16 Top tips to keep YOU motivated and cycling through the winter

Beat the winter blues with our motivation boosting cycling tips

by David Arthur @davearthur   November 16, 2013  

snow cycling copyright David Blaine

If you’ve been cycling through the summer you’ve probably accumulated a fair bit of fitness, and with the onset of winter we bet you’re keen not to lose it. It can be hard to sustain the motivation to cycle through the winter when it’s cold and wet, but cycling is one of the few sports that you really can do year-round, the UK's winter doesn't really get that bad. 

We’ve put our heads together and come up with some top tips that might help you to keep cycling through the winter.

1. Dress for the weather

Wind, rain and the cold can put many people off cycling through the winter, but with the latest cycle clothing it’s perfectly possible to insulate and protect yourself from the elements so you can cycle quite happily through the winter. There’s the old saying ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing’ and there is some truth in it. If you spend some money on really good quality cycling clothing it can immeasurably boost your happiness when cycling, and you’ll be less inclined to postpone a ride because it’a a bit damp or chilly out there. When you buy new clothing, you’ll benefit from the motivation to try it out.

2. Preparation is key

If you want to commute to work, or get up early for a morning ride before heading to the office, then don’t leave everything until the morning. Get all your clothing, kit and bike prepared the evening before, so when you wake up everything is laid out and ready to go, and minimises time spent looking for a pair of gloves or a lost sock. I lay my cycling kit for the ride out beside the bed, so I literally step out of bed and straight into my kit. Likewise, having the bike ready, with lights charged and fitted and tyres inflated, means I can just fill a water bottle and head straight out.

3. Get some lights

Don’t let the dark mornings and evenings put you off, with a set of modern high powered lights you can turn night into day and get out before most people are even out of bed, or while they’re eating their tea and watching Eastenders. Cycling through the night is hugely rewarding, and frees you from just riding during the daylight.

4. Enter an event

Set your sights on a future event. If say you entered next year’s Etape for example, you’ll have the incentive you’ll need to summon up the motivation to ride, because you’ll want to stay fit and improve your fitness through the winter, so you arrive at the start line in the best possible shape to give it your best effort. You can also enter smaller events more frequently, like a winter sportive, cyclo-cross race or reliability trial. Put some dates on your calendar and use those to motivate you to get outside when it’s cold and wet.

5. Have a winter plan

Having a goal to give you a sense of purpose can be a great way to get you outdoors on the bike when the weather conditions might be less than favourable. It can be anything from deciding to commute to work twice a week, to setting a weekly or monthly distance or duration goal. Apps like Strava make it really easy to track your progress and let you set distance goals so you can measure and share your progress.

6. Cycle commuting

If you don't already cycle commute, then winter is a great time to start. Not only is it a great way to keep your fitness ticking over, but it is costs very little - in fact it will save you money - and is exhilarating compared to being stuffed in the Tube, train, bus or car. Plus you can buff up your epicness credentials with colleagues when they see you’ve cycle in through the conditions they even thought twice about driving in. Oh, and you don't have to do it every day, although once you start it is quite hard to stop.

7. Explore new routes

One tactic I favour for cycling my cycling motivation topped up is to avoid riding the same routes all the time. Instead, I spend a lot of time plotting new routes (using my favoured www.bikehike.co.uk) to explore roads around my local area and to discover new roads, and new ways of linking up existing roads. It keeps it interesting.

8. Meet a friend for a ride

Cycling on your own is hugely rewarding, but sometimes when the weather is bad it can be really encouraging to plan a ride with a friend. You’ll have the incentive on not wanting to let them down, and having to meet them at a certain time to force you out the door. Riding with a friend in bad weather can be great for moral, as you’re both in it together and can be good from a safety point of view too.

9. Ride with the local club

There are cycling clubs all over the country, you can find your local club using British Cycling's Club Finder, and most organise regular weekday and/or weekend rides. These can be not only a good way of making new friends, but by having a regular meeting time every Saturday morning say, gives you the boost of motivation you need to get on your bike. Riding in a large group is good for spirits when the weather it bad, you can also usually ride a bit faster and seek shelter from the wind, by taking it in turns at the front of the group, and time flies by compared to riding solo.

10. Get on the track

Heading indoors and onto the velodrome is a great winter sport. Clubs will organise regular training sessions at Manchester, Newport, Glasgow and Calshot, and provides an fun and exciting way to spice your winter cycling. Most tracks organise induction beginner classes so you can learn the ropes with an instructor, and you can hire bikes so you only need to turn up with your cycling kit. Most tracks run regular racing leagues if you want to race the boards through the winter. Cycling on the track provides a fantastic high intensity workout and really hones your pedalling technique and handling skills. Track is the best place to learn how to ride closely to other riders in a group and paceline.

