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Visualizing target vs. actual progress – Biker on a hill chart



Over the years, we have discussed a whole heap of techniques to visualize budget vs. actual charts. Today let’s take a ride on this slope again and learn another fun, silly & awesome way to depict target vs. actual progress.

Introducing biker on a hill chart


Biker on a hill!?! Don’t worry, I didn’t fall down on a descent and lose my brain. I am talking about an Excel chart to visualize target vs. actual progress on a time line with biker on a hill analogy. See the chart, you will know:


Looks interesting? Read on to learn how to create this in Excel.

Get your data

The biker on a hill chart is suitable when you have a huge target that should be achieved in several days, each with individual target. So input data looks like this:


Let’s say this data is in a table named progress. As you can guess, first three columns are inputs. Last column is calculated with a simple SUM formula to get cumulative target values. The formula used here is


Where E3 refers to the cell above first row.

Calculate hill and biker co-ords

The hill is a  simple X-Y chart with progress[Date] as X and progress[Target-Cumulative] as Y.

The tricky part is finding biker co-ordinates. We need 2 sets of values.

  1. Actual biker position based on the amount of work completed.
  2. Target biker position based on the amount of work that should have been completed.

Let’s understand the math behind this.

Actual biker position:

Y value (actual completed): This is simply SUM(progress[Completed])

X value (corresponding date): Now this is tricky. We need to find what date corresponds to the actual progress made based on the set targets.  for this we need to find several things:

  • Corresponding row #:  Using MATCH(), we find out what value in the cumulative target column matches the progress completed so far.
  • We will then find two dates between which the progress completed falls between, using MATCH formulas.
  • Finally, we will interpolate the corresponding date between these two dates using simple arithmetic.

Target biker position:

Y value (target): Target as of latest date, using either VLOOKUP or INDEX+MATCH

X value (date): this is simply date in corresponding row # that is calculated above.

Create the biker on hill chart

Step 1: Create an XY chart for the hill

Setup an XY chart where X=progress[Date] and Y=progress[Target-Cumulative]. We get this.


Step 2: Add target & actual bikers

Add two more series to the chart. Target biker and actual biker using the X&Y values calculated above. We get this.


Step 3: Replace the dots with biker images

This is easy. Download a clip art image of cyclist from internet. Paste it on your Excel workbook. Remove any background. Rotate the biker image by 30° or so. As this is not a real life biker on hill, we can afford 30° gradients.

Once you have new rotated biker, reduce the image size if necessary and clone it.

Change colors using format image > Color options (see here for detail).

Essentially, go from the image on left to right.


Now that you have biker images, replace the dots with bikers using following instructions.

  1. Select biker image and copy (Ctrl+C)
  2. Click on the dot in your chart
  3. Press Ctrl+V to paste image
  4. Viola, your chart now shows bikers instead of dots for actual and target values.

At this stage our chart looks like this.


Step 4: Move the bikers up

Because Excel places the dot right on the line, the biker image too will be centered on it. So instead of looking a biker on hill, our chart looks like the biker is buried half in the hill. Not good, whether you are a fictional or real biker. So let’s pull the bikers.

We can do this by simply adding an offset value to the Y values. A value of 7 should work. But you can tweak this depending on your chart / image sizes.

Once we fix the calculations, our chart looks like this.


Extra bells and lights

Bikers are known to pimp their rides with all sorts of doodads. We can show similar enthusiasm for our biker on a hill chart and add few more details. Here is one version after adding information about current progress status and forecast date of completion.


The math for this is quite boring and simple. So I leave it to your imagination.

Download Biker on a hill – Target vs. Actual Chart Template

Click here to download biker on hill chart. Play with input data to move the biker towards target. Examine calculation section or chart to learn more.

Thanks GraH for the inspiration

Time for a confession. The biker on a hill chart idea isn’t mine. I got this from GraH, one of our readers. He left a comment on a recent blog post and I liked the idea. So I wrote this blog post explaining how we can all create a biker on hill chart in Excel.

Hui rules! But nevertheless, the creativity on this blog and the contribution of the bloggers are inspiring. And really enabling people to be aweSUM in XL, like you say.
I followed a training on Excel Dashboards in 2015 and your site was highly recommended by our cool trainer.
I became aware that XL can-do much more. Ingredients are a little imagination, dare to experiment and knowledge on how to combine techniques/functions.
In short within 2 weeks I will give a 1 hour XL awareness training in my company during open training week. I just sent a teaser with stuff I found here and on other XL-guru’s sites to my HR department. Within the next 5 minutes my proposition was approved. The reply was “Excellent idea!”
And the funny thing is that I found an XL soul-mate only a few seats away. Now we make each other crazy with challenges and/or things we learn about XL. The very first thing we made for a manager was a biker (representing his team) climbing a mounting (of work) towards the finish (the volume to reach at end of day). Depending on current status, different motivational talk appears in the title. The manager could not believe we just made a simple chart.

So thanks GraH for the cool idea.

How do you visualize target vs. actual progress?

I prefer conditional formatting icons and thermometer charts for budget / target vs. actual progress charts. Sometimes I use a bullet chart or variations of thermometer charts too. I have also used burndown charts (same concept as biker on hill charts). I like the biker on hill chart and may use it for some of my upcoming work.

