The View From 5000 Miles

3 March 2024

Bike Odometer showing 5000 miles

I just hit 5000 miles on my ebike this morning.

I bought my ebike in September 2020, and at the time I wasn’t entirely certain it was a good way to spend £1600. Although I’ve always enjoyed cycling I thought that maybe the ebike would just be something that I used a few times and then sat in the garage expensively rusting away because it didn’t fit into my everyday life. So I set up a Beeminder1 goal to make sure that I kept using it. I set up what seemed like a slightly ridiculous plan. I looked at how much I’d used my old non-electric bike which I’d bought ten years before in 2010. That bike had cost me £400 and I’d tracked pretty much every ride I’d taken with it. We’d had some lovely holidays in France and the Netherlands but I never managed to keep using it regularly around my hilly home region and when I totted up the distances of the rides around home the bike had been ridden 1419km, that’s 925 miles. (In retrospect I’m not sure why I excluded the holiday rides, but I did.)

So the thought crossed my mind that if I was buying a bike for four times the cost then I ought to try and ride it four times as much; but to make it a goal I then I needed a time frame in which to ride 5676km or 3526 miles. Why not make it a quarter of the time? Well, the obvious answer to that is that I’ve then made it so that I’m riding the new bike sixteen times more than the old one not four! But that worked out as a goal to ride about 43km/27 miles a week. Which didn’t seem like an impossible amount and, more importantly, it seemed like a reasonable justification for spending £1600 on a bike.

It was clear pretty much instantly after getting the bike that I was going to keep riding it a lot and it was going to go rusty from being ridden on salted roads rather than from being stuck in the back of the garage. As well as tracking all my rides by GPS I’ve taken note of when my odometer has ticked over each thousand miles.

  • 0000 - September 2020
  • 1000 - March 2021 (~6 months)
  • 2000 - September 2021 (~6 months)
  • 3000 - August 2022 (~11 months)
  • 4000 - September 2023 (~ 13 months)
  • 5000 - March 2024 (~6 months)

The story is clearest if I explain it with the Beeminder graph to hand. The graph units are kilometres rather than miles (5000 miles is a bit more than 8000km) for no other reason than I’m British and we have a totally screwed up multiway-relationship with both imperial and metric units. Beeminder goal graph

Initially I rode the bike a lot, there were lockdowns and I wasn’t going other places, or to my usual swimming sessions, and it was a new toy I was enthused about. It was easy to ride most every day.

The goal I’d set myself is represented by the red line on the graph and in early 2021 I deliberately took away a lot of the ‘buffer’ I’d built up so that I’d continue to challenge myself. I then ‘derailed’ on the goal when I failed to adequately anticipate the time I wouldn’t be able to ride as the bike would need servicing. Never mind, I pay up my $5 tax for not riding and carry on.

Then in April/May 2021 I had a big problem with the spokes in my back wheel breaking. Several trips to the bike shop and back didn’t resolve the matter and I ended up taking the back wheel to Jim the Wheel Builder who rebuilt my back wheel with better designed spokes. The new spokes attach to the motor in the centre of the rear wheel at a better angle than the originals did. I’ve had no broken spokes since! I think I’d have got through my summer 2021 1000 miles a lot faster without that problem.

Over winter 2021/2022 I was definitely slowing down with my use of the bike and with the end of lockdown restrictions I didn’t get as much riding in during the summer as I had the year before either.

Firstly in June 2022 I hurt my shoulder when I managed to jam the gears whilst going hard uphill. My problem, not the bike’s really but it hurt a lot. It became clear later that it wasn’t a bike related injury really. My physiotherapist blamed it squarely on years of hunching over a desk and I got an actual eye-roll from him when I told him my dominant arm had appeared weaker than the other for several years before this but I hadn’t thought to ask anyone why that might be. My advice would be that if your body behaves weirdly then ask someone who knows about bodies; whether I’ll be capable of following my own advice in future remains to be seen.

