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I tried cycling daily – 25km a day for 31 days

By - Richard - 14th December 2020

I am a runner. I’m not particularly fussed about cycling. But after injuring my calf, I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to lace up my running shoes for a number of weeks.

Initially I wallowed. I adopted a sedentary lifestyle and for the first week, my only exercise consisted of infrequent trips up and down the stairs in my house. One morning after one too many lazy nights in with a takeaway pizza I had had enough. I felt twitchy, angsty. I needed to move my body and I knew it.

Cycling seemed like the most sensible option. Ten years ago I bought a great bike – a Marin Lucas Valley hybrid – and I loved getting out on two wheels. But then I turned 40 and just to fit in with the true mid-life cliché, I fell in love with running.

My bike is locked away in a shed. To venture out on the bike means going to fetch it and unlock it. This seemingly insignificant act was enough of a barrier to deter me from riding. Reaching for a pair of [running] shoes which were permanently by my front door was far less prohibitive.

So I brought my bike inside the house. My wife was delighted. I needed to create as few obstacles as possible in order to encourage me to get out on the bike more. I tried cycling daily for a few days. I enjoyed it, but then came the anticipated slump in enthusiasm.

After four consecutive days, the thought of cycling daily didn’t appeal. But it was at this point that I dug my heels in. For the month of May I wanted to explore the DISCIPLINE needed to start and maintain a new habit, such as daily cycling. I vowed to myself there and then that I would embark on a challenge of cycling daily for a distance of 25km or 16 miles.

I had discovered a route from my house in Edinburgh that encompassed two laps of Arthur’s Seat and Hollyrood Park. Two laps of Arthur’s Seat (the extinct volcano in the centre of the city) is just over 10km in distance and provides over 700 feet of climbing. This made the ride challenging enough to provide a decent workout, but not insurmountably hard. The daily cycling challenge was on!

My initial wave of enthusiasm was a distant memory come day three. I was surprised by how quickly this passed. On day four it rained and I wasn’t enjoying myself. However, by this point I had built a streak. Four consecutive days of daily cycling meant that I had sailed past 100km in distance to date. This alone was enough to spur me on.

By day five, I started to tell a few people that I was undertaking this challenge. Their response was very underwhelming. “It’s not about the distance or the time on the bike”, I explained, “It’s about committing to something and then seeing it through every day, especially on those days that you don’t want to do it”. That was my mantra. And it worked.

After I had told people I was doing this daily cycling challenge, there was no way that I was not going to complete it. I had no option but to go through with it. This was one of the biggest lessons that I learnt.  

Mid-way through the month and the miles were racking up. The novelty had well and truly worn off and to be honest the daily cycling started to feel like a chore. The night before each ride, I would start a conversation in my head about the best time of day to ride. I already knew that first thing in the morning was the very best time to get out there, but I started to convince myself otherwise. On the days where I set off later than 7.30am, I deeply regretted it. The very best time to adopt and undertake a new habit is first thing in the morning. Get up and get it done. No excuses.

On day 19 I slept in. I had been busy the night before and hadn’t got round to preparing the bike, the cameras, memory cards and what I was going to wear. “I’ll sort it out in the morning” I thought as I my head hit the pillow. Naturally, the following morning, I faffed around the house backing up memory cards, charging batteries and failing to get out on the bike before 10am. Time wasted at home was infuriating. After eventually getting on the bike, I realised that I had put my shorts on inside out… A quick pit stop behind a fence and the shorts were placed on the right way round. I was back in business. After this slightly humiliating experience, I never failed to get properly ready the night before.

Three weeks into the daily cycling challenge and I began to develop a new found appreciation for being out on the bike. I was using my state-sanctioned exercise time during lockdown to be outside and it proved to be my saving grace. My injured ankle was starting to get better, but the time alone on the bike every day gave me much-needed head space. I was then able to deal with the challenges of running my business and looking after my two boys round the clock during this global pandemic.

With six days to go, I woke up with a spring in my step. Overnight something had switched in my brain. The thought of trudging through another 16 miles on the daily cycling challenge was suddenly replaced with the thought that I was nearly there. I developed a sense of momentum. I likened it to writing university essays at four o’clock in the morning. Once you sense that you have nearly finished, you get a second wind and it just becomes much easier to finish that to contemplate stopping.

With just a handful of rides to go, the competitive nature in me took over. I was curious to see whether I could beat my fastest time on the bike which was done on day 9 in a time of 59 minutes and 48 seconds. I had been very pleased to get under one hour, but I knew that I could go faster. With a bit of luck from the traffic lights, I was eager to see just how fast I could go. I had set my sights on day 29 as the time for a speed record attempt.

The evening of day 28 I inflated my tyres so that they were rock hard. I woke up at 5.30am the next day. The sun was shining and there was not a wisp of wind in the air. The conditions were perfect. As I set out on the road, the lack of traffic was refreshing and I was absolutely flying. After six miles, I reached the bottom of the Arthur’s Seat hill climb for the first time. I was ahead of my fastest time by almost three minutes but I knew that it was the hills that would make or break my speed attempt. My bike hurtled off the kerb at the foot of the hill climb. Shortly afterwards I thought I had hit a rock and my face recoiled in horror. I had been a bit too overzealous with the tyre inflation the night before and I had got a punctured tyre. My speed attempt was over, but more annoyingly, the flat tyre had occurred at literally the furthest point away from my house. It took me a good hour and three quarters to then push the bike home.  Of course day 29 was now incomplete. I hadn’t completed my daily cycling challenge. After a hasty visit to a local bike shop, I had two new tyres. I then, rather leisurely completed my 16 miles on the bike later that evening.

Nearing completion of my penultimate ride, an oncoming car hooted its horn at me. I looked up at the driver who proceeded to shake his wrist at me and mouth the word ‘w@nker’. I had been talking to my vlogging camera whilst cycling. Many people may feel the same as the gentleman who chose to pass judgement on what I was doing. I was vlogging at the time and therefore had more than one camera recording. It captured everything. The driver whome I had annoyed was driving in a company vehicle and I had his numberplate, and business details. It turns out he runs his own business but I thought better of outing him on social media for his behaviour.

The final two days of cycling daily were a joy. The sun was out and summer was in full flow. It was a privilege to be out on the bike and I was reminded of what an incredibly beautiful city Edinburgh is.

After 31 days I had cycled more than 800 km (500 miles). I had lost 8 pounds in weight (although weight loss hadn’t been my intention) but crucially I had learnt some valuable lessons about the discipline needed to undertake a new habit and make it stick.

The discipline needed for daily cycling had filtered over to other areas of my life. Throughout the month I was going to bed at a better time, I was sleeping better and my diet was much improved. In truth, I just felt happier. I wouldn’t say that I am a converted cyclist, but I felt like I didn’t lose any aerobic fitness. When I was able to lace up my running shoes again, I picked up where I had left off.

About the Author

Richard Nicholls - Managing Director

Before launching Swift Films, Richard worked as a broadcast TV director and editor, working on programmes for the BBC, ITV and Sky.

A multi-skilled and technically-minded filmmaker, Richard is equally at home coming up with creative concepts as he is on location filming or pulling footage together in the edit suite.

Richard is a member of Independent Producers Scotland and has a love of cats, football, chocolate and Film Noir (in that order).