July 1st is the midpoint of the year, if you’ve set a yearly goal, you have at least reached the midway point. This year, I set what I feel is a pretty reasonable yearly goal for my cycling miles. 3,000 total miles. The last time I was trying to get to a certain number of miles, things didn’t work out too well, but that’s for another post. Luckily, there are a couple of circumstances that will help me reach my goal.
First, I am able to commute almost daily to my job. Using different routes, I can achieve up to 25 or 26 miles a day. Second, living in the middle of South Carolina, the weather is pretty decent for riding all year round. It doesn’t get too cold here, the record low for Lexington County was -4, set way back in 1899. And although the summers are muggy and hot, the record high temperature was 109 set in 2012. So riding year round and getting the most miles in is very doable.
Why Set Cycling Goals?
Many cyclist like to set goals to push themselves to ride harder and further. Setting goals for yourself will help to motivate you to work hard towards your goals. Achieving your goals will give you confidence and boost your self esteem. Although setting unrealistic goals and not achieving them will do the opposite and bring down your confidence. For this reason, always set goals that are reachable, but ones that will push you to better yourself.
When I first began riding, I had friends who talked about riding long distances of 100 or more miles. I was just happy to be riding four miles at a time and really happy, and sore, at my first twenty mile ride. The more I rode and pushed myself, got accustomed to the seat, and grew stronger, the more I thought about riding longer distances. I finally set one of my goals as riding in the MS Breakaway to the Beach.
The MS Breakaway to the Beach is a two day long bike ride with different routes you can choose (just found out the Breakaway to the Beach ride has been cancelled! You can find similar rides on their site.). I participated in the ride that began at the Carolina Motorsports Park outside of Kershaw, SC and went to Francis Marion University located in Florence, SC for a total of 100 miles. Along the route, there have fully stocked rest areas where you can grab some snacks and drinks. The second day, there are routes up to 100 miles that ended at Sunset Beach, NC; because my family was waiting for me at the beach, I chose to only do 50 miles for the second day. At the end, I was tired and sore, but it was a great experience and a decently easy ride - for a hundred miles.
Keeping Your Cycling Goals
In order to stay focused on the goals you set, it is best to work towards the goal every chance you get. For me, commuting to work daily allows me to easily work towards my goal of 3,000 miles for the year. If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up over it. Hop on your bike the next day and knock out a few extra miles if you can. As long as you keep progressing forward, breaks in your routine are ok.
If you set a huge goal, like cycling 6,000 miles a year, or work towards completing a metric century (100 kilometers), set smaller, more achievable goals for yourself. Completing 600 or 700 miles in a month, or riding 50 kilometers non stop, will help you keep from getting discouraged with your progress. Keeping track of where you should be along the journey to your goal allows you to see how your progress is going. Don’t wait until November to figure out how many miles you have left, or the week before your metric century to ride 75 or 80 kilometers. Not planning is a good way to let yourself down.
Using Tools & Gadgets to Help You With Your Progress
Technology and tools are great assets to help you along the way towards your cycling goals. It’s best to use a few different tools when you are tracking your mileage or working on improving your speed or endurance. Whatever it takes to keep you motivated and works best for you is what you need to do. These are just suggestions of things that I have used or using to keep me on track.
You will be amazed once you start tracking your activities. When I first began riding, I tracked my progres using Runkeeper on my phone. The first month I rode nearly 70 miles. I pushed myself a little harder the next month and knocked out 210 total miles! Tracking your rides or runs will really give you a boost towards the goals you have set.
My favorite apps I use to track my progress are RunKeeper and Strava. Both have free and paid versions, and the free versions are enough for beginners and intermediate riders. You can add heart rate monitors to both but tracking your heart rate will require the paid versions. There are other apps out there that accomplish the same goals.
Strava has a neat feature called Segments where you can create a part of your ride, or all of it into a segment. You can take a particularly hard hill, or fast flat road and create a segment from a to b. If you make the segment public, then other riders will be able to see it and ride it. There is also a feature that allows people who have the fastest time on a segment to be crowned KOM/QOM (King/Queen of the mountain), or CR (for Course Record). As KOM/QOM, your time and name is added to a leaderboard for the route, until someone comes along and knocks you out of first place. Which will give you a new goal of getting your KOM/QOM back!
