Overcoming Resistance When Riding a Bike To Work

You’ve given it some thought and decided that riding a bike to work makes sense. A voice is telling you that biking to work will be good for you–that voice is coming from your head. Another voice is telling you that biking to work will add meaning and value to your life–that voice is coming from your heart. Yet another voice is telling you that biking to work is a good idea and you should totally start doing it…next month.

Picture of a rough road sign
As soon as you decide that you should bike to work, you will encounter resistance.
Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer.

I don’t know where that last voice is coming from, but it’s the one you most need to pay attention to.

In his magnificently insightful book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes about the powerful force that opposes us whenever we try to change. He labels this force as “Resistance”–the ultimate and implacable enemy of all human progress.

Pressfield describes resistance as being elicited by “Any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity.” The very act of questioning your commute will generate resistance, and deciding to make a change will throw this force into high gear.

Be prepared and know that you can overcome resistance.

For my first year commuting by bike, I had to make the conscious choice to bike to work every day. It took a lot of energy to make that decision anew each morning–energy I could ill afford to spend. Resistance threw rationalizations at me fast and furious: it’s dark, it’s cold, you’ve got a meeting today, you’re tired, you’ve got bus tokens you haven’t used–just take the bus today and ride tomorrow. The rationalizations were very justified (it was dark, etc.), however, (and I realized this as soon as I got on the bike), they were a load of crap.

Every day that first year, and about every other day the second year, I had to make the decision to ride…and most times I did. Resistance hated my persistence and it hung on, causing me to continue to waste mental energy on this daily decision.

According to Pressfield there is one way to defeat resistance: turn pro.

I was riding home one February afternoon when a sloppy, wet snow began falling heavily. It caked on my helmet and stuck to my clothes, but I kept going. When I got home and my wife asked why I hadn’t taken the bus, I realized that I had turned pro. Now I almost never have to decide to ride to work; I save that energy for important decisions.

Do you need to slog through snowy slop to be pro? Nope, but you do need to decide what you want to get out of biking to work and then resolve to get it. Do you want to get more active? Commit to riding three time a week (or two, whatever) and then be a pro at it. Do you want to save money by getting rid of a car? Commit to it, remembering that professionals get paid.

You owe it to yourself to defeat resistance and fulfill your desires. In another post, I talk more about becoming a “professional” bicycle commuter.

 Question: How have you dealt with resistance in your commute?