The hardest step by far when trying to form a habit, especially when it involves the commitment that is cycling to work and back, is actually getting started. That is making the first step, getting on the bike and starting to pedal. The first day is absolutely key and then it’s about staying consistent as you go on. I guess I could compare it to when you first jump off a diving board, or when you first try and lift a new PB at the gym. There are so many different times where you need to just set your head down, focus and start. Make that first step.
For me, it was quite difficult to get started. I had said for a while I really wanted to cycle into work, but excuses got the better of me; I’ll wait until the weather is better, I’m not sure the shower works, I’ve got too much to carry today, I’ve overslept. So many excuses to get started, but never taking that first step. You’ve got to get yourself in the right mindset and convince yourself that you want to start cycling to work. The benefits of cycle commuting are so worth it but you have to commit.
I remember walking down the street with Vivi Nation founder Chris Smith, just a couple of days after we had moved into our new office (with nice showers) and I said:
“Chris, I think I am going to start cycling into work. I want to do it 2 times a week, maybe 3. I need to start saving money from the train and what a great opportunity to do so.”
Chris responded, “Yeah, I definitely agree. I’ll join you, but I think 2 or 3 times is not ambitious enough, we should do every day.”
I took this very literally and seriously. From the next day, I was to commit to cycling to work as much as I could. If I am being honest, I thought it would only be for a couple of days and then phase out. But it hasn’t… I haven’t actually got the train to work at any point since that conversation and it is something I am quite proud of.
So we know that cycling to work is a commitment and it is hard to start out, but there are certain things you can do, advice you can take that will help motivate you and get you started. Here are some of them I know have helped me and other people alike.
It is the most simple step I could possibly suggest. The only person that will make you take the step to cycle every day is you and you literally have to make that decision and commit. Decide the next day you will cycle into work and do it. Don’t wait until Monday, or the start of the month, just decide that you want to cycle, dust the bike off and start pedalling. If you’re not quite as confident with your route or cycling, have a little browse online and there are plenty of resources that can help you out.
Shorten the commute, go halfway
Sometimes the thought of going from cycling 0 miles a day, to 15–30 miles a day can be quite daunting, especially if you are unexperienced or only like to cycle on weekends. For this, I’d recommend taking your bike on the train and then getting off a stop before, and then cycle the rest of the way. This will do two things. One, it will make the ride more manageable and ease you into it nicely, and two, make you realise how much you hate the train. This isn’t going to be for everyone and I’d say you’d be surprised how easy it is to cycle the whole way, but this is definitely an option to try out. One thing I would mention here though is to check what times your bike is allowed on the train. Some trains (tubes in London) do not allow bikes on at certain, busy times.
Make a plan
If you’re the organised type, or you just want to make sure you don’t end up cycling to Windsor and back on your morning commute from Clapham to the West End, plan your route and stick to it. Once you start cycling more often, you’ll learn a few shortcuts and know your route inside out. Let Google Maps do the hard work for you, for the first couple of rides. The night before the first commute, I’d recommend doing a quick once-over of your bike, check the brakes, tyres and gears are all working. If you’re particularly worried then take it into your local bike shop for a quick once over, or contact the Vivi team and they’ll be able to give you a few bike maintenance pointers. Then check your route to make sure you are happy with your journey. If you are worried about getting lost then you can do a couple of things. You can set up Google Maps and then put an earphone in to hear the directions, or get a little phone mount to put on your handlebars. Alternatively, if you’re cycling from West to East, you can simply follow the sun!
Ask a friend to join
I think this can apply to many sports or activities, but actually having someone to go with you can have a really positive impact. For one thing, it actually holds you accountable for doing it. If two of you have decided to cycle into work but then you decide against it, you’ll be letting your friend down, and you don’t want to be doing that. Bringing along someone else can also help the competitive element, you could have a little challenge and see how much you can keep up with your friend or who can pull away quicker at the lights. However, the best thing about having someone join you is actually having the company. Be careful when you are riding, but you can have a bit of a chit chat and just having someone with you will make the ride go a lot quicker.
Track your miles
If you’re new to cycling then you may not have heard of Strava, but it is essentially a really cool social network you can use to track all of your rides. You just install the app on your phone and it uses GPS and other sensors on your phone to track speed, distance, elevation, etc. This will really spur you on when you set yourself a goal to hit a specific number of miles each month and you see the total slowly rising. If you’ve used the app before, then you’ll love it for commuting — they actually have a ‘commute’ feature which tracks all of your rides that are commutes so you can track them separately from your leisure rides.
Buy new cycling clothes, a new bike, a new helmet
I find one of the best ways to motivate me to do something is to buy something related to that activity. If it is the gym, then I’ll buy some more gym clothes, if it is going for a run, then I’ll buy some new running trainers. That way I actually want to go out and try my new bit of kit! So if you’re thinking about commuting by bike and have considered some of the above options to get you motivated, make a few new purchases. If you think you are going to be serious, buy yourself a lovely new bike. But if you just want a few extra bits to get you going again, maybe buy a new pair of shorts, lights, even a new helmet. If you want to see some of the best kit Vivi recommends, drop us a line on Twitter. And remember, it doesn’t have to be expensive!
Watch cycling videos!
Does anyone often find themselves getting obsessed with something and then watching loads of videos on YouTube about it? I definitely do this when I buy something new, or before I buy it to see some of the cool things that you can do with the said product. Then I’ll find myself delving into some more videos about the topic more broadly, and cycle commuting has a great community of creators making cycling videos. The main one I would recommend is Global Cycling Network, or GCN, who make loads and loads of interesting cycling videos. From maintenance tips, best bikes, commuting and other cycling news — I really find myself getting motivated when I am watching their videos. Bikeradar, Cycling Weekly and Seth’s Bike Hacks are all other good channels that you can check out.
That sums up some of the ways that motivated me to get into cycling to work every day. I think there are loads of other ways that will work for you specifically, but you won’t do anything if you don’t just get out there and start! If you want to hear some of the reasons I love cycling into work every day, having commuted by train for years, you can read this article in my Vivi commuter series. Maybe you’re still wary of getting on the bike because it’s dangerous? Fear not, I will be going into some tips that I think will help you out. Subscribe to the Vivi blog to catch that post.
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