It was Einstein – not Dr. Phil – who first defined insanity as doing the same things over and over again, and expecting different results. It applies in cycling too.
If you want to improve your cycling, whether it is to ride faster or ride a longer distance or be comfortable riding in a group, then you must practice doing those things. Not all the time, but sometimes. It seems so obvious and yet how often have you tried to pedal faster harder or ride longer?
If you ride the same 25 km (15 mile) route at the same speed every Sunday morning, how can you expect your body to perform differently? It gets used to the amount of physical effort you’re asking for and nothing more. It actually becomes so efficient at the repetitive task that it uses fewer calories to perform it. Arrgh. So, if you demand a little bit more and then a little bit more, you will see improvement.
Even if you say you ride for pleasure – and I do – underneath we all want to know what we are capable of accomplishing. There is a thread running through all our different motivations: we want to know how good we can be given the time and resources available. This is why a goal is good. It forces you to improve to achieve it. It does not matter what the goal is – riding around the block or the city or the state or even the country!
Pedalling a bike 30 km (20 mile) was once a huge achievement for me. I’d just started cycling on a skinny-tire road bike, but didn’t feel like I was a Real Cyclist. In my mind, Real Cyclists rode long distances outside the city limits. They didn’t just noodle on bike paths or back streets, they went places. (Okay, I admit this is my bias!)
Then one day, because of the new route I took (without a map and pre-GPS), I was forced to go 30 km just to get back home. I hadn’t planned on riding that distance, but it felt so good afterward. Well, in my mind. My body – not so much! Still, I recovered and because I knew I could ride that far, I began to do it more often. Now, a 30-km ride is just an easy training ride.
Today, my good rides are 100 km (62 mile) and my hard rides are anything beyond 130 km (80 mile). For 2011, I have 161 km (100 mile) rides in my sights. I have done 100 miles before, twice actually about 10 years apart, but now I want to get beyond even that. Why? Because I think maybe I can.