What’s the secret to cycling in the fall, winter and early spring?Be prepared!Make sure your bike is in good condition.Make sure you are properly dressed and make sure your bike fit and riding position has been professionally checked.
Preparing your bike involves:
Lubed and adjusted
Have your bike tuned at the beginning of the winter season.This will take care of any problems that may have developed during the summer.It is especially important to make sure that your chain and derailleur are lubed and adjusted.Brakes should also be adjusted and you may want to change the brake pads – both to make sure they aren’t worn and to used special pads that are designed for wet weather.
Check your tires carefully.Flats occur more frequently in wet weather and the fall, winter and early spring are especially wet seasons.Tires that have a number of small cuts should be replaced and use them on your trainer or rollers.
It’s no fun to ride when you’re cold or wet.The proper riding gear will keep you warm and dry.Use the three layer approach to keeping warm.Layer one is a wicking material.This will move moisture away from your body and keep you warm.Layer two is an insulating material.This traps air and retains body heat.Layer three is a wind and water barrier.This will keep the cold out.
Leg Warmers, Arm Warmers, Knee Warmers
For cool weather – temperatures below 70° use Knee Warmers or Leg Warmers.Arm warms should be used on days when it’s cool in the morning, but warms up as the day goes on.They’ll keep you warm in the morning chill, but can be easily removed as you and the day warm-up.
Choose a jersey that is made of a moisture wicking fabric, has a long or full length zipper and pockets in the back.
Gloves are a safety item.They prevent serious abrasions to the palm of your hand when you fall.They also help during hot weather and rain by providing a better grip when your hands and handle bars are wet.=They can offer some comfort and relief from pressure on the handle bars.
Full finger gloves, glove liners and “Lobster Claws” make riding in cold and wet weather comfortable.Make sure you can manipulate your brakes and gear levers with the combination of gloves you select.
Wear a jacket that has water and wind blocking features.The jacket should also have sufficient pockets for your needs.Some jackets have removable sleeves, converting the jacket to a vest.Some jackets have a back pocket that converts to a pack so that you can carry the jacket around your waist.
These are valuable for those days that are not cold enough for a jacket.Look for one with a mesh back – to allow heat and moisture to escape.
Cycling in cold weather requires preparation.Dress in layers – a base layer of moisture wicking fabric, a middle layer of an insulating fabric and a top layer for wind and water protection.All should have full length zippers to allow for adjusting to temperature changes.Be sure the top layers are large enough to accommodate the base and middle layer.
Wear bike shorts under your tights or over pants.
This is a light weight moisture wicking head, forehead, chin and neck cover.
In cold and wet weather these are critical to comfortable riding.Toe caps are great for dry but colder weather.Full shoe covers – both insulated and waterproof are needed during cold, wet rides.
Riding in wet weather is possible, if you’re properly dressed.Use a layer system – base, middle and top layer.Select a top layer that is waterproof and breathable.There are a number of high tech fabrics that keep the rain out and allow vapor (sweat) to escape.Select garments that have zippers and vents for added control over body temperature.Rain pants should have leg zippers to make them easy to get on and off.
* Caution *
Wet riding tips:
avoid painted lines and anything metal
avoid the middle of the lane
use sturdier tires
wear eye protection
feather your brakes
give every one a little more space
Riding a bike that fits properly makes riding comfortable.It also doesn’t rob you of power and you won’t have pains when you get off the bike.A professional bike fit should be done a few times during the year, as your riding habits change.Your flexibility changes and therefore your riding position will change.Get a professional bike fit!
Start Getting Ready for Next Year
The winter is a perfect time to begin preparing for the next year.Whether your goal is to just enjoy your riding more, complete a Century ride or race, you need to start building your base during the winter.
Set A Goal
The first thing you need to do is set a goal.Be specific!Write it down!Tell your family, friends and co-workers.Put a sign-up on your refrigerator and on your bathroom mirror.All of these steps will help you remain committed to your goal.
