The Simple Resolution That Will Guarantee More Riding Time
It was a crisp Sunday last November, and despite being a week after the foliage peaked, the bright sun and bluebird sky gave the fading leaves one last shot of color. I hadn’t been able to ride much the week before so I grabbed my mountain bike and headed for out a day on the trails. After four hours of cruising around the woods I came home tired, happy, and feeling good about my week.
That glow lasted until the following day when my new screen time-tracking app gave me my weekly report: a whopping 16 hours on my phone over the course of seven days! I had read that the national average is around three hours a day, so I while I gloated for a minute, I was brought back down by the unavoidable comparison to the only other metric I track by hours: my time on a bike. While I’d spent 16 hours staring at and scrolling through my phone, I’d only managed to spend 10 hours in the saddle.
When I was racing full time, I was frequently on my bike more than I wanted each week. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being a racer. But not all of those hours were pure cycling bliss. Now that I’m retired from racing, I’m on the other end of the spectrum. I want more time on my bike, and I can say that every hour I’m on my bike is pure cycling bliss. Every week I beg, borrow, and steal time on my bike. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it feels like a major coup just to sneak in an hour.
I would love to spend 16 hours a week on my bike. That would be 16 extremely rewarding hours. Instead I was wasting 16 hours a week staring at a little box that gives me little in return, no sense of self-satisfaction, no good feelings—just the weather and a timeline of bad hot takes. Rarely do I put my phone down feeling like it was time well spent. I figured there had to be a way to turn the tables, to waste less time on garbage and more time doing things that put a smile on my face.
Thus, my one-man #morebikelessphone social campaign was born. I don’t think that anyone actually cares how much time I ride, or how much screen time I’m cutting out. But I’m a numbers kind of person. I like tracking data and watching change over time, possibly a holdover from several decades of tracking miles, hours, watts, heart rates, lap times, and weight—anything that can be measured on a bike. I also do well with accountability. And since I’m a millennial prone to oversharing, I figured the best way to create accountability was with a weekly Twitter post.
Within a few short weeks, it had tangible benefits. First, I cut my screen time by more than half to consistently less than an hour a day. I haven’t managed to translate all those additional hours into more time on the bike, but it has added a constant motivator throughout the week to stay on the good side of the ratio.
I’ve also found myself more determined to put the phone away if I’m behind on working out. And the biggest benefit for my riding—especially during the coldest, darkest part of the year—has been the bonus motivation near the end of the week to keep the numbers positive. I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone to ride outside more because I just can’t bring myself to ride the trainer enough—I burnt out on riding trainers from my racing days—to stay on top of my phone time. And twice now it’s given me the extra punch I needed to get in a good, long ride on Sunday even when the weather stinks. Once, it was a cool, damp day where everything was soaking wet, including me by the end of the three hours. Just last week it was four hours and my bottles were frozen before the end of the first hour. But I rode on, and I got used to it, and dammit, eventually I smiled and enjoyed the ride.
The smug feeling of spending minimal time on my phone has returned (and who doesn’t love feeling smug?), I’m consistently riding longer and spending more time outside, and I feel much better about it. And I suspect that come spring and the new (non-professional, dirt-heavy) racing season, my fitness should be better for #morebikelessphone.
Week 4 of #morebikelessphone kicked ass on both accounts. 10:15 on the bike, which is cool, and only 4:04 on the phone, which is my lowest weekly total yet. That’s a far cry from the 16 hours that inspired this idea.
— Bobby Lea (@B_Lea1) December 13, 2018
After five weeks of #morebikeless phone, I’d cut my phone time dramatically, and more importantly, I had my five most consistent weeks of riding in well over a year. It’s not without its challenges, as I learned on the weekend of my fifth week as I burned through screen time watching the live feed from U.S. Cyclocross Nationals, but it also helped motivate me to knock out a two and a half hour trainer ride on a cold and rainy Sunday where I was tempted to just put my feet up on the couch and watch other people ride.
It’s helped me find consistency that I’ve lacked since retiring from pro racing and I’m less of a prisoner to my phone. Join me in #morebikelessphone, tag me (@b_lea1) in your weekly updates, and together we’ll keep up riding through the winter.