Adding interest to a year of biking

John Yoder blogs about bicycling at www.goshencommons.org.
Posted on Feb. 12, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Feb. 12, 2013 at 1:10 p.m.

John D. Yoder

Cycling Sense

I wrote earlier about the value of setting seasonal goals as a way to motivate myself to continue riding. Recently I began to think about a wider range of goals, not just miles that serve that purpose, as well as adding variety to my cycling universe.

Attitude goals: If I approach every ride with the attitude that I must maintain a certain speed, burn so many calories or ride so many miles, I make riding into a workout and a chore. I might instead make the goal be to enjoy my surroundings and companions. It’s the “smell the roses” concept applied to cycling.

Fitness goals: Losing weight, raising my heart rate or improving my climbing ability are worthy goals, but other possible fitness goals might be to do some cross-training with running, walking, weight-lifting or yoga. Bikers need to consciously work on building strength in the upper body, since cycling does nothing for those muscles.

Equipment goals: A new bike is an obvious example, but consider a different kind, like a recumbent, tandem or folding bike. Less obvious is the goal of learning to use a new accessory like a GPS, mastering a backpack hydration system or learning to use cleated pedals. Two years ago my equipment goal was learning to load front and rear panniers for a long, self-contained ride. Another goal was to ride my mountain bike more, so I replaced the hard-to-use lever brakes under the handlebars with grip-shift brakes. The improvement was amazing and the result was that I rode that bike three times as much as I had before. It was a blast.

Education goals: There are many books about cycling with suggestions for improving your form, fitness and enjoyment. I learn from reading cycling magazines as well, but the most practical cycling education I’ve had was taking the Traffic Skills 101 class from the League of American Bicyclists — a course I now teach. Check it out at http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/education/courses.php#101 and my class at www.trafficskills.blogspot.com.

Event goals: I find it helpful to pick an organized ride and use it as motivation to get in shape. If you’ve done one-day rides, consider a multi-day ride or weekend ride.

Some rides that I’ve enjoyed, in addition to the Pumpkinvine Ride (http://www.pumpkinvine.org/PBR_html/annual_PBR.html) are:

Ÿ Amish Land and Lakes, Howe, Ind. (two days): http://www.amishlandlakes.com/

Ÿ Apple Cider Century, Three Oaks, Mich. (one day): http://www.applecidercentury.com/

Ÿ Tour of the Mississippi River Valley (TOMRV), Iowa and Illinois (two days) http://www.qcbc.org/tomrv/

Ÿ RAGBRAI (ride across Iowa, seven days): http://ragbrai.com/

Ÿ Hilly Hundred, Bloomington, Ind. (two days): http://www.hillyhundred.org/ .

People goals: If I find myself riding with the same people all the time, I seek out a different group. Possibilities include organizing a ride with extended family members, a church group or neighbors. If you have a tandem, consider volunteering to be the captain for a blind stoker. There’s an organization that can make the connections: Blind Tandem Cycling: http://bicyclingblind.org/

Maintenance goals: Examples would be to learn how to change a tire, lube a chain, true a wheel or change the brake pads. A good reference work is “Bicycle Maintenance & Repair” by Todd Downs, from Rodale, available on Amazon.com for $15.99.

Advocacy goals: Connecting my interest in cycling with like-minded people helps keep me motivated, too, so I belong to a number of bicycle advocacy groups — the League of American Bicyclists, Bicycle Indiana or the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Local groups like the Friends of the Pumpkinvine are always looking for volunteers to help with their bike ride. Volunteering at Chain Reaction Bicycle Shop is another possibility, even if you are not a skilled mechanic.

Mileage goal for the year: I also have a mileage goal for the year. It is easy to calculate and is very objective. All that is required is keeping track of your miles with a bicycle odometer. I keep monthly and yearly records so that I can compare where I am now with where I was last year at the same time. That comparison to last year is helpful because a yearly goal, like 3,000 miles, divided by 12 months equals 250 miles per month. I know that I won’t do 250 miles per month in the winter, but monthly totals from 2012 tell me if I’m on track to reach the 2013 goal during the winter months. I can see, for example, that although I rode only 100 miles indoors in January 2013, I did the same in January 2012 and still reached my yearly goal.

John D. Yoder, before retiring, was a cycling commuter between Goshen and Elkhart and continues his interest in cycling as a recreational rider, teacher of cycling classes and president of the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail Inc. He writes about bicycling at www.goshencommons.org. This piece was originally published Jan. 18, 2013.

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