Should You Bike to Work to Save Money…and Lose Weight?

Biking to work

If you are at all familiar with the personal finance blog space, then you might have heard of Mr. Money Mustache. He is really big into creating a culture of bucking the norms of culture and retired at the age of 30 years old. His retirement story has been predicated on an extremely high savings rate during your working years (75% or more), and extremely low yearly expenses for his family of three (< $25,000/year).

In order to keep his yearly expenses low, he has one compact car and bikes everywhere else. I was really intrigued with how he even had gotten a baby cart to pull behind his bike in order get his groceries home from the grocery store. In this post, he is pretty blunt in his opinion of how anyone who drives less than 15 miles to work is an idiot.

Regardless of whether you agree with him or not, it definitely gets you thinking. That is exactly what he wanted in the post. In fact, it got me thinking too. Thinking about how can I adjust my lifestyle to not be like everyone else. I'm not on the mustachian “bandwagon”, or into the idea of being called a “Mustachian”. What I am into is saving money (thrifty) and living a healthier lifestyle. Call it, “Healthy Thrifachian”!

However, living a lifestyle that is counterintuitive to the culture is hard. Biking to work in the pitch black darkness is difficult when everyone else is zooming past you in their $40,000 sports cars, or dualy-hemi super charged trucks!

In August, I started my experiment (which was one of my goals) of biking to & from work. After biking four times in August I started running the numbers in my head. I was trying to figure out what are the net benefits that this is giving me. In order to give context, here is a breakdown of my situation.

  • I live 4.1 miles from work
  • My car commute time is 10 minutes
  • My bike commute time is 20 minutes
  • If I bike to work I don't work out over lunch (saves me driving 2 x 2miles = 4 miles)
  • If I bike to work I work through my lunch hour (saves 60 minutes of time = $40/hour – rough dollar savings)
  • Biking to/from work burns 250 calories
  • Working out over lunch I burn 550 calories (on average)
  • Cost per mile driving – $0.54/mile

I love laying out the numbers like this. It gives me a clear picture of just how much things cost me and how much I'm benefiting from biking. But there is more to it! We can't just merely collect the data, and say, “Yep, that is what it costs or benefits me.” Let's dig further.

bike to work

Commute Savings Analysis

  • Home to Work Commute – 4.1 miles x 2 = 8.2 miles
  • Driving to workout – 2 miles x 2 = 4 miles
  • Total Driving Saving – (8.2 + 4) x $0.54/mile = $6.59

Time/Income Analysis

  • Commute to/from work – 10 x 2 = 20 minutes total (positive benefit)
  • Bike to/from work = 20 x 2 = 40 minutes total (negative benefit)
  • Work through lunch = 60 minutes (positive benefit)
  • Total Time Benefit From Biking = 20 min (dif between biking & commuting) – 60 min = 40 minutes net positive
  • Net Postive Time Benefit x Rough Estimate Time Rate = 40 minutes x $40/hour = 66% x $40 = $26 net positive cash benefit

Wellness Analysis

  • Biking to/from work calories burned: 250 calories
  • Working out over lunch: 550 calories
  • Net Negative Health Benefit: 300 calories

So as you can see, if I bike to work I'm saving $6.59 in driving + $26 in net positive time benefit, for a total savings of $32.59. However, by biking to work I'm having a negative health benefit of 300 calories each day  (that is based on the assumption that I'm working out over lunch every day I commute in).

When you lay it all out, it is really interesting to analyze whether a certain choice is benefiting you or not. In my biking vs commuting analysis, my conclusion is that I'm trading $32.59 in savings and a 20 minute increased commute time for burning 300 fewer calories. Is it worth it? What is your opinion? In my situation it probably depends on the day, time of year (amount of daylight), and motivation.

I'd be interested to hear whether you've done a similar analysis. How have you laid out all the benefits analysis and determined what you a trading off for certain choices? Let me know what you think of my analysis. What choice would you make?

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  1. I’m all for cycling! Besides losing weight, being healthy, saving money, it’s safer (some statistic shows that over 33,000 people die a year in car accidents compared to 667 fatalities caused by cycling). I believe that commuting on a bike is the safest, most cost-efficient method of transportation. It helps your body stay in shape while also saving you money. So if you continue to cycle frequently you’ll see the ecological, financial and health benefits.

  2. I’d love to bike to work and everything would be perfect distance wise and all that, except that there’s a freeway smack in between. So I either have to traverse an overpass with no bike lane or go across a whole slew of very busy entrance and exit ramps. I’m really fearful about riding my bike in these conditions so that has held me back.

    • That is unfortunate. I would look at moving if I were you, but I realize that the cost benefits (paying for house selling cost) don’t out weight the commute benefits. It is all a matter of priority.

  3. Hi Charlie, the real benefit I see is the potential of integrating more exercise organically into your lifestyle. Riding your bike to work will become the “new normal”, and it will simply be done so that you may get to work. I believe you will take up some sort of a formal exercise routine because you won’t feel like you have exercised.

    I got a dog 4 years ago, I walk her (3) times/day, about 15 minutes each time. I have permanently lost 10 pounds. It is the easiest 10 pounds I have ever lost. I continue to run everyday since walking the dog is not considered exercise for me.

    • Awesome work Solar Powered! Glad your dog could provide you that motivation!

  4. Why do you have to skip working out at lunch when you bike to work? Why not do both?

    • Good point Shiela! I’ll definitely consider that! Thanks.

  5. It really is better for your body and health to commute via bike, if you’re able to. For a few months I commuted by foot to work and, while it didn’t work out for me in the long run, it definitely saved us a lot of money going down to one car. Nowadays I work from home, which means less car usage. I get my exercise in the morning to mimic the biking commute to work.

    • Picky – you are right! It is definitely better for your body, and especially if you don’t work out over your lunch hour.

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