Turning Over New Leaves

In a recent piece on NPR, the guest, a psychologist who has conducted studies on New Year’s resolutions, stated that approximately 46% of people who make New Year’s resolutions are successful in fulfilling their resolution. I was amazed by the numbers; I would have guessed the success rate to be in the low teens at best. She also stated that people who are considering taking on a new goal or activity, but don’t make a specific resolution (New Year’s or otherwise), are only successful in reaching their goal 4% of the time. I’ve never been one much for New Year’s resolutions, thinking that if I want to do something, I should just get on with it, but these numbers make me think New Year’s resolutions may not be such a bad idea after all.

With that in mind, here are a few things I’m going to set my sights on for 2009:

  • Maintain a regular off-bike workout routine to increase my flexibility and strengthen my core with the goal of preventing injury. This could take any number of forms, but most likely it’ll be some combination of yoga and free weights.
  • Improve my skills as a photographer. I’d like to participate in at least one or two workshops with the goal of more thoroughly understanding how to use my new equipment. I’m particularly interested in learning more about off-camera lighting techniques.
  • Reduce my dairy intake. We’re vegans at home, but we sometimes eat a little dairy when we’re out at restaurants, mostly because we don’t want the hassle. I’m going to work a little harder at it this year. (Please don’t give me a hard time about how I eat – it’s definitely off limits and I’ll delete your comment if you do — sorry.)
  • Figure out our cargo hauling solution. We’re doing most of our non-kid-hauling trips by bike, but we’ve yet to work out a way to carry oversized items that can’t be hauled on a pair of bikes with large panniers. I’m thinking it’ll likely be either a Big Dummy, or if the budget allows, a bakfiets.
  • Chill out on the bike maintenance thing. I baby my bikes too much for someone that uses them on a daily basis. I need to think of them more as tools, maintain them to the minimal level that’s reasonable, and quit sweating the nicks, scrapes, and road grime.
  • Stay focused. Most importantly, I hope to stay focused on the core mission of this site:

    This site is the public expression of our personal commitment to reduce our impact on the environment by employing bicycles as our primary mode of transport. By sharing what we learn from this endeavor, while also providing an aesthetically pleasing experience that celebrates the beauty of the bicycle and the joys of everyday bike riding, we hope to inspire others to make a similar commitment.

Please feel free to share your resolutions in the comment section below. Wishing you a prosperous, healthy, and happy 2009! —Alan

19 Responses to “Turning Over New Leaves”

  • Hercule says:

    I can identify with your bike maintenance resolution. I spend hours polishing, cleaning and lubricating my “best bikes” – you know, the ones with top end gears, sealed bearing hubs, last you a lifetime. The Giant town bike that gets me places, hauls the shopping, goes to the dump, and is out in all weathers, gets a cursory once over once in a while. And it has the cheapest of the cheapest components (barring the lighting system, which is a good but artfully disguised dynamo system). The Giant causes me no more problems than any of the other bikes – in fact I suspect it may cause less.

    However, there is an odd rattling coming from the back wheel, so I think it will be in the workstand for an inspection shortly…

  • brad says:

    My resolution for 2009 is to go car-free. I lived in rural areas and suburbs all my life until I moved to Montréal in 2002, so having a car has always been second nature to me. But I’m finding that I drive so rarely now (it takes me a month and a half to go through a tank of gas) that I can’t justify having my own vehicle any longer. My car is relatively new (2005) and paid for, and yet in 2008 I spent over $3,000 in maintenance, parts, registration, insurance, and gasoline. In contrast for $140 I can have a year’s membership in Communauto, our analogue to Zipcar, which would give me access to a car for the few times I need one (mainly long trips or times when I have music gigs and need to haul my sound system). Communauto charges reasonable rates per hour or kilometer. I’ll no longer have to pay for insurance or registration, won’t have to deal with maintenance, buying new tires, remembering to switch my car to the other side of the street every Thursday for street cleaning, etc.

    There’s a bus stop at the end of my street, and the closest Métro station is seven minutes away by bus, a little longer by bike. Most of my regular transportation and shopping needs can be met by bike or public transit.

    I’ll miss the convenience of being able to hop in the car for spontaneous trips, and there’ll certainly be a hassle factor involved in having to reserve a car whenever I need one. But I’m pretty sure that hassle will be outweighed by the financial and time/hassle benefits of having one less big expensive possession.

    I’m keeping the car for the winter as I have a bunch of road trips planned for the next few months, but come spring I’m putting it on the market. I should be able to get about $8K for it, enough to fund my car travel with Communauto for quite a few years.

