If you are living in Europe we won’t need to tell you that winter has arrived. Temperatures are dropping, the days are shorter, road conditions are unpredictable at times and the urge to get out and do anything (particularly cycling) can be diminished.
Don’t be disheartened though. Remember we are using cycling as a way to enhance our running and at this stage we are very much using cycling as active recovery or a method of maintain fitness while injured.
We all get injured at some point in our running. Salomon athlete, Jorge Maravilla posted this just the other day:
“I’m guilty of constantly thriving for the runners high, but lately my body has denied me. Despite an unwelcomed setback, today I found joy on two wheels.”
We keep saying this, but cycling is just great all around exercise. Jorge is lucky… he seems to have some nice weather in San Francisco. If we Europeans wish to continue cycling in winter we have two options:
- Purchase some great all-weather clothing.
- Go indoors.
Both options above are valid and we combine both in our training.
Cycling outdoors in winter
The old saying, ‘there is no such thing as bad weather; just bad clothing’ really is applicable for cycling outdoors in winter. However, let’s get one thing straight, no all singing and all dancing Gore-Tex this or Gore-Tex that will protect you from ice on the road and dangerous conditions. Our first tip is assess conditions and be sensible… if in doubt, stay indoors.
Essential kit for winter cycling:
- Hat ideally with ear covers that will fit under your helmet
- Buff or seamless neckwear product for around your neck
- Merino base layer
- Long-sleeve jacket with a windproof chest panel
- Gloves – depending on conditions you may well need options. For example: a Merino liner glove with thicker warmer/ windproof glove for cold and icy winds. Alternatively you may well need a glove that performs in wet conditions.
- Long tights – we recommend those with in-built braces as they provide added protection around the kidneys. Also consider tights with foot loops. These loops will stop them riding up. Tights are available with or without at seat pad. We purchase without seat pad so we can wear our normal cycling shots underneath.
- Merino socks or similar
- Shoe covers to help block out the wind, rain and colder temperatures
- Waterproof jacket that can fold up
If you have all of the above you are set for winter cycling. Remember, cycling in winter is much colder than running primarily due to the wind chill. Don’t skimp on layers. In particular, your hands and feet are the most vulnerable areas.
We recommend cycling at all times (even in the day) with a flashing small led light at the front of your bike and a flashing red at the rear. It just adds a little more presence on the road and makes you more visible. It goes without saying that if you are heading out at night, use the best front and rear lights you can afford.
Eye contact is a key element of cycling, especially in winter. When approaching junctions or any areas where cars can impede and impact on your travel, look for eye contact. Lock in on them. Stare at them and acknowledge that they have seen you.
As we mentioned in article 3, when cycling use light gears and aim for 90-cadence. Remember, we are using cycling to either extend aerobic activity or as an alternative to a recovery run at this stage. As we progress with our articles we will discuss how to adapt your cycling sessions so that they can become specific in extended your fitness and/ or building strength.
Cycling indoors in winter
Lets face it, heading outdoors in the cold and potentially wet conditions on a bicycle is not something that you may not wish to do. It’s understandable. It’s not for all of us, especially if your runs are wet, muddy and cold. Step in indoor cycling.
We love indoor cycling…
We know; it’s the equivalent of running on a treadmill. However, just like a treadmill, indoor cycling can provide you with a very controlled and specific environment.
- Focused and quality sessions
- Improved cycling technique
- Time efficiency
- Accurate testing
Our first hot tip is don’t use the bikes at your local gym unless you have no other option… why?
Well, gym bikes are just so far removed from your ‘own’ bike. Remember in our first couple of articles how we emphasized how important it is to get the correct bike, the correct fit, the correct saddle and so on… why would you then go the gym, get on a generic bike and then disregard everything you have strived to get right.
The way forward is to purchase a ‘Turbo Trainer.’
Many styles of turbo trainer exist and you can pay as little or as much as your budget allows. We would recommend a middle of the road trainer costing in the region of £100-150 to be the best of both worlds. We also recommend a ‘fluid-resistance’ trainer as you use your bicycle gears to create more or less resistance. For clarification, ‘magnet-resistance’ units often work by adding a lever to the handlebars and you then add/ reduce resistance by moving the lever. We not keen on these though as the resistance seems to be linear and the feel is nothing like riding on the road.
One more feature that we think is worth mentioning is a spring- loaded resistance unit. Indoor trainers can really impact on the longevity of a tyre; a spring-loaded unit will provide a longer life.
How do they work?
A turbo trainer usually consists of an ‘A’ frame and a metal drum. Quite simply, you attach the rear of your bicycle to the frame and place the rear wheel on the drum. This drum provides resistance to the rear wheel and creates a similar sensation to riding on the road. You can add more or less resistance to make sessions as hard or as easy as you require. Tip: The front of your bicycle will feel as though it’s pointing downhill due to the added height of the turbo trainer. Therefore raise your front wheel to make your bicycle level. You can use anything to do this but many companies now sell specific products to do the job for you.
Hints ‘n’ tips
- Use a piece of old carpet or purchase a turbo training matt so that you provide some protection between you, your bicycle and the floor. This is really important if you are using a room in your home. (3)
- Have some towels handy to protect your bike and to use to mop sweat from your face (4)
- Use a fan to cool you down (2)
- Have water available (1)
- Raise the front wheel (5)
- Always use the same tyre pressure and resistance on the rear wheel. This will make sessions controllable and comparable.
- Use a HRM such as a Suunto Ambit and/ or rear wheel cadence counter
- Use music or a dvd to provide stimulus. We personally create music playlists based on the session we are doing… rocking out on your indoor trainer to AC/DC makes speed and interval work easy! (6)
Indoor cycling generates plenty of heat and even when cycling easy, you will still sweat. Be prepared.
For the first month of indoor cycling you can apply the principles as laid out in Article 3 of Cycling for Runners – keep gearing light and easy, aim for a 90-cadence and use a HRM to ensure that you are not working harder than you should be. Double what would have been your run time; so, if you were doing a 30-minute easy run, do a 60-min easy cycle.
In article 5 of CYCLING for RUNNERS we will discuss spicing up your outdoor and indoor cycling sessions with one session for outdoors and one session for indoors and how to combine this with your recovery sessions.
Enjoy the seasons, enjoy the change in the weather and importantly use cycling to enhance your running.
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Thanks to SCOTT SPORTS and SUUNTO for the support and backing
Check out SCOTT HERE
Check out SUUNTO HERE
CYCLING for RUNNERS PAGE HERE