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Houston Attorney Thrives on Doing The Impossible – Daily

Some of Houston’s cool and under-appreciated bike infrastructure.

In this extremely wealthy country of ours, the chief barrier to wealth is often the information, or misinformation that gets stuck inside our own heads.

People with the right knowledge can develop the right habits, and these habits lead them to accumulate wealth very quickly. Meanwhile, the majority of people pick up incorrect financial ideas and bad habits, leading to permanent debt. But they mingle mostly with their own type, so the failure habits keep spreading.

Sometimes, to break out of the Herd Mediocrity Mindset, you just need to see an example to learn what is possible.

So with that in mind, let’s review an example of yet another allegedly completely impossible thing, that an MMM reader is doing every day.

Jeremy Stone, aka The Rock, engages in a rare – and yet incredibly profitable – activity, in a city that is legendary (in the public mind, anyway) for making this activity completely impossible.

The following tale is drawn from our past year of occasional email conversations.

The Lawyer Who Actually Bikes to Work.
Year-Round. In Houston.

Dear Mr. Money Mustache,

“I’m a lawyer and commute to downtown Houston every day regardless of weather (unless I need to drive somewhere for work), without a handy shower or any special amenities, so it can definitely be done.

I was skeptical too, but my wife pushed me to do it after we got into your blog about 4 years ago, and it’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made.  If anyone complains that they can’t do it because of heat, humidity, needing to dress in a suit, etc, I’m proof that you can do it.”

The Challenge:

Throughout the history of this blog, Houston has become the poster child of Bike Excusitis Disease – the place most often cited as “The Reason I Can’t Bike to Work”.

Houston commuting, as perceived by car drivers (image credit: Politico)

Raised on the slippery black teat of the Almighty Oil Well, Houston was developed for motor vehicles and the metro area now sprawls across ten thousand square miles (6.4 million acres), which means Houston alone is one fifth the size of the country of England. Ironically, the more you optimize a city for cars, the bigger your traffic jams, so Houston has the worst traffic in the US.

And it’s a subtropical steam bath: daily highs exceed 80F / 27C for a full nine months of the year with high humidity year-round.

On top of that, Mr. Stone is a high-ranking official in a law firm, the profession most often cited as one where you can’t bike to work. Lawyers need to wear suits at work, see clients, impress judges, and this calls for the utmost in personal hygeine – scrubbed skin, shaved beards, polished shoes and manicured nails, premium brands and styled haircuts. It’s a hassle, but it is a necessary selling of the soul, in exchange for a six or seven figure income. Right?

With those painful complaints out of the way, we might as well move on to actually solving our problem.

“At first, I thought it was a crazy idea. It wasn’t, and I loved it.

I started commuting on an old but good Trek mountain bike (got stolen), then to a $50 hybrid that was a piece of crap, then upgraded to a fancy Surly Disc Trucker.

Most of this route is nice and easy, because it is mostly on a hike/bike trail. Over the last few years, Houston has been changing old railroad lines into these trails.”

The Route: 

Sunrise in Downtown Houston, as seen from the bike route.

Bike commuting can be superior to driving in every city, but only when you design a route that works for riding your bike. When you drive a car, you will usually end up on the fastest, widest, (and most dangerous) roads, never even realizing that there were parallel bike-friendly options nearby.

“My route takes me through a neighborhood called River Oaks, where the very richest Houstonians have lived for decades.”

Early in our conversation, Mr. Stone shared a map of his bike route with me, and I compared it to Google’s suggested route for driving a car downtown. The distance is about the same, but in a car you end up on the interstate highway, which makes the commute seem completely un-bikeable.

Fig.1: Google Maps view of car vs. bike routes to work. Bikes are surprisingly fast, plus immune to traffic jams and you get free parking.

Key Strategy Note: this ride was made much easier by the fact that Stone lives within 4 miles of work. This didn’t happen by accident: he chose his home and his work strategically to avoid a car clown commute.

Yet interestingly enough, houses in his neighborhood are still only in the $300,000s. If homes so close in are so affordable, why is anyone commuting into downtown Houston in a car?

There is no answer aside from sheer foolishness – those highways will soon be empty after this article gets out.

“My route takes me along the trail along Silver St. in an old Warehouse district, now an artsy district. Then along White Oak Bayou (Houston is built on bayous, not rivers!) as you near downtown, and under an old 150 year old bridge that has been built over. 

Some of these bridges serve as homes for the thousands and thousands of bats here. You can’t see them, but I took this picture at about 6 or 630 am, and there were bats flying all around. The bridge is so low you get to ride right through them!

Biking beats driving – exercise, fun, no traffic, bats, tombs, turtles, snakes, herons!”

The Speed: 

The deceptive thing about bikes is that within a city, your average speed ends up equal to, or even faster than, a car. In big cities, cars average only about 27 MPH even without traffic, and rush hour can cut this speed in half again. Meanwhile, a slow beach cruiser coasts at about 12MPH (the speed Google uses for biking estimates), a fit cyclist rolls at 20, and an electric bike can easily sustain 28 MPH with almost no effort from your legs at all.

So when I’m in a rush to get somewhere in town, I never reach for the car keys – there’s no time to waste puttering around in a gas-powered wheelchair.

The Cars (and other Financial Effects):

Most people in Mr. Stone’s position have huge houses in the wealthy enclaves of Houston, and drive very high-end cars to work. If there is a spouse and family in the picture, they have multiple cars. And yet somehow, the Stone family survives with just one 2006 Honda CRV (market value about $6000), which remains in great condition because it leads such an easy life.

Driven lightly, the total cost of ownership of a car like this is about $2000 per year. Meanwhile, the typical attorney power couple might keep an up-to-date Mercedes SUV and a BMW 5-series. Driven at the US average level of 13,000 miles per year, this fleet would vaporize about $24,000 per year of personal wealth.

Wow, we need to put that shit into a box so more people will see it:

Average family driving
with two typical lawyer-level cars
destroys about $250,000 of your wealth
every single decade.

