How to create a 2023 MTB planner for achieving your riding goals

By Gene Hamilton of BetterRide

I hope you have had an excellent year so far, especially on your rides! Did you get out and ride as much as you wanted to? Visit some cool places with ripping trails? Did you reach your riding goals? Did you set any riding goals? It’s hard to get what we want when we don’t really know what we want!

Here is my season-evaluation and  goal-setting worksheet for 2023  to help you plan your best year on the trails yet:

2023 MTB Planner For Achieving Your Riding Goals.

You may ask: “What’s this goal-setting for my riding? I ride for fun—that’s my goal, fun.”

Me too! I think mountain biking is one of the most enjoyable things I do. That’s why I set goals! Improving my fitness and skills allows me to enjoy it more every year. I’m doing the best riding of my life at 56! Here is a cheat sheet to help you start riding at your best! (Here again).

As the 2022 MTB season is winding down (for many of us) it is time to prepare for next season. If you are serious about becoming the best mountain bike rider or racer you can be, now is the time to act.

All the knowledge in the world is worthless without action.

Below is an abbreviated version of the questionnaire I use with my full-time athletes to evaluate their season and design their training program for the next racing season.

Use this to evaluate your riding “performance” in 2022 and plan to Mountain Bike your best in 2023!

At some point, this fall or winter take a break from riding (if you haven’t already).

Two weeks off the bike can do wonders for you! Hike, travel, surf, relax, read—do anything but ride your bike. Your body needs a break from riding, and so does your mind.

Don’t worry, two weeks off the bike won’t hurt your fitness much, and for most of us, it will make us stronger as we give ourselves enough time to recover from so much time spent on our bikes. A lot of time on the bike is not always the best thing since it becomes really easy to create imbalances and over-use injuries.

During your break, set your goals for 2023. They are your goals, so I won’t tell you what they should be as we all want different things out of riding and life.

I will tell you to set measurable goals that you feel are within your reach if you work enough.
In fact, too high a goal makes it too easy to give up, and too easy a goal doesn’t motivate you.

Examples of great goals my students have set are: “Clean Widow Maker Hill!”;“Improve my max squat by 15% by April 1st.”; “Shave 10% off my fastest time on the long loop at McDowell by May 10.”

If you are a racer, be careful to not just set outcome goals. Set performance goals too, as it is impossible to control how your competition performs!

For example, I really wanted to win the World Masters Championships in 2006, but I had no idea who would show up or how hard they had been training (two things I cannot control). So just setting the goal of winning might have set me up for failure despite possibly having my best performance ever.

Although one of my main goals was to win that race, my other goals were:

Shave 7% off my race times from 2005 (where the tracks are the same in 2006),
Increase my max squat by 50% (to where it was when I was 35) by April 15th, to
Decrease my 40-meter sprint times (on my downhill bike) by 20% by July 15th.

For each of these goals I set:

Sub goals. Examples: Increase max squat by 25% by Jan, 1. Increase my cornering exit speed.
Process goals. Examples: Do my cornering drills for 10 minutes 5 days a week. Work up from one five-minute imagery session a week to six 10-minute imagery sessions a week by July, 15.
Once you set your process goals, focus on the process, not the outcome!
If I achieve or surpass all of my sub-goals and process goals I will know I have done everything in my power to perform at my best on race day. In fact, I did this and I ended up third. I didn’t win, but I prepared and raced my best.

After I got over the disappointment of not winning, I was pretty proud of my effort!

Schedule your training and drill time! You may have great intentions, but life has a way of interfering. My schedule often wasn’t detailed enough, for example, I had Wednesday and Sunday as my interval days, but often Wednesday evening would come and I had not done my intervals. Scheduling my intervals for 10:00 am every Wednesday and 2:00 pm every Sunday would have been better.

Adjust your schedule. A schedule is designed to help you—not be a dictator that makes you feel guilty when you can’t follow it. If you realize you have scheduled too much in a day, adjust it so you have time to follow it.

Do you keep a riding/training diary? A diary is a big help in the following exercise and throughout the season since it helps you find factors that lead to changes in performance.

