Do you know where you’re going with your bicycle riding? Do you know what your current mileage is and how much you’re planning to ride this year? Do you have a target weight? How do you plan each bike ride you do? Do you roll out of the driveway knowing what the plan is for that ride or do you decide when your tires hit the pavement? Are you planning on riding in an upcoming charity event or race? If so, what’s your finish expectations? In short, do you have a goal, or goals, to accomplish what you want to do on your bicycle? If not, you dramatically increase your chances of failing or not performing as well as you wanted to.

Why do we have goals?

We set goals in order to achieve something important. Goals are our recognition of a problem, or opportunity, and serve as a target for us to focus on. Without goals we risk wandering aimlessly in our bicycle riding. Setting goals requires that we establish our baseline and determine where we want to be in the future. Setting goals puts the proverbial carrot out in front and keeps us moving towards the completion of that goal.

A goal properly set is halfway reached.
-Abraham Lincoln

Defining your goals

There are several factors that must be taken into account when you want to define your goals.

  1. Where are you now? You have to have a starting point which means you need to make an assessment of your current situation. If you’re looking to lose weight you need your current weight. If you’re looking to improve your health see your doctor and get a complete checkup. If you’re looking to improve your riding record your most recent workout data to set as a baseline. Only by knowing where you are now can you plot a course to get where you want to be.
  2. Where do you want to be? Do you know where you want to be with your bicycle riding, weight, or overall fitness? If you don’t, you need to figure it out. Do you want to ride a certain number of miles per week, month, or year? Do you want to drop a specific number of minutes off your weekday loop or commute time? Do you have a target weight you want to be at? Do you need to drop your cholesterol, blood pressure, or resting heart rate? Do you want to complete your first century ride or compete in a race next year? These are the types of questions you need to answer before you can figure out where you want to be.
  3. How do you measure your progress? In order to determine if your bike rides are doing you any good you have to determine how you’re going to measure your progress towards your goals. Setting a goal and not measuring your progress leaves you wondering if you’ll ever achieve the results you wanted. So, how do you measure your progress? Some are:
    • Going to your doctor and getting your blood work checked periodically.
    • Measure and record your resting heart rate when you wake up each morning.
    • Use a bicycle computer to track your ride statistics (mileage, average speed, heart rate, etc.)
    • Weigh yourself periodically.
    • Are you able to keep pace on the group ride?

    These are just a few ideas and I’m sure you can think of others.

  4. How do you get to your goal? This is where the rubber meets the road. Literally. If you want to improve your bike riding, fitness, or health, you have to define, specifically, the action required to get there. For example, if you want to put in 5000 training miles this year you need to determine the number of miles you need to ride per month and per week. In this example, you’ll need to put in approximately 417 miles per month or 104 miles per week to achieve that goal. You’ll need to measure your progress periodically to ensure your on track to meet that 2000 training miles goal. If you find yourself trailing behind you’ll need to re-adjust your plan (increase the daily/monthly mileage) to achieve your goal.


SMART is a common method used to help in defining goals. SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Action-Oriented
  • Realistic (yet challenging)
  • Time-defined
  1. Specific and Measureable. Your goals must be specific and you must have a way to measure them. If you simply say to yourself, “I’m going to ride my bike more this year” what do you think the chances of you actually following through on that are? How would you know if you were riding more than last year? It would be better to write your goal as, “Increase my training mileage this year by 30 miles per week.”
  2. Action-Oriented. How are you going to increase your mileage by 30 miles per week? Expand your goal by defining exactly how your going to do it. How about, “I will increase my training mileage this year by 30 miles per week by commuting to work one more day per week”, or, “by increasing my Saturday training ride to 50 miles”, or, “by participating in the Monday night group ride at the local bike shop.” Writing your goal this way reminds you exactly how you were going to achieve it.
  3. Realistic and Time Defined. You’ve got to look at your goal and make sure that it’s both realistic and can be achieved in the time you allot for yourself. If you’ve only been putting in 500 training miles per year how realistic do you think it is to set a goal to ride 5000 training miles the next year? Not very. You have to make an honest assessment of your abilities and use that to help set your goal. Additionally, you’ll need to propose a realistic time scale to accomplish the goal. If you’re looking to lose fifty pounds and give yourself twelve weeks to do it you’re setting yourself up to fail. Healthy weight-loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week which means a fifty pound loss should take, at a minimum, 25 weeks to accomplish.

Write your goals down

Can you remember everything without writing it down? I know I can’t. That’s one reason to write your goals down. Another is that writing your biking goals down allows you to refer to them often as a motivational tool to keep moving towards that goal. Another is that being able to refer to your written goals allows you to make modifications if necessary. You can’t make modifications if you can’t remember what you were trying to achieve. Written goals help hold you accountable as well. Put your goals on the mirror so you see them every morning when you get up. Share your goals with your spouse, friend, or riding buddy. If you’re comfortable doing it, you can blog about your goals as well. Sharing your goals lets others know what’s important to you and perhaps they can help you achieve them. Who knows, maybe they have goals of their own that you can help them with.