How missing a goal turns into seven of them

When people ask me to suggest a bicycle, I ask them about their current bicycle and what kind of riding they want to do.

Sometimes I hear cautionary statements like, “I’m not a racer,” or “I’m not a professional.”

Of course: Most people who ride bicycles aren’t racers or professionals. Most of them are like me: riding for fun.

Oh, maybe there’s a part of me that recognizes I’m in better shape than if I didn’t ride, but I don’t ride for fitness.

I’m not a racer, after all.

But I do recognize the allure of goals. For three weeks in December I thought I’d finally developed one for 2020: to bicycle a certain round number of miles by the end of the year.

For me, a round number ends in a zero with a zero in front of that and another one in front of that. (If you’re Lael Wilcox, winner of the 4,200-mile Trans Am race in 2016, you regularly surpass a round number with four zeros in it.)

Achieving my late-found goal was mathematically possible—a modest jump in weekly mileage would do it. I could ride longer on Wednesdays and Sundays; if I rode just a bit before work on the other days I’d be there: roundnumberville.

But turns out I had other things to do:

  1. Go hiking
  2. Finish reading the Saturday/Sunday Wall Street Journal on Tuesday
  3. Write another week’s worth of haikus for 17syllableswestofpeoria
  4. Stay inside and warm when the weather dropped into the teens in both temperature and wind speed

Let me be clear: These are not excuses. But Number 4? Brrr.

And so I ended the year, not with 3,000 miles, but with 2,893 miles. Not a round number. And you know what?

I didn’t care about the round number after all.

I had a pretty good year. I rode more consistently than I have in a long time: a few miles a few days each week. Apparently, all those 15- to 30-mile rides add up. (My longest ride in a day this year was 40 miles.)

Consistency is more than the hobgoblin of little minds; it is the way I retain fitness over time, and despite not having a fitness goal, I know I enjoy my rides more the more evenly spaced my rides, which is not at all foolish.

(This essay is nearly over, no need for you to read it all. In fact, this might be the perfect time to study what Emerson had to say about a foolish consistency in context.)

I also rode farther than I have in a long time: 1,000 miles more than 2019; 1,500 miles more than 2018. This increase is not important, though it does indicate I finally figured out how to review annual mileage totals in Strava.

What is foolish is I now find myself making human-powered goals for 2021, and in January of all times. This is not a reasonable thing to do; neither is it reasonable to share them. But here they are:

  1. Ride 100 miles in a day
  2. Ride every day in April, fulfilling the 30 Days of Biking pledge
  3. Get back on the unicycle
  4. Longboard two miles from Pioneer Park to work on the Rock Island Greenway, which means I need to learn to…
  5. Ride a longboard. But I also plan to…
  6. Drink coffee in an organized way in October, by meeting the Coffeeneuring Challenge, and yes…
  7. Ride just past a round number in a year

Seven goals. If I were ambitious, I’d come up with ten, ten being a round number. But then again, and I have plenty of company…

I am not a professional.

About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
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