road.cc's Spring Cycling Guide
Time to gear up for the clocks going forward, and we’ve got loads of good ideas for the year ahead for you
The clocks go forward this weekend, marking the start of British Summer Time, although it doesn’t feel like there’s much of a change in the air at the time of writing with most of Europe is embraced in a cold snap.
Anyway, we’re a positive bunch here at road.cc and we know that milder weather is just around the corner. Trust us. So with the clocks going forward and all that extra daylight, there’s more riding time which should help top up flagging motivation levels no end.
This has got us pretty excited here in the office. It’s time to start planning ahead, setting some goals, entering events, booking cycling holidays. We’ve pulled together a load of ideas to help get you motivated and excited for the year ahead, to help you get the most out of spring.
Spring clean your bike
First things first... if you’ve been riding the same bike through the winter, it’s likely it could benefit from a thorough service. As we approach the season of racing and sportives, now is a good time to give your bike a thorough service. The drivetrain is top of your list. Check the cassette, chain and chainset for wear. Do they need replacing? Gear and brake cables, inner and outer, can be changed for some fresh new cables to spruce up your braking and shifting.
Worn tyres should be replaced, and you can consider some lighter and faster tyres for a little extra speed. Brake blocks should be checked and replaced if they don’t have much life remaining. How clean is your bar tape? Nothing looks worse than grubby bar tape. Most of these jobs are simple enough to be carried out at home, or your local bike shop will be happy to carry out the work for you.
It doesn’t seem believable as I write this but it will soon be warm enough to leave the house not looking like the Michelin Man. We’ll look at spring clothing in a future indepth guide, but now is the time to start thinking about ensuring you’ve got the right clothing to face the spring.
This time of year is all about versatility, being able to adapt to weather conditions that can change quickly and frequently. Think arm and knee warmers, gilets, bib knickers, lightweight shells and lightweight gloves and mitts.
Some cycling kit can cost a small fortune, but for every expensive cycling jacket, there’s an affordably priced equivalent available. And shopping around reveals there are some discounts to be had.
Give youself a new challenge
Why not try something new? Have you ridden an Audax before? You should. How about doing your first road race? Or a time trial in the ultimate race against the clock? Cycle touring is a relaxing and fun way to see new landscapes. Maybe it’s a long distance challenge like riding Land’s End to John O’Groats that tickles your fancy. Why not follow in the footsteps of Sir Chris Hoy and hit the wooden boards of the velodrome.
There’s nothing like the motivation from training for an event. Whether it’s a summer sportive, an Audax, a race or just some longer rides to the coast, it's great to have a goal to give you some focus. Having a goal also helps you to structure your riding and make better use of your weekly riding allowance.
Treat 2013 as the year when you try a new challenge, something you’ve never done before. Go on! You won’t regret it.
Watch a professional road race
Watching your first road race is incredibly exciting. The speed, blur of colours, sounds and smell of experiencing a professional road race is intoxicating. We really recommend planning a trip to watch a pro race this summer. A trip to the Alps to watch the Tour de France is easier than you might imagine, and is an experience you’ll never forget. You can get really close to the action standing at the side of the road and cheering on your favourtie riders.
Closer to home, the Spring Classics in northern Europe are being raced at the mment and they're just a short train or car journey away. Even closer to home, there’s the Tour Series and Tour of Britain this year to look forward to, all of which should prepare you for the Yorkshire Grand Depart next year.
Join a club, or get a ride buddie
If you find riding on your own too much sometimes, joining your local cycle club can be a big boost for motivation. Most well-organised clubs arrange regular training rides, club runs and chain gangs throughout the year. British Cycling's Club Finder is a good way to find a cycling club near you.
If you don’t want to join a club - and lots manage just fine without joining one - then there are ways of meeting up with like-minded cyclists and arranging your own rides. The road.cc forum is a good way of meeting other cyclists in your area.
Riding with other people is a good way of adding enjoyment when it’s very cold and very wet. Having firm plans to meet the club ride will make it harder to back out. And riding with someone else can help you motivate one another, and you can progress your fitness at the same pace.
