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13 Tips to Stay Motivated and Keep Riding During Winter

By Jordan Grimes   /  Last updated - January 20, 2022   /  Advice, Blog

Best Winter Cycling tips

Cycling throughout the winter is undoubtedly more complicated compared to the other seasons. Cold, wet, windy, and dark days quickly drain the enjoyment from being outdoors, making it challenging to find the motivation to ride.

Thankfully, there are a few ways to make winter riding easier. By following the advice in this article, we hope you can maintain fitness, try something new, and improve your overall health by keeping your wheels spinning this winter.

1. Wear Winter Cycling Gear

Having suitable winter gear is essential for motivation and enjoyment during winter. Riding in the cold can be unbearable if you’re not prepared. Consider adding the following items to your wardrobe before winter arrives:

  • Thermal bib tights– Ideally, you want as little skin as possible exposed to freezing winds, so get those legs covered with a set of full-length thermal bib tights
  • Shoe covers – Keep your feet warm and out of the wind with shoe covers that cover the breathable mesh fabric typical in cycling shoes
  • Winter jacket – This is the crucial piece. A high-quality winter cycling jacket can stop the wind and trap the heat while still allowing sweat to dissipate
  • Base layers – Base layers help you retain heat while wicking away any sweat. Merino wool is one of the best materials for these pieces
  • Winter gloves – Keeping your hands warm is tough, so make sure your gloves are appropriate for the temperatures in your area. Look out for sets with longer tails that cover the wrists adequately
  • Hat/balaclava – A thin under-helmet hat or full ski-style balaclava help keep the head and ears out of the wind and toasty

Building a winter cycling wardrobe is crucial for enjoying winter rides. If you finish your first winter ride cold, wet, and miserable, it’s likely you’ll spend the rest of the winter inside. But that’s not how things have to be.

Tip: Many cycling clothing products come with a temperature rating, so be sure to look out for it before purchasing something.

2. Cycle Indoors

Cycling indoor training

Credits: Aditya Wardhana

Due to extreme weather conditions, the only option to ride throughout winter for many cyclists is to move indoors. Additionally, indoor cycling is an excellent alternative if you must cancel a ride because of rain or snow.

By investing in a bike trainer, you can avoid the harsh winter conditions and maintain fitness (and sanity) from the comfort of your own home.

The technology for indoor training is engaging and comprehensive. You can take advantage of training apps like Zwift to join an indoor cycling community or go old school with your favorite music or TV show in the background while spinning away on a stationary bike. Alternatively,  smart trainers can simulate popular bike routes and gradients, which makes indoor training a lot more enjoyable.

Another benefit of indoor training is that it’s easier to train specific zones like Zone 2 training or Functional Threshold Power (FTP) training.

3. Use Bike Lights to Stay Safe in Low Lighting

Riding in the winter poses unique safety concerns. For example, it’s obvious (we hope) that you should use lights when riding at night; it’s not as intuitive to use lights on dull days or during sunrise/dusk. Choosing quality lights for your bike means the difference between being seen or not by other riders and motorists.

4. Take a Break and Recover

Rest and recovery

Credits: Milada Vigerova

The arrival of winter can be a great time to take a break and enjoy a couple of weeks off the bike, as is done by most professionals.

Rest and recovery, cross-training, focusing on sleep, and improving your nutrition in the winter months can help you return to the bike stronger and better prepared.

A break is also an opportunity to try winter-friendly leisure activities like sauna bathing, a sure way to warm up quickly (and maybe improve your cycling performance).

5. Set Goals and Create a Training Plan for the Upcoming Season

Once winter sets in and riding become less frequent, you can use the extra time to design a training plan for the new season.

Start by setting new goals and ambitions for the upcoming year. These may include reaching the podium on a race, achieving a personal best on your favorite climb, or stealing a KOM from your local rival on Strava.

Whether you’re a competitive cyclist or a weekend warrior, training plans are an excellent way to improve your cycling performance and overall health.

6. Try Another Discipline

Winter cycling cross training

Credits: Tom Photo Cycling

Although road riding isn’t particularly suited to winter conditions, other cycling disciplines like cyclocross, mountain biking, and fat biking are great year-round activities.

