"I found that if you have a goal, that you might not reach it. But if you don't have one, then you are never disappointed. And I gotta tell ya... it feels phenomenal."
- Vince Vaughn, Dodgeball
I don't make resolutions. Too easy to break and I already work out. But this year I felt that I could maybe make an easy one that would be good for not only myself, but for other people. This year, I promised that I would help more people. So when a question from one of our readers came through the inbox, I hopped at the opportunity to help them out. This would be me helping another person and since I didn't help anybody last year with anything, that would make this, "more people". 5 days! that's gotta be some kind of record. Here's the query: "Hi, Im riding my trek 820 4 miles 2-3 days per week and having difficulty with consistency/motivation. It is tough sticking with this routine. Any ideas?"
Actually, I've got plenty of ideas! First, let's breakdown everything that's right with the question:
"I ride my Trek 820" - Good for you! The fact that you ride a Trek, means I will continue answering your question. The Trek 820 is a steel framed mountain bike, not a dedicated commuter but a tough-as-nails get 'er done machine. This is an excellent example of the fact that you don't have to necessarily go out and buy a whole new bike for commuting to work (though I certainly won't discourage that behavior).
"4 miles" - Did you know that almost 50% of all car trips in the US are under 2 miles? And that most Americans live within 5 miles of where they work? 4 miles is the sweet spot of distances. You probably can wear mostly work clothing at that distance. Unless you're one of those people who wears a freshly pressed suit. If that's the case than just stuff it into a backpack. If you can shower at work or a nearby gym, hang your suit next to the shower and turn the heat all the way up. It may scald you but your clothes will be freshly steamed. This actually is how I do all of my ironing.
"2-3 days a week" - That's awesome. If we all rode our bikes that much, think of the impact! 2-3 times a week is great. You say you're struggling with consistency but I say 3 times a week is pretty darn good. Hopefully the tips below will get you up to 4 times.
Now, on to your dilemma. You're having trouble with motivation and it's tough to stick with the riding. Let's break it down into three areas of improvement:
1. The Ride
A. While your trusty Trek 820 is indeed a noble workhorse, it's really designed to be a clydesdale rather than a thoroughbred. If you don't work in the woods and typically ride on pavement, the tires are probably performing at less than ideal efficiency.
- Try the Bontrager H2 Hardcase 26" tire. It'll fit right onto your wheel it's built specifically to handle the various urban terrain that you'll encounter. It's even got a Kevlar belt so they're bullet-proof. NOTE: Bontrager tires are not bullet-proof. Do NOT shoot at your tires and If somebody is shooting at your tires, use the smoke-screen function.
B. You're probably riding through a lot of grime and debris. This will make your chain and cassette dirty and slow. There are some bright and shiny kits you can purchase to clean these but i'm old school when it comes to chain maintenance. Grab an old tooth brush and some de-greaser from your local bike shop and give the cassette and chain a good once-over. After you've cleaned the chain, give it some lube. Don't forget to spin and switch gears so that the lube is evenly distributed. Come the spring, pop for a new chain. Your bike will thank you.
C. Bikes, like cars, need regular maintenance to keep running at peak performance. Drop the bike by your local shop over the weekend. The cleaning fee is nominal to what you save in gas and if you do it now, you'll beat the spring rush. When you're there, consider fenders and a rack. The rack will allow you to carry your stuff off of your back and the fenders will keep any grime off of you. New tires, fenders, and a rack will make your 820 feel like a whole new bike.
2. The Route
A. Riding to work is a lot like working out. If you get bored, you're less likely to do it. Keep the route fresh by taking a new way. During the weekend, map out a new route that takes you past some new sights. It'll break up the routine and may lead to some new discoveries. Google maps is perfect for this and if you care, there's a cause to get Google to add a "Go By Bike" feature.
B. Find the "long cut". Getting to work doesn't always mean you have to take the shortest way possible. If it's a nice day, leave a little earlier for the morning commute and sneak in a little exercise or meet up with some friends on the way home. Stop by the bar or cafe. The more you enjoy yourself, the more you'll ride. And think of how chic you'll look pulling up to the pub all eco-friendly and what not.
C. Work it out! If you have shower capabilities, use your commute as your work out. A pair of cycling shoes can increase the speed and those new tires we suggested will keep you moving fast. Don't wanna rock the lycra? Go for a cycling liner under whatever you want to wear. You'll be padded without anybody being the wiser. For a pair of versatile urban shoes check out the Bontrager Street Shoe.
3. The Reason
A. Green. According to 1 World 2 Wheels, by riding your bike 8 miles total (4 miles to work and back), 3 times a week, you will save 23.28 lbs of CO2, burn 1,128 calories, and save $5.28 in gas. If you do this every week of the year, you'll save 1,210.56 lbs of CO2, burn 58,656 calories, and save $274.56 in gas. What this all means is that you can eat one more Krispy Kreme donut this year without feeling guilty.
B. Money. Buried in that bailout plan that was passed so speedily through Washington is the Bicycle Commuters Act. People who ride bikes majority of the time to work will receive $20/month tax free! That, coupled with the cash you'll save on gas, oil changes, etc. adds up to a pretty sweet little honeypot. Ask your employer about how to take advantage.
C. Smugness. Why are bicycles so awesome? Because you get to make the guy driving the Prius look like an oil spill. You think the people hopping out of the Insight feel good about themselves? look at the guy who gets to park next to the front door. Now, that's smug.
Now, I know you have ideas of your own. Send em' in! We'll publish them and make a top-10 list when it comes time for the thaw.