What about you? What charts do you use to depict target vs. actual progress? How do you like biker on hill chart? Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the  comments section.


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37 Responses to “Visualizing target vs. actual progress – Biker on a hill chart”

  1. Jack McDevitt says:


    Thanks for publishing Biker on a Hill! This is the most creative item I have seen in a long time!

    Well done.


  2. rajinikanth says:

    Chandoo You are simply brilliant. I very much liked Biker on Hill concept.
    I will learn and surely implement in my upcoming Work.
    Thank You!!

  3. GraH says:

    Credits also go to the manager Marc B. for imagining such a presentation and my colleague "B-art in XL" for making this chart working in Excel with me.
    I am your guide to excel, while ET phones home. Now you can guess my real name. And no, my family name is not excel.
    Thank you Chandoo for picking up the idea and making a professional version of it. Ours was slightly different, but same techniques were used: pictures in the chart and offset. We used an area chart in combination with 2 invisible line charts in which we only show the markers (biker and target), both move thanks to the magic of NA().

  4. B-art in XL says:

    Hi Chandoo, I too want to thank you for making a blog of our "Biker on a hill" chart. Grah and I got triggered by our manager Marc B. and Marc deserves as well credits of the idea. Meanwhile we played a bit more and now we have a biker - spaceshutlle version... Once the team has met the dailly target, the bikers changes to a spaceshuttle, that takes off vertically and then turns 30° to "fly to the moon".

  5. ngozi says:

    really loved it, but haven't been able to achieve it.

    how did you get target-cumulative. the formula didn't work for me

    • hiolka says:

      You can also use a formula without the name of the table.

      Let's assume that the cell you put your formula for "Target-Cumulative" on 01-Sep-16 is "D2", so the formula in that cell should look like this:


      All you have to do is to drag it down.

  6. MF says:

    Very interesting execution. Simply awesome!

  7. NITIN PAWAR says:

    Hi Chandoo, I want to thank you for "Biker on a hill" chart.
    I will learn and surely use it my Work.
    Thank You!!

  8. Eric Iso says:

    Creativity at it best. Learning a lot from you.
    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Lalit says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    Awesome trick man.... I have learned most of my excel skills from you, great work mate. Have you settle in NZ now? I am in Oz Perth, let me know if you are coming here, would love to catch up with you.



  10. you the best really amazing ...

  11. Rupam says:

    Hi Chandoo! You are really awesome..I must use this biker on Hill chart in my forthcoming project.. Thank you very much..

  12. Dave says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    Nice chart, clever idea. Just a little critique about the article. When you describe the formula in the Cumulative column as:

    Where E3 refers to the cell above first row.

    I'm initially left wondering where E3 actually is. It takes a few seconds to figure out, but it would have been unnecessary if you had simply shown the row and column headings in your screenshot of the table. I've see this here often, and would appreciate you going the extra step to provide clarity.

    Otherwise, great work overall on the site!

  13. Sourabh says:

    You are really amazing....

  14. Rachel says:

    Hi! I used the template given, and changed the data. The bikers look like they're buried. Can you please expound further on how to add an offset value to the Y values?

  15. Isnaini says:

    Its really impressive! Thanks Chandoo.

  16. Aditya says:

    Simply Amazing

  17. Suvidha says:

    bikers on hill - Target vs actual - awesome chart..

  18. Abdan says:

    This is great.. good job!
    This could be very interesting and motivating in meeting with others.
    Thank you for sharing

  19. Asel says:

    Brillinat as everything you do!

  20. Angad Sadhu says:

    WOW...This is awesome.

  21. Shungu says:

    This is really creative and I will give it a go soon

  22. Tinei says:


  23. JP Ronse says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    Really nice but a small flaw in the message of the ending date, it is always 30 Oct.

  24. gossip_boi says:

    My bikers cant move :((

  25. Jeleel says:

    Just to appreciate all your great work! Please keep it up

  26. Flo Kistner says:

    Is there a way to make my bikers move like you have on the website? Thank you -- I just love this visual and if it's possible would love to have the steps to create the one GraH mentioned where "Once the team has met the daily target, the bikers changes to a space shuttle, that takes off vertically and then turns 30° to "fly to the moon" can you make that available? Thank you!

    GiGi (aka Flo)

  27. Princess_Green says:

    Hello, I too do not know how to get the bikers to move. Could you please explain. Thank you in advance

  28. Michelle says:

    Hello Mr. Chandoo,

    I'm like your tutorials but I need additional help, please. I want to do a progress chart similar to this but the downloaded file is not helping me create what I want.

    There's this game I play on my iPhone and I want to have a progress indicator like the bike on the hill but nothing I do is coming out right. Can u help me, please? A video tutorial of this file would be a great help.

  29. paoul says:

    hi chandoo is it possible explain this method in a video

  30. ali says:

    Thank You!
    It's Awesome.

  31. Yves says:

    Beautiful visualisation! Nice!
    I have one question: where do you do the following:

    "We can do this by simply adding an offset value to the Y values. A value of 7 should work." (step 4: Move the bikers up)

  32. HP says:

    Hi Chandoo,
    too bad that I discovered this amazing chart only 5 years after you published it.
    Any idea how I can add more riders (teams) hunting the same target. Our teams in multiple locations share the same seasonality targets and it would be great to see how each individual team is doing against the target and the other racers. Could be real fun!

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