The National Bike Challenge

Let the games begin! For the past six years, May 1st has brought with it much more than little baskets of posies on my door handle.  It has brought a trumpet call to me and every cyclists across the nation, a call to tally your miles and join them into one big bicycle basket called the National Bike Challenge.

The two-step process to participate in the National Bike Challenge is simple and free.  Step One - visit the National Bike Challenge website at: https://nationalbikechallenge.org and register for the challenge. You can dress out your profile with pictures and join some local riding clubs or keep it clean. The choice is yours.  

Step two - after you have registered and before you ride, get out your phone.  (I am making a grand assumption you have a smartphone, if you do not, proceed to the next paragraph with confidence.)  You need an app called Strava.  If you do not yet have it, you can download it for free by visiting this website: https://www.strava.com.  Strava is an app that tracks your miles and time and elevation and breaks that information down into daily, weekly and yearly totals. It is as addictive as spf 90 for a redhead.  When you have the app successfully downloaded, you simply get your bike out. Turn on the Strava app. Ride your bike. Turn off your Strava app. Put your bike away. Strava is working when you are cycling, and stops when you are not. I run errands on my bike and the app knows when I’m standing in line at the food coop to buy bananas.  And it turns itself back on when it senses cycling movement once again. A super helpful feature for people who are perhaps stopping to listen for the call of the woodthrush, stopping to add three items to the grocery list, and taking time to exchange niceties with the neighbor walking his collies in the morning. Strava also does not use a lot of my phone’s battery power.  So I can confidently ride without sacrificing a noticeable amount of my battery. Really helpful to know on longer rides out and about.

Now what if you don’t have a smartphone? It’s a little more complex but still relatively simple. You skip half of step two above. Sign up for Strava on your computer and set up your account. You then click on the red box with a plus sign on the top right corner of the screen. You will see a drop down menu that says “Add Manual Entry.”  Click on that and upload your ride with time and distance. This is helpful even with a smartphone, as I will, on occasion, forget to turn on my app before I ride.

But perhaps the biggest question is why?  Why take the time to set yourself up to join the National Bike Challenge?  Because you can win prizes? Sure, last year I won a t-shirt. Because you can be part of over 60,000 riders across the country? Maybe because you can track your yearly totals? Perhaps for all of those reasons. But that’s not why join. I join because my miles count. They count for my health and for the environment. They count for my mental well-being. They count toward bathing suit weather coming up on the horizon. But mainly, I join to track myself, to put a number to my time, and miles and elevation. I have, as of this very moment, bicycled over 524 miles in 2017. Without Strava and the National Bike Challenge I’d be best-guessing that and likely prone to exaggerating that distance like a fisherman does his catch. I join to be part of something that unifies us as a country of bicyclists. I join because when my bike is parked through the winter months and I’m pining away for some sunshine and cycling, I can pull up my ride totals from last year and pat myself on my shoulder with hot cocoa in one hand and say “patience little rider. . . . patience.”

Why is this a great year to join? The National Bike Challenge has a new website, the very best ever in my opinion.  It is super easy to navigate and use.  It is also the first year the challenge is using Strava as the only app to track miles. This is extremely important as it will track, with one software, when and where and how many people are riding.  It will give a great map of miles when all is said and done so we can, as a country of cyclists, understand cycling patterns and routes, habits and highlights.

Who should join?  Everyone. Whether you ride ten miles a year or ten thousand, The National Bike Challenge is a great way to keep you on track.  To see your progress on the leaderboards and check in with other riders in your community.  I check leaderboards almost daily. I like the thrill of seeing my rides snowball into something bigger and bigger and bigger.

When should you join? Today. Do it today.  And check your local community for celebrations, group rides and free breakfast to celebrate National Bike to Work Week May 15 - 19.

The National Bike Challenge runs from May 1 - September 30. Join today. Ride often. Enjoy always. Questions? Send me an email. I’d love to help!