How cycling has gone hand-in-hand with downsizing and living the tiny house life

Human sized tools - photo by Tammy Strobel

Human sized tools – photo by Tammy Strobel

I started bike commuting in graduate school because parking was complicated, stressful, and expensive. This was about the same time that my partner, Tammy, and I began to seriously consider simplifying our lives. We hadn’t discovered tiny houses yet but the simplicity of cycling appealed to us. By riding my bike I saved money, I grew more relaxed, and I felt healthier. Tammy was envious of my relaxed commute by bike. Her work commute was a stressful two hours by car. Looking back, I think cycling was our “gateway drug” to simpler living. Eventually, to pay off our debt and to pursue happiness, Tammy found a job she could walk to, we adapted to a smaller (400 sq ft) apartment, and we sold our remaining car.
Recently, I realized the reasoning behind our choice to use bicycles as transportation was similar to our choice to live in a tiny house for shelter. After getting into cycling and saving money we read the pivotal book Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. This book prompted us to ask ourselves “how much is enough?”. After answering this question, we started to understand that we didn’t need the all of the space in a big house just as we didn’t need the mechanical-power of an automobile for our lifestyle.  We simply wanted to have enough time and money left over to contribute to our family, friends, and community. Working to pay a large mortgage and a car loan made us feel like we didn’t have enough left over for our relationships. With the money we saved by cycling we were able to pay off our debt and save up to buy a tiny house. Our tiny house and our bikes have similarly contributed to our goal of “having enough”. Below I’ve listed a few similarities that I’ve drawn between tiny houses and cycling:
  • Inexpensive, fun to use, and environmentally friendly
  • Human sized designs that are relatively small and simple to understand
  • Opens you up to being more vulnerable and reliant on your community
  • Requires spending more time outside and noticing the seasons
  • Stimulates mindful awareness
  • Requires outsourcing occasional big tasks
Biking in Shasta Valley - Photo by Tammy Strobel

Biking in Shasta Valley – Photo by Tammy Strobel

Cycling and tiny houses aren’t for everyone, nor are they a cure-all for affordable transportation and housing problems. Like climbing a ladder into a tiny house loft, one must be physically able to accomplish cycling. However, I believe bicycles are a part of the solution for “smart-sizing”.  Most of my transportation needs require less than 10 miles of travel from my home. When I need to go farther to visit family, I rent a car or hop on the train. Cycling and tiny houses have been a wonderful choice for my partner and I. In reflection, adapting to life on a bicycle has gone hand-in-hand with downsizing and living the tiny house life.

9 thoughts on “How cycling has gone hand-in-hand with downsizing and living the tiny house life

  1. It hasn’t occurred to me to wonder before, but if you don’t own a car, yet sometimes rent a car, what are the insurance issues and how are you addressing them? Thanks!

    • Hi Victoria,

      Rental companies provide insurance if you don’t have any. This insurance is more expensive (usually doubling the rental cost) but its nice to have a no questions asked coverage in case anything happened…also its legally required to have some form of insurance when traveling on the road. :) Cheers!

  2. Great insight, Logan. Especially about tiny houses and bicycles being “human size” and “enough”. I’m building a tiny house and I’m a lifetime cyclist – and public transport user – and *gulp* I’m taking the bold move and buying land in rural Australia.

  3. Agreed with all the benefits of biking, and you didn’t even include the endorphin rush or the clarity of mind that comes after a good ride!
    As for rental cars – we were car-free for about 5 years, but at the end of that time we were accepting rides from friends and neighbors, renting cars, and borrowing cars quite a bit to do more of the things we enjoy (camping, golfing, visiting friends & family).
    We found that buying an inexpensive (ok, cheap) old used car was the better solution for us. If you pay in cash for an older car, the insurance is minimal. We appreciate the freedom of having our own car now, and the ability to be spontaneous with travel.

  4. Hi Logan (and Tammy)! I’ve been following Rowdy Kittens for a while, but just recently became aware of Logan’s blog through Twitter. Excited to peruse. I would love to know how the various places you guys have lived since going “tiny” has affected bicycling. Tammy mentions it a little in her blog from time to time, but would love to know about the different landscapes (flat vs. hills), infrastructure (bike lanes, racks), and home placement (distance to stores, town) that you guys have experienced and how, if at all, it affects your riding. I’m trying to bike more as an alternative form of transportation, and I’m finding the hills and distance to work challenging (hoping that’s largely a product of St. Louis’ hot summers, though the 6+ mile trek won’t change just because the leaves fall). I love biking inspiration!

  5. As an alternative to a tiny stand-alone family dwelling, consider an urban apartment, which is far more energy efficient. And, of course, in a dense urban environment, anything you can possibly need is within cycle distance.

    • I’ve tried this in different cities Greg and there are benefits and disadvantages to this approach. I definitely missed my green space in my apartment living but this may have had to do with my location. :)

  6. Hi. I stumbled across your blog and wanted to comment re Rebecca’s statement on a challenging commute. I recently was diagnosed with MS and having struggled with fatigue and riding, I decided to buy a Gazelle Orange X2 electric bike. I am now able to commute to work (including a few fairly serious hills), my husband and I are also planning some bike touring. In short, I have my life and independence back, the environmental cost is minimal compared to a car or even public transport (I used to catch the bus to work). I believe that, although not for everyone, a good quality (legal) electric bike is a great alternative for a lot of people, older, not fit as they would like or people with medical conditions that require a little extra assistance.
    Just my thoughts on the topic.

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