Still think biking to work is only for poor people? Do you consider an 11-year-old vehicle beneath your standards?

When you are not dependent on cars, you no longer derive your identity from them, which means you can start thinking about them like the appliances they really are. This makes your car costs drop drastically.

But What if I Move Jobs?

Coincidentally, halfway through our conversation, Stone ended up switching employers and acquiring an even better position.

I imagine that the same sharp mind and optimistic can-do attitude that encouraged him to bike to work, were the things that helped him earn this upgrade. But the new office was in a different part of town, further from home.

Did The Rock head straight to the car dealership to purchase a new Chevrolet Suburban like everyone else in Houston? No, of course, he just busted out the map and the brainpower again.

But What About the Heat?

“Until the new job, my office did not have any shower facilities. But I found it was not really a problem: I just keep my clean dress clothes at work, and change out of my cycling clothes once I get to the office. 

Also, making the trip before sunrise (especially in the summer) gives me much cooler temperatures. The ride home can be hot and sunny, but there is always a cool shower and air conditioning waiting for me when I arrive.”

Rock is right. I too biked to school and work throughout my career, in temperatures ranging from 0F to 105F. Long-time readers already know that bike transportation is probably the biggest factor that accelerated, and continues to fuel, my own family’s early retirement.

Some of my workplaces had showers, and others didn’t – but I never even felt the need to use them. In extreme heat I’d just just put on a clean, dry shirt and maybe a fresh layer of speed stick, and settle in to my office to enjoy the air conditioning. Any trace of perspiration or heat was gone within about five minutes.

This is because physical activity, including riding your bike, is normal, not the exception. It’s not a medical procedure or a competition or something you do in an indoor “spinning” class. It’s not an emergency condition which causes your body to shoot feces from every pore, destroying any nearby pieces of clothing and requiring a long, hot shower every time you move so much as a fingertip.

It’s just what happens every day.  So The Rock and I will see you on the streets tomorrow morning – it’s always Bike to Work Day.

Related Reading on the magic of a Cooperative Spouse:

Is Mr. Money Mustache Ruining Your Marriage – Part 2


Is Mr. Money Mustache Ruining Your Marriage? – Part 1

Epilogue

On the day that I finally got around to publishing this post, Jeremy and his lovely wife happened to be visiting my part of Colorado for a wedding and some hiking. So we invited them over for dinner and we had a great time together. I also gave him one of the secret stash of MMM t-shirts that arrived at my place today:

 

  • Paul F June 8, 2017, 9:32 am

    Back when I used to live in downtown Baltimore I would often bike commute to two of my work locations. One was near the Airport, about 8 miles from my house and the other was in Columbia which was about 20 miles away.

    You might think that commuting from the center of a downtown area of a large city to either of these places would be hard because of the presence of interstate 95 and associated feeder highways.

    But the truth is that it wasn’t difficult at all. There were plenty of local surface streets, bike paths and old highways left behind with the construction of the interstate. You just needed to look below the surface a bit.

    The benefits were immense – getting both my workout and commute in at the same time actually saved me time. Plus biking is so much more fun than sitting in traffic.

    These days I live in San Francisco and it’s only a 1 mile commute to my office so its much easier. But even with much longer commutes it’s still doable.

    If you want to you can do it.

    Reply
  • Patrick June 8, 2017, 9:33 am

    One quibble: your map says the 4.4 mile bike route is “(about 15 minutes)”. This is very unlikely and even the Google Map screenshot below that says it’s 29 minutes. 15 min would require an average sustained pace of 17-18 mph. As a city bike commuter, I usually average closer to 10-12 (30 minutes for a 4 mi commute). There are stop lights, stop signs, streets to cross, pedestrians to avoid, potholes to dodge. It’s not like you’re on a cycle track or velodrome.

    Sounds like you’re halving the times because you’re assuming the rider is on a motorized bike (e-bike) on a flat course with few stops. The Rock doesn’t have an e-bike though, and a completely unobstructed route isn’t very typical of most city bike routes.

    I love the pro-bike posts, but let’s be realistic – overly optimistic numbers won’t help novice bike riders get into bike commuting.

    Reply
    • Greg June 8, 2017, 10:29 am

      Agreed. I’ve found the Google Maps estimates for biking to be pretty reliable. It seems like they estimate a travel speed of 9-10 mph for bikes, which is normal for city riding (including stops, crossings, hills, etc.).

      I looked up travel times for me to get to work and to the library from my home – both are spot on compared to my actual times. It looks like their algorithm takes elevation change into account as well; I see that my trip back to home from work is estimated to be significantly faster than the trip there, which is correct as it’s downhill on the way back.

      Reply
    • TMat June 8, 2017, 1:28 pm

      Just wanted to say that I agree with this post as well. I bike to work everyday around 4.5 miles each way with a hybrid/commuter and a bike bag (sometimes with panniers) attached to a rack at the back. I just wear my work clothes (business casual) on the bike because I live in San Diego and it is rarely hot enough to break much of a sweat in the morning. On the best days (pedaling hard, with the wind, catch every light, no pedestrians in the way) I can make it in 20-22 minutes. Most of the time, it takes around 25 minutes.

      Reply
      • Helen June 14, 2017, 1:18 pm

        Yes, I always just wear my normal clothes too. It’s true that biking to work is normal and easy and does not cause you “to shoot feces out of every pore.” Thanks MMM for providing the words I need in response to the strange incredulousness of folks. Why so much incredulousness?

        Reply
  • Stephen June 8, 2017, 9:34 am

    I rented a bike on a recent trip to Seattle (from Pedal Anywhere) and it completely convinced me that biking is much faster than driving in a city, and also way more fun! My 8-mile commute in the suburbs is definitely not as bike-friendly as a city like Seattle with bike lanes, but I definitely want to try and map a route out and get a cheap bike from CL. I’m sure I can at least eliminate some car trips which is better than nothing.

