At least that’s what I thought at the beginning of the month. After all, I already cycle five days out of every seven. That’s about 22 out of 30 days. Adding another two per week – or another eight in total – would be no problem at all. Right?
30 days of biking, for those who haven’t come across it before, is a simple concept. In fact, it does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a pledge to ride your bike every day for 30 days – specifically, 30 days in April – however far you want, no matter the weather.
Although this is the fifth year of the pledge, it was the first time I’d come across it. Perhaps this had something to do with how word of it is spread – via the hashtag #30daysofbiking – and my only recently overcome fear of Twitter. Anyway, having come across it, I signed up immediately. The urge to join a community of joyful cyclists – and to have a reason to ride my bike every day for 30 days – was too irresistible to overcome.
As it turned out, riding my bike every single day was a lot harder than I thought it would be.
To tell the truth, I fell at the first hurdle. The first two days of April came and went without me getting on my bike. In my defence, my bike and I were in different cities – while I went to Wolverhampton for my gran’s funeral, the Trusty Steed stayed behind in London.
Racked with guilt at having failed before I’d even started, I vowed to make an extra special effort for the rest of the month. And I did. For the next three weeks I cycled every single day. I cycled to and from work. I cycled to meet friends for a catch up. I cycled to the shops. I cycled to Kew Gardens. I cycled just for the pure pleasure of getting on my bike.
Some of these rides were longer and some were considerably shorter. So short, at times, that they barely qualified as rides. Like the time I rode to the bike shop and back again – a distance of less than a mile each way.
That ride was something of a pivotal moment in my 30 days of biking. The reason I needed to go to the bike shop was because I’d broken the Trusty Steed’s rear brake arm. Had I not pledged to ride every day, I would’ve walked. It would’ve been safer. Riding with only one functioning brake, even along quiet side streets, was a little unnerving to say the least.
I have a bad habit of doing things simply because I’ve said I’ll do them, regardless of whether they’re the right thing for me to be doing, the safest thing for me to be doing or even what I want to be doing. Riding to the bike shop that day was definitely not right, safe or even what I wanted to be doing.
While I survived the ride unscathed, it led me to question why I’d signed up to the pledge. I already try to do too much, simply because I’ve said I’ll do it. And – because I’m not superwoman – of course I can’t do it all. The end result is that I just feel guilty. And for what?
I decided after that that I didn’t have to ride every day if I didn’t want to. So I didn’t. There were two days over the Easter weekend when I didn’t leave the house; two days when I didn’t want to leave the house. Riding my bike on those days would have been pointless. It would’ve been a ride for no other reason than to say I’d ridden my bike that day, and it would’ve taken me away from what I actually wanted to be doing (making a top with my new sewing machine, in case you were wondering). In other words, it would’ve been a chore.
As April rolled over to May, my tally of cycling days for the month stood at a mere 24. But though – technically speaking – this meant I’d failed at 30 days of biking, in many ways I like to think I succeeded.
I ended the month with more enthusiasm for cycling than I had at the start. I’d got out of my commuting rut. I was no longer simply covering the same ground day after day, to and fro, back and forth. I’d discovered new routes, and new places to cycle to. I’d rediscovered the pleasure and freedom of being out on my bike with no fixed place to go to, and no particular time I needed to be there. I’d also learned that the best way to really enjoy riding my bike is to do it because I want to, not because I feel I have to.