Thursday, December 20, 2012

Beware of Your Winter Wears...

Winter riding can be a love/hate endeavor. Beautiful landscapes often make winter riding a joy. The desolate look of winter provides an amazing backdrop for any cold weather ride and surely keeps me coming back for more. But winter riding is not all barren trees and snow-lined winding country roads. There is all that damn clothing.

Dressing for winter can be a real drag. Finding the exact right balance of warmth, breathability, and wind or water protection can sometimes seem like a Rubik’s cube with no solution. Overdressing or under-dressing can be equally devastating to your winter miles. So here is my winter what-to-wear guide, a step-by-step (or more accurately, layer-by-layer) guide to staying comfortable throughout Philadelphia’s toughest months. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Failure by Another Name

Cycling is a sport filled with failure.  Out of countless entries, only a single rider wins—sometimes by nothing more than the width of a tire. And while second place gets to stand on the podium, there is an emotional chasm the size of the Grand Canyon between winning and second place. Just ask whoever was second place in last year’s Paris Roubaix, uhhhhh… Oh I guess I can’t recall. What is more telling than that?  I am an avid cycling fan, and Paris Roubaix could be my favorite race of the year, and I can’t remember, without significant mental difficulty, who got second. 
Does anyone remember the podium from important races?
So why do we keep going? Why keep competing if the odds are so not in your favor? Arguably an athlete could do everything right in their training, preparation, mental preparation, and race strategy and still never win a race. So how do we deal with this? How do we cope with constantly losing, getting dropped, and bonking? Well I’m not sure. If I knew, I would probably be some kind famous sports psychologist.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wrap Like a Pro: A Simple Step by Step Guide to Bar Tape

I’ve heard that a pro mechanic’s best way to lift the spirits of riders before a difficult stage is fresh white bar tape. It’s a confidence booster. Fresh white tape just looks clean and fresh, and can make your legs feel the same. 

Bar tape is one of those things—one of those mystical things on a bike that go just a bit beyond their utilitarian purpose. There is a touch of magic in that ribbon that is wrapped around your bars. Some people might just look at it like something to cover your cables, but I believe it is an essential point of style and soul for a bicycle.  Whether authentic leather, soft cork, old-school fabric, or a cutting edge synthetic material, your tape speaks about you as a cyclist and your axe. Take pride.

So how exactly do you make sure that your tape looks as pro as your shaved legs and tall socks? Here’s how:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Art of Transition: A Triathelete's Source for Free Time

Triathlon is a struggle of seconds. Many of you reading this probably devote hours, early mornings, and countless calories towards becoming just a few seconds faster. So it stands to reason that an opportunity to save minutes would suit most any triathlete’s fancy. When I asked my colleague and pro triathlete, Jack Bracconier, what I could do with this blog to help make my multisport readers faster, he did not hesitate to say transition. 
Jack Bracconier gives us his personal take on transition.
 So many athletes, of every ilk or specialty, myself included, train incredibly hard only to overlook simple logistical factors that can really affect their race results. Transition is a major logistical detail for multisport athletes, and is an area of the race often ripe for improvement. These improvements can save minutes without hours of training; just a well thought out approach and a little practice can change your transitions from a weakness to a strength—an opportunity to gain significant time on those who choose to leave transition as an afterthought. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Wilier Zero.7: Everyone should want it, only a lucky few can have it.

Wilier does not create bikes for everyone. They are not Trek. They are not Specialized. Wilier bikes are not designed for the masses. They are not the Olive Garden, they are La Pergola—a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Rome. They create bikes for people with discerning taste, for people who appreciate a race bike as art, as well as a performance machine.  Style and tradition share equal importance with performance and innovation in Wilier’s design strategy.  The two sides complement each other in their bikes, each side feeding off the other, pushing innovations in performance and style to their absolute pinnacle. 
Italian design and style.
The Wilier Zero.7 perches comfortably atop this pinnacle. The new quintessential Italian racing machine, the Zero.7 offers riders a world without compromise, striking a lovely balance between performance and comfort. No more are people forced to choose between a brittle, brassy, race machine and a sluggish, soft, long-haul rouleur. Wilier found a way, though proprietary carbon design technology, to offer both sides without compromise.