Make your goal a challenge, but be realistic.Don’t set a goal that is unreachable.But, don’t be easy on yourself either.If you’ve ridden a Century already, setting a goal of merely finishing may no longer be enough of a challenge.So, perhaps set a time goal.
Write it down
Make it public
Make is specific
Make it measurable
Make it reasonable
Make it attainable
Make it a challenge
Have a Plan
Your training needs to be well designed.Select a Key Event.This is the event all of your training is geared towards.Plan your training phases back from your Key Event – Goal/Taper, Speed Building Phase, Strength Building Phase and Base Building Phase.
Now add secondary events to your schedule.Select events that will compliment your training plan – events that fit the training phase – and events that will prepare you for your Key Event.If you are attempting your first Century Ride, include events up to the 80% to 90% of distance of the Goal Event.If you are moving up in distance, schedule a few events at shorter but increasing distances.
Plan Your Training – The Physiology of Training
In order to improve your physiological performance, you must follow these five principles:
Stress – in order to build endurance, strength or speed, you need to stress each of these physiological systems.
Adaptation – your body will adapt to the physiological stresses you present it.
Progression – in order to continue to improve, you must increase the stresses.
Specificity – physiological training is specific.The best way to improve your cycling, is to cycle.
Individuality – each person responds differently to training.Learn how your body responds and listen to it and adapt your training to your specific needs and individual responses.
Physiologically, there are five phases to training:
Endurance Building Phase or BaseBuilding – is when you build cardiovascular fitness.This is done by riding at a moderate effort and increasing both your weekly mileage and the distance of your long ride.As you build endurance, you should also begin building strength.For more advanced riders, one workout per week during the Endurance Building Phase should be devoted to strength building.The best way to add a strength building workout is to add hills.Doing hill drills and repeats builds strength and reduces the risk of injury.
StrengthBuilding Phase – is when you focus on increasing your cycling strength.The best way to do this, is by riding hills.Lots of hills!
SpeedBuilding Phase – many people won’t need to do this phase of training.If speed isn’t important – if your goal is just to improve your enjoyment of riding or to complete a Century, but time isn’t important – then you can skip this phase.Only the serious competitive riders should train through this phase.This phase is when you use short and very intense bouts of speed to train your body to cycle faster.
Goal/Taper / Racing Phase – this is the period of time you’ve been training for, your goal event.Enjoy!You should taper for about 2 weeks prior to your goal event.Reduce you weekly mileage and eliminate your long ride.
Recovery Phase – most cyclist overlook this phase.This is the time to relax, reduce your mileage and effort.This will make you stronger the next year.The biggest benefits of training well are reaped the second year.
Plan your training in four week blocks or cycles.Build for three weeks and recover during the fourth week.The recovery week is a week of reduced mileage and effort.
EnduranceBuilding – Base Phase
This is the starting point.Without a sound base – Aerobic base, your entire training program will suffer.This phase is about training time and mileage, not about speed.This is the time to build you weekly mileage and the distance of your long workout.Your pace should be 75% to 85% maximal effort.There should be one hard workout after the first four weeks of base building.This workout should include periods of 3 to 6 minutes of near maximal effort.Begin with 4 repeats and work up to repeats over a couple of months.This is best done by riding hills – in a big gear using a low cadence (around 50 rpm).
The Base Building Phase should last as long as possible, the entire winter is ideal.But a minimum of 12 weeks.
Winter is the time to build mileage.After a recovery phase of 4 to 6 weeks, you should start your Base Building Phase.During the Base Building Phase your goals are to increase aerobic fitness, increase mileage:
·Build cardiovascular and muscular endurance.
Build up base mileage and distance of long workouts.
Build up the distance of your long ride gradually.The effort during this phase should be at a comfortable level.Usually, this is 80% or less of maximum effort.You need to include at least one long ride every two tothree weeks.
