I suppose we all want to get better as cyclists. What “better” amounts to will be different for each of us. We could get faster, of course, or improve our endurance. We could become more skilled at biking maneuvers such as drafting, riding in a paceline, riding in traffic, etc.
I’d like to get better at all of these things. It doesn’t have to happen right away, but over time, I’d like to see some improvement. And I know how to improve: set a goal, figure out what steps to take to reach that goal, and take those steps.
Problem is, I haven’t committed to improvement. I ride. If my speed averages a little more than my last ride, that’s enough improvement for me. If I ride a little farther than I have been lately, that’s improvement, too.
I’ve got several books with sample training schedules, where the distance and effort are ramped up over a period of several weeks. I know that if I were to pick one of those schedules, or develop my own along those lines, I’d show improvement. But I haven’t.
Biking is still a recreational pastime for me. I really enjoy hopping on the bike and heading out for a bracing hour-long ride. I’m still new enough at it that regularly riding will get me headed in the athletic and fitness direction I want to go.
So I’m going to hold off on a scheduled training regimen for now. As the weather becomes milder and the days become longer, I’ll be able to ride more often. Maybe then I’ll be at the point where I’m setting biking goals, and start to train seriously to attain those goals.
When looking over my riding stats for yesterday’s post, I noticed that I am getting better. My average speed has gone up. My average ride is a little bit longer. That’s all I need. For now.
The way I see it (and a great many, you included my disagree), “training” is for competitive cyclists — athletes, if you will.
I am personally using my bike first and foremost as my primary vehicle. The thing that sits in the guarded parking garage for free while everyone else shells out $75/month to park. The thing with an engine that directly converts almost any edible organic substance to kinetic energy.
It seems here in the US (where I’m from), bicycles are still primarily categorized as sporting equipment for competitive racing, fitness equipment for getting in shape or toys for children. In both adult situations, the goals are to increase performance, which is why training is so popular.
While parents might see bikes as toys for their children, the kids see bikes as vehicles made to propel them four times faster than they could dream of running, a way to spend 5 more minutes at Johnny’s while still getting home before the street lights come on, and… toys to do wheelies on! They don’t need speedometers. They don’t care about their VO2 Max or watching their cadence. They ride to ride.
If only we could be more like children… in so many ways!
Mike Weiland says
Either way you can’t go wrong. For me I train and have to approach it as training. I have to have set goals and stick to a program. I just can’t excercise for the benefits of exercise or to get into shape. Getting into shape needed to be a secondary result. Riding or training is just how you have to motivate yourself to get on the bike.
Training or just riding, just do what feels right to you. Some ride to improve their stats, others ride to get from one place to another, others ride because they like to get out on the weekend in nice weather and enjoy themselves. Most combine those reasons, and many others. Most evolve from one style of riding to another (pure transportation evolves into racing, racing evolves into touring, etc.).
I ride for my health, to save money, and to ride. I motivate myself by attaching myself to challenging events and goals. Those events and goals require a certain level of fitness. My penchant for geekery and numbers feeds into that, and I keep relatively detailed stats on my progress. I feel proud of myself when I finish a route in less time, at a lower pace and higher overall speed.
I also enjoy having my current speed and HR and various whatnots available at a glance at any time. It’s one of my pleasures.
Like children, we do what feels right for us. Unlike children, we don’t always know what feels right, or why. Ask yourself what you want out of cycling. Knowing the answer to that question, the way makes itself clear.
Congrats on your improvement! I can’t wait to hear about your first non-metric century!
Don’t forget the recovery periods!! Ride easy or take the time off from the bike that you need. Then when you come back you’ll ride harder and stronger. Recovery is so important to the overall training to improve performance!!!
Very true, Dana. Lately, recovery periods aren’t a problem for me–I’ve been missing too many days on the bike.
Training sounds like too much work and cycling is fun 🙂 I don’t train, I just go out and ride. Having said that I do keep track of miles, speeds, routes, etc…but for me it’s just putting metrics to myself to see if/how I’m improving. Having a regiment would make me feel guilty about missing a day because of weather or other plans. As it is now I feel guilty enough about not commuting to work daily, which is something I’m working on…
But in the end you have to do what works well for you. If you want to start training I would find an event to train for so that you keep focused and have a goal in mind.
Again, having said all this … in the future I would like to start training for some mountain bike racing. I guess it’s more about what current goals you have than anything else!
hey i like this little journal you have been keeping its kinda cool to know what goes on with road biking im a mountain bike rider but im do alot of riding in the city as well as im not old enough to drive but if theres one thing that ive learned from biking the only thing you will ever need to get better (besides practice) is confidence sounds kinda stupid now but whether its you facing a new (large) hill or its me trying to convince myself to go off that 12 foot drop off all it comes down to is how dedicated you are dedication= confidence if its something you really want to do you will do it sorry for the long post i just saw this and wanted to add this lesson of my own
I like your blog!
I don’t think you have to do any particular thing to be a “serious” cyclist, other than ride somewhat consistently, and care about bikes and cycling in general. I’ve been riding seriously, on-and-off, for over 20 years, and most of that time was spent “training”, though I never raced. However, I have had a change in my attitude towards cycling over the last couple of years. Perhaps you’ll find it interesting. Rather than type it in here, I’ll just direct you to my (seldom updated) blog: