Own (your) goals

To really get better at mountain biking you need to replace vague aspirations with targets that force you to commit.

Words by Andy Barlow | Dirt School

Goal Setting is a great way of focusing your mind and making progress. It’s healthy, risky, and will take you out of your comfort zone, which is always the best way of making progress. They don’t have to be huge or unrealistic. In fact it’s probably better that they’re achievable. That doesn’t mean they have to be easy though. Take some time and make some goals for 2019.

Enter an event

Is there an event out there that you fancy but keep making excuses about? Perhaps you need to just book that weekend off, put it in your calendar, then work backwards so you can reserve time off in the weeks leading up to it to give yourself the best chance at it. It doesn’t have to be a big event. It could be an organised trip up north with some pals, a multi day stage race, or even just a local ride out. It doesn’t matter. Choose something that looks fun and stick to your word.

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Ride new trails

This could be the year that you explore a new venue every month. Or tackle that trail that you’ve always heard about. Pick a good day, make sure you have some good company, and head somewhere new. Apps like Trailforks have opened up a whole hidden network of trails all over the country. You don’t have to go far to find some fresh dirt and new trails.

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Session harder sections more

Improve your skills off road by making a conscious effort to go to tricky trails and ride them more than once. Any good rider spends a bit of time riding back up and having another go. The more familiar you become with something technical the more confident you’ll be trying something new on it. The next time you stall on a difficult section, get off and push back up. Have a think about what went wrong and try and iron it out. Maybe even have four or five goes at it. The next time you get to the same feature you’ll hopefully have made progress on it and get through it clean.

Ride abroad

Where have you always wanted to ride your bike? Are there any destination that you’ve always wanted to explore? Perhaps race venues that you’ve heard about for years? Or maybe even just an image of a trail somewhere that sticks in your mind. There are some stunning mountain bike locations out there. With more and more local bike shops offering hire on bike bags, and airline companies making travel a lot more affordable, you don’t have any excuses any more. Throw your Brexit concerns aside and book a flight. You won’t regret it.

Aim for the processes

While it’s important to set a goal so that you have a positive vision to chase, how you get there is actually more important. The trick is to focus on the process needed to reach the goal, and not the actual goal itself. For example, if your goal is to save £1000 but you only manage to save £750, you’re still £750 better off than you were before. It’s about forming the habits along the way that allow you to achieve the end result. That way if you fall short then you don’t dismiss the entire exercise as a failure. Perhaps you aim to get to Canada but only manage the Alps. Or want to ride a round of the EWS but only make it to a couple of Nationals. You’ve still achieved a change in your mindset that allowed you to grow. That’s the important bit. Not where you actually end up.