facilities (showers) at your disposal when you get to your destination. At around 10km you might start to break a little sweat even if you're not pushing hard.

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As others have stated, it's certainly possible. I used to do it for a couple of months. I found that:

  • I needed more sleep/rest than before¹
  • I needed more food than before

If I would have a 15–30 km commute for longer, I would consider to get a recumbent. I don't have personal experience with one, but it's supposed to be quite a bit easier. My main worry about recumbents would be visibility in traffic and thus safety, but there is no country with as much segregated cycling infrastructure as The Netherlands, so it should be safe enough. A recumbent is a significant expense, so if you've never ridden one you might want to rent one for a week or so first; in The Netherlands that should be no problem.


¹Before these months my commute was less than 3 km each way, afterward it was around 12 km. For my route, cycling was no faster (but of course much more flexible) than public transportation, and slower if you factor in the extra time I needed for resting.

  • I think it matters whether the commute is through a city or not. Recumbents sound like a major bother if you have to stop constantly for traffic lights. In the polder though... – JAD Oct 18 at 7:36
  • @JAD Perhaps. I guess that the faster ones average speed, the more of a bother stopping at intersections is. It's a tradeoff. I'm considering to rent one for a week and try. – gerrit Oct 18 at 7:38
  • As an alternative, I currently have a mount on my handlebars that allows me to lean forward, helping somewhat with aerodynamics, but it also feels like a more relaxed position. – JAD Oct 18 at 7:40
  • @JAD I'm not sure if I find leaning forward relaxing, in particular if I need to raise my head / bend my neck to look around for traffic, wildlife, or pedestrians in the dark... – gerrit Oct 18 at 7:44
  • Matter of taste, I suppose. – JAD Oct 18 at 7:45
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I commute 15 km one way, relatively flat with a steep way up (and down when coming back) for maybe 300 m in the middle of these 15 km (which I walk pushing my bike).

I would love to say that I commute everyday but it is not true, this is more 4 times a week, then a week or two without commute, or only one, then again a surge of strong will for a week or two, then a break etc.

This is to say that I am far from an athlete.

I found that:

  • my bottom hurts a bit the first time after a long break. The incomfort disappears after a day.
  • the first day/two days when restarting I feel this is a seizable effort. I once had to stop on the way because of dizziness/vertigo. → It was my fault: I started way too enthusiastically. Next time I restarted, I did it really cool and had zero problems. So just play it cool.
  • we have showers and changing rooms at the office. Without this I would not commute - I have to take a shower after the ride.
  • such a commute did not significantly changed my physical capacities. This said, when I bike with my teen children I feel that they are sooo slow... So there may be a hidden advantage
  • the commute is extraordinary when it comes to breaking from work. It is healthy from the mental perspective.
  • once I start the trip to or from work I have to finish it. There is no "ok, I've had enough".
  • I found out with time that I really look less for reasons to not commute (light rain, meetings, the wrong alignment of planets, ...) → I started to genuinely enjoy the ride

I have a basic hybrid bike and the time between the moment I leave home and the one I sit in front of my desk is about 1h30 - this includes changing, shower, and a ridiculously long walk in the office to get from the changing room to the shower, then back to the changing room and then to my desk. This is probably by far the longest practical time you can expect.

  • "head started to rotate" would be called "hit the wall" in English, I think (but I'm no native speaker either). – gerrit Oct 18 at 9:26
  • @gerrit: thanks - I think I found the proper technical word: mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dizziness/symptoms-causes/… – WoJ Oct 18 at 9:34
  • Yes — when I don't eat enough I may get that too on my way home (my commute is 12 km each way, about 80 metre elevation difference) – gerrit Oct 18 at 10:45
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Separate biking clothes are pretty much indispensible (also because ordinary trouser knees and bottom wear out indecently fast), you need somewhere to hang them at work to avoid them getting stinky fast. You might want to think about at least armpit hair removal to render the change of clothes more effective at controlling smells because then a mere wipeoff while changing clothes results in quite a lot less carryover.

I managed pretty well for a few years with 23km one-way at comparatively brisk pace (about 50min).

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Yes, it can be done.

I had a coworker who did a 40km (roundtrip) most days. He did however drive when it snowed or otherwise was really bad weather.

We did also have a dressing room with showers at work so he was able to change clothes.

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