Ride more- start today. Here’s how to overcome biker’s block

(Thanks to Melinda at One Green Generation for the term “Biker’s Block — Cliff)

Do you want to bike more often to more places, but you can’t seem to get started? For the past few years have you been saying “I’ll bike more next year”? Does getting on your bike instead of getting into your car seem like an overwhelming, impossible task? Do you have a decent bike gathering dust in the carport? Too much to think about to ride? Too many obstacles? Details, details details? Too inconvenient? Keep putting it off until… ?

You might be suffering from biker’s block.

Like any habit change, starting a new habit of riding your bicycle more often takes time, persistence, and some planning. Overcoming ‘biker’s block’ might be a problem you need some help with.

First of all, I would recommend that you find some casual opportunities to ride where there is very little pressure to perform. Sometimes local bike shops or clubs have rides for beginners or for casual, relaxed riding. Simply following other, more experienced riders is a great way to learn traffic cycling skills and is also a great way to learn some more bike-friendly routes through your area. You will make some friends and develop more comfort with your bike.

Or, ask around- find a riding buddy or two. Schedule a weekly ride with your buddy to a park, a coffee shop, or to a market for groceries. It is easier to start a new routine when you make a commitment to do it with a partner.

Publicly announce your commitment to ride. Track your progress, and report your progress to important people like family, friends, coworkers, or neighbors. To make it easy, try joesgoals.com, a cool little free website which allows you to track any sort of goal. You can even share your goals with others. For example, if you set a goal like “I will ride my bike to get groceries 2 times a week” Joe’s Goals can send that info to your family and friends and will allow them to follow your progress (or lack thereof). Humans change better with a little accountability and public commitment.

Take a Bike Ed class with an instructor. Bike Ed? Yep, just like Driver’s Ed for teens, there is Bike Ed for anyone who wants to learn how to ride legally, efficiently, and more safely on city streets. Most of us were not taught to ride bikes by cyclists, and we were not taught the proper rules of the road. We might have misconceptions and bad habits to overcome before we are highly competent riders. Visit the League of American Bicyclists Ride Resources Page, punch in your zip code, and see what resources are in your area that can help you become a more skilled rider.

On another blog http://1greengeneration.elementsintime.com/?p=73 a reader, LHT Rider, left these comments about starting to ride more which I think are pretty good ideas. Definitely some things to think about if you are suffering from biker’s block. I have added some clarifying or editorial comments in parentheses for some of LHT Rider’s ideas.

LHT Rider on 14 Jul 2008 at 8:42 pm 22

It is a sad commentary on the culture we live in that so many of us are afraid to exercise our right to use the public roads in a non-polluting manner. Believe me, I know how you feel. I went from not riding my bicycle for many, many years and have since become a 4-season rider in the northern midwest. Here are some things that have helped me make the transition.

1. Set small, achievable, progressive challenges for yourself. Baby steps are important. See for yourself what you’re truly capable of and question your assumptions. If you are willing to test your preconceived notions, you might be surprised at the results.

2. Allow yourself to do what you need to in order to feel more comfortable. For example if the road immediately adjacent to your house is too scary, allow yourself to ride on the sidewalk for a short distance until you can get somewhere safer. This is legal in many communities (Sidewalk bicycling is legal in the city of Memphis, but I am not sure about the suburbs — Cliff). Just remember to: be nice – yield to pedestrians, be careful crossing driveways especially if you do not have a clear line of sight, and do not under any circumstances shoot out into intersections from the sidewalk as car drivers do not expect you to be there.

2. Get a mirror & learn how to use it. It’s much less scary if you know what’s coming up behind you. While some people have no problem just turning around to see what’s behind them while still maintaining a razor sharp straight line, a mirror allows you to check things out more quickly and without the risk of weaving (into traffic, the curb, a pothole etc.) (Mirrors help a lot in urban traffic cycling. You can get mirrors at all local shops- I prefer one that mounts on my glasses, but others prefer mirrors that mount on the handlebars or on the helmet – Cliff)

3. Plan your route. On a bicycle you would almost never take the exact same route as you would in a car (because that’s where all the cars are!). Your city may have a map of official bicycle routes (maybe even online!). This can be extremely helpful and make for a much more pleasant ride. (Ride your commute route on a week-end morning to check it out before you ride to work. Consider time shifting if possible– if I leave my house at 8 am to ride to work, there is a ton of traffic to deal with. If I leave at 9 am, the traffic is very light. Ask people who ride a lot for advice on routes- they often know the calmer, safer back streets and parallel routes that motorists generally tend to avoid – Cliff)

4. Educate yourself. Read up on how to ride in traffic or refresh your memory on the rules of the road. Learn how to use your gears. A bicycle should give you a mechanical advantage over walking. It doesn’t have to be hard (or racing fast). In addition, as Heather @ SGF says, think about what you’re afraid of happening & figure out what you would do if it actually happened. There’s lots of good advice out there on everything from gear to how to change a tire. (By the way, riding a bicycle really does not require spandex or lycra).

5. Be sure your bicycle fits you. (This is getting easier, but can be difficult for many women.) Also make sure it works properly. There may be adjustments or changes in equipment that can make your ride much more comfortable and enjoyable. I have only recently come to appreciate what an amazing difference tires can make in the of your ride. Think about getting a basket or pannier so that your bicycle can haul more than just you!

6. Demand cycling (and pedestrian) improvements and safety in your community. The only way it will get easier/better for cyclists is if we stand up and say that this is something we care about and should be a priority for where we live. (And, the more of us there are cycling on the roads, the more likely local officials will listen to our needs. Historically, improvements like ‘share the road’ signs, law enforcement, and bike lanes do not happen until the government sees a need for the improvements. They won’t see a need if they don’t see bicyclists. So, instead of “build it and they will come” in biking it is usually “Bike more and they will build it”. — Cliff)

Thanks, LHT Rider.

You can overcome Biker’s Block. Ride on. Start today.

One more decent resource to check at bycyclinginfo.org – Get Motivated.

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