10 Tips For Staying Motivated

If you have some other method of transportation, the occasional temptation is there to eschew the bike for a day, a week, or even for the entire winter. Bike commuting can seem old or boring if you’ve been doing it a while.  Here are some tips for staying motivated.

  1. Ride a different bike. Swap bikes with a friend or co-worker you trust or switch one of your other bikes out as your commuter bike.
  2. Try multi-mode commuting. Over winter, I switch to a bike/transit commute which allows me to choose how far I want to ride depending on where I choose to get on and off. You can also drive part-way or drive in, then ride home. Ride back to work and drive home the next day.
  3. If you have a geared bike, try a “one gear” commute. Over a few days, use trial and error to find the one gear combination that works best for your commute.
  4. Pick up and throw away one road hazard per day: nails, screws, tacks, and big chunks of debris.  Don’t neglect your traffic awareness, but try to make a point to get one piece of potentially harmful debris off the road.
  5. Find some new routes. Talk to fellow cyclists or just go exploring on one of your recreational rides. Not seeing the same scenery every single day can keep things interesting.
  6. Recruit some friends. It’s a lot easier to keep riding if you have a buddy to talk to and at least share the misery of a chilly morning or baleful headwind.
  7. Take some pictures. You can use your camera phone, an inexpensive digital point-and-shoot or even a disposable camera! If you see something interesting, there’s no harm in taking a break to enjoy it and capture it to admire and share later.
  8. Reward yourself. For every week of car-free commuting, do something as a small reward. You might need to get your significant other to sign-off on this. 😉
  9. Greet anyone and everyone that you pass. One of the great things about riding a bike is that you’re out in the open. Say hi to joggers, dog-walkers, and even pedestrians hogging the multi-use path by walking three abreast… not that it ever happens…
  10. Mix up your commute a bit with small errands that you can run on the way home or to work.

Getting out of the “boring commute” rut is often as simple as changing something small on occasion. What are you doing to keep yourself motivated? Tell us in the comments.

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0 thoughts on “10 Tips For Staying Motivated”

  1. SteveS says:

    This won’t motivate everyone, but:

    Try to get to work faster and faster! Keep track of your route using something like mapmyride.com, including the distance, time taken, and average speed of your ride. Then try to improve your time every day (safely! don’t disobey traffic rules!). The commute becomes a mini time trial. Awesome.

    I also make sure I ride different routes (and correspondingly different route lengths) each day to keep things interesting. My shortest distance is 8 miles each way, but I’ve been known to take a 12-to-17-mile route regularly to or from work, and have even extended the commute out to 25 miles one way sometimes when preparing for century rides and stuff. I also will add running 2-3 miles to the commute for extra exercise and cross training. Cheers!

  2. Tom says:

    In the summer I look for wild berry bushes, in the fall it is apple season. Many trees are unpicked in our region. Stop at a house and ask if you can pick a few.

    Great ideas Noah. I think I’ll try the road hazard idea.

  3. I take a photo every 100km of my commute, so every few days I get a shot for an album of 2008’s commute. It’s surprisingly motivating – I’ll take photo #39 tomorrow. I pack my Canon XT in my panier every time I ride, just in case.

  4. Chris says:

    I treat myself to breakfast “on the go” on Fridays of weeks that I’ve commuted all five days (although I have been known to cheat) – either something freshly baked from my local Fresh Fields market, or from a 24-hr Mexican restaurant that makes great breakfast burritos… both are only minor diversions from my normal route.

  5. Shek says:

    I bought myself an old dutch bike for my 2 mile commute to work. The ease of riding that bike in formal clothes keeps me going. It was slowly getting annoying to merge business formal wear with mountain bike, all for 2 miles of ride.
    I do run some light errands on my way too.

  6. Ryan K says:

    This is a great post. I especially liked the idea of removing one piece of road debris a day. Good idea.

    Here’s how I found motivation. My transmission is shot in my car, and I decided to not fix it or get another.

    I recommend sabotaging your car if possible.

    By the way, this is a new development in my life. You can read my blog about my experience breaking my oil addiction by clicking my name.

