Remember when you played sports as a kid? Each year brought a new age group and a new level of play.
Everyone knew that the farm team didn't have to play as well as the minor league team or that varsity was a big step up from the freshman team. Each year as you moved though the ranks you got better and better and knew that you would have to push yourself a little harder to compete.
But as adults it is too easy to be happy with the status quo. After all, not everyone can keep up with the pack in the Tuesday/Thursday group ride or race in the Tour de France, but you can improve.
If you want to become a better rider you are going to have to take some initiative and step out of your comfort zone. Moving from, "Yeah, I ride bikes" to "Yeah, I am a cyclist" takes motivation and some extra effort, but it's worth it.
There is nothing better to motivate most people then a little competition, and a deadline. Sign up for a race that it is a least six weeks away. If you sign up for a race that is too close you won't be able to ramp up your riding enough to get to a new level.
If you enter a race too far away you will probably wait until the last six weeks to kick into gear anyway. As long as you have a good base going, six weeks of hard-core training will give you time to get in racing shape.
In fact, if you have never been to a race you may be surprised what racing shape means to different people. Yes, of course there will be people there who never met a Krispy Kreme in their life and don't have an ounce of fat, but there are also a lot of racers that look like any Joe or Josephina that you may see hanging out at the local coffee hut.
Entering as a beginner is a good idea if you have never raced before. Be forewarned, that word will mean different things to different people, and the class may consist of true rookie racers as well as some sandbaggers.
Do it for Charity
Another way to go is to enter a charity ride. Most of these rides are of the longer variety. Unless you are used to doing these kinds of rides, you will need to train to get fit enough to enjoy the ride.
Of course, there are a lot of different types of charity rides and you will want to find one in which you can get excited about the charity and in which you can get excited about the ride. These events range from day-long rides to multi-day rides in which you are spending hours each day in the saddle.
The point, however, is that when you have an event to motivate you and donors counting on you, you will be pushing yourself to the next level. Most of these groups have training recommendations for the ride you will be doing that will give you a pretty good idea of the kind of schedule you need to keep to get fit enough for the ride.
Become a Techie
As they say, numbers don't lie. Studies have shown it over and over again—people who wear pedometers walk more, people who track calories eat less and people who weigh themselves on a daily basis are more likely to keep weight off.
When it comes to cycling, people who wear their heart rate monitors and use a computer or a log to keep track of their daily numbers are more likely to improve. There is something about keeping track of your hard work that makes you work even harder. Even if you are the only one who ever looks at the numbers.