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A Brief Guide to Winter Training

Colder mornings and darker evenings are the signifiers that winter is nearly here. Soon those dry warm days of summer will feel all but distant as rain, wind and occasional ice and snow make riding your bike outside feel like quite the chore. Fortunately not every winter day brings bad weather, and with the right preparation, it’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to winter riding. While sitting inside on your turbo trainer is a viable form of training it can sometimes never feel enough compared with a 3 hour ride outside, to help get you out on your bike this winter we have written the following guide.

 

First let’s start by looking at getting your bike ready for the winter months. Whether you have a dedicated winter bike or you’re going to ride the same bike all year round, making some subtle changes to the bike is one of the most important things to improve riding comfort during winter. The first thing we suggest you should do is take your bike in for a service, make sure all the parts are re-greased and the cables replaced so everything is working 100% smoothly. This may seem counter intuitive as your bike will be subjected to copious rides through rain, mud, grit and snow amongst other things, but having a bike that’s in the best working order makes a massive. If you have ever had a serious mechanical during the winter months you’ll know how frustrating it is fiddling around your bike with icy fingers and a falling body temperature. Similarly a sensible pair of winter training tyres will give you the best possible protection from punctures and slippery road surfaces. A wider tyre will also offer more comfort and grip, which during winter is favourable as road surfaces tend to break up and get a lot rougher. If you are planning on riding whatever the weather a set of good quality mudguards will keep you as dry as possible. Finding a pair with biggest amount of coverage will not only protect you from the worst of surface water and spray but it will also stop you from drenching anyone else you might be riding with at this time of year.

 

We will presume you have all the right kit for winter but if you don’t here are a few quick tips. We advise you carry a good quality packable waterproof, not only will this keep the rain off, it will also keep you surprisingly warm if you find yourself under dressed. Covering your extremities is also a must at this time of year, items such as; windproof gloves, a cycling cap or skull cap, neck warmer and water proof overshoes are an essential part of keeping you warm in the coldest conditions. The last thing to consider is a good quality base layer, with all those layers of clothing you’ll be wearing the chances are you’ll end up too hot and very sweaty at some point. A good quality base layer will help regulate your body temperature, as well as pulling sweat away from the skin, which will stop you catching a chill on windy days or fast descents. Lastly don’t fasten your shoes too tight, the tighter your shoes are the more likely they are to prevent blood flow, a loser shoe allows for better circulation of warm blood around your body.

 

So now you’re ready to ride, but how far and how fast? These are two of biggest questions debated by cyclists at this time of year. In our opinion this decision is going to be down to you, your goals, current fitness and motivation.

For a pro cyclist the winter is the perfect time to spend long steady days in the saddle building endurance for next seasons stage races, this is what is known as base miles. If you want to improve on your endurance then winter is the perfect time to do this, riding steady for long periods of time will help build a strong base and when summer finally arrives you’ll be ready to tackle any long distance sportive or social ride going. We suggest that you ride anywhere from 3-6 hours at 75% of your maximum effort. This pace should put little fatigue in your legs, you should also be able to easily hold a conversation with anyone else you might be riding with. One thing that is really important about this type of riding is keeping the pace consistence, avoid steep climbs and racing against friends. Remember your goal is to improve efficiency, keep up general fitness and gain the ability to maintain a constant effort over a longer distance.

 

On the other hand you might have made the most of the summer weather, spending long days in the saddle. In this case base miles will be much of the same and do little to improve your efficiency and stamina. So you might want to use winter to look at other areas of your cycling or perhaps you just don’t like the idea of spending 6 hours in the rain, but want to keep your fitness. In this case regular short fast rides are going to be the affective and will help to improve your overall speed and sustained maximum power. HIIT (high intensity interval training) is also a good type of training to consider through the winter months, short on off session of high powered riding will help you to become a more powerful cyclist. For those looking to improve on their hill climbing a regular 30 min to 1 hour session (including warm up and warm down) of hill reps will be incredibly effective and by the time summer comes round again you’ll really notice the difference as you leave your friends behind. When the weather is bad or the temperature drops this type of riding may well be a more realistic and affective approach to training for someone with a busy life style or long work hours.

 

And for those of you who just can’t bear to be outside when the weather turns bad there is always the turbo trainer or rollers. Regular interval sessions are going to be the most effective form of training in this case. There is a huge selection of videos on youtube providing indoor training sessions, switching between these and self-structured sessions will help to keep things interesting.

 

Lastly if you have had an intense summer of riding remember a little rest goes a long way. Taking a couple of days off can leave you feeling much fresher and more motivated, this extra motivation goes a long way during winter.

 

 

Check out our guide to rollers vs turbos here.