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How can you make the most of the cycling off season?

’Tis the season… ’Tis the season for decorated trees, for eating birds, for wrapping pigs in blankets.

If you look up “’tis the season” on t’internet, you’ll find this quote conveniently positioned at the top of the page (good job, Grammarist SEO’er): “Some believe that this holiday season stretches from after Halloween through New Year’s Day.” We all know a few of those people, right? The sorts who will drag you to the Christmas market on the day it opens. Most cyclists would like to stand by this definition too – eat, drink and be merry from Halloween all the way to New Year’s Day. That’s not the way it is though, is it?

In reality, ’tis the season for riding bikes slowly, for lengthy café stops, for stuffing our faces with super-tasty and oh-so-fatty foods, all the while anticipating the year to come.’Tis also the season for turning our noses up at social media images of pro cyclists and jammy friends who are riding in sunnier climes.

 

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Maybe we shouldn’t be mad at the Aussies…actually, why not? They spend most of the cycling season in Europe (summer) and then head home to Australia for the off-season (summer) until the Tour Down Under (still summer). Jammy dodgers.

 

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While our friends in the southern hemisphere enjoy their “shirt sleeve order”, for Europe ’tis the season to ruminate over the unbelievably long winter. Is it just me or does it seem to get longer every year? Mind you, I’ve moved to Edinburgh where the average temperature all year long is just 9°C, so…

How on earth do we make it through the off-season?

  1. Ride with mates

Ain’t nothing that makes it easier to get out of bed on a cold and frosty morning than the promise of friends waiting, let alone the knowledge that they’re all going through the exact same early-morning heartache. I find that the cold feels a little less cold, and the ride a little less long when in the company of a friend or four. Winter is for whiling away the hours on the bike with a good natter, a slow pace and a café stop that lasts longer than the ride itself.

 

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  1. Make plans

This is probably the most battered drum in the off-season advice ensemble: use the downtime to plan the events, races, adventures you want to tick off next year. It’s a good’un, though. JFK said something along the lines of, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining”, i.e. make improvements before it’s too late. Even if the weather sucks, we’ve got time. We’ve got time to make serious, SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) plans for the future. As amateurs we have the luxury – in this context at any rate – of more time than the pros whose off-season tends only to last until January or early spring. You’ve got time; use it wisely.

  1. Countdown to 16 January

The winter might feel incredibly long, but top-level racing will be back before we know it. The pro season kicks off with a bang at the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under on 16 January. After four baking-hot stages raced by the world’s best riders, the men take over with the Schwalbe Classic – aka the Criterium du Caleb Ewan – the traditional curtain-raiser to the Santos Tour Down Under and then everyone’s favourite stupid-hot stage race gets underway. Guess what? That’s just six weeks away. WorldTour racing returns in just six weeks!

 

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  1. Escape to the sun

And the best way to get through the long winter? Escape it. Literally. My preference would be somewhere in the middle of the off-season, or maybe towards the end of the middle, just to split things up a wee bit. If the promise of months on end of windy, wet and icy weather is too much to bear, maybe it’s time to plan a trip, a training camp, a cycling holiday, to somewhere with wall-to-wall sunshine and warm temperatures.

Who’s joining me? Let’s go find the sun…

Words by Kit Nicholson