A couple of days ago, I rode my bike to the grocery store. The trip wound up logging 4 miles due to the fact that I got to the bottom of our street and realized I had left my helmet sitting in the garage. In reality, the store in question is 1.8 miles away.
Besides the stupid inefficiency of getting down the hill before missing my helmet, I wasted a good bit of time on this jaunt trying to keep the new bag that Penny bought me from jamming up in the spokes. I also managed to get stopped by a train. On a good day, when my gear is properly on my head and attached to the bike, I should be able to make the round trip in about 18 minutes. That’s moving at a fairly modest 12 miles an hour. If I were particularly earnest about things, I could probably manage an average of 15, but let’s be conservative.
Driving the same route, I can go as fast as 35 for the bulk of the way. That’s nearly three times as fast. On the other hand, stoplights take the same length of time for bikes and cars. Plus, I can’t drive 35 on my street without incurring the wrath of my neighbors, and there’s all that time you spend walking from your car into the store. (Yeah, I really said that.)
Is there a point to all of this? Yes, there is. When I bike at 12-14 mph, I burn something like 57 calories per mile or 205 calories for the round trip. What do I lose by riding to the store? I lose perhaps 15 minutes of my time, maybe 20. What do I gain? For starters, I gain the $2.07 that the IRS would allow me to deduct for mileage. I know that I won’t actually see that $2.07 in my wallet, but the expenses add up. I also gain a decent little workout, the equivalent of running about a mile or a bit more. Is that a fair trade-off?
Granted, I’m not going to be doing my major shopping trip on my bike, but much more often I head to the store to pick up a few apples, a bottle of BBQ sauce, or some other smallish item. But if I were to make this run one time a week for a year, I’d save some $100 and add 50 miles worth of workouts to my year. That 10,000 calories amounts to about 3 pounds lost for the year.
I like that trade-off. It seems like good stewardship all around.