Then in July/August 2022 I had a problem where my motor would intermittently cut out which made the bike pretty difficult to ride, it was very jarring and it took a long time to diagnose the problem. Every electrical test the bike shop did passed with flying colours, and it worked fine when bike-shop-guy rode it and we were very confused. The ebike, like all legal electric bikes in the UK, is pedal assisted. If you don’t pedal the motor doesn’t work. It was as if there was a problem with the sensor but the tests of the centre were fine. Eventually bike-shop-guy worked out the sensor was hampered by mud! Cleaned up and it’s been fine ever since. I can’t say I’ve been any better at keeping the bike clean or out of the mud but at least if it happens again I know where to look first!

I put a break in the goal over winter 2022/2023, represented by the flat section of red line. By this time I’d proven to myself that the bike had been worth the investment and I was definitely going to keep riding it but I didn’t feel that forcing myself to ride in the rain and ice of the winter was actually what I wanted. The way Beeminder works is that you can always change your goal with at least a week’s notice. So this-week you is always trying to keep up with what last-week you thought you were capable of. You can’t lock yourself in for a long time and you can always just pay the tax if last-week you set her sights too high.

As such when my original goal date of March 2023 came around I hadn’t quite met the original “ride my ebike sixteen times as much as my old bike” goal but I was pretty close to it and the way that the goal can flex to circumstances meant that I still felt like I’d achieved something worthwhile. It’s fun watching your own progress on a graph so I decided to keep the goal going.

I nearly derailed again in the middle of 2023, with this-week me realising just in time that next-week me wasn’t going to manage to meet the goal. I was busy moving house at the time which wasn’t leaving as much time as I’d have liked for riding my bike for fun.

One of the driving factors behind the house move though was that I wanted to live somewhere where riding my bike for everyday utility trips was the easiest thing, easier than driving. And that’s definitely been true. I’ve ridden my bike a lot more this winter, I have been for a few long rides but the increase in mileage has been down to trips to the supermarket, to the library, to the pet shop etc. Sometimes it’s tempting to take the car but I’ve found I can get a surprising amount of stuff onto the back of the bike and when I do take the car I get stuck in congested traffic wish I was riding my bike.

So I think I’ve paid just $10 to Beeminder to help keep me on track over 3.5 years which seems an entirely reasonable amount for the amount of push it’s given me to get out riding and enjoy my bike. The goal is currently set at a 50km/week rate and, as you can see from the graph, I’ve got 82 days of buffer. I’m going to go and increase the rate and reduce the buffer away as next-few-months me is looking forward to a summer of riding. I think the next 1000 miles might be my fastest2 yet.

My first draft of this post ended here. But then I got hit over the head by the realisation that if I want the next 1000 miles to be the fastest yet how can I make that come about? I change the Beeminder goal up so that that’s my new goal! So 1000 miles is 1609 km, and if I want to do that in less than 6 months how about 20 weeks for a target? So I’ve just upped the goal to 80km/week which is a bit more than I’ve been riding recently but also the northern-hemisphere’s winter is receding and I should be able to take advantage of better weather over the next few months. The time is right to push again. It’s not a challenge if it’s too easy. But it’s also not a challenge if I make it impossible though so even though I’ve removed some of my safety buffer again I’ve kept three weeks in hand, which feels like a reasonable amount to have in hand to deal with any problems as by now I think it’s fair enough to expect something to go wrong. So the goal now looks like as below, with the red line taking a jump and a turn upwards at the end.

Now, I have riding to do!

Beeminder goal graph


  1. Beeminder’s a service where you stick to what you say you want to do or you pay them. E.g. if you don’t want to eat too many cakes, tax yourself by making the third cake you eat each week cost $5 more. I know that many people’s visceral reaction is that they wouldn’t pay someone to make them stick to something but it’s the way that pretty much any coaching set up works really. It works really well for aligning my personal mix of stubbornness and procrastination so that I do the things I really want to in the long term rather than the thing that’s most attractive at the moment. Somehow even a $0 tax works, I do not understand psychology!

  2. As in I’m hoping to hit 6000 miles before September 2024, even with motor assist I’m not a fast cyclist nor trying to become one. I’m a stop-and-look-at-the-view person. 3

  3. And this post has been a good opportunity to stop and metaphorically look at the view from 5000 miles and how I got here.