New Year, New You
The time is upon us once again to start reinventing ourselves, ready for the New Year. We've spent all of December justifying out excessive drinking and binge eating by convincing ourselves that as soon as the calendar flicks over to January 1st we will immediately start eating healthy, exercising more and will make a million other positive lifestyle changes too.
And most of us manage to stick to our resolutions for the first few months at least. But come the summer around half of us will have already slipped back into old habits, and by the end of 2015 there will only be the most strong-willed 8% of the population that still have any recollection that they made any New Year's resolutions at all.
So why do we set ourselves these goals if the likelihood is we will fail? The truth is we all love any opportunity to reinvent ourselves to be the person that we would love so much to be, and the New Year is the most perfect chance for us to do just that. And hey, who is to say that we won't be amongst the 8% that keep their resolutions this year? In fact, let's make that resolution number one.
At TWC we have thought up a handful of resolutions that busy cyclists will actually stand a chance of making happen in 2015. Pick your favourites or challenge yourself to keep them all - let us know how it goes and have a very happy New Year.
Learn how to fix your bike
There are a few basic bike maintenance tasks that all cyclists need to master.
- changing an inner tube
- cleaning a drivechain
- carrying out a safety check
- adjusting brakes and gears
Sure, nine times out of ten you will be able to get a professional mechanic to service your bike when you think something might not be quite right, but what happens when you get a puncture at the top of a mountain or in the middle of the countryside? If you use your bike to travel further than to the local shop, it’s time you made the vow to get to grips with the basics in bike maintenance this year.
Most bike cafes, bike shops and mechanics run one or two-hour bike maintenance courses which cover all of the basics and a little bit more. Evans Cycles run excellent women’s only FixIt! one hour classes which can be booked online for £15 a session.
Many communities set up their own free bike maintenance classes too, such as the Hackney Bike Workshop in London, so it’s always worth having a search on Google for your closest free bike maintenance class before splashing out.
Challenge yourself on your commute
Assuming that you already cycle to work, (if you don’t - then make it your resolution to do so) make 2015 the year that you really make the most of this cycling time to train.
Vary the route you take to and from work each day to bring in some different terrains and gradients wherever possible. If you have the choice between a longer but flatter route or a short but hilly route, mix them up - go uphill in the mornings and flat in the evenings.
Set yourself time targets to speed up your cycling too. Of course, if your route is quite traffic heavy don’t take any unnecessary risks simply to improve your time but when it is possible to pedal that little bit harder and get there slightly quicker, then go for it.
If the distance between your home and your office is too short to really get a momentum going, take a longer route than is really necessary. A ten minute stint in the morning isn’t going to do a lot for you, but if you switch direction and turn the journey into a half hour ride your fitness will start improving in no time.
Join a cycling club
Joining a cycling club can be a brilliant way to challenge yourself and push your riding that little bit further. It’s easy to cut a ride short because you’re worn out when you’re pedalling alone, but when you have a pack of enthusiastic comrades pushing you along, your pride will force you to carry on.
Cycling clubs are also brilliant for socialising with like minded riders. Clubs often put on special events and races as well as organising touring holidays together and nights down the pub to discuss training tactics.
Image credit: Bob Mical
Ride in the rain
If you try hard enough, you’ll always find an excuse not to ride. Make this year the year that you ride regardless of the weather. If it’s raining at 6am when you need to leave the house to commute to work, who cares - get pedalling anyway.
So long as you’ve invested in the appropriate wet weather riding gear, cycling in the rain really won’t be as torturous as you’ve convinced yourself it will be. And after you’ve pedalled in the rain a couple of times, a little bit of water falling from the sky will stop phasing you all together. A packed tube full of soggy commuters has got to be way more terrifying than slightly damp cycling leggings anyway.
Give it a go - we challenge you.
Sign up for a sportive
If signing up for a sportive is something you keep intending to do but are yet to get around to, now is the time to do it.
Sportives not only challenge you and push you to your limits but they also show you just exactly what you are made of. Don’t think you could manage a 50 mile ride through hilly terrain? You’ll probably surprise yourself.
Sportive season begins in March and continues to September. If you’re new to sportives or are feeling a little wary after a winter off of long distance cycling, sign up to a pre-season warm up sportive in the early spring before challenging yourself with a more intense one in the summer.