    Reply
  • Mighty Investor June 8, 2017, 9:37 am

    Great one, MMM. I love the humor. When I was still working, your articles about biking to work got me out there riding my bike to and from. About 30 minutes. I even jogged the route home occasionally. What I loved was seeing different parts of my city (at that time Zagreb, Croatia) waking up early in the morning, and feeling my bike trundle down the cobblestones. Great stuff.

    Reply
  • Trisha June 8, 2017, 9:47 am

    How do you all get over biking fear? In the previous city I lived in, I biked everywhere. However, biking really scares me in my current city (limited bike lanes and paths, hard to avoid main roads). I only live a little over a mile from work, so I walk the vast majority of the time and take the bus when its raining in the morning (I’ll walk home in the rain unless I’m wearing something that needs to be dry cleaned).

    Reply
    • Paul F June 9, 2017, 1:09 pm

      How you get over the fear is simple.

      The more experienced you get the less afraid you will be. Learn the proper techniques. I have been riding on roads for nearly 40 years and am not afraid at all. I have learned how to deal with situations and react properly to them.

      The basic idea is to be predictable so that the cars will know how to deal with you. Stop at red lights, use hand signals. don’t make sudden moves. Follow the rules of the road – ride in the same direction as the cars, make a left turn from the left lane (! yes, really) and take a lane if you need to, it’s your right as a vehicle.

      And realize that while cars are big and fast you are more nimble than they are and can get out of the way quickly if you need to.

      It seems scary at first but the reality is that it’s just not that dangerous.

      Reply
  • Angie June 8, 2017, 9:47 am

    I LOVE THIS!!! I had the same debate in my head for years and now am the sole person chaining my bike up on the rack at my office. TBH I did have to make some changes to make this work for me. First of all I sold my super-suburban-area house that wasn’t even close to a grocery store and moved 15 miles to a denser part of town which put me within 1 mile of the grocery store, 1.5 miles from my farmers market, 4.5 miles from my job, and really less than 2 miles away from anything else I could need (library, home depot, etc). I did have to fork over $25k when all was said and done to change houses BUT I now commute by bike most of the time, my new house is also more energy efficient and in a better school district oddly enough so it’s a long term win. I know $25k is a lot of money but it was a small price to pay to end a bad decision made when I was 22.

    My bike ride covers a route that most people would not bike, and I’ll admit there is 0.25 miles of it that I’m not bada$$ enough to ride in the road since it’s a terribly laid out intersection so it requires me to get off my biking machine and walk through an outlawn but ultimately that adds 5 minutes to my commute and a nice way to stretch the legs I suppose. Slowly but surely I’ll flex my mustachian muscles and keep breaking these mental barriers.

    Reply
  • Kristen June 8, 2017, 9:54 am

    Way to go, Houston Lawyer Guy! I miss commuting by bike/bus (depending on weather)! Unfortunately my current job is 20+ miles on the highway and 22.5 miles by bike. Not something I can handle 2x per day. And even the bus would require 2-3 changes and 2 hours of travel each way. The frugal tree-hugger in me hates that solo car commute. But I am able to work from home a couple times a week so that helps ameliorate the damage.

    Reply
  • Andy June 8, 2017, 9:56 am

    There are few things more satisfying than blowing past a bunch of cars sitting in rush hour traffic while you’re cruising by on a bike with the wind in your hair.

    Reply
  • Plotting for Jailbreak June 8, 2017, 9:56 am

    Bike commuting in DC is great…the network of trails and neighborhoods is amenable all year round and you can get places faster than in traffic especially if you consider the exercise value. My office did have a shower; if it didn’t I might have skipped important but hot days because I’ve gotten the “you smell” look before and that’s not so fun.

    Where I live now in a heavily polluted Middle Eastern city, where breathing the air will negate the exercise value and heat stroke is easy to come by, I wouldn’t even consider it. Be tough, but be smart.

    Reply
  • SubSea June 8, 2017, 10:03 am

    Another biking Houstonian here. (actually the burbs) I did bike to work for several years, 13 miles each way, year round. Now my commute is about 60 ft so no need for the bike anymore but I actually miss the ride time. When I started, I realized that I could get from my house to the office with very little time on an actual paved road. Once I left my neighborhood it was all walking/biking trails with a bit of sidewalk. The office did have a shower but I discovered, as mentioned, that after a cool down, it generally wasn’t needed Mornings I would leave early to take advantage of the cool and quiet, afternoons were a good workout on those 90+ days. (Good training for the HnH 100 in Wichita Falls…) Started out on a hybrid but moved to the road bike most days once the kinks worked out. Still used the hybrid on heavy weather days. An unanticipated benefit was the decompression after work. The down time + the excercise made me a happier camper. I miss my ride.

    Reply
  • The Vigilante June 8, 2017, 10:03 am

    Congratulations on being The Bike Lawyer, Rock! I plan to join you soon!

    I currently have no safe route to my office despite living rather close – no matter which direction I go, I’d be on windy, hilly roads with no sidewalk and speeding death traps. But we’ll likely be moving to another home in the next couple of years which will be easily bike-able! Unfortunately I’ll still need to maintain a vehicle for the purpose of going to court in various counties…but it’s going to be so nice to wake up, put on comfy clothes, and exercise my way to the office where my suit and tie are waiting!

    Reply
    • Marci June 8, 2017, 12:14 pm

      Ditto. Dallas is decidedly not a bike-friendly city. There are bike trails, and extremely close to home, but they don’t venture close enough to my office to avoid taking my life in my hands, having to bike into regular traffic.
      But I have been eyeballing a scooter…

      Reply
    • Jeremy Stone June 8, 2017, 8:57 pm

      Thanks! Yes, you will love it when you are able to do it. I still have to drive sometimes if I have to travel far during work but most days are spent in the office or, if I need to travel, Uber can be more efficient.

