Al Gore’s Challenge Inspires My Thesis, and My Own Challenge
Al Gore recently challenged the U.S. to get 100% of its electricity from renewable energy within a decade. I was so excited and inspired by the challenge that I decided to switch my thesis topic in order to look at some of the issues raised by that challenge; specifically, I want to understand how to address the intermittence of renewable energy sources through geographic distribution, energy storage, smart grid technology and innovative demand side management.
Around the time that I read Al Gore’s challenge, I came across a completely unrelated article about a guy–Jim Langley, the former technical editor at Bicycling Magazine–who, in 1990, set a goal to ride his bicycle at least an hour a day for ten years. Not only did he meet his goal, but the streak is alive to this day. After I read that I thought to myself, hmm, wouldn’t it be interesting to spend the next 10 years devoting myself to meeting Al Gore’s challenge and eradicating poverty through my micro-credit initiative, while at the same time riding my bike at least an hour a day? And so it was that I decided to challenge myself to achieve the goal of riding an hour a day for 10 years. Hopefully by the time I have accomplished it the planet and human society will be as healthy thanks to clean, renewable energy that doesn’t impact global geopolitics as I will be from the riding. Read on to find out why I’m doing this and for details of the challenge.
I figure I won’t reinvent the wheel. Here is how Jim Langley describes the challenge:
in 1990, I set a goal of streak cycling for ten years. This was a pact I made with myself. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t know if I could do it and I felt it would be hard enough to keep the promise to myself. I also decided not to record the rides in any way but to simply commit to giving it my best try and see if it was possible to ride every day for 3,650 days.
I kept the ride requirements simple: to go for a real ride every day. By a real ride, I meant that I had to get suited up and go out for approximately an hour. I didn’t have to kill myself, but it had to be a real ride where I broke a sweat and got out for a good local loop or, if the weather was bad enough, pedaled in place on an indoor trainer (to me, much harder than riding outside)
The only thing I want to add to this requirement is that bicycling for commuting purposes will count provided that each “segment” of the ride be at least 20 minutes. In other words, if I run 6 10-minute errands on my bicycle in a day, that won’t count, but 3 20-minute errands will. I’m adding this because I ride my touring bike/car everyday just to get places, and I want to make sure that this challenge forces me to do rides above and beyond what I would normally do anyway. However, a 20 minute ride is usually longer that I would do on an average day, so that will count!
Why I’m Doing This
I have several reasons for taking on this challenge. First and foremost, my love of bicycling is on par with my love of life. I can’t go anywhere or do anything–no matter how important or fun–without thinking about cycling. Secondly, I have always wanted to get into really, really good shape (sure, I’ve always been fit, but not superbly so). The problem has always been that it’s hard for me to get out and do things–my mind wanders, I get distracted, or tired, or lazy, or down, and don’t end up riding, even though I love riding. So in many ways, this is a promise to myself that, every day, I will do something that I enjoy and makes me feel good. Riding an hour a day will force me to focus, to be more disciplined, and to avoid a lot of the mental traps that I get into. (It’s hard to sit around for 2 hours daydreaming when you only have a one-hour window of time during a busy day to get out and ride!) Lastly, I will never be in my early 20’s again. My body is able to respond to physical effort better than it every will. I want to take advantage of my youth to start building a base of fitness that will last me my entire life. One of my medium-term goals is to compete in a 12 or 24 hour cycling race. That’s hard enough, but my long term goal is to do the Race Across America, which will take me several years of training just to be able to even attempt it.
Life is short. I can aim low and try to do a minimal amount of things, or I can shoot for the stars and “lead the life I have imagined.” I am not doing this because I want to be a professional cyclist, or make money, or be well-regarded; I am doing this because I want to extract all that I can from the world and give back all that is in my heart and mind. In the past, I have strived so hard to give back that I have neglected myself. I now know that to summon the energy, compassion and innovation needed to make the world a better place, I must be equally energetic, compassionate and innovative with myself! So think of this challenge as an innovative approach to unleashing my potential.
What About The Winter, and Traveling?
For winter riding, I have several excellent choices! My touring bike/car has a rear fender and wide, stable tires to handle deicing salt and the like. On dry days when the roads are clear, I can ride my racing bike. If it’s icy or snowy out, I can ride my 29er mountain bike, complete with snow studded tires (and a snow studded rider!). Finally, I can always attach one of my bikes to an indoor trainer and just pedal in my apartment–for an hour, of course!
For traveling, I just purchased a Bike Friday folding bike. These bikes have 20 inch wheels, and a frame that collapses in on itself; when folded, the bike I got, called a Pocket Rocket, will actually fit inside a standard suitcase that can be checked in at the airport at no extra cost. Obviously, I will be taking this bike with me on any and every trip I take, ensuring that I never miss a day of riding. What’s more, with this bike I can finally bring a bike with me on the Amtrak in New England (you have to put regular bikes in a bike box). This should come in very handy whenever I go to Boston or New York. Finally, I can use the Pocket Rocket in the winter as well, since it has full fenders and I don’t mind if it gets dirty.
I’m especially excited about the Pocket Rocket because I’m going to install the full Shimano Ultegra group that I recently took off my racing bike. That means I am going to have a 21 pound steel frame folding bike, complete with full Shimano gears and sturdy, dependable bar-end shifters! I can’t wait.
I will periodically post mileage and hours ridden on here. In the future I hope to integrate some sort of widget that will enable me to upload all of my rides from my Garmin 705 GPS unit onto this web site. The official first day of my 10-year challenge was last Thursday, August 21st, 2008. I expect a lot of interesting things to transpire between now and August of 2018!
Inspiring story. I just finished my 1000th consecutive day outside. I am coining for 10,000 days next. Good luck in your journey!