11. Get on the turbo

Take your riding indoors. If you really can’t face the thought of night riding, but can’t get a ride in during daylight, then a turbo trainer or rollers allows you to keep on cycling through the winter, and all from the comfort, warmth and safety of your house or garage. Used effectively, turbo trainers are brilliant on maintaining and improving fitness. They allow you to focus on very specific elements of your fitness. There are tons of training videos like Sufferfest that can guide you through a plan. Many cycling clubs also host turbo trainer evenings, just turn up with your bike and turbo and partake in a group session.

12. Get a coach

If you’re a competitive sort, and maybe fancy doing some racing next season, then enlisting the services of a professional coach can be a really good idea. It might seem an elaborate expense and only for the professionals, but a coach can help cyclists of all levels and abilities. If you’re strapped for time because of other commitments, a coach will work with the time you do have available and devise a plan that will get you to the start line as fit as you can be. A coach will also help you hone in on your weaknesses and focus on turning them into strengths. If you can’t afford a coach then there are many good quality books that will help you make the most of your cycling time.

13. Bag a KOM

Coming off a hard season and into the winter? If you're into Strava then it's a great time to go for a few KOMs. There's plenty working in your favour: you have all those miles in the legs from a long summer, but the cooler conditions mean that you're less likely to overheat on a hard climb. Plus, there's an increased chance of a decent tailwind... make sure you're properly warmed up before you attack a segment though, as overexerting your muscles when they're cold could spell trouble

14. It’s only weather

Just remember, it’s only weather, so don’t let it put you off riding in it, instead embrace the cold and rain. We’re fortunate on this small island that the weather never gets really that bad, the winter is mostly mild and is well suited to year-round cycling. And the colder and wetter it is, well that's more 'epic' points in the bank.

15. Just get outside

Don’t think too much about how bad you think it might be, instead don’t think about it at all. Just get dressed and get out the door, and get riding. Most of the time it’s never as bad as you think it will be. And the reward for having gotten out will be immeasurable.

16. Cake

If you do brave the rain, wind and/or cold, then you've thoroughly deserved a slice, nay a slab of cake when you get home. What better reason for getting out in the winter than looking forward to some cake, and everyone knows cake tastes better after an epic bike ride.

17 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I agree - Winter is a good time for the mountain bike. Hit the dirt trailsand enjoy a different kind of riding. You can still put the work in but in a different type of riding

posted by arfa [592 posts]
16th November 2013 - 20:21

38 Likes

Take advantage of the cold mornings and dark evenings to head to the gym and lift some weights twice a week would be my other tip.

Something cyclists should really do all year, although many don't get around to it.

Focusing on some classic compound moves like squats and (my particular favourite) deadlifts makes a big difference to general conditioning and resistance to injury on the bike, I've found. More interesting than the turbo, too. Not that this is difficult.

PS: I get your point about our generally temperate, maritime climate but have you already forgotten last winter? Literally a month when the lanes where I live we're impassable without studded tyres. And 2013/14 predicted to be even colder so remember to factor that in. I love the feeling of being outdoors when drivers are stuck inside, though.

posted by Yennings [230 posts]
17th November 2013 - 9:26

40 Likes

A new (cheaper winter) bike is always a great motivator, can't beat a new toy to go out & play with, and no self-excuses like "but I've just cleaned it" as your main ride will stay pristine if kept for dry sunny rides only.... end of season sales too!

posted by caaad10 [144 posts]
17th November 2013 - 15:14

49 Likes

I'll never forget the look of absolute disdain and disgust from someone in a car at the sight of me after cycling 20 miles through several inches of snow last year! Never had so much fun traveling to work!

posted by NorthEastJimmy [29 posts]
17th November 2013 - 18:50

32 Likes

I ride my MTB and road bikes all year but find the MTB easier for horrible weather as bulkier waterproof clothing on MTB feels less restrictive and you are less exposed to wind whilst in the woods.