  7. Scott says:

    Great post! I usually work an errand or two in during the week, and that helps to break the monotony. I’m going to start taking pictures on my ride so that I can share them on my blog, and I think that will help change things up. I really like your suggestion about greeting people along the way. I try to be very friendly as I ride, but I am also pretty intense while I ride, so I probably ignore a lot of people. I’m going to try to be more aware of people around me and be more outgoing. BTW, Nick’s article from a couple of years ago about cold weather riding really helped me out. Thanks for a great blog!

  8. Joel says:

    My biggest was avoiding a multi-mode commute. I used to (and soon will again) live in the Bay Area and had to take BART to work. With a full-sized bike that meant being on the train at the crack of dawn to stay out of commute hours. I would ride the long way home (over the Oakland hills, through Moraga) rather than take the train and looking forward to the afternoon spent in the hills was enough to get me up at 4 AM.

  9. I woke up with a cold. Not a big one, but still one that could convince me to use my car. Wait. My wife already has the car! And it is a 10 minute walk to the closest subway station. And my bike ride is 15 minutes.

    I put on a big scarf. It is warm and confortable. I ride my bike just like yesterday, and just like last fall. I’ll continue riding through winter, no matter what. I love snow storms!

  10. midtownflyer says:

    Ryan K. is right on about this.

    1) Sell your car.

    2) Take some of the money and get a “beater” frame and fork for rain days. Build it up with reliable components.

    3)Equip both bikes with good lights, pump, and tools to fix flats or minor repairs.

    Then cycling is your main transportation.

    It’s the best motivator of all to ride.
    My wife and I both did it in March. If we really, truly, need an auto or truck, we use Zipcar. Or we take MARTA. Or we walk.

    You will quickly find out how absolutely addicted we are to our automobiles here in the USA.

    Wake up, ditch the car, ride a bike. Tell the oil lobby to stick it.

  11. idbob says:


  12. Gennaker says:

    I especially like #9. I do this every day I commute. My ride takes me through Monsey, NY, a Hacid community. They have a goal of ignoring everyone, unless they can figure out how to run you over without getting caught. I say “Hi”, they look through me. It’s really cool. Sometimes some poor schlub actually forgets he’s supposed to ignore me, and actually returns my greeting… life is good these days.

    I succumbed to my wife’s begging (not related to #8), and stopped riding for the school year. How can people let their obese kids get on those stinkpots with the psycho drivers? I had an incident with a school bus, and called the school admin offices. The next day the psycho got closer, whaled the horn, and whipped around me even worse… psycho. Can’t wait for summer. I lost weight like crazy on the bike.

  13. SteveW says:

    Any tips for night-riding? The last time I went riding by myself at night was in college. Went for a ride in the back-roads of West Virginia and scared the bejesus out of myself! I think I shaved a good 15 min. off the usual 1 hour ride, but not sure if my heart-rate at the end was worth it. The entire time, I thought that someone was right behind me…

    I’m looking forward to continue commuting through the winter – any bravery tips would help. I take a dark bike path the 13 miles home, I’m a dude, and yes, I think I gave myself a phobia that night!

  14. @Gennaker: You should report this psycho to the police. Write down his plate!

    @SteveW: learn kung-fu! or carry a baseball bat :-p

  15. Noah says:

    SteveW: 13 miles in the dark, you’ll probably want no less than an hour worth of lighting, an hour and a half would be ideal just in case. If it’s on an un-lit bike path, you’ll probably want a lot of it. Halogen is the cheapest, but throwing 15-20 watts for an hour is going to require a lot of battery weight. LED technology is good, but still kind of expensive. You can DIY with a few bright LED flashlights, or invest anywhere from $150-$400 to get anywhere from 200-600 lumens of light. (10-30 watts halogen equivalent)

    Get a BlanetBike Superflash (or two, or three, they’re cheap) for the rear, and leave one of them on solid (not flashing) so you can see pretty well behind you over your shoulder or in a mirror. These buggers are BRIGHT for the price.

    For Winter… do some searching. The CBB crew has written a lot of really good articles on cold weather clothing and bike setups.

  16. Gennaker says:

    @ Nicholas – I wrote down the bus number, and called the school district transportation office. The nut on the phone asked me why I wasn’t on the sidewalk. When I told her it’s illegal, and plus there isn’t one there, she told me I should have pulled over to let the bus by.

