Not Evangelism

Monday, November 22, 2010

Not quite 1000 miles (my cycling week)

This week I had hoped to be writing that I'd done 1000 commuting miles on my bike this year.

Unfortunately, due to a combination of bad weather, poor planning, and personal commitments, I remain at 993 miles. I could say "only 993 miles" but I know it's more than many people have cycled. And yes, I also know that it's much, much less than others; a colleague told me they cycled Lands End to John O'Groats (a distance of around 1000 miles, depending on the route) in ten days. It's taken me eleven months to get as far as 993 miles.

But, whether we're comparing apples and oranges or not, the fact remains that I have not yet reached my target; not last week, at any rate, for a variety of excuses and reasons. The reasons I'm comfortable with; the excuses I recognise for what they are.

Excuses and reasons for not cycling to work

Poor planning contributed last week. I had some meetings that required I be smart - smarter than I can be when I cycle in, unless I've left some clothes in the office. This time, I didn't have any appropriate clothes in the offices, so I chose to drive in.

Family commitments played their part too. One day, I had to be somewhere at a certain time and I knew that my chances of managing that would be increased if I drove to work. Another day I had to get up particularly early with my little boy, and I didn't have the energy to do the ride. More excuse than reason, I think.

And there was the weather. When the mist and the fog rolled in last week - fog being one of the two things I really do prefer not to cycle in (the other is snow) - the voice in my head cautioned safety over mileage. I feel that this one too is closer to excuse than reason.

The other factor- I must be honest - is motivation.  Curiously, because I am so close to my goal, I find myself becoming more selective, more picky about the days I cycle in. Knowing that I only have to do one more day's commute to complete my thousand miles, there's a little voice in my head saying "Ah, do it next week."

With the darker mornings and the fog and the cold, it's a little harder to stir my body to action of a morning. I know that once I'm out of the house I'll very quickly be warm and glad of the cycle.  I'll feel that sense of achievement at having got out on the bike, when I might not have - when so many other people have not. I'll enjoy the exercise, the fresh air, the scenery. But it's easier not to cycle, easier to shuffle into the car.

And that's from me, someone that gladly chooses to cycle, someone with a goal; someone that writes about cycling.

Reasons to cycle to work

I do miss cycling into work, though.  It's not just about the feeling of air in my lungs, the sensation of flying.  It's not just about the satisfaction of having started the day with a good spell of exercise, have finished the day with the same; the working hours bookended with a decent blast on the bike.  And, yes, I'll be honest; it's nice to have people regard me with a mixture of disbelief and impressed horror.  You cycled in, today?!

No, the thing I miss the most about cycling is the mental freedom.  When I cycle, I arrive at work breathing hard, my mind buzzing.  I'll park the bike and run to jot down the thoughts and ideas that came to me over the ride.  New ideas for writing, for the joy of cycling, for something that I've seen on the ride in: the sun rising over the water meadows, catching the few red apples that remain on the leafless trees. Work problems solved and resolved; progress made.

When I don't cycle, it's harder to sit down and organise my day - not impossible, just not as easy as it could be. My energy is less, my enthusiasm elsewhere. When I do cycle, I feel like I'm flying through the day. A chap could get used to that sensation.

Finding the motivation to cycle0

This week I'm going to pick the days that I'm cycling in and I'm sticking to them.

I will look at my diary - work and family - and plan the days that will work for me to cycle; I'll clear my chores on the driving days so I can be free to cycle on the other days. I'll look at the weather forecast, but I'll let it guide me rather than dictate my decisions. I'll find my cold weather gear, and my wet weather cycling gear and make sure they're on hand, clean, ready to go. I'll make sure my lights are fully charged.

I'll be armed with reasons, not excuses.

I know that I need to be firm in my resolve otherwise I know that I'll talk myself out of it in the cool dark mornings before I leave the house. So I'll remind myself of all the good reasons to cycle; all the joys and benefits. I'll keep that knowledge with me on the cold dark mornings before dawn and I'll get ready to cycle nonetheless.

And next week I'll be writing about my 1000 miles of cycle commuting.

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