Virginia’s Top Tips to Survive Riding in Winter
If you’ve been cycling consistently through the summer months, you’ve probably accumulated a fair bit of fitness. If you are like me, you are no doubt keen not to lose that hard earned fitness just because the weather has turned. I know all to well that it can be challenging to sustain the motivation to ride through the winter when it’s cold and long summer days are a distant memory. To help you, I have put together my top tips that might give you (and me!) that extra kick in the butt you need to help you to keep cycling through the cooler months.
1. Get the right kit
Put your hand in the air if you are a fair-weather cyclist and the wind, rain and the cold put you off cycling in the summer, let alone winter? Hello me lol! Thankfully with the latest cycle clothing it’s perfectly possible to stay nice and warm and protect yourself from the elements. If you spend some money on really good quality cycling clothing it can immeasurably boost your happiness, not to mention comfort when cycling and you’ll be less inclined to postpone a ride because it’s a chilly out there. If you feel the cold, at the very least get yourself a good pair of full-length winter bib knicks, a winter long sleeve jersey, like the Soulfit Adventures winter jersey 😉, a merino wool base layer, a pair of full finger gloves and shoe covers. Winter 2020 was the first full winter I had spent in Australia since 2011 (due to you know what!), and I invested in all of the above and happily rode all through last winter. Believe me, you won’t know yourself the when the temperature drops.
If you ride early morning bunch rides, then don’t leave everything until the morning. Get all your clothing, kit and bike prepared the evening before, so when you wake up everything is laid out and ready to go. This minimises the time spent ‘faffing’ around looking for a pair of gloves or a lost sock, plus the extra time it takes you to get ready putting shoe covers on etc. I get all my cycling kit out and put it beside my bed, so I literally step out of bed and straight into my kit. My bike is out, the lights are charged and tyres checked which means all I have to do is fill my water bottle and go.
3. Pro hours
Let’s face it, cold dark mornings can but a big turn off to getting out on the bike and it’s much easier hit the snooze button and roll over when your alarm goes off. Whilst it may not be possible every time you ride, if and when you can, delay your start time until the sun is at least up. Even later if possible, when you will enjoy post peak hour roads and much warmer temperatures.
4. Enter an event
Entering an event is a great way to keep yourself motivated during colder months. Say you’ve entered, or are thinking about entering next year’s 3 Peaks Challenge for example, you’ll have the incentive you’ll need to summon up the motivation to ride, because you’ll want to stay fit and improve your fitness through the winter. Alternatively, you could put a cycling holiday, like my spring Tweed Valley and Bright retreats in your diary and use those to motivate yourself to get outside when it’s cold.
5. Have a plan
Having a goal to give you a sense of purpose can be a great way to get out on the bike when the weather conditions make it way more tempting to stay inside on the couch. It could be as simple as improving your speed, working on your hill climbing skills, or setting a weekly or monthly distance or duration goal. Apps like Strava make it really easy to track your progress and let you set distance goals so you can measure your progress, then share and brag about it to others 😉.
6. Explore new routes
A personal favourite of mine for keeping my cycling motivation topped up is to avoid riding the same routes all of the time. Instead, I try to find new routes and explore roads around my local area to keep it interesting. I am always asking my cycling buddies for suggestions on routes and they invariably suggest a route that I haven’t ridden before. On a weekend, put the bike in the car and explore roads a little further afield then those in your local area. It doesn’t take much effort and one day out riding on different roads can feel like you’ve been away on a mini cycling holiday 😊.
7. Meet a friend for a ride
I love cycling on my your own and I find it hugely rewarding, but there is nothing quite like cycling with a friend or a group of friends, and when the weather is a little cooler, it can be really encouraging to plan a ride with friends. You’ll have the incentive on not wanting to let them down, and having to meet them at a certain time to force you out the door and not crawl back under the doona (duvet for all your northern hemisphere folk!).
8. Ride indoors
There is no need to let your training slip because the weather is poor and there lots of different indoor trainer options available to suit all types of riders and all budgets. From smart trainers which can be synced with numerous apps like Zwift or Sufferfest and which have a variety of training programs for all fitness levels, to rollers. Rollers don't support you so there is the additional challenge of balancing during your training session - just as you would outdoors. If you prefer the dynamics of a group workout, try a spin class which is a great way to keep your cardio fitness up through the winter months. Just by doing one 60 minute session a week will definitely improve your cycling fitness.
9. Eat well
During the winter months, it is normal to crave heartier meals and bigger portions due to the cold temperatures. Making nutrient-dense choices is the secret to winter eating. Filling up on seasonal fruits and vegetables which are filled with nutrients can fuel your body with much-needed energy to help you to hit your cycling goals. I love making soups and stews, roasting root vegetables like carrots and parsnips. And don’t forget about winter fruits like pears and apples for a nutrient-dense snack that can satisfy your sweet tooth!
10. Get a coach
If you’re a competitive type and you fancy doing some racing next season, or you’re someone that needs that extra kick in the butt to keep you accountable, then enlisting the services of a professional coach can be a really good idea. In fact, this is exactly what I have recently chosen to do to help keep me on the straight and narrow this winter. It might seem an elaborate expense and only for the professionals, but a coach can help cyclists of all levels and abilities. If you’re strapped for time because of other commitments, a coach will work with the time you do have available and devise a plan that works for you. A coach will also help you hone in on your weaknesses and focus on turning them into strengths.
11. Do yoga
As much as it is important to get lots of time out on the bike, yoga (or stretching if you prefer to call it that) is the perfect way to keep your muscles loose and relaxed, while strengthening the core and other supporting muscles. If you are new to yoga, winter is the perfect time to introduce a class into your weekly routine, either by attending your local studio or by doing one of the many ‘yoga for cyclists’ online options available. Your body will thank you for it in the long run. Alternatively, reach out to me for a tailored yoga practice to suit your specific requirements.
12. It’s only weather
Just remember, its only weather, so don’t let it put you off riding in it, instead try to embrace the cold. I am fortunate that where I live on the east coast of Australia, the weather never gets really that bad and the winter is mostly mild with beautiful sunny days and really is well suited to year-round cycling. I really have no excuse.
Last but not the least, if you do brave the weather then you thoroughly deserve a steamy hot cup of coffee and a slice of whatever takes your fancy when you get to your local café, or home. What better reason for getting out in the winter than looking forward to a post ride treat. Isn't that the reason why we ride anyway?! Virginia.