Monday, November 5, 2012

One Speed to Rule Them All

There are times when I thrive on the forward thrust of the bicycling industry.  It has a collective sense of constant momentum that can be inspiring.  Many times, it feels good to be a part of that.  But just as often, I find myself moving back towards the great simplicity a bicycle can provide.  The biggest R&D budget in the world can’t buy the repetitious circles carved out at a varying cadence over miles and miles.  Riding is more than just being the fittest and fastest.  Sometimes the simple act of pedaling gives you so much more. 

That brisk feeling on my way to the trails while wondering if I have overdressed for the first cold weather ride of the year.  The latest and greatest this forward-looking industry produces cannot give you that feeling.  Simply riding does. 

I always try to keep myself grounded in that way—constantly striving to remind myself why it is I ride a bike.  So often stripping away all of the extracurricular accoutrements makes me feel closer to knowing exactly what it is that gets me out of a warm bed in the morning to suffer. 

It was with this idea in mind—and light pocketbook in hand—that I set out to build my newest MTB: a singlespeed Cannondale Trail SL 29’r with many a modification.  The best part of a singlespeed is that it is not a huge commitment.  This one, as it comes from Cannondale (before my extras) comes in under $1,000, which seems to be an increasingly rare feat in the performance bicycle world these days. 

Riding a mountain bike is an activity that sells itself, and riding a singlespeed, while daunting at first, can be a joy for anyone who sticks with it.  I won’t muddy this up with my words—rather I will just show you the build and let you appreciate it for what it is: a simple machine that I love to ride.  

Check it out:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Don't Let Sandy Rain on Your Training: A Core Circuit for Rainy Days

I can’t think of an athlete that doesn’t benefit from a strong core.  Let me take that one step further: I can’t think of a living human being that wouldn’t benefit from having a strong core.  Core strength affects everything from your posture to chronic back problems.  For cyclists, triathletes, and runners core strength is crucial to our training.  Many cyclists make the mistake of thinking that riding a bike is an endeavor reserved only for our lower extremities—not so. 

Ever had back, shoulder, or neck pains after a long ride or run?  It could be your core telling you you’ve got some work to do. 

So as I sit here stranded inside waiting out the behemoth that is the FrankenSandyApocolyptic Hurricane of 2012, I am not letting this day indoors ruin my training schedule.  My coach, Michael Gibbons of Walton Endurance, sent me a core workout for today that requires little or no equipment, and will provide a gut/hurricane-busting workout all without having to leave The Weather Channel’s coverage of all the carnage. 

I can't say for sure, but I don't think this is real footage of Sandy.

A perfect remedy for a state-of-emergency induced day indoors, this workout is an advanced one, but can be tempered to fit anyone’s ability level.  Doing any of these exercises without a stability ball makes them easier for beginners, so adjust as you see necessary. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Inside Winter Training with Pro Triathlete Jack Braconnier

Despite popular belief, triathlon is not a summer sport. You may think it is, but it’s not. That is when the races are, what the events are designed for, and all of the equipment made for, but trust me when I say that triathlon is not a summer sport.  

Everyone trains hard during the summer, clocking the miles religiously, rain or shine; never missing a workout or taking a day off because they don’t feel like it. But if you really want to up your triathlon game, you need to start thinking of triathlon as more than just a summer-time sport. Winter is where the gains are to be had.

The last race of your season is not an end to the current campaign, it is the beginning of next year.  If you have found your results plateauing after a season’s worth of dedicated training, a solid off-season training program is how you step up your game. 

Now, when I write, I want to write from a point of expertise.  I don’t want to spit some half-true inkling that I may have overheard from a guy who knows a guy who’s brother knows a guy who knows something. If I am not an expert in the field I am writing about, then I seek out an expert to give me the down and dirty, so that you can trust what you read here.  Unfortunately for my own fitness and race results, I am not an expert in training or fitness. So I called in someone who is: Pro triathlete and Walton Endurance coach, Jack Braconnier.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Why Honesty Has To Be The Only Policy

I didn’t want to do it—I really didn’t.  I’ve tried to avoid this for a while now, tried to keep my eye on the ball, as it were, writing about things I thought were more currently relevant than everyone’s favorite Texan.  It seems unavoidable though.  I had hoped that this issue would pass, like a minor sinus infection.  I wanted to just be able to move on, to get on with the sport I love, but alas I have to look this thing in the face and deal with it.  Here is my obligatory Lance post:

Yeah, we're not happy about it either Lance.  