If you haven’t kept a training diary in the past, start now. A training diary helps you learn what parts of your training are working and what parts are not. Reviewing it can explain “peak” performances and poor performances and is a great confidence booster by tracking all the hours of training you have put in.

Your training diary should contain all the information that affects your performance:

Morning HR (heart rate),
Recovery HR,
Hours slept,
Hours of training,
Time spent doing skills drills
Time in HR or power zones,
Time using imagery,
What you eat, etc.

Once you have established your diary, it will be easy to find out “why” and test eating, sleeping, and training concepts.
Why did I feel so strong today? Why did I feel so sluggish last week?

Look for patterns. For example:

“When I do my vision drills before my ride my Strava times drop by 10%”
“Wow, every time I eat pizza for dinner I feel sluggish two days later.”
“When I eat a big breakfast and do a morning ride I feel weak (do I need to eat earlier or lighter?).”
“Surprisingly I climb strongest the day after doing my favorite workout, including squats and ab work”.

If you really want to ride at your best, start a diary today. Google docs/drive is the perfect tool. Just set up a spreadsheet and once you get it rolling it will only take five minutes a day to keep up.

Here is the abbreviated version of the questionnaire I use with my full-time students to help you analyze your 2022 season and help you set your goals for 2023.

Download the Printable PDF version

Step One:
Assess your racing season and your riding ability. Honestly and objectively answer the following questions about your 2022 season.

Did your skills improve over the course of the season?

What are your strongest skills? (cornering, jumping, steep descents, steep climbs, technical climbs, etc.)

What skills need the most improvement?

How did the season go physically?

Did you start strong and get stronger as the season went on?

Did you fade in late July and August? Why?

Did you have the optimum combination of sprinting speed and endurance?

Did you pick 3 to 5 big races/rides to peak for? Were you able to peak for those races?

How was your mental game?

Were you confident and riding to your potential or did you find yourself riding below the level that you know you are capable of? Why?

What factors helped your confidence this season?

What factors hurt your confidence this season?

Did you have a comprehensive training program (mental, physical, and skill)?

What part of your program worked? What parts didn’t work?

Did your riding/racing improve as the season went on?

Did you create and write down concrete goals?

Did you reach your goals?

Step Two:
Print out and answer the following questions to evaluate your strengths and
weaknesses to set the foundation for your 2022 season training program.
The answers below are examples to help you. Please edit and add your own goals. Don’t stop at 3!

Riding/Racing Goals:

Career goal:  Racer—win World Championships.   Passionate rider—ride the Whole Enchilada trail in less than 3 hours.
Three-year goal: Racer— consistently be within 10% of winning pro time. Passionate rider—increase skill to the point of being able to confidently ride double-black-diamond trails in British Columbia.
This season’s goal: Racer—greatly improve my cornering and obstacle skills so I can be much more efficient. Passionate rider—greatly improve my cornering and obstacle skills so I can be much more efficient.
Physical Training Goals, to allow me to reach my goals:

Increase my squat by X%.
Improve my balance by doing balance exercises for 5 minutes every time I go to the gym.
Do more intervals and fewer junk miles.
Skills Training Goals, to allow me to reach my goals:

Example: Work on my cornering body position to increase traction in flat corners by doing drills 1 and 3
Example: Work on my fundamental body position when seated and when standing: the hinge.
Work on my obstacle skills, especially getting up and over obstacles without losing momentum.
Mental training goals, to allow me to reach my goals:

Practice imagery 3 times a week for 10 minutes
Practice all riding skills deliberately by doing the drills correctly to improve my confidence (nothing improves your confidence more than competence in the skills needed to ride your best)
Improve my ability to put mistakes behind me and return to the now while riding/racing
Read this article on creating a Step by Step plan to ride at your best.

Step Three:
Act on your training program! Ride. Workout. Visualize. Constantly update your goals and training program based on improvement or lack of improvement.

REMEMBER, unwritten goals are just dreams, goals you write down you will commit to and strive to reach.

For more inspiration, read my article on Exceeding Your Mountain Biking Goals By Not Focusing On Them.

What skills produce the biggest results? Check out my hierarchy of skills article to get the biggest bang for the buck, practice-wise:  Hierarchy of Skills  

Good luck next season and feel free to call or e-mail with any questions.


[email protected]



You might also like