The Davis Enterprise: Feb. 16, 2009
Davis Bicycles! column #10
Title: March Bicycle Madness helps motivate us
Author: Russell Reagan
Davis Bike Club member Russell Reagan sports his hand-me-down March Madness jersey riding some miles on Highway 128 in Napa County in March 2008.
As we watch the Tour of California, we 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. (DBC is a different group from Davis Bicycles!, the two-year-old advocacy group that organizes this column.)
Of all the activities DBC offers, March Bicycle Madness, beginning in less than two weeks, 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 registration fees go to buying bike helmets for needy school kids, one of DBC’s volunteer-driven philanthropic activities.
The common folklore among DBC members is that you do nothing but ride your bike and sleep for a whole month. This may be true for “Larry the legend” and a handful others vying for the top spot on the finishers’ list, but less so for the majority of the nearly 200 participants in recent years. First timers only may sign up for the 125-mile goal. That’s about four miles a day, or a round trip commute within town for 31 days — leaving plenty of time to lead a normal life.
I strongly doubt that I would ride so many miles without setting the goal, or without the camaraderie of other bicyclists on the many 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, in early January, I rode with two others for 30 miles to the R.H. Phillips winery 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 (this year will be my fifth), 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).
While the 2500-mile-and-over Madness riders get so much of the attention and the glory, let’s not overlook the stories of less experienced, low mileage bicyclists 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.
One woman who discovered March Madness and joined a group to ride with on the path to a better fitness regimen will share her story in an upcoming column in this series.
To participate in March Madness, join the DBC ($20), and register for the event ($10) at davisbikeclub.org and click on “March Bicycle Madness.”
– Russell Reagan Is a founding member of Davis Bicycles! and last year completed his first March mileage goal with four digits, while working most of his usual hours at his job at UC Davis.