Most of you don’t need any convincing that you can save the world with two wheels, and that knowledge alone is doubtless sufficient to make many new bike commuters. Good for you! Please skip ahead to the cute animal posts.
But perhaps there are a few among you who like to ride your bikes, who know that they’re good for your health and that of the planet, but who just don’t get on them very often. (I’m speaking here about commuting, errands, etc. Recreational cyclists are more likely to have the opposite problem--they don’t get off the bike very often.)
If you want to up your mileage, here’s the tool you need: a cheap cycle computer. Sure, you can spend $700 on a Garmin Edge 810 that will track your cadence, calorie consumption, and heart rate while teaching you Swahili (OK, almost), but you can easily find far cheaper yet serviceable models that will give you a speedometer, a clock, and what you need most--an odometer. (As you can see, I use my pre-Garmin Cateye; a similar modern model will set you back about $25. Planet Bike has one for around $35.)
Why is an odometer so important? Because the trick to riding more is to set yourself an ambitious but achievable goal and then use the odometer to track your progress. The goal can be weekly, monthly, or annual; make it large enough to require a change in your present behavior, but not so large that you could never do it. Then let your odometer be your guide.
Last year, for example, I rode about 800 miles on my commuter bike. (OK, 832 but who’s keeping track?) This year I decided to kick my goal up to 1,000. That means (I figured this out while riding along) I need to ride 83.3 miles a month. And so far, so good! I was sidelined for a couple weeks by illness, but that just made me determined to make up the deficit. I started riding to the grocery store regularly, riding to the pool on Saturday morning, riding over to my friend George’s house to borrow a tool. If I’m behind one week, I find excuses the next to get on the bike and catch up.
Would I have ridden 250 miles by now without a goal and a way to track it? Possibly, but not likely. As anyone who’s ever played a video game knows, computers are great enablers of obsessive fixations. A simple computer on your bike can harness your completion drive to change the way you get around. Onward to 1,000.
Photo by the author
PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and dad. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber