When we think of cycling goals, most people center on what they want to accomplish around a big event or race. While these kinds of goals can be motivating, they can also be mentally taxing and turn your training from something that brings you joy to something very stressful. While having big rides and races on your training radar is important, it’s a good idea to focus on the enjoyment of riding and set goals accordingly.
The current pandemic has allowed us to pause and remember there’s more to riding than chasing those goal races. In other words, there are plenty of good short- and long-term goals you can make.
When I started bike racing in my teenage years, health wasn’t my primary concern. This was something I came to appreciate later. Cycling is about being healthy, staying in shape, and reaping all of the benefits riding provides to your mental and physical well-being.
If you’re having a hard time finding purpose to push yourself on the bike — particularly when racing or events aren’t around — keep your health at the forefront of your mind and center your goals around that. Here are a few ideas:
Get more sleep: Better sleep has many benefits including helping you recover faster between training rides. A simple goal is to make sure you are able to get 7–9 hours of sleep most nights.
Ride more: If you want to be in shape and healthier, you’ll need to exercise more than once or twice a week. While this doesn’t mean you have to ride every day, make it a goal to increase how often you’re on the bike. This could be in the form of total ride time for the week or how many days you ride a week.
Strength train: Everyone has something they can work on. Some of us may need to strengthen a weak lower back or do yoga or work on a stronger core. Whatever the case may be, having a goal that focuses on changing your body for the better is most important.
Small goals are easier to reach and can be more motivating, which keeps you on the bike.
For example, find a tough climb that you’re not sure you can ride up without stopping. Then once a week, try to conquer that hill. If you reach your goal, extend your next goal to climb the hill twice. If you can’t yet reach the top, go as far as you can, ride back down, and ride up a portion of the climb again. Practicing repeats like this improves your fitness and eventually gets you to the top. Meanwhile you’ll really improve your climbing technique in the process.
Two other short-term goals could be:
1) Going a few miles further than the distance of the long ride you completed the previous week.
2) Trying to raise your average speed on one of your rides by 1 mile per hour.
Cycling goals don’t have to be about what you do on the bike. Instead, set a goal to learn how to take care of your bike, and once per month pick a day to learn how to do a specific maintenance task you don’t already know how to do. You can learn by reading a bike maintenance book, watching maintenance videos on YouTube, or by signing up for a maintenance class at your local bike shop.
Here are a few ideas of maintenance tasks you can make a goal to learn:
1) Truing your wheels
2) Performing a basic tune up
3) Installing new shifting and brake cables
4) Deep cleaning your drivetrain, including removing your rear cassette
5) Disassembling and reassembling your bike
If you’ve been riding on the road, mix it up with mountain biking, gravel, cyclocross or even track cycling. Sure, it can be intimidating at first, but learning various disciplines makes you a better, safer cyclist. It’s also a great way to break up the monotony and keep you from getting burned out on cycling.
“I think it’s best to train and treat training as normally as possible,” says Jake Rytlewski, a coach at FasCat. “That is where these Zwift and these virtual gravel events can come in handy. These can be a great way to practice your lead into races, the week of training, days rest before, openers, pre-race meals, warm up, etc. It’s a great time to look at alternative approaches.”