Thursday, June 6, 2013

An excuse to bike

I finally biked to work this year. And it was great.

My first time was last Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day. My strategy was "don't think about it, just do it" which was effective. I'm prone to over-thinking, which is my most common cause of under-acting. I would normally worry about finding the bike pump, inflating the tires, laying out my bike clothes and my work clothes, cleaning out my messenger bag, and getting ready that morning. That anxiety is what kept me from biking through March and April. But the week before Memorial Day was my vacation, and I returned refreshed and with a clear head.

I had forgotten how easy it is. Last year I built the biking habit so that when I started again this year it felt like second nature. I'm making a conscious effort to wake up earlier and take my time while biking — what's the rush? after all — and that has reduced my stress level. Slow down and smell the roses, you know? When the weather is nice (or even too hot) it's a significantly more enjoyable experience than driving.

I biked twice the week of Memorial Day, and three times so far this week. My game plan going forward is basically "fair-weather biking": I'll plan on biking if it's not forecasted to rain or thunderstorm. No reason to overdose on badassity too soon; no reason to give myself an excuse to interrupt my biking habit.

I want to take some time to talk about excuses. I've made up a lot of excuses not to bike over the past year: it's raining, I can't find the bike pump, the seat is too low even on its highest setting, it's too cold, it's too hot, I'm tired, I'm late for work, I want to be early for work... I'm sure I could keep going. These reasons are incidental.

An excuse is just an incidental reason. Armed with this fact, I played a mind game on myself on the first day I biked to work. I found an excuse to bike (actually a few of them):
  • I have to bike because my car is overdue for maintenance
  • I don't want to drive because I had to park the next street over because they're paving the road in front of my house, and I don't feel like walking
  • I have to bike because I have to get back in shape
All of these are true. None of them are the underlying reason why I biked to work. I biked because I decided I was going to and then I followed through. Armed with these excuses, it was easier to keep myself from backing down. This is precisely the opposite process of our brains using excuses to keep us from doing the things we know we should be doing.

Excuses have a bad connotation, but they're just incidental reasons. I'm going to try finding excuses to do more things I've been putting off. For example, I have to make a vet appointment for my cat because otherwise she'll stop loving me. And I had to write this blog post because otherwise my adoring readers would forget all about me and I'd die alone and abandoned. See, excuses don't even have to be feasible. They just have to spur you to action.


  1. I've recently been motivated to bike to work as well, with my biggest motivation being MMM (that's how I found your blog!). I've been biking one day a week to work for the last month. I'll slowly work up more days as I become a better biker. One thing that I found motivating was sharing my desire to bike to work with others, such as my coworkers and my wife.

    Many people first scoffed at my idea of biking to work. "You'll never make it." "You'll get to work all sweaty." "You hate the sun" etc etc. Instead of being discouraged by those comments I actually felt motivated to prove them wrong and shut them up.

    I've convinced the wife to bike with me to the market now and she's slowly getting the courage to attempt to bike to work herself. For reference my office is 5.7 miles away and my wife's office is 4.1 miles away from our home. Our routes are full of hills, which is what makes it difficult.

    Hope you continue to be motivated!

    1. That's awesome! Way to prove the complaintypantses wrong.

      My biking this past week was interrupted by bouts of bad weather. I'm looking forward to this week.

  2. Nice work! I've been commuting to work by bicycle on a regular basis since 2007. For a while I was being "hardcore" and would try to ride in any conditions. But after a while I got tired of having to clean rain, mud, salt, etc off of the bicycle and so I've become mostly a "fair weather cyclist". On nasty weather days I try to work from home when possible.

    1. I'm glad to hear that fair-weather biking has worked out for you.

      Also I didn't realize you're blogging again! Looks like I have some reading to catch up on.

  3. Could you make an "About" page with some basic biographical info? It would help the reader to know your age, income, rough career field, level of education etc. I'm sure this info is somewhere in the posts, but it's useful to know up front.

    1. That's a good idea. I can't promise when, but I'll try to get to it!