Vincent Hofmann is another of our guest cyclists taking part in this weekend’s Tsogo Sun Amashova. Follow him on Twitter and through our hashtag #TsogoShova to see how his race goes on Sunday. Here is his cycling story, and some handy advice, too.
The Importance of Setting Cycling Goals
I had to have a lie down after my first ride. Two kilometers into the Northcliff Hills and I was done. I’d let my bike fall to the ground, slumped onto a grassy verge which looked comfortable and decided I was done with cycling, done with Northcliff, done. Now a year later, and with a garage full of bikes, my first Tsogo Amashova and 94.7 looming large in the headlights, I’m wondering, how the hell did I get here, and how come I’m nowhere near done with this sport.
Getting Better at Riding
My journey is probably similar to yours, following a crude version of Dreyfus model of skill acquisition – novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, expert. I’m probably in the advanced beginner phase, and maybe you’re an expert, but we share a set of common goals: we want to improve our skills, and ride more efficiently – be that via dropping weight, getting a better bike, or developing strength etc. What I’ve found in the little under a year I’ve been riding is that the only way I’ve improved is by monitoring my performance, and tracking my progress. It correlates with my experience trying to improve my golf swing: you can spend hours aimlessly striking balls out of the ball of the club on the range, but without scenario planning, or drill training you’ll never develop as a golf, or improve on the course. With that in mind, I had to find a way to turn aimless riding about in the Spruit into a race, or a game – enter my coach, Strava.
Although there are tons of ways to gather feedback about your progress, from heart-rate monitors to stand-alone GPS tracking watches I’ve only used one service, Strava. Strava is a smartphone app for iOS and Android handsets which allows riders to track and record rides. Strava uses your GPS on device to track your ride along a route, and to store your segment times between segments submitted by the community. Strava also allows you to log times against others riding the same route, and see your times put up against others in a leaderboard.
Strava unfortunately doesn’t do the hard work of motivating you to get on the bike, but what it does do is give your ride purpose, it shifts your ride from leisure to sport, and that’s what I needed.
Using Strava I could now see how slow I was. Measured against the 1,500 or so other riders on the Spruit using the app I could see I was in the bottom 5%. Using the app I was able to calculate my total ride time and distance. Each time I set out I now had two opponents to beat. In my head it was a race: I’d enter the starting gate against 1,500 riders and my shadow from a day before. Strava does the heavy lifting of comparing you to your opponents, tracking personal bests on segments and broken down by segment how you’re fairing against other riders on the route.
My goals for the first three months: triple the distance of my initial route (not difficult when 6KMs was a long day in the saddle), obtain at least three PB (personal bests) on each ride, and get out of the bottom 5% on Strava. Within a few weeks I’d achieved all of the goals I’d set for myself, and for the first time in my life, could ride more than 20KMs no matter the terrain without gasping for air.
It wasn’t rocket science, I had an in-game enemy to defeat, unhealthy me – if it meant hulking out like Jens Voigt and swearing at my legs, I was going to destroy unhealthy me at every segment. What’s more, I saw every 100 places on Strava as huge accomplishments, I was more fit than other upwardly mobile apes on two wheels. Each time I passed someone, I levelled up, gained new experience points, and incrementally improved – with each improvement came more appreciation for the sport, and even less chance of giving it up, and as I’ve started improving I’ve started asking more of myself. Incremental changes have grown smaller, but, the challenges greater. Pushing myself to 90+ KMs in November, or to break into the top 400 riders on my home turf on Strava, is way more difficult than getting started, but as long as I’m still getting PBs, and I put more and more distance between myself and fat Vince from a year ago, I know, I’ll continue this sport forever.
[Ed’s comment] By the way, for all those riders who have not yet entered any of the races, late entries will be taken at registration, which will be held at Suncoast Casino, Hotels and Entertainment in Durban on the following days:
- Thursday, October 9th from 13h00-18h00
- Friday, October 10th from 09h00- 18h00
- Saturday, October 11th from 09h00- 16h00,
We’re looking forward to an exciting day filled with fun, sportsmanship and success, so put on your helmets and get ready as there are only 4 weeks left to go! Here is an infographic we’ve put together so that you have all the facts: