As we rode our bicycles to work one sunny morning, it occurred to us just how cheerful we were. And by cheerful, we mean full-on smiles, heads toward the sky, literally relishing in our good fortune. We realized it wasn’t very long ago that we were among the masses of people jumping into cars out of habit, fighting like rats in a street-grid maze to tackle our relatively short commutes. So why did one new habit – simply choosing pedal power to get to work or to run errands – strike such a chord with us? And perhaps most importantly, what overarching impact did this new habit have on our entire lives?
The Fountain of Youth can be found on a bike
It turns out that about 90% of the quality and longevity of our lives is dictated by our lifestyles. Since moving around at a casual pace is a tenant of longevity, cycling can indeed be one of the key elements of a long and happy life. According to longevity coach Dan Buettner (watch his TED Talk video here), the optimal formula for longevity is still unknown. He purports that certain “Blue Zones,” geographic areas of the world with characteristically high centenarian populations, may be the source for clues that are as close to the fountain of youth as we can get. One of the most common lifestyle themes of the healthy 100 and older crowd is regular, low-intensity physical activity like pedaling to a destination. It’s no surprise that age doesn’t stop populations in the Blue Zones from staying active and mobile. Additionally, Buettner adds, a strong social network is critical. And when you’re pedaling, as opposed to tucked away in an enclosed car, fostering those interactions is so much more common, natural and convenient.
Simple is better
Foregoing the car in favor of the bicycle has not only simplified our lives, it has brought joy to nearly every trip. As children, we yearn for bicycles because they allow us to gain independence while playing. As years go by we forget how great it is to simply ride a bike.
If not for just the sheer fun of pedaling for play, the other perks of bicycling are innumerable. We dare say it’s better for your relationships. In a car, it’s too easy to get distracted by our phones or caught up in the frustration we feel when traffic isn’t moving the way we want it to. Bicycling to a destination keeps us present and in the moment – a form of Zen in which we have heightened capacity to look for beauty, seize serendipitous opportunities for interaction, and prioritize our impact on the environment.
Actions + Habits + Values = Character
It wasn’t until recently that we made a conscious decision to take actions that were more closely aligned with our values, and this was one of them: Bike more. Drive less. Ghandi had it right: Our actions become our habits, our habits become our values, our values become our character. When our actions are at odds with our values and, ultimately, our character, our lives become unbalanced. So we knew we had to make a change.
Making it a habit
After purchasing a Metrofiets cargo bike for Martin and a Linus Dutchi bike with grocery panniers for Bethany, we are now both equipped with comfortable cruising vessels that have the capacity to haul just about anything we might otherwise use our Subaru for.
At first, we found ourselves getting into the car out of habit, a bad habit. It might be pouring rain one day or be way too hot the next – excuses we’d use to take the car. But the more we pedaled, the more we grew to actually embrace whatever Mother Nature threw at us. It became a challenge of our resilience and the efficacy of our kit. We now dread the days when we have to work out of town and the Subaru must be awoken from its slumber.
You’re not stuck in traffic… you ARE traffic
Why hadn’t we made it a habit sooner? Like most Americans, it took us a while to truly recognize how the illusion of ease and convenience that a car represents is really a trap – it’s neither convenient nor easy. Take the standard one to four mile commute, for example. This time of year, you get into a hot car and onto blisteringly hot seats. While your underwear sticks to your butt, you think to yourself: “I hate being stuck in traffic.”
But you’re not stuck in traffic. You ARE traffic.
Here’s the alternative: You walk out of your home, hop on a bicycle and pedal leisurely, wave to your neighbors, see how your neighborhood is evolving and enjoy the refreshing breeze created by your movement. There’s a good chance that in both cases, you arrive at work at nearly the same time. The only difference is that when you choose to pedal, you choose to discard the shackles of the petroleum industry and you burn a few calories. On the way home, you can have a serendipitous encounter with a neighbor or friend while the only impromptu interaction you may get in a vehicle is infamously known as a fender-bender.
Your ORbike 30 Day Challenge
Our charge to you: Replace at least one car trip with a bike ride every day for 30 days – no matter how long or short the distance. Pedal not just for fitness, not just for a trail ride, but with an actual destination in mind.
If riding with a purpose isn’t something you’re used to, that’s okay. Change can be hard. Forming new habits isn’t easy, but when you do, you will feel a spring in your step (or in this case, a little more power in your pedal). As we discovered after our first month of riding to work, our challenge quickly evolved into an effortless habit. In fact, the ways we thought we’d suffer when we gave up our car all dissolved more quickly than we’d thought possible.
We’ve heard every reason NOT to ride our bikes around our city, and many more. And while some of them are legitimate, we have to insist: Riding our bikes has been the single best thing for our bodies, our budgets and our brains – and we couldn’t be happier with our decision to bike.
Where will your bike take you?
Take our challenge. Where will you go in 30 days? Where will you be when you choose your bike over your car?
For additional motivation, check out 30 Days of Biking, a movement to inspire riding that has swept the nation.
When the weather has you down, check out our Keep Riding tips for easy ideas that will keep you happy on your bike year round.