As the mercury starts to drop, we turn to coach Cat Benger from ABCpure, for her complete guide on how to effectively approach the winter cycling season and embrace the blast of fresh air that comes with it.
Winter is a beautiful season and brings its own benefits to your cycling training. Obviously the lower temperatures and unpredictable weather conditions mean there are a few ways we can prepare to make the most out of our time in the saddle, stay safe and have fun.
Ensure your bike is ready for those slightly harsher weather conditions. Do you have lights, do you want to add a rear mud-guard? Some people prefer to change their tyres to something a little heavier than racing slicks to add a little more grip on the road and to be more puncture proof. Always make sure your tyres are checked and pumped up to the required PSI, saddle bag with all the tools required to change a puncture or fix a minor mechanical.
During the winter, it’s especially important to get your body ready for the ride. Make sure you’re dressed correctly (see kit list below) and have enough fuel on board to cope in colder conditions. Pre-ride I have a hearty breakfast, my go-to is porridge with a strong coffee.
Check your tyres – Image: KPP
Nutrition for winter fuelling
The body burns more calories to keep warm so it’s key to replace them on winter rides. People often forget to drink and keep hydrated, you still sweat and can get de-hydrated in cooler conditions. If you are using bars as an energy source, store them close to your body where they will stay a little warmer and not get rock hard! Before you go, unwrap or chop up your fuel into bite size pieces, the addition of gloves makes the whole process a little more “clumsy”.
Plan your route
In the winter especially, it’s good to know where you are going and what to expect from your route. Knowing there is a start, half-way and finish point helps to break down the ride. Plan stops to refuel on warm drinks and food. This also reduces the “are we nearly there yet” murmurings and enhances the sense of adventure.
Check your technique
Once on the road pay attention to your technique. Ask yourself this series of questions to complete your technique checklist:
- Do you feel relaxed? Are you holding any unnecessary tension in my upper body and wasting energy?
- Are your pedal revolutions fluid with even pressure being applied throughout the pedal stroke? Any discrepancies between your right and left leg?
- Is your gear selection and cadence suitable for the profile of the road you are riding on?
- Are your hamstrings actually doing something and working in the 6 to 12 o clock phase of the pedal stroke?
- Are your glutes engaged and switched on?
Ride with others
Long winter rides are best shared with company or a group. Chatting, keeping up, chasing all confirm “time flies when you are having fun”. That said, some solo efforts can be hugely advantageous as ultimately we race alone, not with others for company, distraction and motivation.
Fitness benefits of winter base miles
A great deal of our fitness is built when doing the longer, slower, steadier rides and just because it’s not hurting does not mean it’s not working. These sessions are vital to building our aerobic capacity and getting in the base miles. So with that in mind and knowing all the benefits you are reaping you can be encouraged by how the session is helping you, how it is making you a fitter, faster, stronger and ultimately a better athlete.
Enjoy your surroundings
I often find myself admiring the views I am surrounded by. Where possible I ensure the majority of my riding is done outside of London in the countryside of Kent, Surrey or further afield to Berkshire, Oxfordshire or Hertfordshire. I am sure I am not alone here but riding through the country lanes admiring the cottages and mansions I often wonder who lives in a pace like this!? Dreams of “grand designs” or “escape to the country” make me smile. Savour the freedom of no to-do list. Enjoy the head space, the lack of noise, distraction and interference. Enjoy the winter.
My winter wardrobe
Every cyclist will dress differently for different conditions; it’s about finding what works for you. I have found the art of layering is effective and keeping the extremities warm the deal breaker! If you are going to invest in 1 or 2 key accessories for the season I would suggest it keeps your fingers and toes toasty. Checking the forecast is really key during the colder and darker months, not just as your start point but also for points throughout your route. More rural locations can get very misty and a few degrees cooler!
- Wicking undervest and thermal base layers
- Cycling jersey and shorts
- Arm and leg warmers
- Waterproof jacket and gilet
- Soft shell jacket
- Thermal socks (have been known to wear more than 1 pair)
- Gloves (plural, a thermal and then a water/wind proof pair)
- Hat, ear warmer and buff (the buff can be used over your head and or around neck)
- Toe covers and over shoes/boots
- Glasses, clear or lightly tinted are a good idea to keep spray and grit out of your eyes (and fingers crossed the winter sun!!)
I hope you feel educated, equipped, energised and eager to keep riding and riding long over the next few months!
Coach at ABCpureCat Benger is a personal trainer and triathlon coach at ABCpure who took up the sport in her late 20’s when she got hooked on the triathlon endorphin high! She was looking for a personal challenge outside of her work in luxury retail and ultimately swapped her Louboutin’s for Lycra. Cat has teamed up with Queen of the Mile to share coaching tips on triathlon, running and cycling challenges