  • Leo says:


    Happy New Year! Thank you so much for producing ecovelo! Always entertaining and informative! Much appreciated. Greatly looking forward to ecovelo 2009!

    Leo in Monterey (New Year’s resolution: Uh, I forget. I KNOW I was gonna make one…)

  • Adam says:

    To me to reach a goal it always has to be measurable and quantifiable. That way you know when you’ve reached it, or how much further you have to go. It also allows you to build smaller milestones to get to that goal. For example your goal to decrease your dairy intake, I would start by having some measure of present dairy intake and then decide on what level I would like to decrease it to. Then choose a timeline and milestones to get there and goals are surprisingly easy to reach.

    One of my goals for the new year, and I know this might not be a popular one here, is to get back behind the wheel of my car. I’ve been car free for some time and love it and how it’s changed my life and perspective on so many things. The one negative, and it’s a big negative to me, is that I live in SoCal and not driving has greatly reduced my social life. This is partly due to the loss of daylight savings time, then add in the fact that I would have to ride through some rough neighborhoods after dark and I end up stuck at home more often than I would like. So ultimately my goal is to drive again with the mileage greatly reduced from my prior driving habits. I’ve priced an insurance policy that limits me to 2,000 miles a year, so the quantifiable part of my goal is set for me. :)

    Happy new years to everyone!

  • tdp says:

    It’s funny to work out at a gym and watch how the number of new members explode on Jan 1 and over the course of the next three months watch as the numbers drop back down to a core but loyal base, one reason I never make resolutions, I personally can’t keep them. I usually kist make plans when I get it in my mind to finally do something.

    Two years ago I went from doing small week long tours to now am planing longer and longer trips. Something I wanted to do for some time but didn’t have it in my mind until deciding that “if I only had a ‘real’ tour bike, I’d enjoy touring more.” Last summer we did a two week trip, travelling much further than ever before. Next summer includes plans for a month long trip in preparation to cross N. America the following summer and then touring New Zealand that next (N. American) winter.

    I suppose if I had a “New Years resolution” it would be for longer cycle tours more often while bitching less. That is the plan anyway.

  • Nate says:

    Thanks for sharing your talents and your passions. Happy New Year!

  • Alan says:


    That’s fantastic. I love the ZipCar/Communauto concept – I only wish it was available on my area. I can’t complain though; we have a fairly well-developed local transit system.

    Please keep in touch and let me know how your car-free adventure works out.

    Happy New Year!

  • Alan says:


    Great point regarding “quantifiable” goals. As a matter of fact, the study found that choosing quantifiable goals improved success rates to a fairly significant degree.

    Best of luck with going “car-lite” – we’re in a similar situation with a limited-mileage insurance policy.

    Happy New Year!

  • Alan says:


    I suppose if I had a “New Years resolution” it would be for longer cycle tours more often while bitching less. That is the plan anyway.

    That sounds like a great resolution to me.


    Thanks Nate, and Happy New Year to you!

  • Fritz says:

    No wonder I’m such a failure — I’ve never made a New Years resolution!

    Happy New Year!

  • Croupier says:

    I’m also surprised that such a high rate of people follow through with their New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, it usually takes a bit more than a new wall calendar and ungodly hangover for me to be so motivated. But, hell, I’ll give it a go.
    I’m going to resolve to ride with more people, more often this year. With so many of my errands and day-to-day bike use, it ends up being a very independent thing. But when I do get a chance to ride with some friends (usually just for kicks), I end up having a great time. I think I might even look into planning a weekly ride with some cyclists I know and maybe we can convince some of our less dedicated friends to come along.
    Part of what was so great about riding BMX back in the day was the community aspect. We never rode alone, what would be the fun in that? Since I’ve started use my bicycle as a means for transportation instead of sport, I’ve truly missed the friendly, communal magic that bikes so often spread. Now that I’ve found a so many swell people who are in the same boat as me, I’m determined to get some of that back.

  • JepLeas says:

    A “Cargo Hauling Solution” an idea that keeps coming to my mind is a side car that plugs into an Xtracycle frame (now an open standard). If it is practical, it would allow large objects (3′ cube) to be carried like a bakfiet. The advantage would be that it could be detached from the Xtracycle and folded flat and also cheaper. It may be possible to get the side car wheel to lean with the bike rather than fixed like a motorcycle side car. I shared my idea with Xtracycle but never heard back. So I figured here, a lot of eyes would see this idea and maybe someone would run with it.

