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Discipline vs Desire

Discipline is having the self control to do what’s necessary to improve your performance, while desire is the drive that sets our goals and wants us to succeed.

While both of these are absolutely necessary to achieve your best they don’t always play nicely together.  For example if you’re starting to feel a little tired and sluggish but you have a session planned for that day, what should you do?   Desire wants us to ride.  Desire wants us to make sure we don’t miss out on any training sessions that will help us be the best.  However, discipline wants us to have a rest.  Discipline knows that recovery is as important as training to reach our goals.    Which ‘voice’ you listen to will ultimately dictate what you do for the day.

There are many different aspects to achieving success in cycling and these two (discipline and desire) and among the most important.   Now days physical talent by itself is not enough, nor is having just a strong will or desire to succeed.   To truly achieve your personal best you need to ensure you fully develop your cycling abilities, both physical and mental.  This takes a lot of discipline and at times it can feel quite daunting, even onerous.  That’s where desire comes in.  Desire is what keeps you coming back, it keeps that flame alive deep down inside you.  It’s what drives you to train.  However, without discipline, that desire can go to waste.  Too often that desire leads to kilometre after kilometre spent riding the bike – often aimlessly, without thought to the type of training being conducted, and far too often it’s not spent developing the skills necessary to truly succeed in cycling.  Ask yourself how you rate your following skills:

  • High speed cornering. Do you truly know the best line and cornering technique?  Can you safely change lines in a corner to avoid a crash?  Can you deal with all types of corners (u-turns, hairpins, off-camber, etc) in wet, dry and/or windy conditions?
  • Bunch skills.  Do you know how to move up in a large bunch? Can you maintain your position despite other riders trying to force you off the wheel? Can you ‘steal a wheel’ safely and without making physical contact or causing a crash?   Do you know which side if the bunch is best to move forward on?
  • Braking.  Can you brake safely in all weather conditions? Do you know the difference between braking and feathering? Can you judge the stopping distance when braking at various speeds?  Can you safely complete an emergency (fast brake) stop.   Are your brake levers and callipers tuned correctly to ensure maximal efficiency when braking.
  • Paceline skills.  Do you know how to correctly ride in a paceline? Can you complete your turn without surging through at the front, leaving gaps or cutting in on the recovering line?  Can you ‘surf’ over at the back to transition from slow to fast lanes? Which direction should the paceline be rotating in and how do you change the rotating direction if the wind changes?  Do you know how to restart a paceline and more importantly do you understand why a paceline breaks down?
  • Tactics.  Do you set yourself a goal for every race, be it a skills goal or race result?  Do you understand the importance of good bunch skills to successful race tactics? Can you adjust your tactics mid race to cater for changes in race scenarios and do you have the discipline to follow your tactics, i.e. can you execute your race plan?
  • Nutrition.  Do you know how much and what you need to eat in the days before a race.  How much energy will you expend in a given race and what are your best options for in-race fuelling?  What is your sweat rate and how much fluid will you need to consume?  Will that fluid be water or a ‘sports drink’?  What are your post race/training session nutrition plans?  Have you factored in the timing of your protein and carbohydrate intake to maximise recovery.
  • Equipment.  Do you have the right equipment to facilitate maximal performance?  What are the benefits and limitations of the equipment you are using in a given race?  Are you wearing the right clothing for the race?
  • Race preparation. Do you know the exact course you are racing on? What is the distance and where are the major features on-course?  What will the weather be like and how will this affect your tactics for the race?  Who else is racing and what are their abilities and likely tactics?  What are your goals for the race and how will you review your performance afterwards?


As you can see there is far more to cycling than just ‘riding your bike’.  If you truly want to succeed and achieve your personal best then you need to be disciplined at ensuring your training is holistic and attends to all of these skills as well.   This is also where desire can be handy, if you understand and truly believe in the importance of these skills then your desire to succeed will help ensure you attend to the development of these skills as well as your physical condition.

This is also where a good coach comes in.  A good coach is one that by necessity takes the holistic approach.  They don’t only consider your physical development but they set you additional tasks in order to develop your mental and physical skills as well.  They monitor your progress along the way and create training programs that incorporate everything you need to succeed.  Sometimes it may appear that some areas are being ignored but a good coach understands there needs to be an order to the development, an incremental approach is often needed with the most critical skills developed first to build a solid platform from which to develop the more advanced skills.

While a good coach can do all of these things, in the end it still comes down to the discipline and desire of the individual rider to complete the training exercises and develop themselves as a complete rider.  There will no doubt be both successes and failures along the way but once you a more complete development your ‘average’ race results will always be better.


Jason Mahoney Friday 08 November 2013 at 08:04 am | | Default, News, Race Reports, Rider Info, Tips, Training Sessions, Linkdump

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