So, you’ve got a bike and you want to use it. Maybe you picked up a second-hander last year to beat the pandemic blues. Or you unearthed a set of wheels that were previously gathering dust in your garage. Perhaps you’re a former bike racer hoping to return to the starting line. Whether you’re a newbie or a pro, getting a good habit rolling again can be an uphill climb.
To help get you stoked to get out there, we came up with a list of ways to get you on your bike and ride more—whether it’s setting mini-goals, gearing up your bike so it’s a steed you’re excited to ride or outright bribing yourself.
Ride With a Friend
Find yourself a no-excuses friend who’s willing to meet you at all hours and in all weather. Studies show you’re more likely to stick to your goal when you have a workout partner. After the ride, make time for a coffee or a happy-hour drink to make sure you remember the fun—and not just that enormous hill you had to climb.
Sign Up For an Event
Nothing motivates you to put miles on your bike more than a race looming on the calendar. Sign up for a local gravel fondo (a ride on unpaved roads). Jump in a cyclocross race. Take on a triathlon. Hit up a local group ride. Not competitive? No problem. Plot out a route in a new-to-you location that you’ve always wanted to visit. Having a goal or an event on the calendar gives you a reason to get out there—even when you don’t feel like it.
Create Your Own Event
Don’t feel like joining someone else’s event? Create your own! (Bonus: you get to choose your friends—and competitors.) Make it a family affair by plotting out a fun route that incorporates plenty of snack breaks, or invite some friends to join you on your favorite loop. Even if you’re just in it for the fun (or the food, or the sightseeing, or the family time), it’s still inspirational to have a date on the calendar to look forward to.
Kit Out Your Bike
Want to ride your bike more? Make it easy to be spontaneous. Strip away the barriers that keep you from hopping on the saddle. For some, putting on special clothes, shoes, gloves and sunglasses can feel like a chore. If so, consider investing instead in the items that will let you throw a leg over your bike on a whim. A set of full fenders (front and rear) keep the mud and water off your back and legs. Flat pedals let you turn the cranks in whatever shoes you’re already wearing. Finally, embrace clothes that let you easily transition from the desk to the bike to the grocery store and back again. Ignore the pressure to don a uniform. The right clothing for cycling is whatever clothes make it easy to jump on a bike, whenever you want.
Convert Errands Into More Miles
Challenge yourself to swap your car for your bike as often as possible. Adding a bike basket or panniers makes it easy to run errands and add weekly miles. Ride to the library. Pedal to the gym or the swimming pool. Make at least one grocery run each week by bike. Those miles add up, fast. And they build habits.
Recharge Your Battery
Editorial photographer Naohmi Monroe has been ramping up her mileage steadily to ride a half-century (50 miles) in 2021. She came up with this routine to boost her mileage and joy.
On days she works from home, she uses her laptop battery as a reflection of her overall energy level. “When my laptop is low on battery, I recognize that I’m probably low on battery, too,” Monroe says. “While my laptop charges, I go ‘charge’ myself with a 10- to 15-mile ride, and a good, home-cooked meal.”
Monroe, who co-founded Amiga Studio, a women-owned photography and production agency dedicated to championing underrepresented voices, says the routine has also resulted in a better work/life balance. “I truly feel happier because of it,” she says. “It’s created a space where I find mental clarity, release any stress, and find joy in being outdoors. It’s an act of self-love.”
What reward motivates you? Make the local bakery your mid-ride motivation or else load up on food for your pedal that makes you happy when you eat it. (One of Vermont’s fastest mountain bikers opts for “candy salads” consisting of all kinds of her favorite gummy candies.) If treats don’t spur you on, invest in a cycling kit or a bike accessory that makes you smile. (Also: Never underestimate the euphoria-inducing sound of a bike bell. Try it. Seriously.)
Make it a Sub-Hour Ride
Though Ginger Boyd has been racing competitively for more than eight years, she still struggles with motivation at times. So, Boyd, co-founder of Amiga Studio, created the “Sub 1 Hour” ride. It’s exactly what it sounds like: riding her bike for less than an hour. The shorter rides took a lot of pressure off her and made cycling more enjoyable again, she says. She started posting about it on Instagram and soon found that it resonated with others.
That’s the beauty of a short ride: It doesn’t require much (or any) planning, which eliminates virtually all excuses. “Don’t worry about routes, mileage, or even what you’re wearing,” Boyd says. “A Sub 1 Hour can be accomplished in any pair of shorts!”
Outsmart Your Excuses
Quick: Think about the last time you bailed on a ride. Was it the weather? Lack of time? Fear? Did you overthink something—the logistics, the difficulty, whatever—until you missed your window? Once you identify your biggest barrier to riding more, you can usually figure out a way to outsmart even your best excuses. If foul weather is an issue, invest in gear that will keep you comfortable outside, or else figure out a realistic alternative. For example, year-round road riding is a no-go in Vermont, but it’s rarely too cold for fat-tire biking in the woods (or Zwifting on your indoor bike trainer in your basement, if that’s your thing).
Try an Electric Bike
Consider an e-bike, which lets you control the sweat factor on your rides. Crank up the small motor to arrive in style (or at least relatively put together), then push yourself a bit more on the way home, where a shower awaits. When you can easily vary your exertion, you may find yourself using a bike for even more errands and trips. And your excuses not to ride really vanish.