During the week alternate medium distance rides with Active Recovery Days (or days off).It’s usually better to take an Active Recovery Day, than to take a day totally off.This would be a ride of about 30 minutes – an easy spin with friends.The benefit of an Active Recovery Day over a day off is that if you increase the blood flow to muscles the waste and soreness will diminish faster than with total rest.
Winter presents training challenges.It’s difficult to get all of your mileage in with winter weather.Using a cycle trainer (or rollers or a stationary bike), you should be able to train regardless of the weather.When using a cycle trainer (or rollers or a stationary bike) is a good opportunity to work on your pedal stroke (practice pedaling in circles) and your cadence.
Adding Strength Training
During the Strength Building Phase your hard workouts should increase to two per week.The important feature of these workouts is raising your heart rate over 90% for periods of two to six minutes at a time.Again, start with 4 repeats and increase up to repeats.The recovery interval should be at least equal to the hard effort repeat.Your heart rate should return to around 60% to 65% of maximum before beginning your next hard repeat.Continue with your long workouts once per week.All other days should be Active Recovery days.Your weekly mileage should be close to the maximum you reached for the Base Building Phase.The Strength Building Phase should last 6 to 8 weeks, from late winter to early spring.
After 4 weeks add a hill training session to your cycling workout.Start with about 4 repeats up a 6% to 9% hill.The hill should take you between 2 and 6 minutes to climb.During this workout, emphasize muscular effort instead of speed or spinning.Do not worry about getting up the hill fast.When cycling hills use a big gear and a slow cadence – 50 rpm is a good starting point.Use muscle power to get you up the hill, standing for as much of it as possible.The goals of this workout are:
Build muscular strength.
Increase capillary beds, build mitochondria, and improve Lactate enzyme response.
Raise Lactate Threshold.
Supplemental Strength Training
You can supplement your cycle training with strength training, especially during the winter.
You can also add a supplemental workout to your weekly training plan.Plyometrics are an excellent strength building method.Add a single Plyometric session each week.This session should only take 30 minutes.Select a routine that emphasizes leg strength.Be sure to warm-up and cool-down properly.Focus on leg strength.Plyometrics is Explosive Strength training.Explosive strength has been shown to be a key element of cycling performance.By increasing your explosive strength during the BaseBuilding and Strength Building Phases you will prepare your body for the Speed Building Phase.
Weights are the traditional method of building strength.Use free weights so that you are building strength around the joints by engaging several muscle groups simultaneously as you do while cycling and not isolating single muscles.Do not spend more than 20 or 30 minutes in the gym per session.Work with free weights and/or pulleys, not machines.Vary your weight workouts from week to week.Do two to three workouts each week.They should last between 30 and 45 minutes – no longer.
Do one exercise in each of the following areas:
arms pushing – extend (straighten) elbows against resistance, press (standing, seated with barbell or dumbbell), bench press (flat, incline, decline), dips, pull-ups
arms pulling – flex (bend) elbows against resistance, row (seated, bent-over, one arm with barbells or dumbbells
abdominal – static (SideLyingBridge, Prone Plank, Supine Plank) or concentric/eccentric (crunch).Increase resistance, rather than increasing reps.
lower back – back extension (45° or 90°), Good Mornings, stiff-leg dead lift
squats. – step-ups, lunge, leg press
Do one to three sets of 6 to 8 reps for each exercise.Do all exercises with FULL range of motion.Use a weight of 80% to 85% of 1 Repeat Maximum (1RM) for 6 to 8 reps.You can also use 130% of your 10 Repeat Maximum (10RM).
Off-Season Conditioning focuses on the BaseBuilding – Endurance Phase.You can add strength building activities during the winter too.Do not let the weather deter you from your training.Building a good base during the winter is the key to a successful Spring and Summer.
The focus should be on building weekly mileage and the distance of your long ride.Do not focus on speed.Track only distance or time, not speed.Plan workouts to cover a specific distance or a specific amount of time.Gradually build up the weekly total and the distance or time of your long workout.
