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Setting cycling goals and how to achieve them

Setting cycling goals and how to achieve them

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Goal setting can be an extremely beneficial process in many areas of life, not just cycling, but poorly conceived goals can have a negative effect, leaving us feeling frustrated, disappointed in ourselves and unfulfilled. However many of us only set goals once a year, at New Year, and, considering that studies have shown only 8% of people sustain their New Year’s resolutions, we are getting something wrong.

What it takes to win

Goal setting is a key process within the Great Britain Cycling Team. For any event, the first question that the coaches will ask is, “what will it take to win?”. So, for the team pursuit for example, they will determine the time that they think the team will have to achieve to win Olympic Gold. From this time they can then calculate the power required by the riders to hit this mark and all training is then geared towards this and attaining stepping stone markers along the way. These stepping stone markers might be a target Flying 200m time, Individual Pursuit goal or simply some power numbers to hit in a training session but all will lead towards that winning end goal.

All levels

You don’t need to be a Great Britain Cycling Team rider to benefit from good goal setting. For anyone who wants to improve their cycling, whether looking to start riding regularly, targeting your first sportive or looking to move up racing categories, good goal setting will get you there.

Small goals lead to bigger ones

Don’t just set yourself a big long-term goal way off in the future, put in place lots of smaller “stepping stone” goals. These could include managing all of the sessions in your training plan each week, a big plus of following a structured plan, or hitting the targets set in a specific workout. Even micro-goals can all contribute towards reaching that end objective. Drinking a certain number of glasses of water each day or doing 5 minutes on the foam roller for example, it all helps.

Commit to paper

Writing down your goals makes them more real and, by being able to refer back to them, you can check your progress and tick off the stepping stone goals that you have achieved. Work back from your main target and plan the steps that will take you to it.

Get S.M.A.R.T.E.R.

When setting your goals, follow the SMARTER acronym.


Poor Goal



Specific: The more specific and detailed goals are, the more likely you are to stick to them. Conversely, vague goals, such as losing some weight or getting out on the bike a bit more, are likely to fail.

“I’ll start cycling to get a bit of exercise.”

“I’ll follow the British Cycling Sofa to 50 km Plan.”


Measurable: Hard data, whether distance, time, heart-rate or power, is extremely motivating.

“Before my 100km hilly sportive, I’ll make sure I get in a long ride.”

“2 weeks before my 100km sportive, I’ll do an 80 km ride with 1500m of ascent.”


Achievable: Goals have to challenge you but also have to be achievable. Too easy or too hard and it will be demotivating. Look for goals that you reckon you have a 70-80% chance of succeeding with.

“Ride a 10-mile time trial.” (too easy)

“Beat the club 10-mile time trial course record.” (too hard) 

“Over the course of the season, take part in at least half of the club 10-mile time trials and improve my average power output by 20 watts."


Relevant: Your goals have to be relevant to your life, values and interests. There is no point trying to force yourself to do something you really hate!

(If you hate the idea of indoor training)

“I’ll do three turbo sessions each week.”

“I’ll include focussed efforts into three of my rides each week.”


Time-Dependent: Fix definite dates to your goals.

“I’ll do my dry-run training ride about four weeks before my 100km sportive.”

“On Sunday 18th March, I’ll ride for 80km and, like my event, start at 0900.”


Energising: Your goal has to energise, excite and motivate you.

“Do a 10-mile time trial effort on my turbo.”

“Go and ride my local club 10-mile time trial course and see how I stack up on Strava”


Re-evaluated: If your goals are too rigid, you are unlikely to stick to them.

“I’ll do a four hour road ride at the weekend no matter what.”…..It snows

“If I can’t get out on the road I’ll go for a mountain bike ride instead.”

Find the Training Plan for you

No matter what your cycling goal, there is a British Cycling Digital Training Plan to help you achieve it.