The Cyclist's Winter
In a large part of the world colder days have arrived, this means tougher conditions for training and racing. Whilst some of us completely stop cycling, a lot of cyclists switch up disciplines to for example riding; MTB’s, cross-bikes or on the track. Everyone has different tips and tricks, like adding a sip of whiskey in your bottles to keep them from freezing. We’ve asked a bunch of keen cyclists across different disciplines what their best tactics are.
Adventure cyclist - Martijn Doolaard
TT: Martijn, you have basically seen the entire world on your recent trips (website/ ig), when you’re at home in Amsterdam like right now. Are you keeping in shape by doing rides here too? Or are you a train-whilst-you-go type of rider?
MD: "I’m cycling less than I’d want to whilst I’m in Amsterdam as I’m renovating my house, which keeps me in shape. And I’ve noticed in the past that muscles don’t go away that fast, muscle memory is a real thing. So once I get back on the bike for the next trip I’ll get back into it soon enough."
TT: You’ve obviously been riding in some of the most cold and harsh environments imaginable. Did you have any tricks that made this more enjoyable for you personally?
MD: "I’ve cycled through some really cold conditions. When your moving, the cold isn’t really a problem and I manage to get away with 2 to 3 layers. A rain jacket or windstopper, a long sleeve and a good undergarment will be sufficient. But camping in the cold is much more tricky, as it gets colder during the night. A good sleeping bag, which is warm and lightweight. A foam mattress with an aluminium upper is very important as it reflects your body heath, on top of that an air mattress to keep you off the ground. Plus these winter nights can be particularly long, up to 14 hours of darkness depending on where you are. So be prepared with a good book or some shows, otherwise you go nuts."
Pro cyclist - EF/ Lachlan Morton
TT: Lachlan, you obviously have a very busy season, what does your off-season look like? In terms of training, preparation for next year and your downtime.
LM: "I try to catch up with my family and spend some time in one place. I take time off until I really miss being out riding and the thought of it doesn't make me feel tired at all. I don't do any structured riding and when I don't feel like riding (rarely) I don't. I try and build up some reserves for the season both mentally and physically."
Pro CX cyclist - Sophie de Boer
TT: Sophie, obviously for most pro-cyclist the winter time is down time, though for you it is your actual season. Do you keep on training full-on in between the races? Or is the most work done during the summer?
SD: "Typically most training for me is done during the summer. In winter between my races I do one cx training on Wednesday and one endurance ride. Because riding cross is so intensive, the most important thing for me is to recover properly as well as staying fit. During each cross season I’ll do a more intense week of endurance training once or twice."
TT: For most people it’s tough to keep riding their bikes during the colder months, do you have any tips or tricks to make things easier?
SD: "Training is a warmer, foreign country! It’s so much more effective than doing your training in 5 degrees celsius and rain in the Netherlands. But obviously this is not an option for everyone.
If that’s not an option for you, go to the forest. You’ll have more cover from the rain and wind. Then perhaps take a cross bike or take an MTB, it makes for a full body workout which will keep your body warm. Rather than a road ride, where you sit still and be cold the whole time.
Also, often during the weekend group rides are organized throughout many towns, try to locate the ones in your area. I always really enjoy these.
Then there is layering, use multiple thin layers, this makes it easier to adjust to your needs during a ride. And don’t forget your hands, head, ears and feet.
If it’s really impossible to ride outside, and decide to ride indoors, perhaps do interval training to make things less boring."
Keen amateur cyclist - Elena Bris
TT: Elena, Spain is known for its sunny climate, but does get cold in winter, especially in the mountains. How do you stay motivated to keep riding when the temperature drops? Why not switch to indoor training only?
EB: "Yes, indeed, most people think of Spain as this sunny paradise of eternal spring. But that’s just a part of it, represented by the infamous very mainstream Mallorca or Girona. But Spain can get really extreme, with temperatures, wind and a winter weather that I never saw when I was living in The Netherlands. Anyway, and before getting to the point, let me say that in Madrid, where I live, and even when this is not that eternal spring, winter is dry and sunny and bearable, and finding your motivation is not much of an act of heroism.
This said, when rain or strong wind comes every now and then, you need to dig deep to find your motivation. I try to tell myself that this training session counts double, because it trains your body and also your mind. That once you manage to turn the corner of your street you got farther than on the indoor trainer. I try to go step by step, ticking small boxes, and once you are out and rode a few kilometers from home there's not turning back.
However, it is not easy for me to write this piece today because, while I do it, I am actually postponing a ride. It is pretty cold and windy outside, and I am trying to put myself in the place of a braver me, to remember a different kind of mood when I find the motivation to ride no matter the weather.
So, where do I find my strength? I am not certain of the answer, I am still here typing this and not out there riding. I could say that having a goal in the season helps, I could say that having a coach and a planning is a sure remedy… Maybe, but aren’ those the kind of answers that you will find if you ask Google? If it was that easy…
How do I prepare mentally? What do I think? I actually don’t think, I just put my clothes on and I make my utmost effort not to think at all, joking apart. I just shut up my thoughts and go out.
So, to your question: how do you stay motivated to keep riding when the temperature drops? I don’t. I just silent my thoughts and just go. Does it always work? No, I am still here typing. But let me tell you what my biggest achievement is actually: it is finding a peace when I don’t find the motivation not panicking and feeling guilty because I didn’t go out, to let it go because tomorrow’s another day.
Probably, this is not what you wanted to read today. Maybe you came here in search of inspiration. But I have no big words for you, no epic quotes. If it’s not your day just relax, grab a second (or third) coffee and enjoy!"
Keen indoor amateur cyclist - Martijn Zijerveld
TT: Martijn, I know you really enjoy riding indoors, especially due to Zwift. How did training indoors change your winter season?
MZ: "It changed me a lot not only during winter but also the coming out of the winter season, with less time to ride during winter time, work, bad weather and darkness, Zwift helps me a ton I can still do 3 rides a week or so... do interval rides sometimes before work. Also a side note, it's nice to be able to ride/train with a group online it motivates you to put in some extra effort."
TT: Do you still mix it up with riding outdoors during the winter? How do your routine change during winter time?
MZ: "I still mix it up, one day a week I want to play outside if I can. Lots of CX on MTB trails and when dry and sunny I ride the roads. But during the week it’s Zwift only in the winter."
TT: Any tips for those wanting to start using Zwift?
MZ: "Buy a blower because it becomes bloody hot :) Find a group-ride online you like to join once or twice a week as it helps you to get on the bike, and also you meet some nice people. And if you love racing give it a go. But most importantly just have fun with it."
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