10 minimalist reasons to start cycling today

This year, I discovered the wonders of cycling. I saw a poster that advertised a cheap bike hire scheme and I spontaneously decided to take the plunge. Before that, I hadn’t ridden a bike for over a year, let alone on the road. At first, I was slow and a bit wobbly, but by the end of the year I was faster and fitter. Now I wonder how I ever got anywhere without my trusty bike. Here are 10 minimalist reasons to start cycling today:

1. Quit the gym. I used to go the gym for two reasons. For the treadmill and for the exercise bikes. When I started running outside I halved the usefulness of the gym. And when I took up cycling at the beginning of the academic year, I found myself unable to take out that expensive membership. It just wasn’t worth it any more. Cycling burns an enormous amount of calories, and takes you places whilst you’re doing it.

2. No need for cars. Cars are expensive. There are multiple taxes, insurance, maintenance fees, not to mention gas, parking tickets, and the initial cost of the car itself. In fact, the cost for me to hire a bike for a whole year was less than the cost of a tank of gas. I realise that there are a few times when cars come in handy, such as twice a year when move my stuff from home to dorm (I’m lucky enough to have parents that would drive me), but for the rest of the year, a bike is more than enough to get me from A to B, even with all my shopping and books in tow.

3. Green. Speaking of cars, apart from the CO2 from your breathing, bikes don’t release toxic gases. And they don’t take that much energy to make and transport. They run on good old clean human energy – extra calories and a bit of elbow grease.

4. Takes up less space. An average bike takes less than 15% of the space an average car takes. Bikes can fit in doorways, in the front garden, in alleyways, and in sheds. They can be parked on lamp posts, fences and railings. They’re great for city dwellers, studio flats, apartments, not to mention minimalists!

5. Easier to maintain. Cars are needy. When you fix one thing, sooner or later another thing will break. And when you fix that, soon enough another part needs to be replaced. When you’ve done almost everything, the cycle starts again. Yes bikes do need to be maintained too, but not to that extent. Plus, the pieces are cheaper and a lot of bike shops will help you out for free if you buy the parts from them.

6. Faster. Have you ever been stuck in a traffic jam and watched the cyclists weave between the cars? Things go even faster when there’s a cycling lane. In the early mornings and evenings, it’s quite normal for me to zip past all of the stuck traffic and get to uni/home before the cars do. Sure, it’s not faster all of the time, but it’s always faster than walking, so it’s a great compromise.

7. Versatile. There are places you can’t drive, and there are places you can’t walk. But a lot of these places allow cycling. So if you want to get close into a busy town centre, take a bike. If you want to go for a leisurely ride through the park, take a bike. Unlike cars, which are restricted to roads and parking lots, bikes can get through pedestrian short cuts but can also be parked almost anywhere, for free.

8. Portable. If you have a longer distance to cover, you can cycle to the station and take bikes on buses and trains, and when you arrive, cycle the rest of the way. I’ve found this to be a really efficient way to travel, not to mention cheap! And if you know how to take them apart, they’re surprisingly compact-able, making them great to take in the backs of cars for road trips.

9. Quieter. What can be more Zen than a bit of silence? Imagine the morning rush with no horns or beeps, engine hums and roars or people venting their road rage. Just a few cyclist’s bell tings and the quiet clicks of the pedals running. I bet people will arrive at work or school much less stressed! (see video below)

10. More mindful. Some people spend too much time boxed up from the outside world. They go from their houses, to the inside of a car, to the inside of an office. A grand total of a few minutes spent in the outside world, even when the weather is good. And so what if it’s raining? It’s just water. It’s natural, embrace it!

I’m just going to go all out and say it. Cycling is awesome. Sure there’s walking (which is great too!), but cycling is much faster, and contrary to popular belief, very safe. I’ve mostly compared bikes to cars here, but whilst I’m not exactly a tree-hugger, I would love to live in a city where people cycled more than they drove. Can you imagine how great that would be? Check out this video for inspiration (notice how peaceful it is):

Cycling feeds my minimalist fetish. Do you cycle? Do you have any more reasons why we should start? Please share them in the comments!