    – JepLeas

  • Loren Hackerott says:

    Alan, as one person put it, they are 100% vegan, 95% of the time. I am far less concerned about something that might occasionally be in some article of food than I am about the everyday things that make up my diet. One of my favorite authors said, God is trying to lead us back to a diet of the original products of the earth. I am grateful for the knowledge that has come my way in regards to the benefits of a vegetarian / vegan diet.

    My biking has been almost nil for almost two years now. I thought buying a new to me bike mike get me going again. Now their is a Longbikes Slipstream in the garage. However, as someone pointed out earlier in this thread, riding by myself is pretty boring. Maybe I should have “bought” a riding partner instead of another bike. If anyone is near Merced and looking for a riding partner, send me an email at vegan777 at hotmail dot com.

    There are at least 7 bents in the garage. One goal is to sell off at least three of them. Another is just to get back into riding.

    Happy New Year to all.

  • Jim Barker says:

    This is a great blog. I agree that new year’s resolutions can work and are worthwhile. I admire your complicated commute too. It takes real planning and effort to do it so well.
    I also agree that the more specific, the more likely the resolution is to succeed. Finally, if one says it out loud after writing it down, it seems much more likely to really happen.
    I have bike commuted in two previous locales (Omaha, Ne and central Texas) but can’t really visualized a safe way to do it here in Columbia, SC where we now live.
    My resolutions in simple form are:
    1. lose down to normal body weight (70 lbs to go). There is a great article on this on the bicycling magazine website http://www.bicycling.com.
    2. communicate with loved ones often and from the heart.
    3. exercise at least 5 days a week (cycling, dog walking, weightlifting, pedal boat on the lake).
    4. live in the moment. (i particularly want to enjoy some new hobbies more such as gardening.)
    5. find local farmer’s markets and eat their produce.
    Good luck to all in this new year.
    Jim Barker

  • Barbara Kilts says:

    I’m very much looking forward to one of your beautifully composed photos of your Pashley adorned with mud! I know it doesn’t rain very much in valley, but it will, and you’ll be there to ride through it. Yes, less polishing will give you more time to enhance this wonderful blog with your photographic talent and journalistic insight.

    Happy New Year to you and everyone out there – keep riding!


  • beth h says:

    Hey Alan — here’s how you “chill out on the bike maintenance thing”: Get a job as a bike mechanic in a shop. I guarantee that after you’ve spent a few weeks working on everyone else’s bikes, you will not want to do more than keep your tires topped off now and then. Trust me on this one. I turned a wrench for thirteen years before becoming our shop’s lead buyer last year; and only now am I beginning to feel the slightest inkling to lay hands on any of my bikes for more than five minutes at a time.

  • Toby says:

    I am also quite surprised by the 46% success rate of New Year’s resolutions you mentioned. I was out today with my daughter Whitney; we were laughing at the number of folks we saw out running & biking with obviously new Xmas gear, & in general being very cynical about the long-term outlook of continuous usage. Perhaps I should cycle back my cynicism a bit.

    I am primarily a road biker; it is perhaps my major interest. I live on the SF Peninsula, which is a road biking paradise, and only wish I had time to ride more. My road bike is a Trek 5200, but as it has spent too much time this fall hanging from the ceiling, I have begun to ride to work on an ancient Specialized Rock Hopper that I have fitted out with a new Nashbar pannier bag that allows me to get my dress clothes to work in sharp-pressed shape, something that was a large deterrent before. It is only a couple of miles each way, but it gets me out of the car. Committing to bike to work does take planning & forethought, but I am glad I take the time every time I do it.

    I, for one, am not surprised to hear about your bike maintenance mania; after personally watching you fiddle with your drums hour after hour, day after day, I would expect nothing less.

    My own resolutions:

    -Commit to riding to work whenever possible.
    -Get at least 75 miles a week on my Trek, do a century this year, and ride all three Bay Area peaks (Mt. Hamilton, Mt. Tam, & Mt. Diablo) before summer.
    -Continue to work on learning conversational Spanish.
    -Cut back on the cynicism & focus more about what I want to do, especially in the areas listed above!

    Good luck with your resolutions, and perhaps there will be a bike ride together in our future.


  • Alan says:


    You’re so right – there’s nothing like making a hobby a profession to ruin it. I essentially did that with fly fishing – 10 years in the industry was enough for a lifetime… LOL.

    Take care-

  • Alan says:


    “I, for one, am not surprised to hear about your bike maintenance mania; after personally watching you fiddle with your drums hour after hour, day after day, I would expect nothing less.”

    Ha! Old habits are hard to break.. :-)

    “Good luck with your resolutions, and perhaps there will be a bike ride together in our future.”

    And good luck to you too. I’d like a bike ride together – let’s add that to our list for ’09…


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