I have never really been a “Lance guy,” if there is such a thing.  I have a propensity to root for the underdog, making the whole of the Discovery/US Postal gang a little too dominant for my liking.  I decided a long time ago that the circumstantial evidence surrounding the situation meant that it was likely that there was some kind of doping going on. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Building Your Ideal Commuting Machine

I like building things.  More specifically, I like building bikes.  People ask me all the time, “If money were no object, and you were building your dream bike, what would you get?”  The truth of the matter is though, that I don’t think I have one end all dream bike.  If I had endless bike funds—which I don’t—I would build many bikes.  None of them would be $25,000 masterpieces.  I would build bikes that are very well suited to specific things.  I would have one of every category: road, mountain, singlespeed, city bike, retro cruiser, etc.  Each would serve its very own specific purpose, and I would choose every component to perform its job just so.  In this manner I would build the bicycle stable of my dreams. 

Somewhere near the top of that list would be a tailor made commuter bike.  Commuting is one of those areas where having just the right equipment for the situation can be the difference between arriving to work energized and ready to go, or prepared to separate head from body on the first unlucky co-worker who talks to you. 

Not all commutes are created equal, though.  So how do you decide which set-up is best for you?  Well luckily for you, you have someone like me to walk you through it. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Kris-Kross Will Make You Dismount, Run, and Remount. Or You Can Just Jump.

Kids these days with their video games and camera phones, backwards hats and baggy pants.  They are even riding fat tire road bikes now!  Back in my day we sent telegrams and took Daguerreotypes, and all of our road bikes had 21c tires.  We certainly didn’t ride them off road, let alone with beer hand-ups, dollar grabs, and cowbells.  What is this cyclocross all the kids are doing these days?  And why do their brakes never work well?

Let’s face it.  Cyclocross is blowing up, nay, has already blown completely and is now expanding like the post big bang universe in which we ride.  People everywhere are adopting wide knobby tires and complaining about their brakes.  Racing drop-bar bikes on the grass and mud in the mucky mid-Atlantic autumn is a lesson in toughness.  Cyclocross is far from an American phenomenon, though.  Like almost everything cycling related, its roots lie in Europe. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wheels and Reels: Off the Rivet goes to the movies

It’s time to face facts.  I can’t ride my bike constantly.  It’s just not possible.  The human condition stipulates that I at least take some of my time to eat, sleep, and have at least some, albeit usually awkward, human interaction.  So be it.  You can’t win them all I guess. 

Whether weather, scheduling, or unabashed laziness, there are circumstances that foil our best attempts to permanently fix ourselves to our saddles.  Don’t sweat it though.  I have a way to get your cycling fix from the comfort of your couch, or loveseat, or whatever luxurious seating apparatus you have at your disposal.  Get your popcorn ready; we’re going to the movies (not literally, though, don’t ask me to go to the movies with you).  

I multitask with the best of them—just ask my wife (don’t ask her)—so even while not riding my bike I immerse myself in the wonderful world of cycling through movies—all while still getting my chores done.  I made a list.  I crafted this list not as an end all list of cycling movies, but simply my favorites. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Winter is Coming or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fall

I came to a realization this past week.  I dug out my warmers, after months of easy wardrobe decisions, of simply throwing bibs and a jersey.  It wasn’t easy.  As I sat, assembling my ensemble for my morning commute, I had to be honest with myself.  This season is in its last throws.  As Ned Stark aptly warned, brace yourselves. Winter is coming. 

You needn’t worry like our friends of Winterfell though.  Luckily, Philadelphia off seasons are manageable—if you have the right equipment.  Like commuting, cold season riding can be miserable or wonderful depending on your preparation.  This week I’ll give you five oft forgotten things to get you through this transition to cold weather. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lubrication: A Common Sense Guide to Keeping Metal Things from Rubbing on Each Other

Lubrication is one of the most terrible sounding words I know.  No innuendo intended; I mean literally, the sound of the word irritates me.  Its shorter relative, lube, is even worse.  The end of that word, lube, is just awful—bordering on nails-on-the-chalkboard grating.  I will endeavor, however, to write an entire post around this affront.  Bringing you the ups and downs, the ins and outs, and even the rounds and rounds of lube. 

