With fitness apps and smartwatches, it’s easy for riders to track their ongoing goals related to distance, speed, vertical gain, and hours in the saddle. But for a 2022, try reaching for an ambition that doesn’t directly hinge on performance.
We polled bike coaches, beginner cyclists, and advanced riders across the country to narrow down a top 10 list of the most fun, fulfilling, and joy-inducing objectives for the New Year. For inspiration, read on and take these goals to the road or trail.
1. Take your first bikepacking trip
If you want to explore more off-road trails or combine your love for riding and camping, plan a bikepacking trip.
To determine the type of bike and bikepacking bag you need for this adventure, decide the route and trip duration. Search itineraries online or tap into regional sources like the Northern Colorado Gravel Graceland routes published by Bike Sports, a bike fit studio and curator of camps and guided tours owned by husband-and-wife professional cyclists Whitney and Zach Allison.
The heatmaps function on Strava is another tool to study bikepacking segments and you can message other riders to ask questions about the terrain, Zach adds.
“Decide if you’ll do credit card bikepacking—with a lightly loaded bike and change of clothes for going out to dinner after you shower at your hotel—or if you’re doing full-on traditional, off-the-grid bikepacking with instant coffee and a micro stove,” says Zach.
“How much you carry will change your enjoyment of the ride. Also, consider if you want down time or to bike all day, and how many miles per day,” says Whitney. Note, elevation gain, steep grades, and technical singletrack boosts the challenge.
2. Hit your first jump
Curious about hitting those jumps on the downhill route or along playful singletrack? Before going airborne, take a lesson from a certified mountain bike instructor, advises Jane Marshall, a Carmichael Training Systems pro coach and certified Level 1 coach through the Professional Mountain Bike Instructors Association (PMBIA) and USA Cycling. “Jumping is the most advanced mountain bike skill,” Marshall says.
Experienced riders can expect a half-day lesson while beginners would need multiple days. During instruction, Marshall says to expect proper body positions on the bike—“neutral” and “ready” plus landing technique—and bike-body separation. “So, if the rider needs to adjust in the air, they can move side to side or front to back over the bike. They’re not sitting on the bike,” she explains.
Students also learn trail sight, to identify where to take off and land, how to gauge speed for their approach, proper shifting and gear settings, as well as braking techniques for take-off and landing. At a minimum, riders “should have a trail-specific mountain bike helmet with good head coverage and MIPS technology. A full-face helmet and pads offer more protection,” says Marshall.
You can find a coach through USA cycling, she adds, and often PMBIA-certified instructors or other certified teachers are available through mountain bike clubs, camps, lesson providers, and bike parks including downhill destinations at ski areas like Whistler Mountain Bike Park in British Columbia and Angel Fire Bike Park in New Mexico.
3. Pat yourself on the back
“No matter what you look like or want to look like, feel proud of what your body can do,” says Joey Howdyshell, a professional coach and founder of the Summit Endurance Academy, who teaches road, gravel, and mountain biking. “In the era of social media, it’s easy to compare ourselves to someone we want to be or look like, and it’s easy to forget what cool stuff we can do with a bike and our body,” he adds.
Howdyshell teaches athletes to focus on enhancing their performance, through benchmarks like comparing how riding the same route felt in early and late season or pursuing a new ride—rather than focusing on shedding pounds. Riders can keep a gratitude journal to help with that mindset and for some, doing an adventure on their bike to see things they wouldn’t otherwise see shows their athletic improvement, says Howdyshell.
4. Sign up for a community cycling event
Race day doesn’t need to be distance or speed oriented. Cyclists can also sign up for community rides for the camaraderie or cause. For instance, try the annual three-day Courage Classic Bicycling Tour benefiting the Children’s Hospital; nationwide Bike MS events from L.A. to Louisiana to New York; or the four-decade-old RAGBRAI: The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, an annual eight-day ride.
“Community is the biggest aspect of ride events but you can also push yourself on longer routes that you wouldn’t do alone with amenities like water and food stops, bike mechanics, plus the festivities after,” said Zach, who alongside Whitney co-owns the Foco Fondo, an annual family-friendly gravel grinder ride with 12- to 107-mile route options.
Events may also host training rides where cyclists can meet other riders and explore fresh routes, added Whitney. For instance, the Foco Fondo offers monthly community training sessions, plus a one-time women’s only meet-up, each spring that are free and open to unregistered riders.
5. Finally get your bike fitted by an expert
Whether you cycle on paved or gravel roads, rocky singletrack, or lift-served downhill routes, a proper bike fit can increase your experience and comfort on two wheels. “Getting a bike fit before you create bad habits is important and brings longevity to the sport. If you’re racing, we can take aerodynamic factors into account,” explains Zach.
