Saturday, February 12, 2011

Commuting to work by cycle: Pros and cons

Cycling to work is cool and green thing to do- to get some attention among peers, to enjoy the obvious benefits of exercise, fuel savings and so on. But then, is cycling really practical? Does it help a lot? I’ve been riding to office for some time and am listing a few observations below.

cycle-bsa-matrixWhile deciding to cycle to work, primary factor will be the distance. If your work place is less than 5kms away, cycling won’t be much of a trouble. If it is 5-10kms, it’s still possible. When the office is more than 10kms away, it depends largely on your stamina to cycle, will power and patience to spend adequate time cycling all the away. Cycling may not be practical if the distance is more than 20kms.

Assuming an ideal condition that office is 5-10kms from home, let us evaluate the pros and cons of cycling to work. As everyone knows about advantages, let me mention disadvantages first… (Disclaimer: This is not intended to discourage anyone from cycling, just listing the factors to be aware of...)


  • You’ll be spending more time on the road, without the cover of a car. This means you’ll inhale more polluted air than you’d have had you zipped past in a two wheeler/car. This depends on how polluted the streets you use,and exposure to pollution has its own set of side effects.
  • Half way through if you realize that you’ve left something important behind (say a file required for the meeting), going back all the way to get it will be time consuming and effort intensive activity.
  • While there’s a savings on fuel bill, if lot of money needs to be spent on juices and other refreshments (coz you’re tired after long cycling), then the cost advantage might get nullified. (Even then it will be worth it, due to long term health benefits)
  • Changing lanes need more time and patience as speeding vehicles do not care about cycles. With nearly zero gadgets (like turn indicator) cyclist needs more caution on the road
  • As far as safety is concerned, cycle is far less safer than any other vehicle. Because of its negligible weight, even a mild impact can toss the cycle and its rider up in the air and resulting in severe injuries. Bikes on the other hand offer some resistance to the impact due to their weight. Cars are much more safer. Not many motorists respect cyclists and cycle rider needs to be extra alert and cautious about the vehicles around him/her. Dedicated cycle lanes would have been great, but don’t think anything like that will happen in India anytime in near future.
  • Not ideal if you don’t have a fixed commuting plan (For example: Sales people who’ll have to travel to different parts of the city)
  • If one has to carry laptop, lunch bag and other goods, cycle can’t be ideal (though it’s very much possible to carry laptop n lunch bag on a cycle)
  • If you value your time more than the exercise n other benefits, if you’re the one who’d finish lot of work in the back seat of the car while being driven to work, cycling may dampen your productivity and profitability.
  • While wearing a cycle helmet is good idea, hardly anyone use them in India and you’ll surely get lot of extra attention if you ride with one. (ok, this one may not be a disadvantage)
  • Your brand new and reliable cycle will not remain brand new and reliable always. It does command some attention w.r.t. maintenance. If not, you might have to face problems like low tyre pressures, weak brakes, chains coming off etc, inconvenience caused from which can spoil your mood/day
  • Can’t give lift to anyone! (Technically it can carry 2 people, but riding double for long distance is not really practical)
  • Climbing up a flyover will consume considerable energy, but you won’t be able to speed down the flyover, to leverage momentum, due to traffic.
  • Not practical under hot sun. Rider should plan to leave early morning and return after sun sets
  • Riding night time, while it is raining etc add up to complexities and demand even greater alertness as other drivers may not notice the cycle till they come close.


File Photo from Mahabalipuram Cycling Trip, Feb 2009


These are obvious and no brainer, still quickly mentioning them for quick reference

  • Exercise & Health Benefits
  • Fuel savings (its notional- If you were riding a bike earlier, savings will be say Rs 1 per km. If you were driving car it might be Rs 5 per km and if you were renting a Merc, the savings could be in few thousands)
  • Eco Friendly
  • Carbon Credits
  • Can take part in cycling events that keep happening in all cities-network with like minded people

Summary: Though cycling to work has its advantages, its practicality needs evaluation based on one’s commuting distance and other factors listed above.

Similar: Tour of Nilgiries *


wordcreates said...

then you sweat like crazy and u walk into an airconditioned room and see the expressions change.

Overall I guess, the urban terrain is not cyclist/cycle friendly.

Yet I would recommend that cycling is surely the best way of moving around

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks for the comment Benedict...

Yes, cycle is treated as a vehicle for those who can't afford a motorbike, hence cyclists aren't given much consideration

Mridula said...

I commute 32km one way, so just not possible. But even when I was doing 8km the roads felt so hostile that I never dared to cycle.

