Fake it Till You Make it
What was the biggest thing that made me actually ride my bike more?
Confidence. This one intangible feeling is the key to getting all the benefits of riding more. About 18 months ago when I went from riding a bike occasionally with the family – to riding more often and further for more reasons - growing my confidence was the key.
There were so many reasons not to ride my bike. Each time I would consider it, the conversation in my head would come out on the side of ‘perhaps I'll do it next week’. In the end, I just had to make a decision.
Firstly I signed up for the Cycle to Work scheme which is a great start. Get a new bike, helmet and kit and the safety and money barrier is gone. Now I looked and felt like I belonged on the road - fear barrier reduced.
Here are my 5 keys to confidence:
1. Confidence makes you ride in a safer way: You take up more road, you ride away from the curb giving you more space to manoeuvre. You are more visible, and you are noticed more by other drivers.
2. Confidence means you make better decisions: You are proactive and not hesitant. When you move in the lane to turn – you move. Your hand signals are big, bold and confident. You make decisions as an equal road user – you don’t wait for drivers to leave you a gap – you create your gap.
3. Confidence makes you prepare better: You believe that you should be able to commute to work. So, you plan your route, and then you ride your route. You know it may rain – but you believe that riding in the rain is ok. So, you get a rain cover for your back pack – and you ride.
4. Confidence reduces fear and its barrier: You can’t feel confidence and fear in equal amounts. So, the more you feel confident – the more you feel less fear. Confidence makes you feel that you CAN and SHOULD be riding on the road. When idiots in white vans drive too fast and too close – you know you are visible, and you know you are ok. Yes, it’s scary – but you know you have reduced as many risks as you can. You believe and know you won’t be intimidated.
5. Confidence means you create experience: You try new things. You ride new roads in new places. You learn more and as you learn more – your experience of road surfaces, weather conditions and your fitness get better. You look to have variation and that variation creates more experience. And that makes you feel more confident.
Confidence is something that grew and has continued to grow. I am capable of more now. I can ride 160 miles in one weekend. I can ride into work in London whenever I want to – on either side of a busy day. I can ride on rural country roads; I can ride in busy London traffic.
But the starting point was to create a belief in my mind. The little seed that stopped me not doing something I wanted to do, that would stop my life from benefiting from riding more.
What then happened was amazing. That ‘pretend’ confidence meant I rode differently. It meant I solved problems proactively. It meant that I created a whole set of routines and actions that have worked together. I rode more – my bike riding skills improved. I rode in more places – I saw more of the country and enjoyed the adventure. I rode for more reasons – it became more part of everyday life.
After 18 months – I have real confidence now. Never taking things for granted, I am still careful – but I am more experienced and therefore more confident that I can handle unexpected things.
But the beginning is just a decision. Fake the confidence to make the confidence. You have to overcome that barrier and then you're pedalling.
"I BELIEVE I CAN ride more and I WILL".