A 90-minute bike fit typically starts with dialing in the cleats and footwear followed by how the knee tracks adjacent to the frame, Zach says. “The feet can be closer or further away from the frame, which can require heel shims or wedges,” he adds. Next, the session addresses the bike saddle, knee angle, saddle height and setback, stem height and length, and shifter position.
“Most riders have more than one bike, so I’ll fit their road and gravel bike first then their mountain, all-mountain, cross country, or downhill bike, which needs a less specific fit. The harder the pedal stroke, the more important and specific the fit is,” Zach adds.
6. Explore some gravel
The gravel movement has opened up new roads and routes that even decades-old local road or trail cyclists have not yet experienced, says Zach. “By using a mixed terrain bike that’s not road specific and wider, tubeless tires cyclists can turn down dirt roads without consequence and explore a new place two miles from their house,” he says. Riding gravel “is a way to explore straight from your front door,” adds Whitney.
For exploration, it can be helpful to use a navigation app on your phone, like Gaia GPS or onX Offroad, to track your location, identify public versus private property, and download map data, especially if you’ll be out of service range.
7. Upgrade your seat
For more comfort on long rides, you need at least one thing set up properly: your saddle. Your seat should fit well and not cause pain, so this year, make it a goal to get one that works better for you.
Saddle type and placement is included in many fit consultations, Zach says, and clients can sometimes rotate through various saddles to find the most supportive design.
A few go-to upgrades he suggests include Ergon Bike Ergonomics and the Specialized Power lineup, as well as women’s-specific options. Cyclists can also book a bike fit with Retül fit technicians nationwide, such as Conte’s Bike Shop in Florida or Bike Cycles in North Carolina, which provides “the national universal standard for the best bike fit,” says Marshall.
"Saddle tilt is key, too,” Zach says. “Women riders that have an arched back and are rotating their pelvis under them is a result of trying to relieve pressure. [That means] the nose of the saddle might be too high or the saddle tilt is incorrect.”
Before booking a one-on-one fit, riders can also start with a sit bone measurement to identify the correct saddle width and see if that fixes any soreness, Marshall says. “Many bike shops can provide a measurement, such as with a Retül digital sit bone device, or you can use cardboard at home by following a BikeGremlin step-by-step,” she explains.
In general, though, Specialized saddles with the Mimic technology, which is a blend of materials that support and minimize swelling in the soft tissue, are a great solution for women, Marshall and Zach say.
8. Work a wheelie
We know, a wheelie looks cool—but it’s also a functional skill for bike control in variable terrain from urban to backcountry routes. Fortunately, you can learn the move during a basic mountain bike lesson, Marshall says. Step one is to learn how to do a front wheel lift, followed by performing a front wheel lift while you pedal, which is helpful for riding up and over technical features on rocky or log-tossed singletrack or up and over curbs, railroad ties, rock ledges, or water bars.
“The next step is to hold that pedaling-front-wheel-lift longer. A wheelie is finding that balance point,” Marshall says. For practice, a slightly uphill grassy slope can provide gravity assistance while “you learn to trust that fall-back motion,” she adds.
9. Ride with friends more often
Regardless of restrictions over the last two years, bicycling became an avenue for safely enjoying the outdoors, good health, and for some, an adrenaline rush. With the rollout of vaccinations and adjusted regulations, biking’s social side is back in view for 2022. So take advantage by adding group rides to your list of bike goals.
To meet new ride friends, do a google search for group rides in your city, contact a local bike club for event lineups, and reach out to local bike shops, suggested the Allisons. “Bike shops are usually diverse from gravel and cyclocross to road and mountain biking, and they might know about group rides,” Zach adds.
10. Help a newbie learn to ride
Sharing your love of cycling with someone else should definitely be a bike goal of 2022, as it can remind you what’s so great about riding and give you a companion to share in adventures.
“Teaching someone how to ride properly and with confidence is not always the easiest thing to learn from a significant other. Having a friend and someone who’s been riding for a while help teach can make the learning curve a positive experience,” says Marshall.
To do it, first make the experience about them. “Get your workout or ride in ahead of time, so when you take this person riding you can focus on being positive and riding at their level and pace,” she says.
Find a safe route without vehicle, bicycle, or foot traffic, so there aren’t distractions. If they’re learning how to clip in and out of clipless pedals, use a grassy area or a railing for support. “Make sure their tires are pumped up, that they know the front and rear brakes, and how to shift gears to be harder and easier before they start. Also, teach them how to start with one of their pedals straight at 12 o’clock, so they can push down and sit on saddle,” Marshall says. Take it back to the basics and then let them just enjoy the ride.