Spinning classes are an excellent way to build your Base – Aerobic fitness.They are also a good way to work on the two critical skills – cadence and pedaling technique (pedaling in circles).But, be careful of spin classes.Most are not cycling specific.You should not use a stationary bike to build strength.Use it to build Base – Aerobic fitness and cycling techniques.Keep the resistance low – just enough to provide feel for the pedals.As you improve your technique – pedaling in circles and increased cadence – you can increase the resistance.You need just enough resistance so that you can apply pedal pressure to maintain a smooth technique.You can do this in Spinning classes.
Trainers are an excellent tool for winter training.Cycle Trainers are devices that mount to your bike’s rear wheeland let you ride indoors.The more control and information you get the better off you will be.It is important to be able to vary the resistance, without getting off your bike or stopping your workout.This will allow you to simulate riding outdoors.Add more resistance to simulate a hill, reduce the resistance to simulate riding flat terrain or down hill.
It is also important to know your cadence.Some high end trainers offer information about your pedal technique – differences between right and left pedal, variations in power throughout the pedal stroke.Trainers come in wind, fluid and magnetic versions.
Rollers add the feel of riding outdoors – you are not attached to the rollers and must maintain your balance.The are for the expert rider.Rollers come in simple – no control of resistance, to advanced – control over resistance.
Alternate workouts are great for the winter.When the weather is really bad and you have been riding your trainer for weeks, it’s great to go to the gym and lift weights.As long as you are working on your BaseBuilding – Aerobic Phase, adding strength work is fine.Do not sacrifice your BaseBuilding – Aerobic work for strength–weights.Doing weight work during the Winter will also not interfere with your rides and races.Use only free weights or pulleys.Get directions on the use of the equipment before you begin.Always work with a partner – spotter.
Build for Two Years Ahead
The real benefit of this type of program is two years in the future.You will reap benefits during the first year you adopt this approach to your training, but the greatest benefit will be two years after you start this type of program.
“The more we do, the more we can do.” – WilliamHazlitt
The off season – winter season – is the perfect time to built both the physiologicaland neuromuscular basis of a successful cycling season come spring and summer.Without the distractions of cycle events, time can be devoted to building a solid physiological base for a successful cycling season.It is also the perfect time to improve two critical cycling skills needed for successful riding – cadence and pedaling technique.
The weather should not be a deterrent.It is easy to find alternatives to riding outdoors.When the weather is bad outside, doing the serious indoor training is easy!
Now is the time to work on cadence and circles.Spending time on these key skills during the winter will greatly improve your riding during the Spring and Summer.
Work to increase your cadence by 10 or more rpm.Set your trainer to provide just slight resistance.Be sure to be in a good – balanced position.Increase your cadence until your upper body starts to “bounce.”Reduce the cadence by 5 rpm.Now continue until you become fatigued.Reduce your cadence another 5 to 10 rpm and continue for 5 minutes.Repeat the cycle – increase your cadence, hold until you fatigue, reduce the cadence for 5 minutes to recovery.Do 10 to 12 repeats, in sets of 3 or 4.Take a longer break – 10 minutes – between each set.
You will be building endurance, strength and refining the neuromuscular pathways to improve your cadence.
Pedaling in circles applies more power to each pedal stroke.This builds efficiency and increases power.It is easy to push down on the pedals – this is a natural movement pattern.Pulling up on the pedals is a little harder, but since it opposes the down stroke, it is also a natural movement pattern and easy to learn.
The rest of the pedal stroke is difficult to learn and not a natural movement pattern.But, by practicing, you can groove the neuromuscular pathways and develop a smooth, efficient pedal stroke – one where you apply pressure through out the pedal stroke.
Begin by thinking only of the top and bottom of the pedal stroke.As the pedal approaches to the top, begin to push your knee towards the handlebars.As the pedal approaches the bottom of the pedal stroke, begin to “scrap mud” off of your shoe.Using these two queues will help you apply pressure to the pedals to the two typical “dead” spots in your pedal stroke.
Practice pedaling in circles two to three days per week.Pedal with only slight pressure on the pedals during these sessions.