It’s that time of the year again, when the bike goes under the cover for the winter. For me, this moment is like New Year’s Eve, the end of one period of time and the start of another. I’m talking about the motorcycling season here in Canada but it’s comparable to, perhaps for bikers more significant than, the calendar year. And so I find myself reflecting back on the season, assessing whether I achieved my goals, and setting new ones for 2018.
Do you set goals for your riding? For some, it might be simply to get out more. For others (or the delusional), it might be to win the Men’s Senior TT, the Paris-Dakar rally, or MotoGP. A goal can be a particular destination or the decision to be a better rider, correcting some bad habits that have crept into your riding. If you ride recreationally in a club, a successful season might be determined by the number of new friends you have, or how much money you’ve raised for certain charities. And sometimes the goals can be physical, like trading up your bike or getting some needed gear or accessories.
I’m a very goal-oriented person, not just with my riding but with pretty much everything I do. I’m not obsessed with achieving my goals to the point of taking the fun out of recreation, and I’d hate to be judged as taking myself too seriously. But I hate doing things half-assed, and I like to have a clear idea of where I’m going. Goals help me with both. They push me to do a particular skill to the best of my ability and they help prevent me from directing my time and energy aimlessly.
Much of what I’ve learned about goal-setting comes from the field of sports psychology, but it’s applicable to any activity, including career goals. If you’re new to goal setting, here’s a primer on setting effective goals. We use the acronym SMART.
Specific: Make sure your goals are clearly defined. Don’t just say “I’d like to get out on the bike more,” but “I’d like to ride at least once a week.” While “I’d like to improve my riding” is an admirable goal, “I’m going to complete this specific advanced skills course” is a more effective one. Make your destination specific and you’ll avoid aimless riding.
Measurable: How will you know if you’ve achieved your goal? If you can’t measure your success, you’ll never know if you’ve achieved it. This goes hand-in-hand with having specific rather than vague goals. You need a clear target to know if you’ve hit it. More importantly, you need to know how close you are to achieving it. Some people say the M stands for Motivational because having a measurable goal helps you stay motivated. Improving my fitness is not a measurable goal; running 5 K in under 25 minutes is.
Achievable: You want your goals to challenge you but be within your reach. You’re not going to go from beginner to expert in one year, from a learner’s permit to the Paris-Dakar in one season. If your goals are too easy, you’ll get an inflated ego and over-confident, and if they’re too hard, you’ll lose your motivation. This is perhaps the most difficult part of goal-setting because it requires you to be honest with yourself about your current abilities and your potential.
Reasonable: Even if a goal is achievable, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s reasonable. I could quit my job tomorrow and ride to Tierra del Fuego if I wanted to, but it wouldn’t be the best thing for my finances or my marriage. Setting reasonable goals means considering not only capability but also common sense. My wife is very understanding and supportive of my endeavours, but finances and summer vacation time are limited, so I have to be reasonable about the commitments I make. A reasonable goal is one that fits in nicely with the rest of your life.
Time-Related: You have to set deadlines for when you’re supposed to have achieved your goals. As with defining your goals, be clear and specific—not “sometime in the near future” but “by the end of next season.” And you should have long-term, midterm, and short-term goals. For your long-term goals, think big. (Hey, dreaming is free!) You’ve got lots of time to achieve them. Midterm goals should be directly related to achieving the long-term goals, and similarly with short-term goals. You’re creating the stepping stones that will get you to your ultimate dream, breaking what seems now like an overwhelming goal down into manageable and achievable ones. Midterm goals keep you on course and motivated; short-term goals help you act today toward that ultimate prize. And while all this might seem a bit fixated on that final destination, keep in mind that, like riding, it’s the journey that matters most, not the arrival. Enjoy the process, or should I say progress?
Some books also talk about the importance of making your goals public. “The more people who are aware of your goals, the more people who will be there to support you and hold you accountable along the way” (Sports Psychology for Dummies 11). So . . . here are my goals for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
In 2017, I decided to focus on developing off-road skills that would enable me to ride to some places not accessible otherwise. Toward that end, I had gear to buy, accessories to add, and courses to complete.
Here were my goals for 2017:
- To buy off-road gear. This meant boots, pants, jacket, and helmet. I achieved this goal, and thank God it’s done because my pocketbook and marriage would not survive another season of expenses like this one.
- To make my bike off-road ready. I added some crash bars, lowered the windscreen, added off-road pegs, and changed to a 50/50 tire when the back tire was finished.
- To take a full-day class at S.M.A.R.T. Riding Adventures in Barrie. I accomplished that. I also took a 2-hour beginner class with Jimmy Lewis as bonus. These two activities did more toward improving my riding than anything else I did this summer.
- To do a long solo tour. As you know if you’ve been following these blogs, I accomplished this with my ride to Cape Breton. My original goal of Blanc-Sablon was not reasonable, and I’m glad I changed it to something where the predominant surface is asphalt and help is relatively near in case of an emergency.
- To do a lot of off-roading practice. I did some, but I broke my radiator and cut my season short by about a month. I’d say that goal was not accomplished but, overall, I had a successful season.
My goals for 2018:
- To finish making my bike off-road ready. I have some upper crash bars (currently in the mail from Poland) to add and will swap the Tourance front tire with a matching K60 Scout.
- To join an off-road club named Moto Trail Aventure, the largest off-road club in Quebec, and participate in as many of their rallies as possible. (This will have the added benefit of improving my French since it seems this club, unlike the WIMC, is predominantly French.)
- To buy an annual membership to FQMHR (Fédération Québécoise des Motos Hors Route), which gains me access to a large network of trails. I’ll be doing most of my riding on these trails to gain the practice missed this summer. The idea is to reinforce what I learned this summer and develop muscle memory.
- To participate in the 2018 La Classique, an off-road rally held each spring here in Quebec. I’ll probably start with the beginner rally.
- To return to DirtDaze Adventure Bike Rally at Lake Luzerne, NY.
- To lead at least one or two rides again with my street club. I already have one destination in mind—a large collection of vintage bikes in Maine.
- And another solo tour. I’ve discovered I love solo touring. I loved every minute of my tour through NS this summer and would love to repeat again next summer. But somewhere new. I very well may be going back to the Maritimes in a car with my wife next summer, so I’m not sure what I’ll be able to afford to do on the bike, but I can’t imagine a summer without some kind of a trip. It really depends on how things shape up. Like I said, most of my riding next summer will be on Quebec trails, so whatever trip I take will be a bonus. Stay tuned.
My long-term goals? Okay, since we’re on the topic, I have a few big ones, all tours.
- To ride across Canada. This has been a goal of mine since I was a teenager. Once I hit the west coast, I could go north to Deadhorse or south down the Pacific Coast Highway to Baja, then across to New Orleans and up through the Blue Ridge Mountains.
- Another destination is South America. I’m not sure if I’d ride through Mexico because I’ve heard it’s very dangerous or ship my bike partway.
- Okay, and since we’re dreaming big, I’d love to do some riding in Africa. These big trips might have to wait for my retirement, but all the off-road riding I’m doing now is toward being able to handle these terrains.
So what are your goals for next year? Make them public and bring yourself a step closer to realizing them.
I’ll be going into my usual winter hiatus with the blogs, but will post when inspiration strikes.