Is Bike Commuting part of your workouts?

Years back, I had a friend who rode a century (100 mile bike ride) without training for it.

He said that he would bike commute so much during the week that he felt that he didn’t need to train for the big ride. I’m curious to know if there are any bike commuters out there that use their time on their bike during the week as part of their training. I participate in downhill mountain bike racing and have often used my commute as my training ground. From light to light, I’d do sprint intervals of 20-30 seconds. I’d use those sprinting techniques during flat sections of the race course. Anyone else do something similar?


  1. "Classic" Ron

    My bicycle is my only form of transportation (unless you count my girlfriends car). Working out (aka training with no goal in mind) and traveling are Siamese twins in my life. Getting to work, picking up groceries, and grabbing pints all have little workouts built in. I also find that I enjoy doing errands more when I have to bike more often. Having other cyclists on the roads is a huge motivator for increasing my cruising speed. I have no race experience, but I average 20 miles a day from my riding. As the weather continues to get colder, I assume I’ll be putting some serious seat time on my “vintage training bike” (aka 1970’s Raleigh) rather than aimless riding. I am confident I could complete (yet hardly compete in) a century race on my commuter bike without changing my riding schedule.

  2. RL

    Classic Ron,

    I love how you said, “training with no goal in mind.” It makes sense in its own weird way.


  3. Andy

    It’s hard to distinguish training and transportation for me too. I bike commute, though only about 8 miles a day. I attend weekly informal races, and do pretty well in those. I also do century+ rides during the warm months (got up to 147 as my longest this year). I’ll put on about 3800 miles this year, but I don’t think any of those were solo unless it was for transportation. I very rarely consider going out for a pounding ride just to train.

    I find it quite amusing actually at the races some days. My race bike is from 1998, is about 4cm too big on the frame, and I always keep my seatpost rack and trunk bag on (I’m diabetic so I carry a few things with me in terms of sugar and repair supplies so I’m not stranded). Many others have shiny new bikes, train early in the mornings 3 days a week, yet I can still beat them half the time. As long as they enjoy the training rides, than that works for them, but I can’t imagine getting up early 3 days a week to train unless I was trying to go pro (which I don’t ever foresee pursuing).

  4. howrad

    I did my first century (Hotter Than Hell 100) with commuting as the only training. That baseline lower heart-rate aerobic fitness seems an invaluable foundation for harder efforts. I vary bikes (road, MTB, xtracycle) to dial in fit and pull more or less weight. If you can do 50 miles on an xtracycle (and you probably can), a road century is no problem.

    After reading Chris Carmichael’s training guide, I’m a little surprised someone hasn’t authored a “Train via Commute” type book.

  5. Rob E.

    I bike just about everywhere, but, living within 10 miles of downtown, “everwhere” seldom accounts for a lot of miles. I’d say 20 miles is a higher than average day, but 30 or 40 miles isn’t out of the question, just infrequent. I tried to rack up a few more of those 30 mile days than normal in preparation for an 80 mile trip, but even so, it wore me out. The return trip went much better but was also cooler and shorter. Still, it went well enough, and the biggest factor in it wearing me out was the fact that I was riding with stronger, distance riders and trying (unsuccessfully) to not slow them down too much. I don’t do enough distance riding to ever say that I’m “trained” or even ready for the next one, but I do enough day to day riding that I always feel that if I can set my own pace and break when I want, I’ll get there. Randoneurring could be tricky because of the time limit, although the time limit on a century seems like it might be achievable, but for other distance riding, my meager, 7-15 mile commute does well enough to keep me “trained.” My philosophy: give yourself plenty of time; be prepared for roadside repairs; go at a comfortable speed; stop as often as you want. That keeps my legs fresher and keeps me moving forward. I don’t set any speed records, but I generally get where I’m going.

  6. Iron_Man

    Yes, my commute is also for training. This is why I do my 7 mile commute in 25 minutes or less as opposed to one hour. By doing so I can show up at the charity rides and do well even though I haven’t been training with the gang on the weeknight rides.

  7. LpAngelRob

    Hmm. I haven’t done a full century yet (a metric century doesn’t count) but I have done a couple of longer rides (45 and 63 miles) this summer with only commuting miles as “training”. I’ve really only done those miles at “commuting speed” (roughly 13 mph).

    That said, I felt like I was able to get through them with only a little more effort and discomfort than I experience with normal commutes. (My normal commute is 19-25 miles per day, 3-4 times per week.)

    The one time I attempted a 27 mile ride without any advance preparation whatsoever (I was not yet a bicycle commuter), it ended… poorly, and in the middle of nowhere.

  8. Andy

    @Iron_Man that’s my average summer commuting speed too, about 17mph, though I basically dip in and out of a valley, so it’s always a fast start and slow end. In winter, I just go whatever speed the conditions allow for, but usually quite a bit slower on the descents so I plan an extra 5-10 minutes.

    After buying my first road bike a few years ago, my third ride longer than the (then) 2 mile commute was 87 miles, and dang was that tiring. I was with a group and just drafted off the back the whole day but it was a rough day. It was an avg moving pace of 17mph though. I wouldn’t recommend starting with rides like that, but for anyone that rides once in a while, a ~13mph pace is really quite easy to ride for several hours.

    The difference between 13 and 17mph is actually about double the effort. A constant 71 watts should yield about 13mph, while 17mph requires 137 watts.

  9. Rusty Wright

    I’m also one who uses his bicycle for all of my transportation and live close to almost everything. I don’t train for any races or anything, but I do run every 3 days (as opposed to every other day), do some weight lifting the day after I run, and then the next day do nothing. For my runs I alternate between a 30 minute and a 40 minute run. I find running easier than bicycling for making sure that I’m getting a consistent level of exercise, without having to worry about traffic, intersections, terrain, weather, etc.

  10. Rusty Wright

    Forgot to say, the picture of Richard Simmons is perfect.

  11. barefoot

    Part of my workouts?! Cycling to work is the only exercise I get.

    With a young family, I don’t get out much outside of going to work. So I get my 4 miles “training” each way. None of this “intervals” or anything structured… I just ride my bike. To work. Then home again.

    Earlier this year I had the rare treat of a completely free day, with my family away. As your friend did, I went out and rode a century on no training, including a 16 mile “shortcut” on very rough dirt roads in the middle. Of course it was a big ride and took its toll, but I had more problems with small bike fitting issues that don’t surface on shorter rides than I did with fitness.

    They say 20 minutes a day of aerobic exercise is idea. I get 2x 15 minute sessions. It works. I’m fit.

  12. Ghost Rider

    I don’t race anymore, but I do the periodic charity event or spirited club ride — and like many others, I don’t have a structured routine other than riding my bike everywhere I need to go. This gives me trememdous “base fitness” and I can hang with the fasties who have more structured training regimes.

    The only real “training” I do is to ride home from work as fast as I can — I try to set a PR every day and have gotten sprint speeds somewhere in the high 20s for portions of my ride home, not bad considering that my commute is a gentle uphill all the way from my office to my house.

  13. bomber

    My commute is about 90% of my workout, 18 miles each way via the shortest route. I often take longer variations and routingly end up with 40+ days. I too have done a century or two with out additional training. So yes the commute is “training” and transportation. -Cheers! Bomber

  14. clint

    My commute is pretty much my only workout. It’s only miles roundtrip but with 4 kids I don’t have the time to go to the gym, etc during the day. I wish it was longer, but I enjoy it and figure it is better than nothing. I do Yoga at home 4 mornings a week before work.

  15. clint

    I meant it’s only 6 miles roundtrip!

  16. Dan

    My commute is identical to Bomber’s (18 miles but I usually take a 22 mile route home) and this is a big part of my base training. I ride about 300 miles per week (13,000 per year) and race competitively on the road and track. I rarely do intervals while commuting (I prefer to do these on my road or track bike in more controlled conditions) however I almost always commute at a hard steady pace (18 miles in about 55 minutes). My race highlights this year were placing top 3 in the Cat 1/2 state championship scratch race, breaking the 45+ 3K track record and winning a couple Cat1/2 races even though I’m 49 years old and diabetic. While bike commuting is a huge help to fitness, most important is that it is usually the most enjoyable part of my day.

  17. Bill C.

    I bicycle commute 16 miles each way 3 – 4 days per week. I consider it my workout for the day. I find destination-less rides dull, so I rarely do them anymore, unless I have someone to ride with.

  18. Nic Nelson

    Yes, my commuting is my aerobic workout, and since the terrain and distances change almost every day, it manages to be challenging without pushing me all the way to my limits. (I have an 8-mile radius within which I bike… call me a wimp, it works for me.) I do occasional sprints between lights, and anytime I find myself riding with other bicyclists, my competitive side comes out. I usually catch & pass other cyclists even tho I’m on a 21″ Jamis/Xtracycle with between 25 and 40lbs of books, laptop, presentation gear, etc.

    I am in much better shape now than I was when I did my first 45-mile ride, I’m sure that would be no trouble for me now. But an entire century? Only if I did it at a comfy commuting speed, about 12mph for me. I feel like I could ride all day at that speed. I have done 26 urban mixed-sprint trafficky miles with no fatigue at the end of the ride, and no soreness the next day.

  19. David

    I use my commute as part of my training. My commute is about 35km into work when I usually drop down into a valley and then climb the other side to gives me a good workout. On the way home I usually go the more direct route so it is around 28km, although it is largely uphill so is only slightly faster than the way in.

    I do my commute on a flat bar Giant with panniers and mudguards, so it is no speed machine, but on the hill I quite often catch, or am caught, by other riders as it is a popular training route, and I normally use this to give myself something to chase.

    It isn’t always the best training as I don’t tend to do some of the more specific training such as intervals, but it seems to work ok as I ride and race with the local club on the weekend and do ok.

  20. Gardengnome

    Like many commentors my 8 mile round trip commute is my only real excersise. My commute bike is a KonaUte.

  21. mickey

    It’s so much nicer to use your commute than go the gym. I try to do gym twice a week when bike commuting (six miles each way…downhill in the morning, uphill in the afternoon)…when not bike commuting (bus) I’m at the gym four days a week.

    This is why I hate winter…I can bike in the morning, but it’s too dark after work so I hit up the bus. Then I have to go to the gym!

  22. c m

    Yes, it is part of my workout but I dont log the miles with the same importance as distance mileage. Too many starts and stops on my commute. But if I commute in the morning I am ready to go on a 20-40 miler right after work and still eat dinner at a semi-normal time.

  23. Craig

    I commute only 8 miles round trip per day, but living in northern Minnesota my best muscle building is during the months between December and March. This past spring I bought a new road bike,my first, and did a 60 mile ride at a 17 mph pace and felt no fatigue in my lungs or legs. I am 45 years old and don’t see a future in racing but see a future in my bike as my main form of exercise, I rode 3600 miles since last May and will probably only ride half that this winter (December-March), however my rides will be much taxing. The reason for this is that in winter I have to carry more weight in clothes and other stuff and ride a heavier bike with wider tires. My commute in the winter is the only riding I do, however in February and it’s 20 degrees I will probably do a few more miles because that will feel tropical. Please everyone try riding year around it’s not usually hard and you will love it.

  24. Jeff

    I recently did an MS 150 ride, and the only training I did was my (almost) daily 16 mile round-trip to work. Of course, riding to work with fully loaded saddlebags and a heavy bike makes for good training! I was surprised at how easy the 150 went.

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