As fall approaches, the cyclist, the wild untamable south eastern Pennsylvanian cyclist to be specific, needs to prepare for the elements.  Lube is a big part of this.  Your bike will not survive a wet fall and winter of riding without some serious attention paid to keeping your many drive-train components on good terms. 

Morgan Blue: Maker of fine greases, lubes, and assembly compounds

Bicycles abhor friction.  It quite literally grinds their gears.  It wears their bearings.  It amplifies every little tick or tack, creak or crack in your bike.  Luckily for you, lubrication and grease rebuff friction’s every advance.  That is, provided that they are regularly used on your bike.  Regular lubrication and re-greasing are crucial to keeping your bike quiet.  Bicycles don’t fall under the “set-it-and-forget-it” category.  Like small children, they need regular attention to work correctly.  Also like small children, they can be taken away by the authorities if you don’t take care of them. 

Greases and lubes come in many different types. Choose the right one for your situation...or else.

So what do you need to know about lubrication to keep your two wheeled babies behaving as they should?  Well it really depends on how much you want to embrace your inner DIY home mechanic.  At the very least, every bicycle parent should be well versed in chain and cable lubrication.

First things first.  Proper application technique is crucial to having success when lubing your bike.  Lubing your chain may not seem like a process laden with pitfalls and opportunities for disaster, but it is suprising the problems that over-lubrication delivers. 

While your bike sits on a level surface, spin your pedals backwards and apply lube as the chain rolls over the rear cassette, like so:

Apply until the chain appears wet.  If your chain is squeaking, apply until the noise dissipates.  Don’t over apply.  We are not looking to coat your entire drive-train in this stuff.  A thin layer on the chain is fine.  Give the lube a minute or two to soak down into the rollers of the chain.  Left sitting on the outside of the chain, lube accomplishes nothing.  We want the lube to soak into the chain.  Wipe the chain clean with a dry, lint-free rag after the soak in period.  While pedaling backwards again, run the chain through the rag from the bottom side of the chain, like so:

This is probably the most important step.  Wipe until the outside of the chain appears clean.  Excess lube left on the outside of the chain attracts dirt like a magnet.  Clogging your drive-train with dirt only leads to bad things.  Don’t believe me?  Go to a cross race and check out what dirt can do to a bike. 

Apply small drops of thin chain lube to the pivot points of your derailleurs, brakes, cable ends, and pulley wheels like so:

Use the ProLink Pin Luber to make pivot points and cable lubing a breeze.  

Wipe away any excess lube.  That is just a general rule of life—bicycle life.  Heed it in everything that you do. 

So now that you have the technique down, we need to decide which lube is best for you.  All lube is not created equal, so unfortunately you will actually have to put some thought into what will be best for you.  Think of all lubes existing on a wide spectrum from thin and viscous to thick and goopy.  The general rule is that thin lube (Prolink, for example) is cleaner and easier to use, but needs to be applied more often.  Because it is cleaner, it is best used in dry dusty conditions.  Thick lube (Chain-L, for example) is quieter and lasts longer, but has the potential to attract a lot of dirt.  Because it is thicker, it stands up to bad weather well and does not get washed away quickly. 

Where do you fall on the spectrum?  Most riders fall near the thinner end, and would do well with a lube like ProLink or Morgan Blue Bio Bike Oil.  These thinner lubes should always be used on cables and pivot points, regardless of conditions. 

We love Morgan Blue Bio Oil.  Not only a great lube, but it is also friendly to the environment!

Thicker lubes will last up to 1,000 miles, but unless you pay close attention and wipe any excess often, they will attract dirt.  If you don’t mind the extra care, they often run wonderfully quiet and will protect your stuff through the heaviest weather.  If you’re an all weather rider, look into thicker lubes like Chain-L or Morgan Blue Syn Lube, especially for the fall and winter months. 