      Reply
  • Kenneth June 8, 2017, 10:23 am

    Hi MMM and bike community, I have been very fortunate to live in West Texas for a few years. I ride my bike 7 days a week. Lucky for me I live 1.1 miles from work. Paydays is when I put the miles on 12.6 miles. I don’t have an expensive beach cruiser $100.00, or an expensive trailer $108.00 but I do go grocery shopping and bring it all home on my bike and trailer every week. I forgot, from teenagerhood, the joy of biking everywhere I went. For the last two years I have been riding and by the time (15min) I get home all of my daily work stress is gone. I have lost over 30lbs during this time and 6in from my waist. I have two trucks at home and they are not even licensed. I just don’t use them. The savings is awesome.I am not sure if I will go back to driving my trucks back and forth to work again. I 💘 my 🚲!

    Reply
  • Greg June 8, 2017, 10:25 am

    Good stuff. I’ve been biking to work about two days a week consistently for the past couple years. I bring a change of clothes with me for the office – the bathroom at work has a shower too, but I’ve never needed it for that. Because my wife works part-time, biking those two days per week has allowed us to avoid buying a second car, saving approximately $5,000 per year.

    Reply
  • Jennifer June 8, 2017, 10:30 am

    I am a fellow Houstonian, I wish I had gotten into MMM years ago, although I still think I would live in the “sticks” as I have a horrible horse addiction (much like crack, and its still there after 25 years). We bought a Chevy Cruze after my truck started to go. Although I commute an embarrassingly long distance, I am at least getting 30+mpg, and I can take toll roads because my company reimburses me for them so I can actually go 70mph on my way to and from work. I go in early as well, traffic is better thus better gas mileage.

    Reply
  • Ben June 8, 2017, 10:49 am

    I started out by selling my car in early Spring with the intention of buying a replacement in the Fall – but I’d save some money in the meantime! And then when Fall came, I wore gloves and started wearing my snowboarding helmet instead of buying car. And when Winter came I bought some studded bike tires and new rims for quick-swapping and started wearing my snowboarding gloves. And when Winter got really truly cold I bought some thermal underwear and started wearing snowboarding socks and my snowboarding jacket for the commute. It’s been a few years now, still no car. But we do have a family vehicle like the lawyer from Houston in this story, so that does make it easier.

    Reply
  • MyFiIntheSky June 8, 2017, 10:50 am

    Great article! And it’s good to see another big law attorney who doesn’t care about the expectations to flaunt wealth that come with the job!

    I’m a lawyer in Los Angeles, and I’ve been getting the itch to bike to work lately… It would essentially be the only exercise I get in the day since I’m chained to my desk most of my waking hours (come soon, FI…come soon…). It’s literally impossible to bike from where I live currently (only a few dangerous canyon roads connect me to work), and I’m limited in where I can live because of where my wife works. (Unfortunately, we did not take MMM’s sage advice of getting jobs close together and then living near our jobs.) Regardless, those are all excuses, and my wife is working on switching jobs. Hopefully we can cut our vehicle expenses in half soon, and I can start to get a little exercise!

    Reply
    • Greg June 14, 2017, 11:09 pm

      If biking to work isn’t an option but you still want to try it out, are there any local errands you can do on your bike? Could be a fun way to unwind and also build a little exercise into your busy schedule.

      Reply
  • Pablo June 8, 2017, 10:52 am

    Had to do a double take on this one. I too am a Houston attorney who rides a bike everyday in Houston about 4 miles to downtown. I ride along the bayou and enjoy the fresh air. Partners at my firm have to pay for parking, and I save $250 a month on parking alone!

    Reply
  • Joanna June 8, 2017, 11:00 am

    My husband and I are lawyers and are very familiar people using the need to look professional every day as an excuse, so this was a breath of fresh air!

    We live about 3 miles from work and, since recently becoming obsessed with cutting our spending, have been walking instead of taking the subway. We decided we don’t want to bike commute right now because we take our 2-year old to daycare on our commute and I’m pregnant — with those 2 factors, biking in city rush hour traffic is a little too dicey. BUT, walking has been an AMAZING life change! We used to cram onto the subway every morning with our stroller, getting the stink eye from all the other commuters, and had to take a million (smelly subway) elevators to get in and out of the subway stations with the stroller. Now, we get a nice (45 minute-ish) walk both to and from work. On a good day the train might be about 10 minutes faster; on a bad day they’re about the same. We love having the extra time to chat before and after work without other distractions, and by the time we get home at the end of the day, we’ve decompressed a bit. My husband has been losing weight and, despite being 8 months pregnant, I’m also feeling great. A coworker even came up to me the other day and said, “Have you been working out?! You look amazing!” Win, win, win. On top of all that, I estimate we’re saving about $130/month in subway fare — not too shabby. The few times we’ve taken the train since starting this new habit, we’ve been shocked at how much less enjoyable it is. Thanks, MMM, for inspiring us to make the change!

    Reply
  • Karina June 8, 2017, 11:02 am

    Loved this post, not because I’m a bike to work gal but because you legit said “It’s not an emergency condition which causes your body to shoot feces from every pore, destroying any nearby pieces of clothing and requiring a long, hot shower every time you move so much as a fingertip.”
    Can. Not. Stop. Laughing

    Reply
  • Wade June 8, 2017, 11:05 am

    I love it. I have a 3.2 mile bike ride to work. I do it every day that makes sense. Fargo does not have Houston weather. This is problematic in the dead of winter. I did ride “nearly everyday” 2 years ago. I had a “Fat Tire” bike for the winter. Snow, temps below zero, unploughed sidewalks, wind. It is doable in the heart of winter, but it is a mental excercise more than physical. I can dress warm enough.

    I dialed back the dead of winter biking and sold the Fat Tire bike. That means I bike less in December, January and February depending on the snow cover.

    I have a 1995 Trek ZX2100 road bike and a 1996 Trek ZX7000 mountain bike. Both are awesome. I switch off. If I have a longer ride, I usually opt for the road bike.

