Words by Amy Sedghi
As the days start growing shorter and the weather cooler, it can be hard to find the motivation that seemed so easy during those long, sunny rides.
But with a few simple tweaks, cycling through the colder months doesn't have to be a chore, and can set you up nicely for next year's challenges.
Double Junior World Road Champion and Wiggle High 5's pro cyclist, Lucy Garner takes us through her top tips for staying motivated during autumn.
Preparation is key
With the rain and the cold comes the need for some warmer gear and handy waterproofs. "Always make sure you've got a rain jacket with you when you go out," insists Lucy, " a lot of times in the autumn, I've gone out on a ride and at the furthest point it starts thrashing it down."
She also advises looking at the weather forecast, but not to rely on it: "I often just go and stand outside the front door to actually feel the temperature myself because you never know until you get out there." The sun may be shining but a cold wind could still catch you out.
And don't forget the essentials: "When the weather gets bad, you're often going to get punctures so make sure you're prepared for that. Take spare inner tubes and a pump with you."
Be flexible with your plans
If the weather is looking good, then take the opportunity to do a longer ride or experiment with the route but, warns Lucy, if you know the weather is going to be bad or rain showers are forecast, then it's best to stick to roads you know. "That way, if there's torrential rain or it suddenly starts snowing, then I know I'm not far from home," she says.
Mix it up
A few weeks rest in late September after her final race is essential for Lucy, but when she's back on the bike and ready for winter training she likes to mix it up.
"I'll do long hours on the road when the weather's not bad or too cold, but then do an indoor session on the turbo if it's snowing or not safe to go out on the road."
Visits to the gym and mountain biking also help vary Lucy's winter training: "I think it's important for motivation as well to keep it fun".
Technically not just a tip for autumn, but for the whole year round, is keeping on top of your fuelling.
Lucy recommends trying to stick to a rule of drinking a bottle every hour and eating something every 45 minutes when out on the bike. "Sometimes it's hard to stomach something to eat but as long as you've got something to give you energy in your drink, then that's good too."
"It's important in the winter to eat a bit more because it's colder and you're going to be burning a bit more energy."
Lucy stresses the importance of listening to your body and not trying to make bottles last. If you use up the water in the bottles you've taken, stop and refill when you can.
Don't neglect your bike
It pays to keep on top of your bike maintenance. Wipe down your bike, keep your chain clean, keep an eye out for rust and check your tyres.
"It's that time of the year now when the roads are wet and there's a lot of dirt on them," explains Lucy, "it'll definitely save you money in the long term if you keep on top of the maintenance. It's best to do it straight away and there'll be fewer problems later."
Find a group
"Find group rides or a local club if you're struggling with motivating yourself to go out on your own," says Lucy admitting that this something she's found useful. "That helps me as well in the winter, so you're not doing all these miles on your own but that you've got people with you."
Get the miles in now
The hard work will be repaid in the new year when racing starts again. "Leading up into the winter it's pretty relaxed," says Lucy, "it's just about getting the miles in the legs."
With her final race at the start of September and then none until January, Lucy uses the autumn and winter to concentrate on making sure she's in good shape for next season.
"A lot of the times I'll go away to training camps as well, either with the team or alone, to get some sunshine so that the training and long hours are made easier."
A crucial tip after a rain-soaked ride and one we can all relate to. "I just love getting into a warm bath," laughs Lucy, "you've done it and then that's your reward."
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