Grease has a similar spectrum.  Using the right viscosity of grease can be the difference between perfect and broken.  The grease that you use to rebuild a cup and cone hub may not be the same as the grease that keeps your BB30 bottom bracket silent.  Carry over the same rules we learned from the chain lube.  Thin is fast, but thick will keep the water out.  Use the most water proof stuff you can find to protect your bottom bracket from the most extreme elements. 

Different greases for different pieces. 

For the most part though, maintenance that requires grease requires some kind of mechanical knowledge.  Rebuilding bottom brackets, headsets, hubs, freehubs, cartridge bearings, pulley wheels, and the like can all be left to your LBS if you so choose.  If you do decide to dive into one of these though, choose your lube or grease—depending on the job at hand—wisely. 

So there you have it.  A bare bones rundown of the stuff that makes things move: lube.  Don’t brush it off.  It is important—but also, literally don’t brush it off, unless, of course, you plan on re-applying it. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Off the Rivet Hits the Road

Off the Rivet is taking a week off as I travel to Dallas to see my Alma Mater play Alabama in Dallas.  Next week I'll have two posts for you to make up the difference! Wish the Wolverines luck, they are probably gonna need it...

See you next week!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Wind Tunnel: Revisited

Our age is informational.  An infinite library, it gives us every shade upon the entire spectrum of ideas from which to form our opinions.  It is no wonder then, that we live in an age radicalized by confirmation bias.  We seek evidence to support our hopes, rather than use the most reliable evidence to form well informed opinions. 

Through a similar twist of reverse engineering, cycling manufactures can seek out data and tests in order to confirm their hopes—that their products are fastest, lightest, and just plain better than everything else.  Kudos to Mavic then, for, at least somewhat, throwing that idea out the window.  They nudged it very close to the edge of the window sill at the very least. 

Mavic invited independent journalists to San Diego’s state-of-the-art low speed wind tunnel with a challenge.  “Bring any wheel and tire combination on the market and we bet our new CXR 80 wheel set will beat it.”  A gutsy challenge to say the least. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Going Home

I’m gonna hijack the beginning of this post to take care of some business.  It came to my attention recently that the comment button down at the bottom of Off the Rivet posts was broken.  I sent a small team of gnomes into the internet tubes to address the problem.  I just got word that the comment button has been fixed and only a couple of the gnomes were seriously disfigured in the process.  All in all, a fair price for a working comment button.  So comment away.  I really love hearing from my readers, so don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on the topics or how I’m doing—or even my grammar if you are so inclined.  I am already aware, however, of my gratuitous overuse of the Em dash—so leave that criticism out of the comments please.  Finally, if for some reason the comment thing at the bottom of the post still doesn’t work, then send me an email at and I will do my best to rectify the situation.  Happy reading!

Working in retail doesn’t afford me much time for vacations, but last week I was lucky enough to get some time to travel back to Michigan, where I spent the first 22 years of my life, to see my family and meet my new nephew, Levi.  After driving ten hours across the entirety of Pennsylvania, most of Ohio, and a couple hours in Michigan for good measure, I was able to relax into the couch in the house where I spent my formative years. 

Found on:

I made a point, when I had a moment to spare from the chaos that is “going home” for what can only loosely be described as a “vacation,” to snoop into our shed behind our house.  Trips home, for me anyway, are always laced with nostalgia, and our shed had no shortage of items that all seemed to be the quintessential synecdoche for my childhood.  I used to spend a lot of time here.  Haphazardly fixing my own bike, or helping my dad work on our family’s many motorcycles—this is where I cut my mechanical teeth.  Rebuilding whatever needed rebuilding, my dad showed my older brother and me how to turn a wrench.  The tools are waiting for my brother and I to embark upon our next project—which is difficult considering the 750 miles that exist between our daily lives.  My dad, having passed in 2006, seemed like the one who always finalized the plans for our riding trips, and the rest of us having grown up and moved out in the mean time—life always intervening, as it is wont to do—the motorcycles haven’t been used much lately.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What You (may have) Missed at the Olympics

It frustrates me when great opportunities are wasted—whatever the circumstances.  I’m frustrated with the Olympics.  That is, I’m frustrated with the Olympics and the way they are covered.  NBC has at its disposal what is, for all intents and purposes, a completely captive audience and yet they still find a way to make the coverage disappointing.  The only things that save this collection of events as a whole are the athletes themselves.  Their performances are extraordinary.  So we watch, riveted by things that we can only dream of doing.

