By Russell Reagan
People in Davis know that bicycling is for everyone who is able-bodied, not just the athletes. But it takes motivation to ride.
A bicyclist I met who had ridden many 200-mile rides once described how on some days she found it hard to motivate herself to get on her bike just to ride across Davis for an errand. We may recognize the many health benefits of bicycling, not to mention the benefits for the planet. Yet even for the athletically inclined, sometimes that’s still not sufficient motivation to get on our bikes.
Encouragement is an important element in the Bike Plan of the City of Davis and other communities. In the broader challenge of switching to more sustainable transportation modes, activities of groups like the Davis Bike Club have a role to play in encouraging more people to get on their bikes.
Of the activities DBC offers, March Bicycle Madness is one that I enjoy especially because it’s so effective in motivating me to ride more. Participants sign up and pay a registration fee like for many bicycling events; they select a goal for their miles to ride during March using their bike odometers. Proceeds from this year’s registration fees will go to biking education in local schools.
March Madness began in the early 1990s as a contest between three DBC members who obsessively pedaled thousands of miles during March. It was described as an event where you do nothing but ride your bike and sleep for a whole month. As the years passed, easier mileage options for the rest of us have been added. First timers only may sign up for the 50-mile goal, and first timers under 18 can ride the 10-mile goal. The less crazy among us can join in and still lead a mostly normal life!
I strongly doubt that I would ride so many miles without setting my goal, or without the camaraderie of other bicyclists on group rides organized by DBC. When I’m riding alone for exercise, somehow, I find myself struggling to keep pedaling. In the company of others on group rides, however, the social glue overrides such doubts about whether I will make it to the destination.
For example, one cold January day, I rode with two others for 30 miles to a winery in the Dunnigan Hills north of Esparto against a fierce headwind. A few times I said I almost couldn’t stand it, and maybe I would turn back. But especially when the third rider joined us, it became more of a slam dunk. I joyously remarked, “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this!”
Meeting my mileage goals, especially my first time riding the Madness, proved to be easier than expected. As the month progresses, I gain a sense of well-being from all the exercise I’m getting. Riding those miles becomes almost an addiction, and DBC provides an online mileage tracker where participants can record their progress and view all the miles logged by other participants (identifying themselves mostly by nicknames).
The hard core cyclists riding 2,000 miles and up have received much of the attention and the glory. But let’s not overlook the achievements of less experienced, low mileage riders who also serve as an inspiration to the wider community. They lead the way for even more to discover the joy and health benefits of bicycling — not to mention adopting positive habits by overcoming one’s natural hesitancy to ride a bike for basic transportation.
To participate in March Madness, join the DBC ($30), and register for the event ($25) at davisbikeclub.org and click on “March Bicycle Madness.”
– Russell Reagan is a member of the Davis Bike Club
The original version of this article appeared in The Davis Enterprise on Feb. 16, 2009