By trying your hand at a different discipline, you can improve your cycling technique and perhaps fall in love with something new while you’re at it. This is also a great way to stay motivated and make cycling a lot more interesting and exciting.

7. Cross-training

Cross-training is doing a different physical activity from your primary one (cycling).

The goal is to strengthen other systems in the body. Some examples include:

  • Train specific heart rate zones
  • Build muscular strength
  • Improve balance and stability
  • Increase mobility
  • Reduce repetitive strain injuries associated with cycling

Mixing in other activities also helps you maintain a positive attitude for every bike ride, leading to an overall increase in your enjoyment of cycling.

Some activities balance cycling by offsetting the repetitive nature or providing different physiological benefits. Examples include activities like strength training, swimming, and yoga or pilates.

Other activities are great supplements to cycling, helping develop similar muscle groups and cardiovascular systems. Examples include running and rowing.

8. Enjoy the Daylight

Winter cycling daylight

Credits: Alphacolor

The limited daylight experienced in many areas during the winter months can be unmotivating. Most people don’t look forward to nighttime riding. To make the most of the day, try to cycle when the sun is highest in the sky or shortly after sunrise.

Exposure to early morning sunlight is critical to regulating your body’s internal clock and improving sleep. In addition, this type of regulation can promote much-needed consistency in the dark winter months.

Alternatively, try a midday ride in the winter. Riding when the sun is high maximizes your exposure to sunlight while also being the warmest time of day to ride. Finally, exercising also gives you an energy boost for the rest of the day.

9. Find a Riding Partner

Accountability is one of the most effective motivators and valuable tools to riding consistently throughout the winter.

Two people that want to keep riding during the winter months can rely on each other during times of low motivation to provide the little kick needed to get dressed and get outside.

Riding with someone else can help the miles fly by faster. In addition, cycling with friends makes any ride feel shorter, especially useful in harsh winter conditions.

10. Modify the Bike

Cycling in winter rain

Credits: Pedro Carballo

Like having winter bike gear, kitting out your bike for the winter months can make riding more comfortable and safer.

Mudguards – In many areas, the road can be wet through the whole winter. Using mudguards during this time can help you stay dry and clean on wet roads and trails.

Although mudguards are not aerodynamic, the trade-off is often worth it to make cycling in wet weather more enjoyable.

Tires – Changing to winter-friendly tires is a simple and effective way to improve the safety of your winter rides. Deeper tread and extra width increase grip and traction on wet or frosty roads without significant speed losses.

11. Focus on Other Pillars of Health

Frequent riding and social activities often consume our free time during the summer months. Unfortunately, this lack of free time can negatively impact our nutrition, sleep, and stress levels.

For riders who have some extra free time in the winter, focusing on improving nutrition (sport-specific or general), optimizing sleep, and stress reduction can translate to improved health overall and even better performance on the bike.

  • Practice cooking some new recipes for pre or post-ride meals
  • Create a bedtime routine to help wind down in the evenings
  • Practice some non-exercise stress reduction like mindfulness

12. Set a Winter Goal

Cycling motivation and goals

Credits: Clark Tibbs

Before winter arrives, consider setting a cycling-related goal that will provide the impetus to ride when the comfort and warmth of your home are pulling you in the opposite direction.

A relatively small, achievable goal for the winter months will be enough to keep things fresh. This goal may be a simple target of riding 50 miles each week or entering an early-spring event.

13. Don’t Rely on Motivation

The belief that motivation proceeds action isn’t reliable because having the motivation to do something is transitory. Therefore, to ensure you take action, you mustn’t rely on motivation, instead use routines and habits to follow through.

Most people find that once they begin doing something, i.e., take action (get dressed to go riding, drive to the gym, or jump on a stationary bike), the desire and motivation to continue and complete the task follows.

Setting up routines and habits facilitates action in the absence of motivation. The key is to make them simple, achievable, and flexible.

For example, commit to doing three 5-mile rides indoors or outdoors each week on consistent days and times. On high-motivation days, you may ride 20 miles; on low-motivation days, you know you only have to complete the bare minimum. Framing it this way helps you maintain momentum and the satisfactory feeling of completion.

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