Five steps to riding more in 2013

In the first week of January, resolutions flow like cheap champagne on New Year’s Eve; but in the second week of January the rubber hits the road. For those who have tasted the experience of biking to work or who are convinced that it is a great alternative to the daily drive, the timing is unfortunate, because in January a layer of snow may lie between the rubber and the road. However, you can harness the power of the New Year’s Resolution to improve your commute in 2013.

Picture of a bicycle and new year chalk art
Use the power of resolutions to turn your desire to ride more into action.
Photo by Umberto Brayj.

As I have written before, for the first year I rode to work, I had to make that decision every day. It was inconvenient and frustrating to re-make this decision because I was working from desire, not resolve. If you have a desire to make bicycle use a greater part of your commute, take the following five steps — today — to turn that desire into resolution.

Make your desire measurable and specific

“I want to ride to work more often this year” is a desire. To turn that desire into a powerful resolution, make it specific and actionable. Examples of resolutions you can sink your teeth into might include:

  • “In 2013 I will ride to and from work 60 times”
  • “This year I will bike to work every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from May to September”
  • “In 2013 I will double the number of days I bike to work”

Let’s use this last resolution as an example.

Set up a timeline

January is a terrible time to resolve to bike more; it’s cold, dark, and often snowy; but you can successfully execute — right now — your resolve to “Double the number of days I bike to work” by setting up a timeline.

If you know, for example, that you rode to work 27 times in 2012, then you know that this year you need to ride 54 times. If you did most of those 27 days in April, May, and September, you have a pretty good idea that early summer and early autumn offer your best shot at getting your rides in. Establish a timeline stating that you will get two thirds of your rides — 35 rides — done by the middle of June. This gives your both a deadline and a milepost by which you can judge your progress.

Make a Plan

Go to your calendar right now and set up appointments with yourself — and add alarms to those appointments so you don’t forget. Set an appointment at the beginning of April to have your bike serviced, set an appointment on May 10 to review your progress (you don’t want to get to June and find you have only ridden four times). You can even set appointments for specific days that you will ride.

A timeline and plan allow you to successfully keep your resolution — even before your get on your bike. (“It’s March 12th and I am still keeping my bike to work resolution.”) Yeah it’s weird, but your brain really doesn’t know the difference between the commitments you are keeping and the actions you are doing. Knowing that you have kept your resolution for months makes it harder to break.

Create Accountability

Resolutions are hard — get some help. Share your resolution, timeline, and plan with a friend or family member and ask them to keep you honest and on track. We hate shame, and the fear of failure in from of others is a powerful motivator.

Some resolvers suggest kicking it up a notch by putting money on the line — betting on our behavior or creating a pool with others who are working on a goal; those who complete the goal split the pot and those who fail lose. This “loss aversion” technique has been shown to be a powerful tool for behavior modification.

If you can’t find an accountability buddy or willing pool parties, you can use an online service like Lift or put a jar on your dresser into which you deposit five dollars if you miss an appointment with yourself (you have to give away the money for it to work).

Remove Obstacles to Success

When you try to improve, a part of your psyche will go into active sabotage mode. Beat your inner sabateur by developing habits — check for flat tires and lay out your equipment and clothes the night before — and be prepared to roll with whatever surprises come your way.

Conclusion

A desire is a necessary start, a desire with with a plan, timeline, accountability, and supportive habits is a resolution. Begin today to harness to power of resolutions to ride to work more in 2013.

How have you successfully used the power of resolutions and what advice can you give to those who want to resolve to ride more? Put your advice in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Five steps to riding more in 2013

  1. Very nicely stated. I read once somewhere that saying, “I want to bicycle to work” produces exactly that; a desire to bicycle to work. In order to effect actual change, you need to state your resolutions more positively, as you suggested.

    This makes me wonder how many Resolutions fail simply because people don’t know how to state goals?

    In any event, I’m very excited to expand my cycling beyond commuting to work as I think I have a bead on a used mountain bike in good condition that I’m planning on turning into an xtracycle… fingers crossed!

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