Unlike last year, it looks like we’ve already escaped winter, so what better time than to commit to getting on your bike every day next month with the return of the annual 30 Days of Biking initiative.
The idea is simple: you sign up to ride a bike every day during April, and by joining you become part of a supportive world-wide group of riders whose riding tales on Twitter and Facebook will help inspire you to get off the sofa and in the saddle.
Now in its fifth year, 30 Days of Biking was founded in chilly Minnesota, where it’s still getting below freezing at night, putting our moaning about the British winter into a little bit of perspective. It has since spread to 100 countries worldwide, and almost 5,000 riders have signed up this year.
So how does it work? Well, there are two pledges – to get on your bike on April 1 and ride it around the block or further afield for the next 29 days after that, and to share your stories using a variety of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo and YouTube.
This year, pledging to take part also supports a great cause: Free Bikes 4 Kids. This Minnesota charity donates bikes to kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them. This year, for every 30 pledges, 30 Days of Bike organisers will give a free bike to a child via Free Bikes 4 Kids.
Announcing the link up, organisers said: “At 30 Days of Biking, we’ve been growing a community of joyful cyclists since 2010. We encourage cyclists and no-cyclists alike to take a pledge to bike for 30 days. The pledge means a commute to work or an evening roll around the block. The pledge is also what binds us together as a community of cyclists. We’re all passionate about the bicycle and we know the bicycle can make us better people, build stronger communities and help a global environment.
“So this year, we want to *create* more cyclists. When 30 people take the 30 Days of Biking pledge, we make more cyclists.”
Here’s a simple, 90-second video that summarises what it’s all about.
Lois May-Miller of 30 Days of Biking UK said: “Riding a bike is a simple pleasure; the bicycle a simple, yet wonderful, machine. And 30 Days of Biking is a simple idea: ride your bike every day for 30 days – and share your experiences online in whichever ways you like.
“There’s no form to fill in, no Strava badge to collect, no certificate at the end. I like anything that cuts the crap and gets people riding a bike, and 30 days of Biking does just that.”
Another co-ordinator of 30 Days of Biking UK, Mark Tearle, said: “You remember that feeling when you were a kid; you’d take your old battered hand-me-down bike, brakes rubbing on the wheel rims, saddle split at the seams, if you had gears only three of them would work, but it didn’t matter, you were off on an adventure with friends, to build a dam in the stream or to tear it up in the woods, or build a ramp out of bits of plywood you found in your dad’s garage: that is the spirit of 30 Days of Biking.”
“30 Days of Biking is not a campaign. It is clearly pro-cycling or, as our North American chums like to call it, “biking,” but it isn’t dogmatic or polarised in any way, and I REALLY like that.”
Organisers are aiming to build on the success of the last few years, and co-founder Patrick Stephenson, who is based in Minnesota, has issued a worldwide call to action.
He said: “30 Days of Biking is not elitist. It is not a political statement. We don’t want you to worry about whether you have the right bike, or whether your butt looks good in spandex. We just want you out there, pedalling alongside our community, whether virtually or for real.
“Our goal is not to reject cars so much as promote bikes as a viable alternative to cars. We want you to remember how riding around your neighbourhood felt when you were a kid, when a bike was your only transportation and you loved it.
“We want you to remember the freedom bicycling offers. The happiness, the independence. These things aren’t lost to the ages or the past. They’re still available. And, ultimately, they lead to a healthier life.”
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.