Car seats are for kids! When it comes to travel, nothing beats the freedom and fun of slipping past traffic on your bike (not to mention all those hefty gas and maintenance savings!).
So you know you want to work more riding into your day-to-day, but how do you get started? In today's post, let's talk about how to get yourself spending more time in the saddle and less time on the gas.
Make Riding Easy
The biggest appeal of cars has to be ease. Most car trips in the US are under 5 miles and millions of people every day drive to destinations just a mile or less away. Those trips are definitely doable without a motor (heck, you can walk a mile in 15 minutes), and 15 minutes on foot or 5 minutes on the bike is objectively more enjoyable than 3 minutes sitting in your car - so what's the hold up? Effort.
Jumping in the car, starting it up, and rolling to the grocery store/office/day-care happens on autopilot for most people. There's no thought, no exertion, it's just easy. Setting your bike up to be just as ready-to-go as your car is the first step to making riding your go-to transpo.
Have Your Bike Prepped
The first thing to do is make sure your bike is ready to ride. Air in the tires, lube on the chain, and plenty of brake pads to slow you back down. Make sure you have your essentials stored somewhere easy to grab (pump, patch kit, lock, etc...) and all you'll need to do to roll out is head out the door and hop on!
Have a Plan for Hauling
Having your bike ready to roll is a start, but you want to make sure you're ready for your destination too. Having the ability to haul your stuff (groceries, homework, etc...) will keep you from thinking twice about riding, so make sure you're ready with a bag, box, or basket to bring home everything you pick up during your time on the road.
And when you're just getting started or riding purely for transportation, take it easy. There's no need to mash if you're not looking to get a workout in. In your car, you'd just be sitting (semi) comfortably, so do the same thing on your rides. Once you realize you don't need to break a sweat to go 1, 3, 5 miles, it gets way harder to justify the drive.
And just like you ought to take it easy speed-wise when you're starting out, you're more likely to succeed at going car-free if you ease your way into it as well. Don't go straight from the couch to 200 miles/week.
Gradually expand your Ride Area
A great way to wean yourself into the bike life is this handy process of mapping out your frequently visited locations, and then gradually replacing your drives with rides, working your way out. It's motivating to realize how close most of your "regular" stops are and you'll gradually build up your strength and stamina until all the little trips feel like a walk in the park!
Dedicate some Car-Free Time
Another way to challenge yourself without going full-bore right from the gate is to set some specific time aside to go car-free. Throw yourself a mini-CicLAvia and say you'll ride your errands every Sunday, or every first Tuesday, or everyday from 6p-8p, but whatever you do, make sure you stick to it! You can always save your harder/longer runs for your "car-time" but having time dedicated to the bike will give you some inspiration to push the pedals and help you get a feel for all that you can accomplish on two wheels.
Last but not least, make sure you have some rewards in place to help you feel good about your accomplishments! You're more likely to meet your goals with a little positive reinforcement, and riding gives you plenty of ways to celebrate!
Enjoy those Extra Calories
One of the best parts of riding is the bonus calorie burning you're doing while you're getting from A to B. So, on your ride-days, treat yourself to a little something extra snack wise, grab an ice cream with the kids, or go ahead and order that dessert! It's fairly easy to determine how many extra calories you can afford based on your riding, and a particularly tasty treat can inspire you to stretch out those miles!
Buy Yourself Something Nice
Don't just let those gas and car-expense savings be theoretical, earmark the money you save when you ride for something special and treat yourself! You might be surprised to learn exactly how expensive it is to drive a car (and you'll be surprised how much money seems to pile up when you stop). Use that cash to do something you'll enjoy so the next time you're choosing between the car and the bike you're really choosing between your car and your bike + new game/clothes/concert/etc...!
Sell Your Car and do Something Really Nice for Yourself!
Ok, admittedly, this is the end game of Couch 2 Car Free, but man is it liberating. No car payments, no insurance payments, no maintenance payments, no gas payments, no car washes - it's like a money-eating hole has just closed itself up in your life. Plus, you'll probably make a pretty penny selling your car, and that all adds up!
Use your new windfall to take that vacation you've always wanted, buy yourself the bike of your dreams, and still have money left over to uber on nights you don't want to ride (not to mention actually having money to afford going out)!
Once you realize just how much your car is keeping you from, it gets that much easier to ride - and the more you ride, the more you'll want to. It's a happy cycle that leads to happy cyclists and a fat stack of savings. So what are you waiting for?
Get out there on your road to riding more, and we'll see you in the streets.