Well, this was a good week to ride and contemplate. I only had 60 miles of contemplation this week, staying home on MLK Day in remembrance of our nation’s embattled history – and staying home on Friday in recognition not only of traffic, but of how far we still have to go.
I won’t make this any more political, though. I’m back home from Patagonia and back on the bike trails, so this week I want to get a little technical and begin delving into more specific aspects of my personal commuting challenge. I had thought that by late January I’d have a chance to focus on cold-weather riding and all of the difficulties that go along with it, but our mild winter continues in DC. So instead, I’ll write a bit about how I’ve been tracking my progress and the motivation that doing so provides.
I use a really common app called Strava (pictured). You can use this app to track runs, too, although I don’t run much anymore and have only done so a couple of times. Before I continue, I want to throw out the disclaimer that I’m not a fitness tracking guru – I don’t even use Strava’s paid Premium service, which apparently allows more in-depth data points and tracking features in case that’s your thing. I’ve also never had (or really been interested in) a Fitbit, Apple Watch, Nike+, or the like. I’ve had a couple of cycling computers installed on previous bikes that don’t really “track” your rides but do record speed, distance, cadence, etc.; however, I paid little attention to them and all broke from rain inundation or simple negligence. Finally, in case you’re wondering, I’m not affiliated in any way with Strava or its developers. (Still blogging to the wind pro bono over here.)
All that said, I like Strava. When I got into the habit of riding to work regularly, it wasn’t hard to also get into the habit of starting and stopping the app’s recording feature alongside gearing up before and locking up after each ride. For me, the motivation aspect comes from simply knowing how many miles I “should” ride each week (my daily commute distance times days I’m at work) and trying to make sure I hit that goal. I genuinely feel guilty now when I work five days and only ride four, since Strava will show that I only rode 84 miles that week instead of the full 105 – even when I take the Metro for what most people would consider a good reason, like when I did one day last week after returning from Patagonia with a messed up knee.
If you’re more motivated by competition, Strava allows for that too. As with most apps nowadays, there is a social element that riders (or runners) can take advantage of. Strava will not only track segments of your regular routes to show how you compete against yourself, but also pitch you against both any friends who ride the same segments as well as strangers in the area riding them too. It’s a great feature to take advantage of with an app as commonly used as Strava, although personally I don’t pay much attention to it. (I only have two friends following me on the app, unsurprisingly.)
While I don’t see the point in tracking everyday activities through devices like a Fitbit – sorry to the athletic walkers out there – I do see the benefit in tracking what rigorous activities you do regularly. It has been a good method for getting my bike and I out the door each morning, rain or shine, in a small but meaningful competition against my lazier self.