Cycling resolutions: Six ways to shift up a gear

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So, how was your sports cycling over the holiday season? Loads of distance logged due to lots of free time? No real change because you worked straight through? 

Or, not much done, due to family obligations, a holiday with nary a bike in sight, the late nights, the heat, the unseasonal rain or the siren lure of the beach?

Three weeks into the new year, and I'm eyeing the road ahead and planning a productive year on the bike. These are some of my targets - and they may resonate with you, too. 

Targeted: a weekly goal can help drive motivation.
Targeted: a weekly goal can help drive motivation. Photo: Michele Mossop

Choose a carrot

Last year, my riding commitment was all over the shop. Weeks of limited activity, followed by blocks of solid endeavour - even though I know how good regular exercise is for my overall wellbeing. 

Like many (most?) sports cyclists, I'm hooked into Strava, which has a distance target setting that keeps you appraised of your weekly efforts. This year, I've dialled it down by 20 per cent - from aspirational to hopefully more achievable. If I only get close to that, I'll still beat last year's total. Sometimes you have to move the carrot closer to the nose of the donkey.

Great events

Every few months, a friend's cycling activity goes through the roof, and I quickly realise - she's looking down the barrel of another epic outing. 

There's nothing like an upcoming event for getting you off the couch and onto the bike, and the fittest I've ever been as a cyclist is in the run-up to climb-tastic outings like the Audax Alpine Classic. 

For me, the trick is to commit way in advance (entry fee, transport, brave boasts, etc) and then be forced to find the time and willpower to prepare. Among other events, I'm considering a first stab at Fitz's Challenge (dead roads, endless hills, who can say no?) and hope to end the year on a high at the inaugural L'Etape Australia

Holidays on a roll

Cycle touring is one of my favourite pastimes but lugging panniers isn't for everyone. An alternative is to go somewhere spectacular, armed with a bike and perhaps some like-minded (or accommodating) company, and set about exploring from a base. I'm eyeing the option of a group foray into country Victoria later in the year. 

Meanwhile, I know people who have recently toured Vietnam, Italy and the European Alps on supported trips where someone else takes care of the kerfuffle and leaves the riding to you. It's an attractive proposition ... 

Roads less travelled

I realised recently that I've been riding most of my training routes for almost a decade. They're lovely outings and fit for purpose ... but frankly, I'm bored with them (when I started listing one as "same old same old", I figured a change was needed).

It can be hard yakka getting to know a new course - getting lost, getting suckered onto unsuitable roads - but there are rewards to busting out of the comfort zone. Might even be time to get my passport renewed and start riding south of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Keep it social, spread the faith

Lone wolf cycling has its meditative attractions, but for many the motivation provided by teaming up with others can't be beaten.

Then there's the fun of helping someone else get into cycling - a friend, a partner - although this can be a mixed blessing when they start to kick your tail. I have a couple of friends who have disappeared out the back of the bunch in recent years and it could be time to tow them back into the pack.

Get off the hammer

In the midst of all this motivation and goal-setting, it's easy to forget the simple joys of two-wheeled travel. Grabbing a bike and rolling around an unknown part of one's suburb on a late afternoon. Finding out where that twig-laden shared path actually leads to. 

One of my new year's resolutions is to regularly set off on a bike with no goal in mind. I'm sure I'll find my destination when I get there. 

Fairfax journalist Michael O'Reilly has written the On Your Bike blog since 2011. He has won a Cycling Promotion Fund media award and is a regular voice for cycling on radio and television.

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