    My $6 (thrift store) trunk mount bike rack fits on my 2001 Toyota Echo. I can actually get both my bikes in the car with the back seat folded down. It just takes more effort. Mostly I leave the Echo at home to nest.

    I average 12-14 mph. I bike at a leisurely pace to avoid getting sweaty. I certainly CAN bike faster. It just isn’t necessary. My goal is to move eventually to a climate that better supports year round biking.

    Thanks for the reminder that biking is doable. My bike is often one of the only ones in the work bike rack. It is kind of sad. This morning it was 65 degrees, not a drop of wind, high around 81. Nobody else biked. They don’t know what they are missing.

    Reply
  • Jeremy June 8, 2017, 11:09 am

    This is really close to my own personal situation. I’m in the New Orleans area and when I decided to buy a house I restricted myself to locations where I could easily get to the bike path on the Mississippi river levee. It’s been a year and a half now and unless it’s raining in the morning, I always bike to work. When I actually do become a comlainypants and drive because it’s raining, my day just isn’t the same.

    Reply
  • Frugal Bazooka June 8, 2017, 11:13 am

    Of all the financial and lifestyle stuff I agree with MMM on (like 95%), bike love is my favorite subject. I grew up on 2 wheels and never quite understood the obsession with the combustion engine. This blog post hits close to home since my dream for many years has been to bike to work and yet this dream is unfulfilled. Why? Because of a terra firma protuberance approx 1,200 feet above sea level that lies directly between me and my paycheck. This incline also known to locals as “suicide hill” is also known to me as “sweaty back hill”. What also makes suicide hill so, uh, suicidal is there are 3 major inclines and the last one wraps around the top of the hill making the climb seem endless and of course very dangerous since it also doubles as an access road for fancy mansion dwellers who speed around the hill in their fancy overpriced 4 wheel dungeons.
    All the excuses aside the simple fact is that to make suicide hill my dog, I will have to invest in an electric bike and that is one pill to many for me to swallow. It’s not the cost of the electro bike that bothers me, it’s the shame of acknowledging that I need a motor to get me to where i want to go.
    So it’s an impasse, I can easily conquer suicide hill with a regular bike to get to work, but the results are sweaty clothes and hair – not ok at work – but the sweat maintains my biking honor and dignity. Or buy an electro-bike, avoid the sweaty mess of hard physical labor on the way to work, but sell out my organic non-electric crank cred.
    What’s a bike addict to do?

    Reply
    • Sanjo June 15, 2017, 11:14 pm

      I found I wasn’t riding my bike very often because of the hill between me and the main part of town. My electric bike solves this and I love zipping over the hill in my regular clothes. I am still exercising but avoiding the sweaty clothes and hair, plus the downsides of a combustion engine. My hill isn’t as dangerous as yours but I’m glad I decided to find a solution that keeps me happily peddling along.

      Reply
  • Kermit June 8, 2017, 11:16 am

    Nice job Triple M. Posting a bike article is what we needed! Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • Jim McG June 8, 2017, 11:27 am

    Take a deep breath you bunch of hippies. I’m about to jump into my 3 litre Jag to drive to the local shop 2 miles down the road for a pint of milk. Why? Because I can’t be arsed taking the bike, it’s a total faff and too much effort. So there.

    Reply
    • ThriftyChemist June 8, 2017, 11:42 am

      Hah, that sounds an awful lot like Jeremy Clarkson from the old Top Gear. I hope you find some joy in being militantly sedentary, since there doesn’t seem to be much benefit to it. “A total faff and too much effort” – for riding two paltry miles? Honestly, that’s a bit sad, don’t you think?

      Reply
    • Jackie Christianson June 8, 2017, 8:11 pm

      Might want to re-think that idea: as someone else posted, there’s good evidence to suggest that “active commuting” by foot or bicycle reduces your mortality significantly by all causes (including accidents). There are lots of benefits and very few shortcomings of bike commuting – and it’s a lot less effort than parking, waiting at lights, going to the gas station for refueling… I wonder how much time you waste doing those things compared to a bike commuter?

      Reply
  • MCours June 8, 2017, 11:29 am

    Biking to work takes a bit more planning than simply tossing your stuff in the trunk and go. Weather and riding condition are the most immediately relevant. You need to dress for it, because under-dressing means you’ll be uncomfortably cold for the whole ride, and over-dressing means too much sweat. It’s not a big deal for a ride of 10k or less, but if you’re on the road for more than an hour it makes for a long and miserable ride.

    Then there is the stuff you need to carry–backpack vs panniers vs trunk bag vs messenger bag. It comes down to personal preference, and some trial and error is needed to get things just right.

    It is possible for almost everyone to do it, but almost everyone doesn’t do it because it is far easier to keep doing what they are doing than to make a change.

    Reply
  • Naners June 8, 2017, 11:39 am

    This is a good reminder that I should reboot my cycle commuting habit. I stopped for a while because I found the traffic near me in NYC too stressful, but I’ve moved since and there’s a better route. For anyone feeling anxious about getting hit by a car, this study showed that cycle commuting is associated with decreased mortality from cancer, heart disease and in fact all causes of death:

    http://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j1456

    Cycling can feel risky but this actually means you’re less likely to die overall if you cycle than if you don’t!

    Reply
    • Mark June 8, 2017, 10:08 pm

      “Cycling can feel risky but this actually means you’re less likely to die overall if you cycle than if you don’t!”

      I dunno … I think the likelihood of dying is exactly 100% for everyone! :-)

      Reply
  • bikingfrommydesk June 8, 2017, 11:40 am

    5 years ago, when I started reading Mr. Money Mustache, I started biking to work every day. I bike 6.4 miles one way in the northwest suburbs of Chicago year round. The temperature ranges from -15 (-30 with wind chill) to 105 with extreme humidity. Most of the time the snow on my entire route is plowed, sometimes it isn’t and I have to walk half a mile or so carrying my bike. I have a 10 year old $500 Trek bike. I carry my business casual clothes rolled up in my back back every day, don’t have a shower at work and no one has ever complained. My area is not bike friendly, but I make it work by riding through neighborhoods. Last year I was able to sell my car and now my family of 5 shares a 2011 Honda Odyssey.