Start cycle commuting
More people than ever before choose to cycle to work, and now is the time you should too. Spring is the ideal time to start. You don’t have to worry about riding in the dark as much, it’s warmer and there’s generally less chance of rain (slightly!). Plus, cycle commuting is a fantastic way of keeping fit, it saves a load of cash and will you’ll soon come to love it.
Get an app
Some people find tracking their riding helps encourage motivation. By seeing how far you’ve ridden each week, you can ensure you’re getting out frequently enough to hit the consistency that leads to progression of fitness. There’s plenty available, like Strava, Mapmyride, Endomondo. For even more suggestions check out our guide to the 10 Best Training Apps… and there are even more good suggestions in the comments too.
Ride a new route
Exploring new routes is a good way to keep things interesting. If you’re tired of following the same old route you always ride, then why not explore some new roads?
You can either use a free mapping website to plot your own route, or search for routes in your area then download them to a GPS computer. It’s a good way of expanding your horizons and you’ll probably be surprised at how many good roads you’ve been missing out on. The Garmin Edge 800 is a great GPS computer to help you.
Get away from it all on a spring training camp
You’ve been riding all winter so why not reward yourself with a spring training camp? You can use a spring training camp as the motivation you need to keep riding when it’s cold and wet, so you arrive at the camp with a decent amount of fitness.
Places like Majorca do very well to cater for cyclists, with endless smooth roads, mostly warm and sunny weather, and you'll be surrounded by other cyclists. Such an oasis can really serve to boost your motivation, as well as an opportunity to top up your tan.
Get away from it all on your own training camp… or road trip or tour
Organised events aren't for everyone so how about going on your own training camp? With a few friends you can go when and where you want. There's plenty of great riding in the UK but if you want to feel the sun on your back France, Spain, and Italy aren't far away.
Travel out of season and there are some great deals to be had on flights and accommodation. If you're flying check out road.cc's Guide to Flying with Your Bike. The Continent is also easily reachable by car, espeically if you're sharing the driving, and there's fantastic riding within a day's drive of the Channel - our Travel section is worth a look for inpsiration.
Good sites to check for accommodation are www.holidaylettings.co.uk, www.owners.direct.co.uk and www.homeaway.co.uk. For hotels, www.booking.com is good. For a good halfway house between a structured training camp and free-forming it yourself, check out some of the Continent's bike hotels - there are loads in Italy in particular. Our personal favourite is the Belvedere in Riccione. Everyone deserves to go there once. We certainly had a good time.
Of course, the other way to get away from it all by bike is to ride the whole way. Spring is the ideal time to start planning your trip, fettling your kit, and getting in some training rides, especially when the weather starts to warm up properly. The world really is your oyster on a touring bike and there's something hugely satisfying about doing the whole thing by pedal power.
Whatever you do, the main thing is to have fun on your bike in a new place. There’s a big world out there just waiting to be explored and the bicycle is the most beautiful form of transport for just doing that. So throw away the rulebook and plot your own adventure this year. It could be anything as small as riding further than you’ve ridden in a day to throwing a dart at a map and riding there.
Introduce a friend/partner/colleague to cycling
Last but very definitely not least, why not introduce someone else to the joys of cycling. Cycling is a great shared experience, and best enjoyed with like-minded people so why not try introducing a friend, a partner or a work college to the delights of cycling. We don’t suggest you nag sometime until they give in and try it, but with cycling now in the mainstream there’s a lot more people interested in trying it out. British Cycling this week launched a drive, with government backing, to try and get a million more women riding bikes by 2020. Is there a woman or girl in your life that might like to give cycling a try? Well, why not help them do it?
Whoever it is you want to encourage to get into cycling, remember be patient, don't go blasting off leaving them trailing in your wake. If they want to get off and push up that hill, or don't fancy tackling that roundabout or junction, that's fine - just get off and walk for a bit. Patience and understanding will pay off. Do it right and pretty soon there will be one more of us and one fewer of them.