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Winter cycling – how to stay motivated

Written by Fiona December 03 2012

Cycling over the past few weeks has been a brutal experience. The pain has mostly been in my freezing hands, feet and face. This weekend, while cycling through snow-edged roads in and around Aviemore, I also suffered a freezing and numb bum. Added to this, I’ve found that:

Winter cycling

The “delights” of winter cycling

  • My brakes aren’t so keen to work in icy conditions
  • My pedal cleats have clogged up so badly with ice I’ve had to stop and gouge ice out with bits of broken tree.
  • I’ve come home covered in road salt and mud from helmet to cleats.
  • Drivers in winter seem to care even less than they do in summer about being courteous to cyclists.

So why do I keep on cycling?

Why don’t I hang up my bike and take to running all winter (like I have done in previous years) or stick it out on the indoor turbo trainer?

There are three main reasons for cycling for as long as I can this winter:

1)    Because Coach Vickster says so. I am being coached for the next 10 months by friend and awesome athlete Vicky. I have a goal of a major triathlon next year and so if my coach says it’s good for me to keep on cycling through the winter then I’ll do as she says.

2)    If I cycle all winter, even a Scottish summer will feel a lot more pleasant when it comes.

3)    Because I’m stubborn – and if I decide to do something I try to stick to the plan.

 My motivation to keep on cycling this winter.

Get a coach: The key to cycling all winter is Coach Vickster. A training plan is amazingly motivating and helps to focus your training like nothing else can. I have a goal and if I want to reach this goal I need to train hard. And if the coaching plan says I need to cycle outdoors then that’s what I will do. After all, I will only cheat myself if I fail to follow the plan.

Treat yourself: A new winter bike

Treat yourself: A new winter bike

Be flexible: While I do follow the plan as closely as I can, if the weather is really severe I plan to swap training days. So a cycle on a snowy day will be swapped with a run. I’ll then cycle when the snow and ice disappear.

Cycle later: Tradition has it among cyclists that you head out early on a Saturday or Sunday to cycle. This is fine in the summer but in winter it’s a better bet that there will be less ice on the roads if you set out at 11am instead of 8am. The advantage of this is that you get to have a lie-in, too!

Find a cycling buddy: I am more likely to cycle if I have arranged to meet someone. I don’t like to let people down so I try to organise my cycling outings with other people. Cycling is great for catching up on gossip, too!

Make turbo-ing your friend: As a rule, I hate turbo training. It’s boring and very sweaty. So, my solution is to turbo with a friend or two, turn up the music loudly and have a training programme to follow. Vicky’s turbo sessions are brilliant for focusing my mind and allow me to listen to loud and fast music at the same time. Again, if you arrange to turbo with a friend you are more likely to stick to the plan than if you try to persuade yourself to solo turbo.

Buy winter kit: Cycling in winter can be cold and very wet without the right clothing. Fix mudguards to your bike to protect yourself from as much of the wet as possible. Wear winter cycling tights, lots of base layers, a windproof and/or waterproof jacket, decent cycling gloves (watch this space as I’m about to test a pair of Gore-Tex cycle gloves), thick socks, waterproof cycling shoe covers, neck warmer and a beanie hat beneath your helmet. Use hand and feet warmers if necessary.

Fix lights to your bike: Winter days are dark so fit your bike with lights. This means that other roads users have the best chance of seeing you. Many cyclists use lights even in the daylight hours. And wear bright clothing with reflective detailing for extra safety.

Keep on smiling: It’s amazing how much better a bike ride feels if you smile! Look around at the stunning winter scenery. Congratulate yourself on being one of the few bonkers cyclists to be out when it’s oh-so-cold and snowy. Remind yourself that being outdoors in daylight in the winter is a great way to overcome SAD and traditional winter blues.

Treat yourself to a lovely winter bike: If you plan to hibernate your (best) “summer” bike over the winter, then treat yourself to a lovely winter bike. I have done just this! I have bought a gorgeous new Canyon bike that will serve as my winter training bike. It is quarter of the price of my summer bike yet it’s still a beautiful bike to ride and it has given me the incentive to get out on the winter roads over the past few weeks.

Do you have any other tips for winter cycling motivation?

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