For the past eight years, I have been tracking my bicycling. I faithfully record the date, distance, and location of each ride. My friend John suggested this as a way to motivate myself. Good thinking, John!
Writing this blog, I figured out that I have ridden a total of 15,899 miles the past eight years. That is an annual average of 1,987 miles. My first year was my lowest total. The highest was two years ago, and was 1,100 miles greater than my first year. Tracking, and the effect that it has on my behavior, is a big part of this success.
I keep tab on a legal pad. Apps and a spreadsheet are other options.
Keeping the log motivates me to beat my previous records. Each year, my goal is to ride more than the previous year. I’ve accomplished this four times. My other annual goal is to ride 2,000 miles, a number that I have reached three times in the years that I’ve been tracking.
Setting these goals, and logging my rides, gets me out on the bike more than I would if I didn’t do these things. Riding to work helps make these goals achievable. I am fortunate enough to live near two bike trails, and I will often hit one of the trails and ride an hour or so after work. It is a great way to put in a quick 12 to 15 miles.
At the beginning of September, I will work out the monthly totals that I need to hit 2,000 miles and get busy. When Daylight Saving Time ends in November, I will get up early and ride before work so I can reach my goals. I wouldn’t be doing this without tracking.
I also measure my current monthly total against the previous month. If I have ridden less than the previous month, I want to catch up. If I’m ahead, I really want to push it to crush my previous monthly total. These numbers are completely arbitrary and meaningless to anyone other than myself, but they keep me striving to win the mind game that I play against myself.
While I always want to beat my previous marks, I don’t get down on myself when I don’t. These are goals, not requirements. There are many variables that I can’t control — weather, travel for work, family obligations — that I don’t feel bad when I fall short. I start fresh the next month or the next year, and get back to the business of beating my old records.
Watch Your Speed
I also use my bike’s odometer to keep an eye on my speed. No matter how steep the incline, or how tired I may be, I always try to ride at least at 12 miles per hour (mph). No matter what, I know that I can ride at least that fast. When my speed dips below 12 mph, I make an effort to increase my cadence.
At the other end of the spectrum, when I hit 18 mph or higher, I make an effort to stay at that speed as long as I can. The idea is the same as pedaling on a descent ¾ make the momentum work for you.
Watching the odometer has increased my average speed and leveled my riding’s ups and downs. This requires some added effort, but it is mostly about being aware of what I am doing and concentrating This is simple stuff, but that’s the point; a great deal of change isn’t required improve your riding. And it adds to your enjoyment. It is much more fun to ride fast than slow. And fun is what it’s all about.