Winter Training Hints
Where do we start?
As always – you start where you are! You may be an experienced club rider, an experienced Etape contender or even a champion – or you may be a total beginner!
In either case, there is nothing quite like getting out on your bike on a bright winter’s day!
Some people prefer to start their real training in the spring. In a way, this is not a bad idea – this leaves a space for other things in life!
However if you stop cycling altogether, your fitness will decline. How often you train will depend on your other commitments, but the good news is that training once a week will maintain your fitness level. Riding more often than that should improve your fitness level.
The traditional view is to do long slow rides in winter. While this will burn some of the fat off, it is fairly time consuming! Reasonably long rides with some hills are a good compromise.
Alone or in a Group?
There are advantages for training alone, and also advantages of training with a group. Riding alone enables you to go at your own pace, on your own choice of route. Riding with a group gives you the opportunity for a friendly chat, and possible assistance if needed. Ideally it is good to find a club or friends who ride at the same sort of speed as you do, though this may be difficult, as people ride at a huge range of speeds. If you are fairly new to the sport, you may want to start with a slower group such as a local CTC group, and move on to faster clubs as you get fitter.
If you are riding with cyclists who are slower than you, you may be able to get fitter faster by using a slower, heavier bike such as a mountain bike on road rides. The contrast when you get back on your fast bike will be thrilling!
Now is a good time to think about a training plan. If you are starting from scratch you may want to start with shorter rides, maybe 10 of 15 mile rides moving on to 20 miles then more as the weeks go by, gradually increasing the number and difficulty of the hills.
It is useful to record your distances and average speeds, to see them increase as the weeks go by.
It is also a good time of year to start looking at bikes. New bikes will be coming on the market – so here is the opportunity to get the bike you are after – light weight, a wide range of gears – at a bargain price when the retailers clear out their old stock! Or you could really go for it and buy a 2015 model when they come on the market!
In the meantime many rides prefer to use a an older bike in winter, and maybe a hybrid, cyclo-cross or mountain bike when road conditions are poor due to loose gravel, pot holes etc.
There are two main types of weather regime in winter in the UK – Atlantic weather and continental weather.
Atlantic weather alternates between rain and dry weather. There may be dry mornings, dry evenings or dry days – the weather forecast obviously gives the general picture.
The continental weather regime is colder and much dryer.
The cyclist, as well as wanting the general picture, needs to know what the local weather, at that particular hour, and to be able to estimate what the weather will do where they are in the next few hours, especially if continental weather is prevalent.
The web site http://www.wunderground.com/wundermap/ is extremely good for this as you will be able to look at current rainfall where you are and where you intent to cycle. It also enables you to estimate trends by looking at the position of rain showers over the last hour.
Winter is a good time for planning your training through the year. In particular, it is difficult to get fit enough for the Etape without cycling in the mountains – for example Mallorca, Spain, France…. Now is a good time to plan your holiday in the sun!
In the winter training in the gym or in a turbo trainer are options. This makes it possible to train at a chosen power level for long periods – an exercise similar to cycling up a mountain. A turbo trainer which links to a PC and simulates climbs will reduce the boredom level, though they are a bit expensive. There may also be a floodlit cycle track near you, like the one at Palmer Park in Reading, which makes winter training safer.
There are obviously hazards in winter cycling – low temperatures, ice, and darkness.
Some of these are avoidable, for example wearing adequate clothing reduces problems with low temperatures and having good lights and high visibility clothing makes it a bit safer in the dark. Most falls off bikes have little or no consequence, but it is worth thinking ahead and taking care, as a broken bone may set your training back months!
Daylight cycling on fairly quiet roads is obviously preferable.
Don’t forget the café stops!
Take care –
Enjoy your training!!!