It’s January and you’ve made promises to yourself to get fitter, eat healthier and improve your riding. Winter cycling training is tough, but you’ll be well rewarded in the spring and summer if you start now.
This time of year isn’t really the most welcoming for cycling, so Fusion RT have put together a list of tips!
1. Invest in Good Cold Weather Kit and Accessories
Make sure you’re warm and toasty otherwise there’s no way you’re going to enjoy your cold or wet rides!
A good winter outfit will consist of layers that you can add and remove. A merino baselayer, thermal jersey and windproof jacket with some winter tights is a good place to start. In the winter we’re a fan of a pannier bag for keeping clothing spares and food in – but you’ll be amazed what you can fit in a jersey pocket at a pinch.
Make sure you’re bringing a water-resistant or water-proof coat with you too. Spare gloves can be a godsend, there’s absolutely nothing worse than cold hands.
For your bike, mudguards are absolutely invaluable, even if you don’t go out in the rain, they’ll keep much of the water and muck from the road off your back. Also, if you ride in a group, you’re not going to be very popular if you’re spraying mud all over the people behind you!
Last, but not least, you absolutely must have a good set of lights.
2. Check the Weather
Check the weather forecast for everywhere on your route. Your local weather forecast will help you out in terms of leaving the house, but the weather may be very different 40-50 miles away.
3. Make Time for Turbo
Getting a turbo and incorporating turbo sessions into your weekly schedule will help you to avoid some of the cold.
The team recommend keeping the turbo trainer set up with a bike on it so you can be ready to ride it within 10 minutes of deciding to do a turbo session. No faffing means less excuses!
Try listening to the radio when indoors on the turbo, and you may find this makes time go much quicker than just music.
4. Don’t train alone!
Join club sessions, make new friends on local Facebook groups or consider joining your local shop ride. There is nothing worse than a miserable wet ride on your own!
Not only do group rides make the long miles go quickly, they’ll help force you out the door into the rain and the cold. Sometimes peer pressure can be helpful.
If you do go with just one friend, training long hours in the horrible weather is a million times more tolerable with someone you get along with, but make sure they’re similar in fitness otherwise either they’ll hold you back or you’ll hold them back.
5. Eat Plenty
“Bonking” is not something you ever want to experience, and we recommend you always have a banana or energy bar in your pocket just incase.
Even if you’re planning to stop, bring lots of food with you. You never know if that rural café is definitely going to be open, especially at this time of year.
There is nothing worse then getting 2 hours into a ride, miles away from home and getting hungry, with no hope of food.
6. Drink enough
Dehydration is not a nice experience anywhere, let alone 30 miles from home.
It can be harder to work out when you need to drink when it’s cold, as you’re less likely to feel thirst than in warmer weather. Make sure you’re regularly taking on fluid.
7. Build your Endurance Base
Get some long a steady miles in to build an endurance base. This is the foundation that you will put all your sprint and interval training on top of later. The more solid this base is the better!
If you do nothing else, just get out there on your bike and clock up some miles.
8. Remember You’ll be in the Dark
When you’re planning routes, look for ones that are safe to do in the dark. Because let’s be honest, unless you’re a full time cyclist, weekday training is going to be in the dark!
Twisty, narrow lanes with lots of wet leaves and muck are asking for trouble at night-time. If possible, look for well lit and well maintained roads.
Make sure you have working, bright lights on the front and rear of your bike. It’s always advisable to take spare lights, too.
9. Have a Structured (but Flexible) Training Plan
It can be harder to be disciplined in the winter when the goals of summer riding are far away.
Breaking the winter months into training blocks makes it more achievable and gives a sense of satisfaction when a solid block of training is completed. You could mark a calendar with 3-4 week blocks with different end-goals.
It’s really good to have a plan, but make sure you think of alternatives for training in case the weather’s too extreme to get outside. A film or Sufferfest video ready in case you can’t get out on the roads will help to keep you on track.
Also, use common sense. Don’t follow your training plan into illness and burnout. Winter training is about getting in miles with some intensity and if you do tomorrow’s turbo session today when it’s raining and today’s endurance ride tomorrow in the sun it won’t make much difference to your fitness.
When making your plan, don’t forget about the short duration stuff, keep your sprint mind and body engaged by doing some sprints now and then, and some shorter intervals
10. Avoid Illness; and Make Time to Recover
Eat well to avoid getting ill. You can always lose the extra few pounds in the spring, but getting ill will really hit your training.
A multi-vitamin will help to fill the holes in your diet (it can be harder to eat healthily over Christmas) and boost your immune system. The NHS has some good tips for avoiding colds and the flu here. Remember to wash your hands regularly if you’re regularly shaking hands, or touching things shared by other people. Also, avoid touching your eyes and nose as germs can sneak in!
If you do get ill, make sure you give yourself time to recover. Don’t rush going out in the cold and wet. “2 days not 2 weeks” – taking two days to recover instead of risking spending some serious time off the bike – is a good rule.
11. Keep the Bike Clean!
Keeping your bike clean will help you spot and avoid mechanicals.
Also, there is nothing worse or more off-putting than going on a muddy bike the next day.
12. Don’t be Silly About Safety
If it is snowing or icy don’t go out.
Get on the turbo, or go to the gym, it’s not worth risking an accident.
13. (Bonus!) Don’t Settle for the Cold Weather
If the budget allows it, this time of year is a brilliant time to get away somewhere warmer! Off peak flights and holidays are usually cheaper, so if you can, fly away!
If the timing or the budget won’t allow for some winter sun, plan something to do for the spring so you’ve got something to look forward to and a goal to work towards.