With just 8 hours per day of daylight – and that’s not even taking into account the cloud cover – winter can be a gloomy time for bike riding.
Winter used to mean simply grinding out long, steady, miles; building the base that would be refined in the spring and on into the summer, building form in time for the season’s peak.
“To me, it doesn’t matter whether it’s raining or the sun is shining or whatever: as long as I’m riding a bike I know I’m the luckiest guy in the world” – Mark Cavendish
But no more. Now, more attention than ever is being paid to the science behind off-season efforts, and with us muggles having a greater ability to get ‘pro-level tech’, winter has now become the time when more effort is laid down, not less – but that effort is now far more focused.
The velominati have their rules, and clearly number 9 is the most important;
“Rule #9//If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period. Fair-weather riding is a luxury reserved for Sunday afternoons and wide boulevards. Those who ride in foul weather – be it cold, wet, or inordinately hot – are members of a special club of riders who, on the morning of a big ride, pull back the curtain to check the weather and, upon seeing rain falling from the skies, allow a wry smile to spread across their face. This is a rider who loves the work.”
I’m a big believer in foul-weather riding as a refining fire to test my mettle and to shape me into the rider I wish to be for the summer ahead.
If I’m to pull the curtains closed again and go back to a warm bed, or decide to read the papers instead, then it doesn’t bode well for the racing season.
That leaves me two options in my quest for summer glory (no actual glory involved): either time on the Wahoo Kickr being thrashed on Zwift, or out in solitude on the country roads of Nottinghamshire (of course there’s also the option of the winter training camp, but that’s a bit tricky before work).
I’m a big fan of the Kickr/Zwift combo. It allows me to maximise my training time as there’s no time wasted struggling with thick gloves and overshoes beforehand, or power-washing the muck from my bike afterwards. It also delivers the right amount of training intensity as ‘the plan’ calls for, so perfect for those who don’t want to or can’t get out in the winter but still need intensity and race-pace workouts.
The other option, and far more old-school in its approach, is to wrap up warm and embrace Mother Nature in all her glory!
Technology has come on leaps and bounds here also, we no longer need to go out in baggy woollen kit, instead we can be cosseted in Rapha and Assos’ finest garments, isolating us from the worst of the weather (other brands are available of course, dhb doing similar at a keener price point).
So we wrap up, keeping our skin away from the oncoming wind, and out we go. And really, for all the fun and science behind Zwift, there’s nothing that compares with #outsideisfree!
“Ride as much or as little, as long or as short as you feel. But ride” – Eddy Merckx
Fresh air, bird song, and a changing cloudscape, winter gives back in direct correlation to what it demands of the rider. There are very few feelings that can compare with the joy of completing a ride in driving rain; skin stinging and toes tingling from the effort. Knowing without a shadow of a doubt that by simply being out there you are building a bank of badass points.
Every pedal stroke, every hill climbed, every ride logged is one step closer to a better summer. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how far or how fast you end up going, the simple act of doing is putting you on the right path!