You’ve heard what they say about winter miles? Well, they’re right. Big miles in the deepest darkest months can make the difference between a decent year of riding and your best yet, says Collyn Ahart.
Winter training, whether you’re indoor on a trainer or outside battling the elements, pays off in almost every way. Here's seven reasons you should plough on, whatever the weather.
- Confidence. You rode how many miles in January? Yeah, that’s right. It rained, it even snowed, you battled headwinds and solo rides out into the middle of no-where. Nothing, and I mean nothing can get in your way when the days get warmer. If you can ride it in January and February, you can ride it any time of year.
- Deep fitness. Base miles are the rides you do to plunge your resting heart rate. They tone you. They smash through any holiday weight that’s lurking around your midrift making the hills that much easier to climb. Long, slow, meandering rides with an average heart rate at 135; these are the rides on which the seeds of Spring speed are sown.
- Variety is the spice of life. Winter riding is all about mixing it up. Hit the mountain bike trails, borrow a ‘cross bike from a friend and go exploring on your local public bridleways. Clambering over rooted single track does wonders for your bike-handling, not to mention core strength. It’s often more fun that burning through mile after mile on the road and means going places you might never otherwise discover.
- Training camps in the sun. You don’t have to go far these days to find the sun for a week or two of big miles. Cycle Cotes D’Azur in Nice, France is one of the most affordable and friendly training camps costing about £200-500 for a week, depending on the package. This year they are hosting a series of training camps for novices as well as those for seasoned riders. Training camps are a great excuse to escape the cold and combine a week with friends and some mega miles.
- Early season events. There’s nothing quite as awesome as smashing a big, early season event like the Cape Epic, Flanders or Paris-Roubaix sportives to feel on top of your game when the Spring season comes out swinging. They provide a lot of motivation to get fit, and even more when you’re doing them with friends.
- All the kit. I love winter cycling kit. Because so much more of it’s required, there are more options for outfits. I have jackets and jerseys for every weather, pair them with different coloured neck warmers, over-socks, helmets and sunnies. Layer it up, stay warm, stay dry. Look for tights that will actually keep your knees warm and super soft merino base-layers for optimum temperature regulation. Club kit is often designed only for warm weather rides so it’s worth investing in some high-quality winterwear that will last for years to come.
- Efficient indoor sessions. Like a lot of other cyclists, I started using a turbo trainer a few years ago when the weather just got, well, a bit too horrendous. Bang for your buck, the sessions you do on an indoor trainer are the most efficient way to increase your power and general over-all fitness. They can be done at almost any time of day or night and can be squeezed in after a big day at work.
So no excuses, get out and ride.