Prashanth M said...

Being a cyclist, I dont wish to see more points under disadvantages.. here is an attempt in reducing them... :P

* Exposure to pollution: My office is 20KMs from office. Here is my timings - a minimum of 75mins by office bus, 60 mins by car, 40 mins by bike. Where as 50 mins fixed by cycle. You will spared by polluted air only when you are in car & windows are rolled up.
* Money on juice/refreshments: I dont mind as long as I'm consuming it instead of my bike/car :)
* Carrying laptop/lunchbox: get a pannier fixed.
* Maintenance: your car/bike also need that right?
* Climbing up a flyover: Cycling in a city like CHennai with lot less altitude variation is much easier than B'lore. Solution: Find an alternate route w/o flyovers.
* Can’t give lift to anyone: Persuade them to get a cycle & give you company

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Mridula: ok

Good effort :)

Putti said...

As kids in Shimoga, we used to rent cycles for a couple Rs and play for an hour. Good old days! Only brand avlbl was Hero and no other innovations in the cycles.
It would be easier for cyclists if they have a office gym where they can change and freshen up. This is a common facility in US offices and is useful.
Now I see that "techies" in India are paying big bucks for posh cycles and doing major marathons but no respect for the regular cycle commuter from the car/bus/truck drivers. Must be nice to wear tight chaddies and show off on Rs 50k bikes that have 10 gears.

Cheers to you for your commitment to this new interest!

Wanted to comment on an old tweet. You wondered if kids should be taught alphabets as alpha, bravo, charlie etc. The current method of learning is appropriate for a child and they are learning common words along with the alphabet (apple,ball...zebra). A kid may not understand abstract concepts like "bravo" and a parent may fail to explain when a kid asks "amma/appa Zulu andhray yenu?"

Chareter Bus DC said...

Here is Similar Story

A serious touring bike is made to go across the continent with few complaints. It must be very reliable, very strong, comfortable and efficient. The touring bike is lighter than a cross or mountain bike, but wider tires and strong wheels make it heavier than a racing bike. Here are the things I look for in a serious commuting/touring bike:

* reliability
* performance
* relaxed diamond frame geometry
* drop (rams horn) bars
* down tube or bar end shifters that can switch from index to friction shifting
(fancy brake/shifter combos seem to complex, potentially finicky and unreliable)
* sealed bearings.
* 21 speeds or more

* fender mounts and clearance
* built-in rack mounts
* strong wheels. Some use tandem wheels, others use larger numbers of heavy duty spokes (Beckman uses 40 in the front and 48 in the rear)
* comfortably handles 700x38c tires, cyclocross tire capacity would be nice.

Sankara Subramanian C said...

we need a dedicated cycle lane like in the west...i would love to cycle to work...just that it is 20 kms one way for me and the biggest trouble is getting all sweaty after a ride and getting into an airconditioned office nullifies all the health benefits earned in the ride...

Shrinidhi Hande said...


Agree... May be in future it should be possible to say take Metro for most of the distance and then cycle from Metro station


Yes, even we used to rent cycles. Many offices here have gym too.

BMW has cycles that cost 1.6 lakhs!

Thanks for commenting on my old tweet...

Do you have a better identity other than code name Putti?


magiceye said...

interesting discussion generated

ಶಿವಪ್ರಕಾಶ್ said...

Ha ha ha.. Good Points.. :)

Long time back, my bicycle was stolen. so i am worried of buying a new cycle :P

Shrinidhi Hande said...


This time, buy a cycle along with thick chain so that you can lock it properly

Lakshmi Rajan said...

In Indian context, taking into account the weather, infrastructure, road sense etc, I don't think cycling is best suited for office commutation beyond 5 Kms.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

In most of the locations yes

eyeamImran said...

"going green" as far as commuting is concerned is a good idea on campuses. which in no way resemble the "real world". cycling doesn't make sense on a regular road in asia. in europe or sum such...may be.

[darn! i guess i just broke your "7 day mac" commenting rule. let's read another post...]

Shrinidhi Hande said...

7 Days max is not a commenting rule... Its a response time

Hariharan . V.K said...

thanks a ton for the information provided. i m from chennai and i need more advise on the subject ... i dont work and i m on a holiday here ... i m 5'8" and weigh 82 kgs ... i m planning to buy a bike for errands and meetings frns... can you call me at 9789919673 - Hariharan here .... just need more info before i go out and buy the wrong things to screw the whole experience ... :-)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Sorry Hariharan, I couldn't call you. Hope you got what you were looking for