But the Olympics, in my opinion, are an opportunity wasted.  Here is a stage, larger than any other, for the entire world’s peripheral sports, and they still find a way to make them seem peripheral still.  Never ending coverage of sports that don’t need never ending coverage (E.g. live coverage of nearly every water polo and indoor volleyball match), while giving little to no coverage of other sports (E.g.  The amazing drama at the Olympic velodrome got very little coverage) just makes the whole of the experience boring.  I realize that there was more complete coverage online, but let’s not pretend that what is on TV doesn’t get watched the most. 

I spent last week on vacation in Michigan visiting family, so I had some time to scour the TV airwaves for coverage of my beloved cycling events and was left wanting.  After some digging online, I found coverage and complete replays of pretty much any event you could want to watch, which is great.  NBC certainly doesn’t do a great job of bringing these sports to the public eye though. You have to search for them yourself.  This makes zero sense to me.  NBC just invested in airing the Tour de France for quite a few years to come, and they have become a leader in coverage of many other races as well as multisport events.  Why then, is there no primetime cycling or triathlon coverage?  You would think they would want to build those sports in which they have invested. But no, it seemed like try as I might, I couldn't be so lucky to see cycling coverage on any major network.  Maybe I just missed the short segments where cycling aired, but I certainly didn't have any trouble finding water polo coverage.

So this week I’ll do some of their leg work.  Here are links to all the cycling and multisport coverage you can handle—though I think they make you log in to watch it, which is another issue I won’t even get into.

(click on the pics for links)

Anna Meares upset the hometown favorite Victoria Pendleton in the Women's Sprint finals.  During a week of utter British domination at the velodrome.  This was a bright spot for the Aussies, who came into the games with high hopes.  

GB's Jason Kenny upset the French champion Gregory Bauge in the Men's Sprint Final.  This race was plenty exciting.  Well worth watching.  

Chris Hoy was the overwhelming favorite for the Men's Keirin and he delivered.  This is always one of my favorite track events to watch.  There is much to be learned here for sprint positioning and tactics...

It's safe to say that Bradley Wiggins is having one of the best seasons in the history of cycling.  His latest win was in dominant fashion in the Men's Individual Time Trial.  

The Brownlee Brothers took two medals in this Olympics--Gold and Bronze.  Another dominant British performance for sure.  Do you notice a pattern?

The team sprint means one thing: Speed.  This Olympic's winners averaged over 63Kph over 3 laps of the velodrome (that's about 40 mph if you're wondering...).  I bet you can't guess who won.

There is still so much activity on the track and out on the road that I am leaving out.  Check out the NBC sports website and dig around.  There is a lot of great coverage in there.  I just wish they did a better job of plugging sports other than Gymnastics, Swimming or Basketball.  Oh well, there's always next year....Oh, wait.  


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Making Cents of Commuting

Without a doubt, Americans could stand to lose a few pounds.  I’m sure you also wouldn’t mind saving some cash right?  No, it’s not too good to be true.  I have a way for you to lose weight and save money at the same time.  And it doesn’t involve taking pills—or at least it isn’t supposed to.  It involves pedaling, which, if you are reading this blog, you probably are already into. 

I’m talking about commuting to work.  I’m not talking about ditching your car, or adopting some crazy pedal-centric lifestyle.  I’m just talking about riding a bike to work instead of driving.  I’m about to break it down.  Commuting by bike is healthier, cheaper, more efficient, and many times, faster. 

Let’s take a second to set the scene.  For the sake of the calculations I’m about to lay out for you, we need to establish a couple things.  A gallon of gas contains about 31,000 calories.  For the sake of easy calculations, we will assume that the car that you drive gets 31 MPG—which seems like a fair average, considering some cars get much less.  We are also going to assume a moderate length commute.  10 miles sounds about right.  My commute to Cadence everyday is exactly 10 miles, a mix of both city and freeway driving, and the bike route I take is exactly the same length—making it a perfect example for comparison.

