As already mentioned, my boyfriend measures his progress against the riders around him as he cycles from a commuter area into London. I don’t cycle amid a stream of like-minded individuals all making the same pilgrimage (although one day I did find a chap who lives around the corner and works in the same business park as I do but I’ve not bumped into him again since) so I have to find different markers for myself.
There is always how fast I get into work and how fast I get home from work, those are the more obvious ones. There are other factors at work here though: how kind the traffic lights are to me; how much traffic do I need to filter past and how much of it do I not risk on a narrow road; do I get stuck behind someone who can’t or just won’t pull out past the parked cars because something is coming the other way.
Other markers for me include how tired I am after each journey. There is the less obvious how quickly I can be on my bike and moving at the end of the workday, although this has less to do with my cycling prowess and more to do with what kit I need to get off/on and how many people I talk to as I’m getting my bike out of the rack. The fairly bizarre what temperature I have my shower at when I get to work. How many calories does RunKeeper give me to spend in MyFitnessPal.
I also have specific little challenges through the journey, going up and down hills. There is a hill I ride up on the way home where I have progressed from aspiring to not dropping below 10mph on a good day into consoling myself that at least I didn’t drop below 10mph on a bad day. Going down the hill in the morning is how soon do my legs stop being able to keep up with my speed. Another hill is my gear challenge – can I get all the way up in my largest front gear?
I do occasionally meet up with other riders. I do pass a lot of them, but more often than not they are riding mountain bikes, wearing work clothes, riding sit-up-and-beg bikes or otherwise look like they wouldn’t expect to be as fast as me. I have been known to outpace the occasional clipped-in, lycra-clad road bike rider but most of the cyclists like this I encounter are colleagues and greet me by name as they leave me in their cloud of dust.
So, maybe I should think about trying to keep up with the guys at work? Hmmm… Give me a few years. And a personal trainer. And a full time babysitter. And a gym membership… In the meantime my favourite progress marker has to be how much of the journey I spend grinning.