So, the leaves are falling from the trees, the temperature has dropped and the days are getting shorter - it can only mean one thing, winter is coming! Thankfully for most of us that doesn't mean that the White Walkers are on their way but rather more just time to re-aquaint ourselves with the winter bike or your pain cave (aka indoor training setup) or both...ideally both.
This short blog is designed to offer up a few pointers and considerations as we head into this different phase of riding and training depending on your goals. For some its the off-season, for others it's full on cyclocross race season, for other its just cycling in different weather conditions. But whatever it is for you there are some things you should be thinking about.
If you choose to continue to brave the weather and ride outdoors then you'll need to think about your kit and perhaps you are also switching to a winter bike if you have the luxury of being able to pack away your pride and joy for the winter months.
1 - Layering - This is the best way to be able to regulate your temperature during longer outdoor rides in changeable conditions. Autumn rides can start notoriously cold and then warm up leaving you a sweaty mess half way into your ride. Arm warmers, leg warmers, and wind blocking gilets are some of the most versatile pieces of kit for the changing seasons and can also extend the range of the kit you already have which may save you shelling out for more winter kit.
2 - Be Seen, Be Safe - Look for kit choices that incorporate reflective patches or panels on both your top and bottom half. It has been shown that moving reflectives are more visible to drivers so having reflective elements on your bib tights or shoes is invaluable. In addition to improving your visibility through your kit you should ensure you have bright lights that serve the areas that you tend to ride in whether that be country lanes or suburban areas with street lighting.
3 - Protect your Extremities - Your hands and feet don't get to do all that much when you are riding and as such they are the first areas that will really start to feel the bite of the cold. Ensuring you have some thicker shoe covers and some layering options for gloves will ensure you are able to safely operate the gears and brakes during your ride.
If you are switching to a winter bike then the first thing is to make sure it is in good working order. Either take it to your local bike shop to get a full service or if you are a confident and competent home mechanic give the bike a full once over. Pay special attention to brake pads and rotors (if using discs), gear shifting, chain condition (use a chain wear tool to see it has not stretched), tyre condition, and check the steering is turning smoothly and so too the cranks.
Next up you will need to consider your bike fit. It may be six months or more since you rode your winter bike and your body will have adapted to your summer bike or your fitness, flexibility, or strength may well have changed through the summer. As such, getting your bike fit reviewed prior to piling in the miles on the winter rig is sensible.
Book in for a Bike Fit to review your winter rig HERE
On the other hand if you prefer to shift your training indoors during the winter months or the weather is just too much to bear during the winter months then here's a few other considerations and ideas for your winter training.
Get your Turbo Trainer and 'Pain Cave' back in action!
While some people view them as the antithesis of cycling they can be an invaluable tool for building cycle specific fitness indoors. You can make great fitness gains with a well structured turbo training programme of even 3 short/sharp sessions per week. It is very time efficient and can allow you to focus on specific attributes you may wish to improve – leg speed and cadence, strength, functional threshold power, and body positioning. There is an ever groewing list of online training platforms now available ranging from the virtual world of online racing in Zwift, to riding 'real' climbs in amazing locations in Rouvy, or just the more structured training sessions in Trainer Road. Wahoo have also launched a new training platform called SYSTM which aims to combine some elements of all of the above. Needless to say, there is plenty out there to suit nearly every rider who might need that extra bit of motivation to get riding indoors.
Remember when you are training indoors you are likely to overheat and sweat far more easily. To combat this you need to make sure you have a reasonably powerful fan to help with some air circulation and cooling. Dehydration is also a real risk so ensure you are well hydrated for indoor sessions and I would also recommend having some electrolytes in at least one of your bottles during a turbo session.
Here is my very humble turno set up in the garage!!
Riding your bike on the turbo trainer can also highlight some fitting issues that you were not aware of due to the fact that you will move and change position less on the saddle. This can lead to build up of pressure on the saddle, shoulders/neck and lower back. Look out for these tell tale signs and consider getting your bike fit addressed.
If you feel you need to get out of your house, don't have a turbo trainer, or you like to train together with others then getting down to your local gym and trying out some spinning classes can be a fun (albeit gruelling) way to keep on top of your fitness.
Work on your strength
Some people call it ‘off-season’ the rest of us call it winter but either way this is a really good time to see if you can work on building strength in key areas to improve performance. Top of the list should be quads, hamstrings and glutes as these are your powerhouses for cranking out the watts.
If you need advice on setting up a strength training programme you can access some of my pre-prepared core and strength training sessions HERE or book in for a Virtual Physio session to assess your needs and set up an individualised plan.
Sort out your flexibility
If there are limitations in your mobility they can massively influence your position on the bike. There can be a number of knock on effects from making you less aero, less comfortable to even more prone to developing injuries. My target areas for most cyclists are hamstrings, hips, lower and upper back. Foam rollers can make a useful, if painful, ally to your quest for better flexibility.
Address niggling injuries
If you had an injury interrupt your season or get in the way of your summer rides, holidays, or training then now is the time to get on top of them. Did you start to neglect some of the rehab or advice you were given? Were you unfortunate enough to suffer a crash? Did you overdo it on the miles? Did you get a new bike or change your training structure? Any of these factors can set off a chain-reaction of issues which may affect your riding. Now is the time to get on top of it so they don't go on to bother you next year.
Booking in for a virtual or face to face to face physio session should be the first step to getting set on the path to recovery - BOOK IN HERE
So, what are you waiting for? With everything we have discussed there is no reason not to keep your training and fitness on track this winter.