Want to ride more? Here's how.


So you want to bike more.

You got a bike last summer and planned to ride every day, but one thing got in the way of another, summer’s gone, and now that $700 investment you made is giving you the evil eye from the corner of the garage. But you’ll make it up in the fall. Fall is beautiful in Chicago, so you plan to ride every day, and make that investment worthwhile!

Sometimes planning gets in the way of doing the thing we plan. It may be because our plans are overly ambitious, or at least too ambitious for someone just attempting to make a lifestyle change. We plan with an end in mind rather than considering all the steps that have to come first. And when confronted with the actual steps, we get lazy or chicken out.

In case you think this is easy for me to say because I’m a biker and all, let me assure you that I come up against the very same obstacles: self-sabotage, thickly layered habits, lack of motivation, procrastination, etc. This is why in a recent effort to make my investment in a gym membership worthwhile, I decided to start every morning by putting on my swim suit.

If you want to bike more, I find that making it easy and convenient to get on your bike, and being flexible about how long and where you’re going to ride, is a better approach. Here at 5 steps I specifically recommend:

  1. Keep you bike in good repair. Nothing will dissuade you from riding more effectively than approaching your bike with firm resolve, only to discover your tires are flat and you have no idea how to pump them up or means to do it. Before you move ahead with your plan, take your bike to your local bike shop for a tune up, or at least a safety check, to address any obvious problems. While you’re there, ask to be shown how to properly inflate your tires and oil your chain, and get the necessary supplies to do it at home. This is the only step that’s going to cost you money. The rest of the steps are free, and —if you do turn biking into a habit— will actually save you money. (But don’t use that as your motivation. See #5 below.)

  2. Keep your bike, along with everything needed for your ride, easily accessible and in a consistent location. If you only plan to bike for recreation and fitness, you probably don’t need more than your helmet. If you intend to use your bike for more utilitarian trips, make sure you keep your bike lock, bike bags and lights in the same location for easy access. You may wish to set up a small charging station next to your bike to make sure your lights are ready for use, and keep your bike pump nearby for last-minute fill-ups.
    If your stuff is scattered and disorganized, you’ll become frustrated with not being able to find things, especially when you’re running late. Storing everything where you can easily find it next time will eliminate the the opportunity to make last-minute excuses. (I speak from many years’ experience, and this point definitely falls into the category of “do as I say not as I do…”)

  3. Decide in advance how you will deal with any obstacles, such as inclement weather, feeling tired, running late, etc. If you fail to take obstacles into account ahead of time, you will be tempted to turn each obstacle as an excuse not to ride as it comes up. That’s a slippery slope: once you make one excuse, it’s easier to make another. However, if you have a strategy and a set of rules for dealing with less than ideal situations, you’re still sticking to the plan.
    For example, I ride in the winter, but not when there’s accumulation of ice and/or snow. Because this is my pre-determined rule, I don’t have to beat myself up if I choose a different mode of transit on a snowy day.

  4. Increase your motivation by counting things that are easy to count, add up quickly and encourage you. Rather than keeping track of distances or amount of time spent on your bike, simply count the days you’ve ridden. There may be a day when you only ride five minutes to the store and back, but another day you may ride for a couple of hours. What matters is increasing the number of bike trips.

  5. Ride your bike for the only reason that matters. Not fitness, financial savings or to be kind to the environment. Ride because you want to, because you enjoy it and love the way it makes you feel. And if you do, you’ll gradually see yourself doing it more and more with no plan at all.