As the world outside transforms into a winter wonderland, it’s time for avid cyclists to embrace a unique and exhilarating challenge: winter cycling. While the idea of pedaling through frosty landscapes and snow-dusted streets might seem daunting to some, it offers a remarkable opportunity to experience the season from a whole new perspective. However, before you embark on your winter cycling adventures, there’s a crucial step that often gets overlooked – preparing your bike for the winter conditions.

Winter cycling demands a bit more attention to detail when it comes to bike maintenance and equipment. The cold, wet, and sometimes unpredictable weather can be tough on your trusty two-wheeler, but with the right preparations, you can ensure a safe, enjoyable, and smooth riding experience throughout the season.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the essential steps to get your bike winter-ready. From outfitting it with the right tires and accessories to addressing crucial maintenance tasks, we’ll equip you with the knowledge and tips you need to confidently take on winter’s challenges. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a winter cycling novice, join us on this journey to learn how to embrace the chill and make the most of the cycling opportunities that the frosty months have to offer. Winter cycling isn’t just a way to stay active; it’s a chance to experience the beauty of winter like never before, one pedal stroke at a time.

So what do you do during our disproportionately long winter season? For road racers, racing starts informally in April. So  training starts far before the snow melts. And you don’t have to have your sights set on early season races to want to maintain your fitness throughout the winter. No matter your goals, here are some tips as we enter the season of ice and snow!

1. What motivates you? Do you need the external motivation to get off the couch or are you self-motivated? If you need the former then try committing to group-based fitness. buy a punch card or have a friend swear to pull you off the couch by your hair if you try and flake out. Or make a list of Netflix series you’ve been dying to watch, or podcasts you haven’t gotten around to listening to yet.

2. Consider cross-training. If you’re like me and spent the summer focused on one sport, your body (and mind) could use some diversity. For the first part of the off-season change your focus to less aerobic activities, focusing on strength, core, and Only closer to the start of the season should you spend more time in intense intervals. Although if your cross-training involves racing a winter sport like cross country skiing, then you’ll need to maintain interval training and look to focus on different areas of strength. The beginning of cross country ski season is always a shock to my t-rex cyclist arms.

3. Reconsider your nutrition. According to Dr. Bri Botsford ND, “During the offseason your nutrition should change as your training shifts. The focus of your nutrition should be on adequate protein, specifically post-training. Remove any sports drinks or gels during workouts that are less than 90 minutes in duration (you don’t need the calories for short workouts). Focus on vegetables, healthy fats and proteins and limit sweets, treats and booze. The quality of your nutrition doesn’t change much in the offseason for winter cycling, but the quantity of food should decrease if your training volume is decreasing.

4. Think about maintenance. Visit a physical therapist for a functional movement analysis. This will give you info on your structural deficiencies and imbalances. From there you can have a strength and conditioning program created to fit your needs. This is also a great time to address those nagging injuries you experienced this season and just didn’t have time to address. Maintenance in the off season can offer significant improvements come next season.

5. Embrace your inner ‘fatty’. Looking for an excuse to buy another bike? Want to spend the winter on 2-wheels but not on a trainer? Then you need to get on the fat bike wagon because it’s a blast. Revolution Cycle has fat bikes you can rent to give it a try, a few times during the winter I organize women’s fat bike rides, and Women on Wheels continues group rides in the winter with many women on fat bikes. There are many ways to check it out and it’s a great way to continue enjoying the wintery outdoors. 

6. Focus your training for next season’s goals. Have a lofty goal for next season? Something bigger than this season? Then the ‘off’ season shouldn’t be as off as you might think. Start with a baseline fitness test that is robust enough to give you a training plan for the winter, and then figure out how you’ll stay motivated (see #1). Programs like Trainer Road or Swift have a variety of cycling training programs based on goals, time commitment, and time-horizon to completion. Even more effective is an individualized assessment from a sports physiotherapist and subsequent individualized training plan based on your body’s biology and your personal goals. Often times the biggest gains are made in the off-season.

7. Spin it to win it. Love biking but not winter? Motivated by group fitness? Or maybe you want to try winter cycling and think that stationery is the place to start before you try to attempt clips and riding in a group? Then spin classes are a good option. If you’re new to cycling (no road bike and/or trainer) then any of the city’s spin studios will give you a good introduction. You can even start practicing with clipless pedals. Those more seasoned, you’ll want to look for spin classes lead by cyclists who understand effective training plans. How you structure your spin time can have significant impact on the resulting fitness gains. Utilizing a heart rate monitor and/or power meter will ensure that you can tailor your efforts in each class. Or ditch all the accessories and simply pedal hard/faster when you’re told. Whatever motivates you!

There’s no magic answer off-season training with winter cycling, it depends on your personal goals. If staying motivated with a group of awesome women sounds fun, send me an email. We have a group spinning together this winter and are always looking for others willing to help make a discouragingly long winter go by just a little bit faster.

By: Tiffany Baker – Women’s Cycling Manager, ERTC