Here we are in a new year, and as always this is a good time to review the past twelve months. 2018 was my first full year of active cycling and so, whilst I inevitably compare to my first 6-7 months of cycling throughout 2017, I’ve now got my first annual benchmark.
I started 2018 with a modest objective of riding 1,000 miles. This was based on my (just shy of) 600 miles of cycling between May and December 2017. From the start, I was worried about achieving this target with very little cycling going on during January, February, and (whilst increasing) March. Knowing I needed to hit an average of around 83-84 miles per month, missing this on every month for the first quarter was not promising. However, with rides picking up significantly from April, I soon started clocking up the miles and finally hit my target in November, closing the year at 1,140 miles!
April 2018 saw my first experience of the cycleways in the Netherlands, when I spent a week in Zeeland, near the town of Middleburg. Of course, I knew all about the Dutch love for cycling and the prevalence of infrastructure there, but I wasn’t really aware of how widespread it is, covering not only the bigger cities but also smaller towns and connecting routes too. Not only that, but navigation was straightforward, allowing me to take a solo twenty mile ride to Middleburg, to experience a little bit of the in-town infrastructure.
Coming back from that trip, I became convinced that the UK could also have the same if only there were political will at all levels of government, and associated budgets. As a result, I’ve become very vocal in the need for improvements, not just on the likes of Twitter and this website, but also directly to elected politicians and through starting my involvement in the local cycle forum. My insistence on the need for change, to enable people to choose active travel (not exclusively cycling) has also been spurred on by the increasingly strong warnings about the state of the environment including local air quality concerns and the wider climate change crisis.
The Aims for 2019
Looking to 2019 then, I have a few objectives or resolutions that start with cycling and move into broader ‘green’ and health improvements:
- Aim to cycle at least 1,200 miles – i.e., 100 miles a month on average; a small increase on this year’s total. I’m hoping this will be fairly straightforward especially since I now use the bike for the school run on some days. Therefore, I also have a stretch target to hit 1,500 miles!
- Re-do the ride to Leicester – this was my biggest ride of 2018 at just under 45 miles, and I suffered for it through a combination of not having the right fluids and cycling on a very hot day. I want to try this again to see if it’s any easier.
- Try, but don’t become dependent upon, e-assist – I’ll be trying a Swytch e-bike conversion kit, an Indiegogo project I backed in May 2018, when it arrives hopefully in February. But whilst I’m looking forward to trying it, I don’t want to become dependent on it. My intention is to use it as a range extender or to help on the worst hills that I struggle with, not to use it all the time on my leisure rides.
- Continue my involvement in supporting active travel – this will be through ongoing pressure on politicians to better support cycling and to make cycle infrastructure a key consideration when roads are built or changed. I’ll also continue my involvement in the local cycle forum, which as a collective has a stronger voice than mine alone.
- Eat less meat – Away from cycling and looking to general health and environmental concerns, I want to eat less meat – particularly beef and pork, where these are the two most harmful meats in terms of the impact that their farming has on the environment. I also see moving to some vegetarian dishes as a way of improving health and hopefully weight loss, where the latter has been fairly static over the last twelve months.
- Gradually reduce plastics usage – Another environmental resolution, this one continues from the second half of 2018 where I started to think about how I can reduce plastics usage. I’ve not done much though, and I want to step up my efforts here. I know, however, that trying to do too much too quickly is likely to lead to failure with the task looking too big. So, I’ll be looking at making gradual improvements over time.
- Consume less caffeine – A very late addition, I decided on this one on 31 December after beginning the book ‘Why We Sleep’ by Matthew Walker. Early on he speaks about the impact that caffeine has on sleep and how long it remains in the brain (a half-life on 5-7 hours). I’ve traditionally consumed a fair amount of teas and coffees throughout the day until around 9:30pm – now I think I need to cut that way back. I’ll be targeting maybe one cup of regular coffee in the morning and maybe a decaff at lunchtime as my limit – but I can see this one being tricky! However, as I am using Tassimo pods for my coffees, this will also benefit my plastics reduction as I see them as horribly wasteful.
So, I’ll come back to this at the end of the year/early 2020, to see just how well I’ve done! Good luck to everyone who’s made their own resolutions, be they cycling related or otherwise.