Do you hibernate, relish it or simply survive the winter months?
Personally, winter is most certainly a case of survival. I find December especially difficult, recapping all the amazing places and events I have ridden during the year only adds to the misery. Dark days, mostly wet and no doubt cold it can be very hard to stay motivated and keep riding. December for me is a month to try and rebuild motivation and start planning the following year and make sure I can hit the ground running in January.
So how can you get through the dark days? Here aremy top tips:
Motivation and Goals
No.1, the absolute most important thing. Why do you ride? If you don’t have a goal or motivation then the chances are you will choose something else over riding a bike, especially if the weather is bad outside. Unless you are a cyclocross racer, then I don’t think December is the month to be doing 20hr weeks, but if you can ride 2-3 times a week it will maintain your fitness and really help in the New Year. How can you get motivated? Think seriously about your goals. Racing, fitness, enjoyment. If you are motivated enough, you will overcome the most difficult hardships. I’ll admit right now, my motivation is not at the peak but that is because I have not yet finalised my racing plans for 2014, but I am riding enough to maintain fitness and for me thats enough motivation.
Plan your rides
This can be as simple as planning a long ride on a certain day, or planning a ride with a friend. Use long range weather forecasts to see which days suit indoor/outdoor sessions. Another good way to plan is to get all your riding kit ready the night before, especially if you plan an early morning ride. Look at the weather forecast, decide what might be best, then a quick re-assessment before heading out. If everything is laid out ready there is less chance of changing your mind last minute.
Winter Riding Kit
Even I do it. “I’m not going out today because I don’t have [insert clothing item] and I’d freeze without it”. Chances are you don’t really need it, or maybe you do but its in the wash, but there are a few really important staples of a winter riding wardrobe that will keep you warm, dry and happy.
Waterproof jacket that breathes very well. If you splash cash on one item, this is it. Cheap waterproof jackets are useless, they don’t breath and will get you wet from sweat and then you will get cold. I’d recommend GORE Active shell material above anything else. For road bikes, the GORE Oxygen jacket is a revelation and for the MTB, the GORE ALP-X 2.0 jacket ticks all the boxes.
Full tights are worth their weight in gold. Specifically bib-tights to keep your kidneys and trunk warm. Something with a fleece back ideally for extra warmth.
Winter boots, perhaps a luxury but once you have tried a set you won’t go back. Extra warmth and more water resistant. The alternative is a good set of overshoes with a rubberised material to bead water, but chances are they will be dead in a season where as winter boots will last years.
Good gloves. If you can keep your feet and hands warm you are 80% there. I’d recommend 2 sets of gloves, something for cold, dry days and something else for the wet, cold days. Windstopper gloves are great when its dry, I use GORE Alp-X 2.0 windstopper gloves. For the wet days, then Neoprene gloves are best as they retain warmth but the downside is hands get wet and clammy even when its dry.
Improve your MTBskills
There is no better time of year to work on your skills. Over this winter I will set at least one ride a week to being on the MTB and I have moved to flat pedals to learn the skills that I should have when I first started. Can you manual, wheelie, bunny-hop and jump without pulling up on those clipped in pedals? If not, get yourself on some flat pedals for winter. By the end of winter I hope to be able to bunny-hop properly for the first time, ever.
I have a love/hate thing with cyclocross. About 3 years ago I loved it, then fell out of love and didn’t ride for 2 years and this year I am back racing and enjoying it. Having an amazing ‘cross bike helps, the Pivot Vault is just superb but I am also realistic about my aims. I am riding and racing for fun and I am not expecting to win, or even do well. The great thing about cross is that at a regional level it is cheap and accessible. You can turn up and race on any bike, including a MTB. It is a great way of maintaining some top end speed although the majority of the leagues are coming to and end, so there are less options. Think about it for Autumn/Winter 2014!
Necessary evil? Something to endure? Essential training tool? Everyone has different views on turbo training, some people even enjoy it!! There are major benefits though. It is a way to escape the really bad weather and provides a repeatable and consistent method of training. I use the Sufferfest training videos which help pass the time as turbo training is something I have previously struggled with, but this year I am using it 1-2 times a week. A good turbo trainer will help too and I don’t mean a £900 all-singing all dancing one. In my opinion the best turbo trainers are the most like riding on the road. This year I have a TACX Booster, which I have to say is fantastic. It is very smooth, offers a huge adjustment range and isn’t too noisy. I’ve had trainers that cost 3x as much before but I prefer the booster as its portable (not needing electric) for warming up at events. Rollers can also be a great way to train indoors, but I only tend to use them for less aggressive workouts or recovery rides while watching TV or a movie.
Strava Challenge – #festive500
Use Strava? This is what is getting me motivated over the Christmas period. Ride 500km between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. Expect some crazy people to do it in one day and others to make it by 1km. Having something to focus on and get you outside and riding!