MTB is also brilliant for commuting in snow when cars and trains are stuck. Did some great 40 mile round trips to work during previous snowfall

posted by hampstead_bandit [332 posts]
17th November 2013 - 19:56

43 Likes

Double post...

posted by hampstead_bandit [332 posts]
17th November 2013 - 19:57

36 Likes

Riding unwillingly through last winter, it seemed that carbon fibre needs to hibernate but cheap alloy and rusty steel doesn't

posted by sidesaddle [70 posts]
17th November 2013 - 21:02

38 Likes

NorthEastJimmy wrote:
I'll never forget the look of absolute disdain and disgust from someone in a car at the sight of me after cycling 20 miles through several inches of snow last year! Never had so much fun traveling to work!

My commute now involves me walking from the bedroom to my study (amazing how quickly you get very unfit without a quick 7km commute).

The last time it properly snowed here a couple of years back, it was only bicycles (MTB's) that were getting up the big dual carriageway...the only ones going down had snowboards Smile

Brilliant day that was.

William Black's picture

posted by William Black [196 posts]
17th November 2013 - 21:22

35 Likes

17. If you're doing any sort of distance other than short commutes, get some Mycoal foot warmers. They go inside your shoes, just under your toes. They are fantastic for the coldest days. Buy them on Ebay and they can work out at around £1 per pair per ride. Wink

michophull's picture

posted by michophull [117 posts]
17th November 2013 - 23:29

22 Likes

Use winter time to break from all of your usual 'training' and ignore goals. Just get out and enjoy it, put some intensity in every now and then but rest, relax, do something different, give the mind a break (and then come back hungry!)

The Human Cyclist A blog. Try it, you might like it...

sm's picture

posted by sm [355 posts]
18th November 2013 - 7:41

57 Likes

Just bought a helmet, a brighter front light than the one that forced me to slow down on Sunday evening, and 2 studded tyres. Winter can come.

Not particularly looking forward to it, though. One of the roads I used on Sunday was lined with those six-foot stripey poles that show drivers where the road is (and how deep the snow is) when the snow is piled so high that the 3-foot reflector posts lining the road disappear from view. The idea that I was going to be ready for anything once I had my studs suddenly started to seem a little naive. It was only 400 m or 500 m above sea level, but I presume people wouldn't bother putting up the poles if they didn't find them useful. Suppose I'll stick to transport cycling for a bit when the snowstorms start and get most of my exercise on two feet and not two wheels.

posted by bambergbike [88 posts]
19th November 2013 - 19:43

24 Likes

Quote:
cooler conditions mean that you're less likely to overheat on a hard climb.

Classic.

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1734 posts]
21st November 2013 - 21:20

21 Likes

That's actually a Billy Connolly quote, the full one being: 'I hate all those weathermen, too, who tell you that rain is bad weather. There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, so get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little.'

Couldn't agree more that there are some 'sexy raincoats', as you point out so go out and get one!

Anyway, good article - some great tips!

posted by twitcomb [1 posts]
22nd November 2013 - 12:27

27 Likes

16 is hogwash! Go for a ride.... Sabotage ride with cake, refuelling with industrial grade sucrose and fat, awesome. Then get home and eat a post ride meal. Most individuals will find they have not burnt the calorie content of the cake off, as their intensity and volume has not put them in deficit. Winter rides should be your high intensity rides with increased volume so in the the spring you hit the ground running for events or so that you can enjoy your rides with a high level of fitness gained through autumn and winter. Fat loss / Cardio respiratory endurance & muscular strength endurance should come out of the winter months better than you went in. CAKE, if you are a pure pleasure rider then maybe, but then you are I imagine doing it for your health? So the question you must ask is, that during your healthy activity you are putting your hearts and arteries arch enemy into your system, and spiking your insulin production to boot. And possibly keeping your body at + stored calories! not in the negative, so no fat loss will happen.

Bin cake. Save for birthdays... Yours and when in Paris.

Reverse periodisation is the way forward. But other ideas and methodologies are available.
The facts above are from my own empirically driven data.

posted by Cyclist [307 posts]
12th December 2013 - 20:34

22 Likes

Surprise Wooohooo, lighten up and enjoy the holidays. And enjoy your ride without a body chemistry analysis.

Shut up legs, you don't get a vote.

ridein's picture

posted by ridein [62 posts]
14th December 2013 - 5:37

23 Likes

16 Works for me every time . . . epic points after riding into work is good too I've racked a few up this morning Big Grin

Endorphines going up and adrenaline going down, who needs drugs?

posted by banzicyclist2 [281 posts]
23rd December 2013 - 14:13

19 Likes

A great post. Having started cycling to work a year ago almost to the day, starting in the winter means your summer will be absolutely amazing.

YorkshireMike's picture

posted by YorkshireMike [83 posts]
23rd December 2013 - 14:30

16 Likes