    I can assure everyone that biking is possible in any weather and around any obstacle. If I had a longer commute or large elevation changes, I’d buy an electric bike.

    Thank you Mr. Money Mustache!

    Reply
  • mike June 8, 2017, 11:41 am

    I’m kinda new to the e-bike. Just bought my bike Saturday. (BTW, to say I’m in heaven with the bike is an understatement. I got a Haibike brand.)

    But I’m not getting where MMM says you can go 28 MPH on the e-bike. My bike cuts off all pedal-assist at 20 MPH. Two other people who I know that have e-bikes also has that happen to them at 20 MPH. One guy said it’s because after 20 MPH the bike is no longer considered a bike anymore. So, so far I find my sweet spot is ~19 MPH, which is ~ 1 mile for every 3 minutes.

    This weekend my buddy and I are taking are new e-bikes to Newport Beach and riding up and down the beach cities, checking out the hot babes.

    Reply
    • ThriftyChemist June 8, 2017, 11:44 am

      I believe MMM throws out that number because if you make the bike yourself using the kits, they don’t have to be limited. Premade ebikes are limited by law for “safety” but the kits assume that you’ll be responsible for how fast you go without regard for what someone else deems safe for you.

      Reply
      • mike June 8, 2017, 12:01 pm

        Thanks. I have another bike I’d love to turn into an e-bike. Going 28 MPH would be a doable speed.

        Honestly, turning a regular bike into an e-bike seems a big undertaking.

        Reply
    • Everett June 8, 2017, 3:19 pm

      Mike,
      I have a haibike sduro hard9 and love it! I’m in Germany and didn’t realize they had made it to the States. Bypassing the speed limiter is easy and won’t require a fancy controller, just moving the magnet and mag pick up to read off your pedals instead of the wheels. Here’s a YouTube link:
      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=K8yF6mzg2aw Word of caution though, this can be hard on the derailer if you are shifting under load. Enjoy.
      Everett

      Reply
    • Freedom35 June 8, 2017, 9:17 pm

      A lot of times that speed cut off is software controlled. If you take it to the bike shop you bought it from and ask nicely they might remove it for you :)

      That’s assuming you want to remove the speed cut off (it could be for good safety reasons) and that your battery can handle you going faster.

      Reply
  • Justin June 8, 2017, 11:47 am

    Love this post.

    Quick note: the rock lives in a very expensive part of Houston-Beverly and E 10th St. has no viable family home for 300k. Quick zillow search shows that a 10 block circle around that area yields a 1br. for 400k but most homes 600-2m…and as he mentioned, some of the surrounding areas are 2-3x more expensive than his.

    I love Texas, but it will be interesting to see what home prices are like in 10 years-they are already increasing rapidly.

    Reply
  • Mark June 8, 2017, 11:59 am

    Excellent post. It’s possible to commute by bike in many cities you ordinarily wouldn’t think of as being bikeable – it just takes a little courage and imagination. I’m on my 3rd year of being car free in Dallas and the health and financial benefits are incredible.

    Reply
  • Mustard Seed Money June 8, 2017, 12:00 pm

    I’m not sure I could handle the heat like this brave attorney, but he does inspire me to consider biking to work as my commute is about 5 miles. Highly enjoyable article and very impressive lawyer!

    Reply
  • Jessica June 8, 2017, 12:01 pm

    I love biking to work. 4.5 miles each way, much of it on an empty sidewalk. I can also cut through a park and see some critters on summer mornings.

    The worst part, for me, is getting my bike in and out of my third floor apartment with an annoyingly tight stairwell. That, and maybe the people in their cars who like to yell out their windows. I startle easily. Is it bad to wish total strangers death… out loud, too?

    I must admit to climate wuss tendencies, though. I also absolutely struggle to wake up early enough to ride my bike in the mornings from late October-April when it’s still dark out at 7am.

    Reply
  • Bill Brodegard June 8, 2017, 12:02 pm

    This year my family and I got rid of our car and are doing everything on bikes. Steph and I have three kids – Grant, (6), Darcy (5) and Lewis (3), and live in South Minneapolis, known for its glorious summers and bitter cold winters. We have been car-free for about four months now, and so far it is going great.

    I have always biked to work, even when the temperature did not cooperate perfectly. Too hot is not a problem – I usually commute in the early morning anyway – and cold is generally not a problem either, because of clothing. Also, when you are working hard on a bicycle, you tend to heat up. The worst weather is slushy, rainy mix, and when the snow packs down like mashed potatoes. Then it is hard to find good traction and stay up. Last winter I fell three times and skittered across the ice like a hockey puck.

    Steph, on the other hand, has three kids to take care of, and shopping to do, and school visits, and museum visits, etc. When some of our friends heard we were going without a car for a year, they came up to us and asked if it was safe to do that, what with our young children and all. What if you need to go to the doctor? they asked.

    Fortunately for us, we live in 2017, which is the year of the Uber, Lyft, and Amazon Prime. I think we will be ok.

    Here are some benefits Steph and I have realized after just a couple of months;

    1. I lost about 10 lbs. I am generally pretty fit, but when we do shopping by bike, we tend to buy better food. More potatoes, and fewer potato chips. Also, since my commute is about 10 miles each way, five days a week, there is a level of fitness below which I cannot fall. A baseline level of fitness. It is nice.

    2. We have more time to spend as a family. When we drove in a car together, I would often turn on the radio, or focus on driving – generally zone out. On bikes though, we talk and laugh together. It is more like play, and less like commuting.

