As the temperature drops and Autumn turns into Winter, all good-will and intentions to keep riding can start to evaporate. Motivation to ride on a cold, dark and quite possibly wet morning dwindles. A few days off the bike can quickly turn into a few weeks. Don’t worry, we have all been there! People have their own ways of keeping themselves riding and/or training over these months, it’s just a case of finding what works for you.
Here are 9 things that we think might help.
The first and most important thing before you think about your winter cycling is to take a break! If you have been banging out the miles (or KM’s) over the course of the year and pushing your body, take some time out before you head into ‘winter training’.
Book next years events early.
This is a good time to set out your goals and plan your targets for the new year. It is also a good time to book your sportives and events. Get together with your friends or club and start planning what you are going to be riding in the new year. Clubs and teams may already have a pre-planned calendar for up-coming events but if not, check out the British Cycling website or groups like UK Cycling Events or Bike-Events for rides either local to you or further afield. Knowing that you have committed to ride them should give you the motivation to start your training and focus on the areas of your cycling which you want to improve.
Commute by bike.
For lots of cyclists who commute by bike, the distance point to point is not too far. Certainly not as far as they may cycle at the weekends. Commuting by bike is a good way to keep you topped up for ride miles and fitness. As all of the experts tell us, regular short rides are much better for us than one long ride at the weekend. Leave yourself plenty of time, so that you don’t have to ride like you are trying to win the final stage of the Tour de France and you can ride safely in the traffic.
Ride with friends.
‘A friend who rides is a friend indeed’ – well that’s what we think anyway. A lot riders enjoy their solo rides and to be honest, so do I. But as the evenings get darker, mornings get colder and the weather gets rubbish, finding the enthusiasm to go and ride can begin to fade. However, having a cycle buddy, social group or club to ride with can really help with motivation. Arrange a ride at a time that suits you all and stick to it. The commitment will help you get your kit ready the night before and out on your bike. Once you’re out, having someone to ride with, talk to and encourage is an incredible motivator and can make a ride on a grim day more enjoyable.
Vary your route.
As the saying goes – “if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got”! If you are going to head out for a longer ride, mix it up a little. The chances are you have a regular weekend or training route that you have spent the year riding and each week you end up with the same segments showing on your riding app or GPS. It’s fine to ride your regular weekend route if you are on a time specific ride or you are arranging to meet other riders on the way. But if you are going for a ride with no agenda, mix things up. Ride somewhere different or add in some variations to your planned route. Don’t be afraid to ‘go explore’! New routes will bring new challenges to your ride – a longer climb or a fast flat, all of which can help your performance on the bike. If you have a destination in mind, go ‘old school’ and follow road signs instead of your GPS*.
*Always expect the unexpected and be prepared on unfamiliar routes. Make sure you carry a fully charged mobile with you also.
Try something different.
Most cyclists know what they like when it comes to the type of riding they do and the type of bike they do it on. But as with varying your route, trying a different discipline can be motivating, rewarding and just damn good fun. Some pro road riders can be found shredding the Mountain Bike trails or getting down and dirty on a Cyclocross course during their off season. Some even hit the indoor track and ride ‘the boards’. Trying something new or different could help improve your all-round riding, handling and fitness over the winter. You can also look at other sports like running and swimming to help maintain your fitness levels if you take a break from cycling.
Have a short one.
The easiest excuse for not going for a ride is that you don’t really have time. “I really want to go and do a 30/40 or 50 mile ride, but I just don’t have time”. It’s easy to fall into the mindset that if you can’t go out for a 2 or 3+ hour ride, it isn’t really worth going out at all. But short mid-week training rides are perfect for keeping your hunger for cycling high. In contradiction to an earlier statement, plan and create a local circuit that is about 45 mins to an 1 hour long. This should give you enough time for an easy paced warm up and recovery. How fast you treat the middle of the ride is up to you. They can be treated as a short interval training session, a warm up for a longer weekend ride, or maybe just a social leg-stretch with friends. Being a shorter circuit also means that if you do have more time and are feeling a little more energetic after a tough day at work, you can go round more than once.
Alright so this will only really work if you have access to a turbo (indoor) trainer or even an exercise bike. But if you are not hardened to riding in cold and wet weather, you don’t have to let all of the hard work you put in over the summer go to waste. Turbo trainers are a great way of keeping fit over the winter without having to dress for an Arctic expedition. You can ride at you own pace with music or in front of the TV. Or you can use training videos like The Sufferfest or GCN (Global Cycle Network). When Zwift launched a few years ago, it took away the monotony (for some) of using a turbo trainer by making training sessions interactive. Riders can create a profile and ride against their computer or ride virtually with or against others. Indoor trainers can vary in cost and there is a secondhand market for the, but they are definitely a worth while investment.
Use a ride app
The chances are you are not going to be smashing many KOM’s or PB’s on you winter-ready bike but using a ride app like Strava or being part of a virtual club is a good for keeping your competitive side motivated. Plan a short training route that incorporates segments ridden by people you know or that you follow. Short segments are great for interval training and if you are anything like me, moving up the leader board is a pretty good motivator – especially if it is above someone you know.
And if all else fails…
They say ‘out of sight is out of mind’ and this is pretty true for you and your bike too. Don’t just lock it away until the Spring – it is not a pet hamster and doesn’t need to hibernate during the Winter. If you are not going to ride it, take the opportunity to maintain and clean your bike over the winter. Learn what the parts are and how to make simple fixes and adjustments. Just be sure that you have had the bike properly safety checked before your next ride. Look after your bike and it will look after you.
There aren’t really any shortcuts for cycling in the winter and whilst some people use it as an opportunity to train, others are content to hang up their bike until the Spring. Either way, cycling in the cold, rain or wind is never fun and it can be hard to stay motivated. Hopefully some of these tips will be useful.
*Always use your best judgment before heading out on your bike whatever the weather and always ride safe.