I realize that there are a whole lot of variables at work here, so bear with me.  In order to illustrate my point I’m going to make a bit of generalizing and assuming—not something I’m usually a fan of, but sometimes it just can’t be avoided. 

Your Wallet

We are going to compare riding to driving in a couple different categories, the first being cost. Obviously both bikes and cars come in many different shapes and sizes, so let’s set up a hypothetical situation and flush out the details.  I’m will set this up like your standard middle school story problem, because I know how much everybody loves them. 

Gertrude, our driving guinea pig, buys a car to drive to her new job.  She spends a modest $18,000 on a nice compact that magically gets 31 MPG wherever she goes, and she also managed to get a dealership to finance the cost at 0% interest over 5 years (this is a bike blog, not a math blog.  I’m making this easy on myself).  So that makes her car payment exactly $300 a month.  The car has a 15 gallon gas tank, so at current gas prices of about $3.25 (where does she find these amazing deals?!?) it costs $48.75 to fill her tank.  With a 15 gallon tank, she would have to fill her tank only once a month.  Not too shabby.  

Conservative estimates for both insurance ($40/month) and general maintenance and depreciation ($110/month), brings us to roughly $500 a month total cost for our dear Gertrude to get to work. 

Myrtle, Gertrude’s twin sister, has also gotten a new job, which is the exact same distance from home as Gertrude’s.  She, however, has decided to buy a really kick-ass commuter bike to ride to work.  She also found a magical bike shop that finances bikes for 5 years at no interest (even Cadence is not that good).  She decided to really go all out and buy her dream bike for $2400.  That some serious commuter wheels.  With a whopping fuel cost of $0 and insurance also breaking the bank at $0, she pays $40 a month over 5 years.  If she maintains her bike properly, that breaks down to a cost of about $30 a month.  So $70 a month is the total cost to ride her bike.  

So that’s a $430 difference a month.  I don’t know about you, but I could really use an extra $430 a month.  And if you were wondering, that’s over $5,000 a year. 

Sidenote:  The numbers I used above are very conservative.  Many cars can cost much more than 18k, get less than 31 MPG and require more maintenance than I estimated.  You also definitely don’t need to spend $2400 for a bike on which you are commuting.  I used those numbers to show that even when the numbers are tilted greatly to one side, the cost is not even close. 

Your Gut

Commuting isn’t just good for your wallet.  It also does wonders for your figure.  For my ten mile commute I burn between 250-400 calories—depending on how hard of an effort I make—each way.  The days I commute by bike, I thoroughly enjoy my extra 800 calories of wiggle room. 

For comparison’s sake, a gallon of gas contains roughly 31,000 calories of energy.  So if your car gets 31 MPG, that’s 1,000 calories per mile.  Meaning over a ten mile commute, a car burns about 10,000 calories while a bicycle only uses 400.  That is one efficient machine. 

If you body was as inefficient as a car—or you had to tow 3,000 spare pounds of metal behind your bike—you would have to jam a couple Big Macs down your throat to give yourself enough calories to make it to work.  20 Big Macs to be exact. 

Your Life

I think it is safe to say that commuting by bike can change who you are as a person.  Don’t underestimate what getting out on your bike for an hour or two everyday will do for your mind—even if it is just to get to and from work.  Many times, as in the case of my commute, because of traffic, riding is faster—only by 5 minutes or so, but still.  More than that though, I don’t have to make extra time for another workout.  My commute is my workout.  In that sense, commuting saves me hours a week.  Hours I can spend hanging out, or cooking for my wonderful wife—just living life.  

Driving gives me road rage, while riding gives me a sense of euphoria and freedom.  Face it: it’s just fun to ride your bike.  I love the fact that I get to do that regularly before and after work.  It gives me a chance to wind down from the stresses of the day. 

I realize that commuting isn’t always practical or convenient, but if you are looking for an excuse to start, there is no better one than what I just laid out.  I know people who commute 25-30 miles each way every day.  It’s not for everyone, but it has the power to change a lot about your life.  Save money and lose weight at the same time—I have seen many infomercials, but I guarantee none of them can really deliver on that promise.  Commuting can. 

So what do you have to lose?  I’d say quite a few pounds and a few thousand dollars in yearly expenses.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?