Let’s Talk Cycling Motivation | Barton Haynes

Bart Haynes here, here to respond to a question on a topic that most cyclists don’t talk a lot about (including me). 

A reader recently reached to me: “Dear Bart, what do you do maintain your motivation every day and through the year.” It’s a great questions because it’s an intimate question about your cycling. It’s like asking why you love your spouse. Most of cyclists enjoy riding…simply because we do!

Instead of talking about what motivates me, I’m going to talk about things that help keep me motivated throughout the year. The initial motivation is not as important as finding way to trick yourself into refueling that motivation.

What is Cycling Motivation?

Barton Haynes Cyclist

Cycling motivation is what gets you on the bike. It’s not the same each ride. 

Sometimes you get on because you feel great, and are ready to expend some energy.

Sometimes you ride because you feel like crap and think that a bit of outside time will do you some good.

Sometime you ride because it’s just a part of your morning schedule. 

Sometimes you ride because you feel guilty that you haven’t been riding as often as you should. 

Sometimes you ride because you’re stressed out or frustrated. 

Sometimes you ride because you want to go beat your best time.

Sometimes you ride because you have a race in three weeks and you don’t want to burn out ¾ of the way through because you didn’t prepare enough.

You get the point. It’s different each time for all of us. What we want to avoid is chronically feeling like riding is a drag. That’s the road to burnout. When that happens, you need to mix things up a bit, and relight that fire under your rear. Here are a few things I do. 

Create a Training Regimen That Motives You

Having a training regimen that you follow at least a couple of rides per week is a good idea. Of course, I’m biased because it motivates me. Why does it motivate me? Because doing the same type of ride and/or training activities each week allows me to:

  • Track my progress over time
  • Have clear goals for that activity
  • Learn how to hone in the “sweet spot” of putting in max effort without hitting my wall

In short, it creates a space for me to really feel and see my improvements. I also love simply going out for a ride with no other agenda than riding 40 miles, but having specific types of rides or training exercises is very useful to me as well.

Keep Track of Racing Stats

I’m a bit of a numbers guy. I like keeping track of my race times and training stats. I often do the same races every year, which means if I keep track of my times I can also track progress over time. 

Some years are great, others are not. This year, for a number of reasons, was not my best year. That is a motivator to do better. A couple of years ago was my best year ever. That was also a motivator to keep it up. 

Keeping track of your stats is also fun, especially when you have several years of race data, and it helps motivate me whether I’m riding well or not.  

Go Ride Someplace New

Mixing up the places you ride is also important. It’s certainly important for me. I don’t like being bored and doing the same ride over and over gets boring. Boring is not good for motivation.

For me, that has meant that weekends are a great opportunity to drive 30 or 45 minutes away and try a new ride. It means mixing up routs on different rides. It takes planning and time, which can be tedious, but it’s a lot easier to “lose yourself in your ride” when you are someplace new. 

Riding in new places often leaves me with the feeling that I really went somewhere, which is not the case if I ride the same ride I’ve already done half a dozen times. 

Take a Break

Last but not least – and I’ve spoken about this recently – is that taking a break at the end of year (or simply when you are starting to burn out) is essential to rejuvenating motivation. Breaks are important. Give yourself the space and permission to simply rest. Let your body heal. Let the self-imposed pressure of improving and maintaining and preparing relax for a while.

As driven athletes, it’s hard to relax. It feels like “giving in” or “being weak”. But it’s not. All professional athletes take time off to rest, heal, and prepare. Which is how you should look at taking a break: a time to prepare. As Lao Tzu said, “the sage known the value of resorting to doing nothing.” The same is true for motivation. 

Best of luck,

Barton Haynes