This is a guest post by Linda Larsen, a Madison Bikes supporter and volunteer. Thanks, Linda, for sharing your experience with biking more and more and more... If you're interested in writing a post (and Madison Bikes is for everyone, no matter how little or much you bike), just shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I love to bike. I bike a lot. I bike almost every day. I'm the one my friends think of when they see something cool that is bike related on social media and tag me or post it on my page. Have I mentioned that I love to bike?
While I've always enjoyed biking, several years ago I started making bicycling a major lifestyle change for me and began keeping track of my miles. Since then my annual mileage has kept increasing. I try to bike instead of drive any time I can. I find ways to overcome deterrents, such as cold weather, snowy or icy paths, or just plain lack of motivation. Yes, as much as I love biking, it is not always easy for me to get out there. But many factors have helped me get out, almost every day, and maybe some of them will work for you as well. In 2016 I biked over 6,000 miles, a personal record for me.
First, I keep track of my miles. It can make you feel good that you have gotten that much exercise, or that you have avoided driving that distance somewhere, or it can give you a goal to surpass. Every time you bike a little more than you are used to, it can encourage you to do more the next time.
How did I get there? Setting goals and overcoming challenges.
I had started with a goal to bike to work at summer school, which at the time was seven miles away. Once summer ended, I continued to bike to work and began looking for and coming up with ideas for being able to bike in the cold weather. There are many resources for researching this, and a lot of trial and error while making sure you have the right balance. I understand that not everyone is interested in biking in the cold. But remember: many other winter activities are enjoyed despite the cold – why not add biking to that mindset? Rain gear is also important to have, as well as winter tires such as fat tires for snow or studded tires for ice. I am still working on finding what I am comfortable with, and each year I manage to overcome more obstacles and avoid driving more and more.
Even biking against the wind can be a struggle, which I slowly got more used to the more I biked against the wind. It's simply something you work up to, like biking more miles, although I must admit that I do have my limits with extreme gusts, which can play havoc with balancing the bike!
One source which helped me bike more miles was the National Bike Challenge. You virtually compete with others in the country and can compare yourself to bicyclists in your state as well as your community. I had no idea how competitive I could get--until I kept seeing some random guy in my community who was getting ahead of me! It wasn't by much, and so it would encourage me to go back out and put a few more miles on just to stay in the lead.
The way the National Bike Challenge works is on every day that you bike at least 1 mile, you can log. You earn an automatic 20 points for the day, plus one point per mile ridden. I discovered that this is actually a great idea, because once you make the effort to get out there for that one mile, you are likely to be enjoying yourself so much that you decide to go for 2, and then 5, or, oh heck, might as well go for 10. It's often just getting out there in the first place that is the challenge, at least for me, so this has really helped kick-start my mileage increase.
Then, after I had been doing the NBC for a couple of years, I got contacted by a guy who is the captain of one of the teams. He noticed all the miles I had logged and that I was riding “solo,” so he asked if I would like to join the team. So now I have been on this team for a few years, giving me an additional push. The actual challenge goes from May 1 through September 30, but you can log all year long. During the challenge itself, I have a personal goal of biking an average of at least 20 miles per day. Many of my teammates go beyond that, so I am encouraged to reach my goal if only to make sure I'm not a dead weight! But I also like being able to use the team as an excuse to keep biking: gotta do it for the team! Then it doesn't look like I am selfishly wasting time biking instead of cleaning the house...
In 2016 I bought a fat tire bike to help me bike on snowy days. In 2017, I had a studded tire put on the front of another bike so that I am willing to try to bike on the days when there are some icy patches. Major amounts of ice remain a challenge. But with these adjustments, I have made a goal for winter miles in 2017 to bike an average of at least 10 miles per day. Whenever I can, I will bike over 10 miles, to make up for those days when I can only manage a few miles, if I even get out biking at all. As of late February, I am way over that goal and will no doubt be able to maintain it!
I'm not sure what my total will get to for 2017; I will adjust my goal as I go along. A few years ago, in the fall, I had made a goal of 5000 miles. When I reached it long before the end of the year, I changed it to have it roll over to 5432.10 at midnight on New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, we got hit with a snowstorm which changed all that and I did not reach that goal. But I was still happy to have surpassed the 5000 earlier than planned.
That is the beauty of personal bike challenges: you make it work for yourself and do whatever makes you happy. Riding with others, having a cool looking bike, transporting yourself or getting groceries under your own power? Figure out what you enjoy about biking and what it will take for you to enjoy it even more!