Many cyclists dread the onset of September because it traditionally hails the start of the winter (or at least wet) season and is a time when the resolve to actually get out on the bike and put some miles in is tested to the limit.
It’s rare to come across a cyclist who genuinely relishes and enjoys the prospect of winter cycling, and whilst there will undoubtedly be those days when the weather is throwing everything at you in the form of rain, wind, sleet or snow there will also be plenty of days where the winter sunshine comes out making for a very pleasant days riding, and you’ll be so glad you actually ventured out in the first place.
One of the hardest parts of riding in winter is actually mentally preparing yourself for the fact you may get a little wet or cold or be a bit slower than normal, but once you’ve overcome those obstacles then actually riding your bike is the easy thing. Below are some of our best tips for helping to maintain motivation over the winter months.
Set a target
One of the best mental motivators for winter is to set a target or goal. It can be a weekly, or monthly goal, such as the number of miles ridden, the number of rides ridden, or some other fitness based target such as weight loss etc. One important thing to do is to tell someone (or people) what your goal is so that they will hold you accountable for reaching that goal. Once you know what you want to achieve over the winter then the next thing to focus on is the practicalities of equipment and clothing.
The right bike (and accessories)
If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford a winter bike then you’re already half way to banishing those demons, after all what’s the point of buying a winter bike and not riding in the winter? If you don’t have a separate bike for winter riding, then converting an existing bike for winter riding is perfectly feasible.
First to consider is putting on the widest tyres you can fit to give you a bit more rubber on the road, just don’t forget to leave room for mudguards to protect both you and the bike against spray and muck from the road.
Lights are an absolute must – the brighter the better – we like to use an off-road light on the road in winter, but with the power turned down a little, this helps to conserve battery, but also gives you the option to turn to ‘full beam’ if necessary. Be careful not to dazzle car drivers with some of the ultra-bright off road lights currently available. 600-800 lumens should be enough for roads without streetlights. Also consider a supplementary flashing light front and rear to give you a little extra visibility.
The right clothing
Probably more important than the right hardware is the right clothing. Clothing is a very personal thing so it’s difficult to recommend specific items, but if you have a rain jacket, warm underclothing, a wind jacket, long bib tights, long fingered gloves, thin cap, overshoes and clear (or yellow) lens glasses you should be covered for all weather eventualities. And much like having a winter (prepared) bike, what’s the point of having the gear if you’re not going to use it.
One item of clothing we would recommend is a super high-viz jacket or gilet from someone like ‘Pro-viz’ which when coupled with some decent lights should make you very visible in the dark.
Find a ride buddy (or buddies)
If you’re normally a solo rider then having someone else to ride with during those winter months will give you the impetus to get out of bed, put on all the winter gear you’ve and roll out your winter steed. If you haven’t got a regular ride buddy then joining a club is one way to find someone else to ride with and if there isn’t a club near you then check out British Cycling’s ‘Lets Ride‘ service that allows people to create free group rides for themselves and others – you never know, it might just be the first step in starting your own club.
Find an indoor training option
The main crux of this article is to help you overcome lack of motivation for going out, so an indoor option probably sounds a bit counter-intuitive , but there will be days that the weather is bad that it’s just too dangerous to go out (think of heavy snow here, or torrential rain). Having an indoor training option such as a turbo trainer will at least keep the legs turning over while you’re waiting for break in the weather. If your own indoor training setup isn’t an option then you may be able to utilise your local gym on a ‘pay per use’ basis when necessary. Of course if you’re already a member of your local gym this is even easier, and may be an opportunity to fit in some different types of training / exercise at the same time.
Run to the sun
If time and money allow, there’s nothing better than taking your bike off to some sunnier climes for a spot of ‘winter training’. It’s no accident that many of the pro race teams take their riders off to the likes of Majorca or Tenerife for a spot of winter training. The weather is usually guaranteed to be pretty good , and the terrain is varied enough to provide either a gentle flatish ride if you want one or a proper climb up to the top of a mountain if that’s your thing. If you’re taking your own bike abroad then make sure you check out packing requirement with your airline and any extra charges they will have for the bike.
Grin and bear it
Once you have everything else in place such as the bike, clothing and motivation the only thing is to get out there and put the miles in whether it’s on the road or off-road, you (and your bike) may well get a bit dirty out there but the sense of achievement when you get back from a ride made all the more difficult by the elements – just don’t forget you will probably need to clean your bike when you get home.