    3. We are becoming more adventuresome. Minneapolis is a wonderful city to explore by bicycle. The Minnehaha Creek path leads into the Greenway – in all there are over fifty miles of delightful bike path carved out through this gorgeous city. It is a whole new level of fun to explore it with my family.

    Reply
  • Team CF June 8, 2017, 12:02 pm

    Regularly doing a 18 mile one way bike commute to work. But definitely need a shower before I change cloths. It makes you feel really good, can highly recommend doing it!

    Reply
  • GlobeTrttr June 8, 2017, 12:04 pm

    I rode a 10 year old mountain bike with city tires everywhere in my college town of Athens, GA and found I could be nearly anywhere in town in half the time it took to drive and park or ride a bus and walk. Athens is hotter than hell in August and I recall sitting in lectures with sweat dripping from my brow into my notes, but I loved the fresh air and daily workout.

    I’ve actually considered doing this in Atlanta, although my 1-way commute is 29 miles and would probably take 2 hours each way. It would have to be a rare exception rather than a rule, due to the time required and also since the potential routes traverse the most crime-infested, dangerous parts of western Atlanta. Fortunately, Atlanta is turning a disused railway corridor around the city into a sweet bike path called the Beltline. I soon hope to find a workable route!

    Reply
  • Lisa June 8, 2017, 12:18 pm

    Love this, but one question…. What do you do when it rains??? I live in Louisiana, we get hurricane like weather more often than I like to admit. I’m not talking soft gentle farmer rains. I mean rain so hard it is driving sideways.

    Reply
    • Bill Brodegard June 9, 2017, 11:45 am

      Mostly you get wet. There are waterproof jackets out there, but they generally dump the water on your pants or shoes – solves one problem, but makes the other problems a whole lot worse.

      I just bring some clothes in a waterproof bag – like a plastic shopping bag inside of a backpack – and resign myself to a good soaking.

      Reply
  • Cathy June 8, 2017, 12:21 pm

    OK, I’ve got my bike all dusted off anf I’m ready to start using it on grocery runs and such, AND I only have about 8 miles each way to and from work. What’s stopping me?

    I take my two dogs to work every day. One is an old man (~25lbs) who can’t hold his bladder all day during my 11 hour shifts, and the other is a not-yet-housebroken puppy (~16lbs, not going to grow much more) who also can’t hold her bladder all day. As silly as I feel for even considering it, I think I may need to spend $200 and invest in a bike trailer to haul my pooches around. Hell, I can use it for groceries when the dogs aren’t with me.

    Thank you for the kick in the pants, MMM! The weather here is just right to get started NOW…overcast in the mornings and I don’t get out until the sun is down. My poor Leaf will be lonely :)

    Reply
  • Julie June 8, 2017, 12:30 pm

    Heat hack: wrap ice in a damp washcloth and ziploc bag it.. rub over your hot bits when you get changed after the hot ride. Feels like heaven!

    Reply
  • Dan June 8, 2017, 12:33 pm

    To beat a horse dead – I actually SAVE time everyday when biking. Biking takes me about 15 minutes end to end, whereas driving was taking me 20 when you account for lights, traffic, and parking in the garage. To add to it, it’s one of the highlights of my day.

    Reply
  • wallit June 8, 2017, 12:34 pm

    This came as inspiration at the perfect time for me, thank you!

    I live in Houston and started biking to work in the last year. I was considering taking Metro instead as it gets hotter for the summer but obviously I would only have been cheating myself!

    PS – working well on our stash, wife is finally fully onboard and even pushing me to challenge my financial muscles to grow my stache!

    Reply
    • RetiredRob June 8, 2017, 1:02 pm

      I enjoyed biking 8.5 miles along the trails to the Houston Medical Center for a few years, with occasional Metro bus rides during spells of inclement weather or when the days were too short in the winter. The result was that I was fitter than at any other point in my life — and my wife and I were able to save up enough in the kitty to sail our boat around the East Coast and Caribbean for a few years. Now happily (early) retired in Colorado Springs and now missing Houston’s heat…

      Reply
  • Asouth June 8, 2017, 12:45 pm

    I too was skeptical about this whole “bike to work” thing. I was dedicated to the MMM-lifestyle except for this. Why? I thought it was impossible to do in Seattle. Hills? My commute includes part of a mountain range. Heat? Sweat doesn’t get you nearly as drenched as a Seattle downpour. I kept saying, “there’s no way”. Then is occurred to me…how do I know “there’s no way” unless I tried it? It wouldn’t kill me to try bike commuting for a few days just to test it out. I figured if I couldn’t make it mid-commute, I’d lock up my bike somewhere, get an Uber, and then go back to my Car Clown behavior.

    And guess what? It wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was really, really fun. And I don’t even wear bike clothing. I bike commute, on an electric bike, rain or shine, in high-heels, blazers, skirts, and tights. I just throw a rain coat on, and off I go!

    I’m also a mom of two young kids, so now I use a bike trailer to commute with my children. I drop them off at daycare, and hop back onto my bike and continue to work. Our family loves it! My kids throw a fit every time I try to take them to daycare in the car.

    So…anyone who says “No Way! It’s impossible!”, I highly recommend you just TRY IT for one full work week. It won’t kill you. In fact, I think you’ll find enjoy it. To me the cash savings is just a nice perk.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 8, 2017, 11:09 pm

      This is awesome!

      I especially like that you got over the fear of hills. Hills are so often cited by non-cyclists, but once you ride, you realize they are not an issue. You go up, you go down, it all evens out in the end.

      And you get to CHOOSE your climbing speed and your effort level via the bike’s gear shifter, so there is really no difference in difficulty between a hill and flat ground.

      When you add in the e-bike factor, the hills are even more irrelevant: now you don’t even have to slow down.

      Reply
      • PF June 18, 2017, 1:51 pm

        FB interns in Seattle this summer all got $350 to buy a bike to commute to work. How cool is that?

