|Zombie, photographing himself, photographing himself.|
This is my 100th post since starting this blog back in May of 2012. I thought I would use it to look back at what I have done, to revisit the goals that I had when I started, and to briefly consider what my goals might be going forward.
What's This Blog About?
One might reasonably say, "to know what this blog is about, read it" but I will try to briefly address the question from a different perspective. Although I restarted recreational cycling in 2008, it was almost four years later before I started blogging about it. My re-entry into the cycling world elicited within me a powerful feeling of jamais vu; that of the familiar seeming strange. To say that cycling is the most important thing in my life would be untrue and inappropriate, but cycling has been important to me. My entire social life in high school revolved around cycling. I toured endlessly. I raced badly. I worked in a bike shop to earn the money to fund a summer-long bike ride around Europe. As I moved through college and post-graduate training and work, my day to day connection to cycling faded, but its influence remained. So, when I walked into a bike shop in 2008, I expected to greet an old friend but instead found a bizarre stranger whose distant resemblance to that friend made the strangeness even greater. It was only after almost four years that the new friendship I had built with cycling, the old one being lost forever, was solid enough to write about.
And then there is randonneuring. My first blog post came two weeks after my first brevet. The tagline to that post was "As I learned about contemporary cycling, I purchased a new bicycle, a Surly Crosscheck, discovered the sport of randonneering, and in 2012, less than four years later, I completed a 200 kilometer brevet ride." This blog was supposed to be about, not that 200 kilometer ride, no, that was just a first step, but about a 1200 kilometer Grand Randonnée, the Gold Rush Randonnée, in California, in 2013. Instead, it turned out to be about my failure to reach that goal, and what that failure has taught me about myself, about exercise and training, and about genetics and aging.
I do not blog to make money. Many bloggers do make money from their blogs, my most important influences1 in the cycling blogosphere make enough from their blogs to live comfortably. I am not opposed to making money, but I never considered it likely that I would do so by blogging. My primary reason for blogging is to keep a record of what I have been doing, thinking, and feeling with regards to cycling, and perhaps to clarify my thinking via the discipline of writing. Thus, this blog is primarily a journal. That said, I have made it public and even promoted it in a small way (as I will be discussing later.) I have to admit that a secondary yet significant reason I blog is in the hope that others will read what I have written and find it useful or interesting or entertaining.
When I started my blog, the commitment I made to myself was to post once per week. By my manual count, there have been 116 weeks during which I could have posted since that first post, so I am 16 posts behind on my goal. That is an 86% success rate, a solid B. At first, I would try to "make up" missed posts by posting twice the following week, but I have given up on that. I will continue to make a serious effort to post each week, but if circumstances prevent that, I will try to do better in the future but will not look back.
As of August 9, 2014, my previous 99 blog posts have received between 2 and 989 views. This is a small readership indeed, so it is well that I am not doing this to earn money. The post with 2 views is last week's, so the low number of views may be because people haven't had time to find and read it yet. Even correcting for how long a post has been up, some posts are a lot more popular than others. My most popular post was my review of Joe Friel's book "Total Heart Rate Training", so I think Joe should get credit for that one. That said, 41 of my 99 blog posts have more than 100 views, and 6 have more than 500 views. The readership statistics survey I linked to above discusses things bloggers can do in increase readership, and I do very few of them. I occasionally look at my statistics to see what is popular and what is not, and I feel like there are fascinating hints there, but precisely what they are escape me. I would enjoy more readers, and so I am starting to think about what I might do to attract them.
On a popular blog, the comments section takes on a life of its own. Readers compete to see who can be the first to post a comment, inside jokes flourish, and commenters create "mini-blogs" within the comment section. The majority (78/99) of my posts receive no comments. The most comments a post ever received was 13, the next most was 6, and then 4. Of the 21 posts that received comments, 14 received 1 or 2, with the second comment often being my reply to the first. In the case of the comments on my blog, what attracts them is obvious: posts about my training. My fellow randonneurs hate the way I train and are eager to set me right. If you are still reading this post, then thank you, and let me ask you for one more favor. If you have never posted a comment to this blog, could you please do so? I am not trying to drive up my statistics, I am just trying to get a sense of who you are. Don't share anything about yourself you are not comfortable sharing, but if you could put something in the comment about what attracted you to this blog, how often you read it, and what you like about it, like less about it, or would like to see me write about, I would be most grateful.
If I divide my posts into the following 6 the topics, this is how often I have posted about each one:
|Topic||Posts on That Topic|
|Training (Including reviews of books on training)||33|
|History (Cycling in the 60s, etc.)||17|
|Local Bike Culture (Bike Paths, etc.)||15|
|Equipment (Bikes, cyclocomputers, etc.)||14|
|Miscellaneous (Everything else)||7|
Promoting The Blog
When I first started my blog, I made it public but did nothing to promote it. I was ambivalent about having strangers read what I wrote so took this ambivalent approach. I did mention the blog to a few friends and family, some of whom have become regular readers. A while back (I neither recorded nor remember when) I listed my blog with RUSA Blogs. RUSA Blogs is not affiliated with RUSA, the US randonneuring organization, but is put up as a service by a RUSA member and lists blogs published by RUSA members about randonneuring. Most of my readers find me via Google, but the second most common way people come to my blog is from RUSA Blogs. Similarly, when I joined Bike Forums, I mentioned my blog there, and have gotten a few visitors that way as well.
The Future of This Blog
Every week I stare at Blogger's blank white rectangle with despair. What can I possibly write about? Have I not said everything I have to say? It was a wonderful moment when I had the idea of mining my teenage years for posts (the series beginning with Cycling in the 60's: Mountain Loop) but I can't do that again; I have used up my legacy of cycling history. On top of that, I have lost the dream that inspired this blog in the first place, the riding of the 2013 Goldrush Randonnée. And yet, most weeks I manage to write about something. And in most cases, I feel like what I come up with is not just empty words. Reading over my past posts in preparation for this one made me realize that I like my blog. Finally, having experienced the tragedy of being away from cycling once in my life, I cannot imagine ever letting it happen again. Where there is cycling, there is life, and perhaps even a blog post.
1) I will discuss bloggers and other sources that have influenced this blog in a future post.