Plot a Route
One helpful tool I use when looking for a route to ride is plotaroute.com. This website allows you to view a map online and click on roads, creating a route, including the mileage of the route. The routes will automatically snap to the roads by choosing by road and by bike, or you can choose by foot for routes that do not follow a road. Once you have created your route, you can get turn by turn directions that will give you the mileage for each part of the route. It will also show you the hills of the route and tell you the elevation.
Plotting your routes and seeing how many miles the route is will help you plan longer rides or alternative rides to your daily commute. My commute is only 4 miles one way, but by using plotaroute.com and knowing the area I ride in, I can plan longer routes that will help me add to my monthly totals to get to my yearly goal. When you plan a route that takes you on roads you are not familiar with, use your best judgement when riding them. If you do not feel safe, find a different route to get you where you are going.
In order to ride year long, you need to have the proper safety equipment. Bike lights will help you along in the winter months when it gets darker earlier and stays darker longer. When I was searching for lights I had two specifications I was looking for. Brightness and USB chargeability.
For the front light, I chose a bright LED headlamp with rechargeable battery. This headlamp has three lights that emit a very bright 6,000 lumens and has three brightness settings plus a strobe. I use the strobe mostly when riding as it will draw attention pretty well. To attach the headlamp to my bike, I wrap it around the stem and handlebar with the light facing out and the battery pack along the side of the stem. Charging is done by a connection at the bottom of the battery pack and can use either the USB cord, or plug into an electric resectable outlet. Depending on the mode you I the light in, I could get around four hours of use on one charge.
On the back of my bike, I use a lanji bicycle USB rechargeable tail light. I was concerned when I bought it that it was going to be too small, but the size is very nice. This light has 3 flashing modes and lights that will project lines to the side of your bike on the pavement. I have not used these lights and only use the regular blinking red light. It is very visible and the charge will last for a long time.
For me, riding in the south during winter is not too terribly bad. Keeping your hands, toes, head and core warm are the main areas I need to worry about. Layering your clothes is important for riding in the wintertime. For the longest time, I was layering a thermal undershirt, a cotton t-shirt and a dry fit long sleeved shirt on top, but my chest would still get cold. Once I added a thin light windbreaker, I was able to reduce the layers to only my dry fit long sleeve shirt. The jacket I use is the Santic Men's Cycling Windproof Jacket. It is bright and highly visible, has elastic at the wrists that easily go over my gloves and a pocket on the back for storage. The only thing I will look for on my next jacket purchase are pockets in the front for my hands.
Indoor Trainer or Parabolic/Cylindrical Rollers
If you live in an area that makes it impossible to ride year round, an indoor trainer or parabolic rollers will help keep you focused on your goals. If it is too rainy or cold/hot out, you can still get your miles in using the trainer or rollers. I have not used any of the rollers, although they look like fun; I have tried an indoor trainer. Trainers allow you to adjust the tension to simulate hills and unless you have a trainer with a remote, you can not change the tension while you ride. I feel that I get hot very fast using a trainer as there is no wind blowing in my face like riding outdoors, so setting up a fan to cool you off while you ride is important. Also, be sure to place towels or something under you to keep your sweat from pooling on the floor or your carpet. One of the trainers I have on my radar is Sportneer steel bicycle trainer and I’d love to try out the Conquer Indoor Cycling Roller Trainer.
Riding your bike is tough work. If you are pushing yourself to ride further or faster, you are going to be sore. In order to get back out there and put more miles in the saddle, a good set of foam rollers will be very important to reach your goal. Foam rollers allow you to target achy muscles and using the weight of your body, really penetrate to reach deep tissue. I've used the TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller before and it works pretty well. It has raised areas that knead your muscles to work out the knots in them. For smaller targeted areas, use a tennis ball or massage balls. You will feel so much better the next day if you add a recovery routine after your rides. Watching Youtube videos on using the foam roller to target sore areas will help you recover quickly.
What better motivation than the support of your family and friends? Posting your progress on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram can help you stay on track. If you do not ride for a few days, your friends will be the first to notice. To keep it fun, take pictures of interesting places while you ride and ask “Where am I?” and let your followers guess. Post your milestones as you go so people can follow your progress and help you achieve your goals. If you follow people on Strava, you can give out kudos, or like a ride/run on Runkeeper, to show them your support.
No matter what tool or gadget you use to help keep you on track, make sure to have fun along your journey. Enjoying what you are doing will be the biggest influence on reaching your goals. For me, a bike gives you so much freedom. If I were walking around, I’d only be able to cover, maybe 4 miles an hour. On my bike, I can easily do 14 miles! I really love exploring different areas on my bike.