The gap between Christmas and New Year's Day is a great time to get some miles under your belt. A couple of hours solitude on the open road is just what you need after the madness, and let's be honest, boredom of the Christmas break. Shaving a few grams off your bike weight aren't going to make nearly as much difference to the upcoming season as training through the winter, so make sure you get out there. It can be dangerous, however, so please bear in mind the below tips when you’re out on the road this winter.
With any luck the winter will be bright, dry and sunny; and having your bike lights with you will be the last thing on your mind. However, the dusk can draw in very fast at this time of year, and you don’t want to be caught out on road without your lights. Make sure you take them just in case. If possible also make sure that your winter kit has some high-viz. Every little helps.
Prepare for the worst and layer up
It’s fairly common knowledge that the weather in the UK can change in a pedal-stroke, so don’t be caught out - make sure you layer up. It’s a lot better to be too hot and peel layers off than to be shivering on the bike wishing to high heaven you’d brought a rain jacket. Think about the little things - will I need gloves, a snood, over-shoes (the most important thing you can own). The chances are the answer is yes, and worst case you can just take them off. Think ahead. Just because it’s nice and sunny when you set off, doesn’t mean it’s going to stay like that. If the weather turns and you’re not prepared you won’t enjoy the ride!
Ride what and where you know
Whilst we here at Dirty Wknd are all for cycling in new places and discovering new routes, we recommend that you actually play it a bit safe at this time of year, and ride somewhere you know. With conditions and road surfaces likely to be a bit more treacherous, you don’t really want to be dealing with the unknown. If you know the route, and you know what to expect (i.e. how certain corners will change in the wet) then you’re much more likely to have a safe and enjoyable training ride.
Keep it short
Unless you’re a hardened pro, used to riding though driving rain and snow, then we suggest keeping your winter training rides short. Whilst you might be able to spend a whole day in the saddle in the summer, it’s much harder, and much less fun to do so in the Winter. Once you’re muscles start to fatigue and your body temperature starts to drop it’s very difficult to keep your moral up. This is not to say it should be an easy ride, just a shorter one. Give it everything for the few hours you’re on the bike (and we do recommend 2-3 hours at a time) and then return home to the warmth. You can always go out again tomorrow.
Bring a friend (or at least tell a friend)
Ideally you will be cycling with a friend or a group (massively helps with motivation), but there will be times when you're out on your own. Letting someone know you're out riding alone is very sensible advice for the rest of the year anyway, but especially so in winter. Let a friend or partner know that you’re going out, where you’re going and roughly how long it should take. This might seem like an extreme measure but it’s best to be safe.
Enter an early season sportive
Challenges like the Rapha Festive 500 are great to keep you motivated over the Christmas break when you've got plenty of spare time, but it becomes much harder in January when work is back in full swing and it's blowing a gale outside. Entering an early season sportive, or even better, a winter series, is a great way to force yourself outside. There are plenty of events in Jan and Feb to keep you on the road through the winter months. Click the link for options from Wiggle, Evans and Ordnance Survey plus more - Winter Sportives
It is important to get out there, but it is more important to be safe out there!