    So I called the superintendent’s office and was told both times it would be addressed (after the sidewalk and stopping questions were asked again…). No crime, no contact, no witnesses. Me in tights, the bus drive with a CDL and a load of screaming kids. It’s not worth it.

  17. Gennaker says:

    Sorry Nicolas, I spelled your name wrong.

  18. Ghost Rider says:

    Great tips, Noah and everyone else! I’ve tried many of these, and they really work.

  19. I commuted by bike every day for 7 years. Last Winter, I let a quibble I had about the gear on my current bike derail me. 1 year later I have an extra 40lbs to lose.

    I am pushing myself back into it using a few of your tricks.
    1- rewards at various goal points.
    2- making maintenance and bike repair/upgrading one of my fun hobbies. I cleaned out the garage and reorganized everything to make space. My wife was very happy.
    3- dropping distracting hobbies/addictions that are bad for me. MMOs in particular.
    4- selling the lesser used bikes in my stable to pay for #1. My Fuji Cross 2003 is going this week.

  20. Stuart M. says:

    Hmmm, losing motivation? Riding my bike to work has become an important part of my life. It is meditation time, important stress reduction before and after work. I wouldn’t miss it.

    I find it makes me like myself more as I contemplate global warming, Peak Oil and the praise I get from everyone helps too.

    The only thing I dread are days with rain downpours when I get wet even with raingear.

    I have bought gas for my car only once since June 11. Maybe this economic downturn will finally give me the excuse I need to get rid of the car. We can’t afford it anymore, honey!

  21. Noah says:

    No doubt, the bicycle has become a major part of my lifestyle, but everyone I know who commutes by bike gets in a bit of a lull once in a while.

    Those who’ve completely revoked your dependence on motor vehicles: Major kudos to you all. You’re in the minority of the minority of the readers here. Most of us still have cars, although I, like many of you, haven’t put gas in mine for quite a while.

    I’m really lucky to have awesome access to the crappy transit system we have in Kansas City. When I moved closer to work, I moved to a block away from a bus stop. That line is the slowest in the area, and I can beat that bus to work if I leave after it passes, but I’m really well positioned to go car-free. I own my car and it’s not costing me much to keep it. I get a pretty good discount on insurance with how few miles I drive it, and it’s older anyways.

    You guys are listing some positively awesome tips in the comments. Keep them coming!

  22. Ryan Kudasik says:

    Hey man,
    Can you delete my post? I updated my domain and people are commenting on the old site. Thanks!

  23. William Boyd says:

    If you think cycling to work in boring, try driving a car.

  24. Amy says:

    I always enjoy the ride TO work for some reason, but going home is harder and I’m tired and it seems like it takes forever. I think I need a new route, or to check out the bus!

    I bought a new bike which is lighter and faster so that makes everything more fun. 🙂

    As a twist on the debris pick-up, I have considered picking up recyclables along the way. It drives me nuts to see it, knowing it’ll just be trashed if someone else eventually picks it up.

  25. SteveW says:

    Noah: Thanks for the tips! I have lots of $$$ niterider equipment from when I did a lot more midnight off-road rides. Those always seemed easier since you were always in a group. I’ll have to find one of those bright rear lights, though. Great idea… That night ride I wrote about – I started hearing a crackling sound behind me and instantly started thinking about the child’s ghost story which ended up with the skeletal arm hanging from the back of the bike seat!! Guess I should also cut back on the horror movies…

  26. Thomas Bailey says:

    I have been biking for 20 years, and don’t find it dull. The only time I don’t bike to work is when my bike is disabled or stolen, then I walk. The distance is about 8 km/5 mi. Because I work the graveyard shift, I cannot take the bus, which does not run when I need to get to work. On my day off, I would sometimes go on a very long ride immediately after work. Several of the day-off rides were to San Francisco, one each to Santa Cruz, Sunol, Oakland, and Hollister. Three of my rides to San Francisco ended with thefts (my bike got stolen). The most frequent disability my bike experiences is a flat tire. It has also lost a pedal, soon replaced. About three months ago, the rear wheel had 5 spokes missing, many more loose spokes, and the axle broke. The wheel was promptly replaced. Another bike I had lost the seat tube, causing the seat to fall off. It immediately became a partial lowrider by placing the remaining part of the seatpost into the frame. It too had a rear wheel that fell apart, and had to retire.

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