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  • ketan

    A bicycle also has an extraordinary performance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_performance

  • Eli

    I just wanted to let you know how much I love your blog, it inspires me to keep on my (recently acquired) minimalist path. I’m still working on making a lot of changes, but I come here and read from your archives often. Keep up the great work!
    (As for bikes, I can’t keep my balance on one unless it is a stationary bike, but I can see your point. What I do is walk, since I live walking distance from most of what I need, or take public transport).

    • Jessica from Minimal Student

      Thanks for the encouragement Eli! I agree, walking plus public transport is a great combo, all you need is a little time and patience, something we should all be training ourselves to have a bit more of!

  • Cool post. I’m currently live in a suburb right outside a major city and I’m actively looking to move in the heart of the city by December at the latest. I am definitely purchasing a bicycle for the reasons you have listed above. I hope more people will consider this an a viable option — particularly those who live in an urban environment.

    • Jessica from Minimal Student

      Reggie H, I certainly hope so too! Especially for places like major cities; some of the biggest downsides (I think) of living in the middle of one is the traffic, pollution and noise, all of which can be magically reduced if only more people would cycle!

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  • I live in Holland, which is a great country for bicycles! Towns like Groningen have a policy that makes bikes more important and have more rights than cars.

    • Jessica from Minimal Student

      meibloempje, wow that sounds amazing! Why shouldn’t bikes have more priority? If anything, more people would be able to get to their destinations quicker. I wish more cities were like Groningen 🙂

  • Jessica,

    Biking is great, even though we still use our cars, we try to use it very little and walk. It is great for exercise like you mentioned. I need to figure out a way to keep 2 kids in bike and run errands.

    You have a new subscriber! me 🙂

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  • gilberto

    All the author really wants is an uber minimal fixed gear bike painted in a single plain colour with no branding. 😀

  • Nephi

    CO2 is not a toxic gas, but i get your point. otherwise, i would agree with just about everything, especially for those living in urban cities.

    • Jessica

      Hi Nephi, I guess you’re right! I didn’t mean that CO2 is poisonous, just that it’s not very good for the environment. Plus, there’s all the other stuff that comes out of cars that really is toxic, like carbon monoxide. Thanks for pointing that out!

  • roger noehren

    I agree with everything that you wrote. Have been a cyclist and non-driver since childhood in the 50’s. That speeded up video was frightening; if cycling were like that I’d ride the bus!
    This one is more my speed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HgLqts3qJs&feature=player_embedded

    • Jessica

      Hi Roger,

      It’s really admirable that you’ve been cycling for so long! That is absolutely amazing. Who says you have to drive a car?! Thank you for sharing.

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  • A wonderful article for anyone considering using their bicycle as a primary mode of transportation. Thank you, minimal student.

    • Jessica

      Hey Qatzel,

      Thank you so much for your encouraging comment. I really appreciate even the nice little things people say.


  • Hi Jessica, I saw your guest post article from Miss Minimalist’s blog. I have read many of your posts here and they are interesting! Thanks for the video. My husband and I have been biking for the past few months. It’s so encouraging to see people in Holland bike everyday, in rain, and in snow! It also makes me want to live there. 🙂

  • Jon

    I used to cycle when I was a student, had a nice racing bike. Was a great way to waste an afternoon too. Tempted to get a bike again. Last time I cycled was on holiday at Centre Parcs and that was with my son sitting behind me! Great fun, although not exactly real cycling, did not go very fast with just 1 gear!

  • ada

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while and I love it. I just wanted to tell you that I used to bike everywhere and it was a wonderful part of my life, but now I have problems with my knees and can’t cycle.. and I’m doing everything that I can to get my health back and go back to riding a bike!
    I’m interested in your blog because next month I’m going to China (!) for a 6-months scholarship. It isn’t a year, like your Japan, but it is still a great opportunity to make my life more minimalist:)

    • Hi Ada, I sincerely hope you get better soon! I’m so jealous that you’re going to China! Congratulations on your scholarship, and I hope that maybe you’ll have the opportunity to cycle there, I’ve heard it’s quite and experience 🙂

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  • Colmobrien84

    All of those are extremely valid reasons to cycle a bike, but I think you missed one important one. Cycling is Fun, try whizzing down a hill on a sunny day, it just makes you feel good