To find a suitable sportive for you and get yourself signed up now, check out British Cycling’s events calendar.
Pedal out of your comfort zone
It’s all too easy to get stuck in a cycling rut. Road cyclists are scared of mountains, mountain bikers hate the idea of riding in traffic and BMX riders just don’t understand the fun in flat roads. All stereotypes, I know, but you get where I’m going with this. It’s time to challenge yourself to cycle outside of your comfort zone and try something new - who knows, you might even love it.
The VeloPark in London’s Olympic Park is the ideal location for trying out BMX riding for the first time, a weekend away at the Lake District is the perfect excuse for trying a spot of mountain biking and signing up to a charity bike ride will get you pedalling on the roads.
Challenging yourself to compete in a duathlon or a triathlon is also a fantastic way to force yourself out of your comfort zone. Go to British Triathlon’s website to find your nearest event and get yourself signed up. This is the year to push your limits and get out of that routine-filled cycling rut.
Make time to stretch
As a cyclist you’re likely to spend a lot of time scrunched over your handlebars whilst your legs get a sturdy work out. To prevent risk of injury, bad posture and long term muscle complaint, it’s vital that you work in stretches to your daily routine.
After every ride, while your muscles are still warm, spend a few minutes stretching your core and your leg muscles before packing your bike away and jumping in the shower. It may seem like an annoying waste of time that you’d prefer to spend doing something else, but we promise you it will be worth it in the long run.
Get strict with your diet
The most common New Year’s resolution every year is to lose weight and eat more healthily, especially in the aftermath of the Christmas pig-out that we all eagerly endure each year.
As a regular cyclist though, it is important to eat well and to ensure that you consume enough calories each day to give you the energy to finish your rides, but also to make sure that these calories come from the right types of food.
Cyclists need a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables. It’s also vital that you have three proper meals everyday, never skipping one even if you’d like to lose weight. Weight loss for cyclists needs to be achieved slowly and safely, crash dieting won’t do you or your cycling performance any good at all.
Set yourself a mixture of long and short term diet goals and keep a food journal to help track your progress. When you meet a target, treat yourself with a new cycling jersey or a trip to the cinema rather than a Big Mac or a takeaway curry and you’ll be seeing a difference and feeling healthier in no time.
Keep your bike clean
No one likes a dirty bike, but no one likes cleaning one either. It has to be done though we’re afraid and 2015 is the year to make sure it happens more regularly than ever before.
A dirty bike affects your ride as well as getting your clothes grubby and making you look careless so you’ll be doing yourself a huge favour by taking the time out every week or so to give your bike a good scrub.
If you’ve attended a bike maintenance course you will know exactly how to clean your bike properly but in all honesty, it’s really not that hard. Just grab yourself a bucket of water, a quality bike cleaning product and a sponge and you’re pretty much set.
Never cleaned a bike before? Don’t worry, check out our top tips for beginner’s bike cleaning here.
Image credit: Bojan Rantasa
Compliment cycling with another sport
As much as we love cycling, it’s always good to mix up your fitness routine every now and again and the best way to do this is to try out a new sport or sign up for a fitness class.
Yoga and pilates are the most directly complimentary sports for cyclists as they work your mistreated and neglected core muscles. They are both extremely easy sports to work into your exercise regime too as they can be practised at any time and anywhere. Sign up to a class at your local sport’s centre, get a group of friends together and head to a specialised yoga for cyclists workshop or order a DVD and a mat and get started in the privacy of your own home.
If meditative stretching isn’t your calling, then kick-boxing and dance classes are also great ways of complimenting your endurance training with some anaerobic workouts.
Get your family cycling
Sick of cycling alone every weekend? It's time you got your family involved.
Sure the kids might whinge when you're dragging them out of bed at 7am on a Saturday, but once they're on their bikes and pedalling away, their mood will soon lift.
Cycling as a family is a great way to bond, get to know each other better and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Your kids won't always be living at home and your partner might not be so easy to talk into an early morning ride in a decade's time; so vow to make the most of family time in 2015 and go on a leisurely bike ride together at least once a month.
Image credit: Naviki for Cycling