As with the pros, the fashion now seems to be winter training camps in warmer climes. One warm weather camp at the end of the winter seems to be normal practice even for sportive rider’s. I’m now starting to come across sportive riders who are doing 2 warm weather training camps, bookending winter. There’s no question of the benefits of riding in places like Majorica and Tenerife, particularly if used as preparation for the start of the racing season or an early sportive.
I’m more old school and prefer the benefits of riding in the UK through the winter. I think it helps develop the stoic and sado-masochistic attributes all good cyclists should have. It’s a good time to work on aspects fitness that tend to get neglected during Spring/Summer. Best of all, it’s a good time to enjoy the simple pleasures of riding a bike, without any tech, in what can be stunning conditions. So if you’re old school like me, here are my 6 tips for riding through the winter:
1. Invest in a winter bike
There is no point ruining a nice carbon road bike by riding it through muck, salt, grit and all the other crap that comes off the road during winter. Put the nice bike away and invest in a steel frame winter bike, that can take full length mudguards and has a sturdy pair of wheels. Yes, it will be heavier but that’s part of the point. Riding this bike through winter will help condition those leg muscles so come spring the benefits can be reaped. There is no better feeling than the first flushes of Spring and getting the first ride of the year in on the ‘summer’ bike.
2. Cross training
Winter is a great opportunity to substitute freezing cold and wet rides with gym sessions, working on your core and strength. Cyclists think that because they cycle, they must have a strong core. Not necessarily true. Working on a good range of core exercise through the winter will not only improve posture on the bike but also improve performance come the spring. Even the pros have clocked onto this now. Strength is another aspect that tends to get neglected by cyclists. Lifting weights doesn’t necessarily mean putting on bulk. Strength training with weights or at a gym can benefit racers and sportive riders alike, particularly those of us getting on in years.
3. Get a goal
I think a target or goal for the following year really helps with motivation through winter. It’s something to aim for and focuses the mind, when you may not feel like getting out or doing a gym session.
4. Training plan
To really make the most out of winter conditioning getting a training plan from a coach is a good investment. For half the cost of trip to Majorca, a coach can devise a structured winter training plan specific to your goals/targets for the following season. Having to feedback to coach can also help with motivation.
5. Get off road
For me, riding off road has 2 benefits in winter. First mountain biking can really help with technical bike handling skills, that will certainly help with racing or riding in groups at sportives. Winter can also bring some fantastic conditions for riding off road. Some of my most memorable rides have been winter mountain bike sessions, where the different levels of light and crisp air can be stunning. When I mountain bike I also dispense with any bike computer and tech. I just want to experience the pleasures and thrills of riding a bike.
6. Explore new routes
Without the pressures of a training session, winter is also a good time to explore new routes to refresh your training sessions for the following season. The temptation is to ride the same routes and whilst knowing routes inside and out can help with a structured session, it can also lead to boredom. Getting some new routes sketched out will freshen up formal training sessions in the Spring and at the same time give you some motivation to get out in winter.