Bicycle Commuting: Bikes, Trains, and Cars

When things get busy with the family and work, unfortunately cycling becomes a challenge.

Especially on the weekends.

Then it becomes a catch 22.  Less cycling.  More fatigue.  More eating.  Less sleeping.

And then there is traffic.  In Silicon Valley and generally in San Francisco Bay Area the traffic is pretty bad.  It usually takes between 60 and 100 minutes to drive 35-37 miles to work and the same amount of time to get back home.

This is where bike commuting makes a huge difference for me.  I figured out a model where I do a three-stage commute: bike --> train --> bike.

Here is how it goes:

Stage 1: Bike to a Caltrain station.  After trying several routes, I came up with two most viable options:

  • Option A.  Ride to San Jose Diridon station that is 8 miles away.  It takes about 35 minutes.  It is the first station where the train route originates, so it usually allows me to get a good seat and a bike spot in a train.  A bullet train is about 35 min to my destination.
  • Option B.  Ride to Mountain View station that is 20 miles away and takes about 65-70 minutes.  It is more challenging and fun.  I can go faster that with Option A.  There are stretches where I can go 27-30 mph on a flat road.  It also gives me more time to think.  And it is more refreshing.

Stage 2: Train.  It takes anywhere from 18 minutes to 45 minutes depending on the station I get on and whether it is a bullet train or not. 

I absolutely love the train.  I get to meet interesting people --  passengers, cyclists, and conductors.  I get to relax, listen to music, and enjoy the scenery outside.  I also work on my emails or other things in the train, so it becomes a productive time vs wasted hours in traffic.  Best of all, I don't get to fight traffic and be stuck on the freeway.

Stage 3: Bike to work.  The last leg of my travel is only 2 miles to the office.  It includes three pretty high overpasses, which get my blood pumping.  It usually takes about 10 minutes. 

By the time I get to work, I am energized and ready to get started with my work day.  I use the shower in the office, change into business attire and get going!

So I get to ride between 10 and 40 miles a day, get fresh air, fresh ideas, energy boost, better health, and avoid the traffic!  It turns out long commutes and traffic can work out!


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