4 Cycling Goals to Set for 2024 That Have Nothing to Do With Racing
Conquering your first road, mountain, or gravel race definitely has its perks, like some serious bragging rights and a real sense of accomplishment. But you don’t always have to line up to compete with others to crush cycling goals. In fact, focusing on other metrics and adventures can enhance your love of cycling in new ways.
To decide the best cycling goals for you, first take a step back and examine what riding actually means to you. Having the time to reconnect to your “why” is a powerful opportunity. “It can be easy, as an athlete, to get so focused on racing and results and to forget why we love riding bikes in the first place,” says Alison Powers, retired pro rider and coach.
By focusing on the joy you experience riding, you can find new ways to challenge yourself and bring even more fun to your rides.
“Non-racing goals can actually give a lot of control to the athlete,” adds Kim Geist, owner of Kim Geist Coaching. “Often, race results come down to who else is racing, the environment on the day, and other unknowns. Non-racing goals can centre completely around athletes themselves… and athletes can be very selective with the details of their new goals.”
To help you set new cycling goals for 2024, try these four that have nothing to do with a finish line and everything to do with your love of riding.
1. Make Your Rides Mindful
We know you love your Wahoo, Garmin, or whatever your data-delivering device of choice may be. But leaving them at home allows you to better reconnect to your body and the feel of riding.
Learn to listen to and work with your body
“Riding with devices that tell you how hard or easy you’re riding, when to go hard, if your training day was beneficial or not, how much recovery you need, when to drink or eat, etc. can really hurt your overall growth as an athlete,” Powers says. “Athletes need to be in tune with their bodies. Always relying on a device to tell you what to do will only hamper your overall growth as a cyclist. Learn to listen to and work with your body.”
Geist uses riding without a device regularly as a coaching exercise. “I actually suggest riders do this at least occasionally: recording the data, but not necessarily looking at it while riding,” she says. “It’s incredibly valuable to learn how it feels to produce certain numbers and to realize that your body’s response may actually vary to produce the same numbers in different circumstances. For instance, it may feel all that much harder to produce the same power if it’s hot and humid and you’re dehydrated. Recognizing this can prompt a rider to make changes or alleviate frustration from not being able to perform as expected.”
2. Explore More
Sometimes the ‘adventure rides’ are the most memorable
Remember when we used to be able to find our way around without a computer on our handlebar telling us where to go? Remember how fun it felt to not know exactly where you were going? Remember how many cool roads you found this way by accident?
“This is an outstanding way to learn new routes around you to keep things mentally fresh,” Geist says. “You may also identify great stretches to accomplish structured intervals on in the future. You’ll tend to remember things better if you piece them together yourself versus being glued to a computer screen.”
It can also be a fantastic way to (re)acquaint yourself with the joys of getting a little lost. “Sometimes the ‘adventure rides’ are the most memorable,” adds Powers.
3. Master Your Weakest Skill
We’re always working to improve as riders and get faster on the bike, but laser focusing on one specific area of weakness and experiment with new plans of attack for getting stronger. Does your sprint need work? Are you usually getting dropped on climbs? This is an opportunity to finally master these skills.
“Now’s the time to work on weaknesses, fix muscle imbalances within the body, try a different type of bike riding like mountain biking for roadies, or getting on a gravel bike, and spend time with family without the stresses of training, travel, racing, and recovery,” says Powers.
“Work on personal skills and abilities,” Geist adds. “There’s no pressure to improve on a grand scale in order to improve an impending result, so riders can put a lot of time into really refining technique and their approach to training to find what works best for them.”
4. Ride With Someone Less Experienced
The beginner’s mind might be one of the most powerful training tools there is: It can help you see cycling through fresh eyes. Riding with someone newer to the sport can be an amazing way to reconnect to what made you fall in love with cycling in the first place.
As a group, we bike racers often aren’t known for being the most humble bunch. Riding with a newbie can also be a humbling way to learn about some areas in which your own riding could improve. “This is a nice mental refresher,” Geist says. “It may allow you to notice basics in your own riding that could use some refinement. Ask yourself: Have you really mastered the tips you are giving to this newer rider?”