        Reply
  • Spencer June 8, 2017, 12:47 pm

    I sold my car about a year ago. A guy I work with lives near me and drives me too and from work. We call it a “carpool” but really he just gives me a ride and in return I buy him an occasional gift card. He likes the company on the commute and I like not owning a car. Works out for both of us.

    Reply
  • Kirstin June 8, 2017, 12:48 pm

    EXCELLENT POST, MMM!

    So many gems in here, and so many of the comments are top notch too!

    “My bike commute is the best part of my job/day” – fully concur, and I also have a cushy job I like. But boy, do those amazing sunshiny rides make me want to retire as soon as possible!

    Finally, I want to officially thank you, MMM. I happened upon your blog a year and a half ago, as an injured runner. I have biked or run commuted to work for years, but had recently moved to a neighborhood (atop a big hill) with 4 different bus lines that went right near my job. It was so easy. And I was getting soft. Luckily, your left hook to my face got me back on the bike and whipped into top notch shape in no time.

    The fitness is great. The savings are good. Avoiding traffic/bus crowding is wonderful. But the real secret is how much joy a bike commute brings me.

    Keep preachin’!

    Reply
  • Dianne June 8, 2017, 1:08 pm

    A few years ago when we were shopping for our current home, proximity to EVERYTHING was at the top of our checklist. As a result, we purchased a home where we can easily bike or walk to parks, the supermarket, downtown, restaurants, the theater, doctor’s offices, the library, and much more. At age 59 and 64, we love being able to pop on our bikes to go virtually anywhere we want to be.

    Reply
  • breadbiker June 8, 2017, 1:11 pm

    Impressive! I have biked to work for 3 years in Nashville, another hot swampy (and hilly!) city. I binge-read all of MMM my senior year of college and picked a job I knew I could bike to. It has made ALL the difference in my happiness.

    My commute is 2 miles (hooray, city living!) and from my current place it’s usually about 15 minutes. Blame the 6 stoplights and 8+ stop signs I hit on the route (downside of city living!). I pack my nice office clothes & shoes in my backpack, and do a quick change and any minor adjustments to hair & makeup in the bathroom when I get there. My boss once said I was like “professional superwoman”.

    Kudos to Mr. Stone for his commute, I’m envious of that hike/bike trail! The epitome of “being the change”. Bravo.

    Reply
  • Steveark June 8, 2017, 1:12 pm

    I’m having a hard time believing the part about just changing shirts and being good to go. I run in the mornings at 5:30 several times a week here in swampy south Arkansas. I am wringing wet after the first mile for six months of the year and by the time I’m done I can’t stand myself until I’ve showered. I have to keep my running shoes outside in spite of the fact they go straight on a shoe drier after the run. If I tried to bring them in the house after they dry my wife would throw them and me out. I certainly couldn’t have left them in the office wet. I know cyclists are kind of wimps compared to us runners but still……(OK, just teasing, I’ve ridden a fair amount too and for the same level of output I think I sweated just as much) is it just that much easier than running that you don’t even sweat in hot weather? The other problem in rural America is no bike paths, no road shoulders and drivers that are completely unaware of the rare bicycle and mow them down indiscriminately. I work in Houston sometimes and I can barely cross the street without leaving a puddle trail. I think maybe the argument may hinge on whether you are a normal sweating person or a swamp creature like me.

    Reply
    • Florida Mike June 11, 2017, 10:32 am

      I agree as I live in Florida and a guy at work runs at lunch, does not shower and he stinks! Period. So the person may THINK they are OK but others sitting next to them at afternoon meetings find otherwise!

      The lack of showers where I work is a reason I do not bike in as I could as its only 10 miles but can’t then change into a suit and feel good the rest of the day.

      Reply
  • Kathy O June 8, 2017, 1:33 pm

    I have a Genze ebike that I am very happy with. $1500 and it comes in a smaller size that is good for petite women.

    I live in Mountain View, CA and I swear the number of bikers has really increased in the last couple of years. Probably lots of reason for that — Google encourages bike commuting, terrible traffic, a program to encourage kids to bike to school and maybe a few Mr Money Mustache readers?

    Thanks for another inspiring article. Today I will unpack and put together my Nashbar cargo trailer.

    Kathy O.

    Reply
  • Wendi June 8, 2017, 1:35 pm

    Is anybody else out there a bike commuter in West Los Angeles? I’m new to it, and I’d love to hear some tips/routes from people who’ve tried it. I’m trying to commute from Santa Monica to West Hollywood, but so far I’ve been too chicken to ride on the parts of SM Blvd that don’t have a bike lane:) I’m sure there’s a better way!

    Reply
    • SarahA June 28, 2017, 1:48 pm

      I live in Palms (just north of Culver City), and have lived/worked in WeHo/WeHo adjacent. I’ve found that Mar Vista has a lot of chill neighborhoods to cruise on the way out from the ocean in the city. Once you get near Beverly Hills you could jog above Santa Monica and enjoy the wide wide residential streets. It may be longer, but I believe it’ll be more peaceful. Basically, find the neighborhoods along your route and ride them when SM feels too scary. Maybe go up or down a few blocks to weed out Waze rerouters. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  • WW June 8, 2017, 1:44 pm

    Fantastic example MMM…I’m a home appraiser and work from home. I drive to the homes that I appraise because they’re spread out all over two counties but I currently am sitting in a downtown Nashville coffee shop 4 miles from home. My wife and I bike all over Nashville every week, 365 days/year. We can bike most anywhere within a 4 to 5 mile radius of our home. We’ve been doing this for years even before I found MMM. Keep up the good work! By the way, your interview with Tim Ferris was wonderful. Great job!

    Reply
  • James Warburton June 8, 2017, 1:48 pm

    My experience biking to work is similar. People only looked at me funny for a couple of weeks then it was, Hey did you ride your bike today? Or did you know James rides his bike to work? It sort of evolved into more of a curiosity. Once the weather warmed up, I noticed a couple of additional bikes in the rack. I guess they figured, well if he can do it, why not?

    Reply

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