For those of us who are already riding our bicycles on a regular basis and for those who need an excuse to ride more, you need to sign up for the 2013 National Bike Challenge sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists. This is only the second year for the national challenge. It was tested for one year in Wisconsin before it went national.
It was so successful last year that they have extended the challenge another month so that it now runs from May 1 to Sept. 30, 2013. That's five months during which you are challenged to earn points for every day that you ride outside. You get 20 points for every day that you log a ride and one point each for every mile. It is obvious that the rules are designed to favor those who get out every day and not just those who put in 100 miles on a Saturday.
There are quite a few thousands who have already registered and they are hoping to exceed 50,000 people taking part in the challenge this year. To make it more interesting, they also have corporate sponsors who offer monthly prizes for a number of different categories. As you progress through the points that you earn, you become eligible for better prizes. I guess you have an advantage if you earn lots of points early so that you are in a limited category out front every month.
This is very similar to the bike challenge hosted by the Santa Fe Trails Bike & Coffee Shop every January. Brendan provides nice prizes every week in January, but he also counts miles gained on indoor trainers as well as miles outside. The National Bike Challenge is an outdoor-miles-only program.
Since I bicycle commute nearly every day, I am in a good position to earn some pretty good points, but the miles that I ride are not that great. It is only a bit less than 12 miles one way door-to-door. Thank goodness that they award more points for every day on the bike.
On the other hand, I will be picking up lots of miles on the annual Biking Across Kansas in June. Total miles should be about 500 miles for the week and each day counts for another 20 points, too. Hopefully I can throw in a few long-distance weekends during the challenge period.
I suppose that the best news is that I am the one that benefits the most from the challenge. I am getting regular exercise and saving on gasoline on my daily commutes. I don't really expect to win any rewards from the sponsors, but the greatest reward is good health and it is nice to know that I am in control of getting that reward and not dependent on chance or someone else's goodwill.
It may seem silly to participate in this kind of national challenge where the chances of winning a reward are slim to none, but I have to admit that it prompts me to actually ride every day so that I can log on to the site and enter my daily miles. I guess that it is just human nature to take up a challenge like this and to compete.
Page 2 of 2 - I highly recommend that lots of other folks also register for the challenge to see how they will do. Don't be discouraged if you check the competition and find that there are some who are way ahead in points. Remember that the real reward for you is the fact that you are outside getting in some time on your bike.
Matt Nowak lives in Lansing and works as a natural resources manager.