By Bill Roland
As 2019 gets under way, a good percentage of the thousands of riders in Utah and throughout the Western states, take the time to set goals they would love to achieve this year. Age doesn’t matter. Whether you are 15, 25, 35, or 75, it’s always exciting and fundamentally sound for each of us to create reasonable goals that are reachable. Let’s take a look at some successful methods that will enhance the enjoyment of riding and will also help us achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.
Years ago I read in a cycling publication that while setting goals we should do so by establishing training parameters in one of two categories: time or miles. Do not keep switching back and forth, such as riding 100 miles one week and concentrating on riding six hours the next. Most riders have some sort of equipment on their bike that registers the distance of each ride. Whether it’s a sophisticated Garmin or a simplified CatEye, by the end of the ride we know exactly how far we have pedaled.
For example, let’s say someone wants to ride 2,000 miles for the season. This rider can get out one evening during the week and both days over the weekend. If weather permits this person to ride from April thru October, he or she has about 30 weeks. That works out to an average of approximately 66 miles a week. That could easily work out to two 25-mile rides on the weekend and one 16-mile ride in the evening. Once you set your goal of how many miles you would like to ride this year, it’s just a matter of utilizing a little math to figure out how many days a week you will ride and how many miles per session.
Some enthusiastic riders have bicycle trainers at home. This convenience allows them to ride throughout the winter season. Others attend gym sessions where they get miles adding up by participating in spinning classes. Even if you don’t have an odometer attached to a bike at a spinning class, you pretty much know that in an hour you poured about 16 miles of sweat on the gym floor. This doesn’t have to be an exact science configuration, but if you train by measuring distance, you will be very close to the distance you calculated.
On the other hand, some prefer to set their goals depending upon time on the bike. A rider can basically get the same training by using the clock instead of the odometer. For example, the distance rider discussed above plans to average 66 miles a week. If he/she averaged approximately 16 mph on their rides, that comes to a little over four hours a week on the bike.
If a rider is preparing for a century ride, most like to be training for a minimum of eight weeks. In reality, it makes more sense to initiate training at least 12 weeks before the event. While training for a hundred mile ride, most coaches advise the riders to gradually increase their miles per week or hours on the bike as the deadline approaches. A rider may start out doing 60 or 80 miles a week and by the eighth or tenth week, he or she may be up to 125 miles or more. Many advise riders to go fairly hard up until about two weeks before the event. Cut the training miles or time down just a bit so that your body is physically ready but you are not completely fatigued. And of course, most riders are paying close attention to their diets as the event approaches. How many times have you heard friends say, “Load up on your carbs and hydration three-four days before the big ride?”
Of course there are other variables to consider. The first that comes to mind is the number of vertical feet the rider has pedaled. For those that have access to the long and steep canyons in the Wasatch Mountain range, many of the instruments available at bike shops will calculate those figures for you. Personally, I have a friend I had not seen since last spring and inquired, “How was your summer?” His reply was, “Good, I rode 3,300 miles and did 285,000 vertical feet.” I didn’t need to ask if he was in shape for ski season. Last year, Bicycling Magazine’s senior writer Selene Yeager, wrote a book entitled “CLIMB!” which I found to be extremely helpful (See a review in the July 2018 issue on our website). Known for years as the “Fit Chick” she shares not only her own hard-earned expertise but also wisdom and advice from exercise physiologists, cycling coaches, nutrition experts and top amateur and professional climbers. Speaking of goals: setting a reachable target of how many vertical feet you would like to ride this season, will nearly guarantee that you will attain a degree of fitness that ranks way up there!
Which brings us to another subject that will enhance the potential of reaching our goals–cross-training. Whether it’s hiking in the mountains, running, playing tennis, racquetball, pickle ball, swimming, or spending time in the gym lifting weights, all of us can improve our speed and durability on the bike by staying active in other sports. A very popular wintertime sport that is great for keeping the lower body in good shape is skiing. Whether you travel down the slopes on skis or a snowboard, your legs will get a good workout and be ready for riding the bike when spring weather arrives.
Another factor to consider is whether you prefer to ride with others or alone. Many feel it is safer to be part of a peloton because the motorized traffic will see the multi-colored outfits the riders wear and drive more carefully. After an accident, some motorists claim they did not see the rider because it was dusk and the rider did not have his flashing light turned on or was not wearing a colorful riding outfit. The primary goal that all of us behold is to have a safe ride.
There are many bicycle riding clubs not only in the Salt Lake City area but throughout the western states. Nearly all of these clubs have a variety of groups according to riding levels based on speed and distance. Most group clubs start the season with less intensive rides while each participant is improving their own condition. By the end of the season, everyone is in much better shape and has established quite a few good memories. And that just might be the pinnacle of all the accomplishments we have reached over the course of a season. The friends we have made and the challenges we have encountered, will no doubt make all of those miles and hills worth it, in the long run.