You're back at work, Christmas is a distant memory, spring seems an awfully long time away, and it’s dark, cold and wet outside. We know how you feel, summoning the motivation to ride your bike at this time of year can be challenging, so to help you out we’ve rounded up a few proven methods for boosting motivation and getting you through this gloomy period.
An easy and obvious suggestion this one, granted, but there’s nothing like booking a holiday to cheer you up. It just so happens that road.cc is off on holiday to Italy in April, and you’re welcome to join us for a week of cycling in Riccione. We’re staying at the Hotel Belvedere, it’s on the Adriatic coast and the riding in the surrounding countryside is beautiful. The hotel offers everything to make your stay really enjoyable, with smart rooms and delicious food, high quality hire bikes and five guided rides a day, a qualified bike mechanic and secure bike room. They’ve thought of everything, they really have, all you need to worry about is enjoying the riding.
Find out more about the road.cc Italy week here.
There’s nothing like entering an sportive to give you the motivational boost you need to get out on the bike when it's cold, wet and dark, and there are now so many sportives to choose from that, really you’re spoilt for choice. Many organisers run a series of monthly sportives so you could pick one a month to take you through to spring and eventually, summer. Booking onto a sportive in advance is a great boost when you need that little extra encouragement to pull the road bike out of the shed.
If you’re new to sportives, it’s a good idea to work your way up, so start with a shorter one and have a goal distance, say 100km, in mind to ride in the summer, and challenge yourself with shorter sportives between now and then. Most sportive organisers actually put on shorter events at this time of year, to help ease people into the year.
The road.cc events calendar is a good place to start as it’s packed with 2015 events.
Sportives can be quite expensive to enter, and you’ll likely be joining a large number of competitively minded cyclists on the road. That’s not the case with an Audax event, they're much more low-key. They are very cheap to enter (I entered one that cost me a whole £1 the other day), you can choose a distance to suit, from 50km to 1500km, and there isn’t the whiff of Strava segment chasing you get at a sportive, so they're much friendlier events.
The routes are planned for you, but you do have to navigate yourself, though most organisers now offer GPS files if you have a compatible device. And because there are no feed stations, you instead stop at cafes and have proper tea and cake refreshments, none of your sliced bananas and energy gels you get at a sportive.
There are loads of Audaxes to choose from, and they’re all listed at www.aukweb.net
If you want to get fit for the summer, whether it’s simply to ride faster or for a targeted event like Ride London or L’Etape, a structured training plan can be really useful. You can devise a training plan yourself, there are many good books available, but a coach will be able to give you the best plan for your needs. A coach is also a relatively cheap investment compared to the cost of a new set of flashy wheels, and will certainly make a much bigger difference, it'll make you able to ride faster and further.
A coach will work with you to provide a realistic training plan that fits your life and work and family commitments, and will make the best use of your available cycling time. Having that structure from a training plan, designed to focus on your weaknesses and harness your strengths, is a proven way to help you hit your goals for the cycling season, no matter the level of your ambition. And don't think you have to be a racer to take advantage of a coach, if you have your eye on distance events or simply want to ride faster with your mates, a coach is a sound investment.
Take it from Big Dave, he signed up with a coach last year and quickly realised his goal of finishing a cat 4 crit race towards the end of last year.
Cycling clubs, the traditional bed stone of UK cycling, have never been more popular than they are now, with long-running clubs boasting several hundred members and new clubs springing up all the time. Clubs are popular because they’re still a great way to meet other cyclists in your local area, with regular organised group rides split into different ability levels. Some clubs do this better than others, so it's always worth trying a few clubs if you have that luxury in your area. Riding in a group is good for safety in numbers, especially at this time of year, plus there’s the banter and conversation that helps to pass the time more quickly when riding in a group, and you get a bit of shelter from the wind too.
There’s most likely to be a club very near you, the best way to find them is to head over to British Cycling’s Club Finder and find one nearest to you.
Cycling is, at heart, a social sport, and it’s a great sport to share with a friend or partner. Sometimes taking the first step on the cycling ladder can be a little daunting, but with the helping hand of a friend, those first tentative steps can be a lot less intimidating. We all started somewhere, and it's good to pass on that experience to other new cyclists and introduce them to the sport, past time and hobby that we all enjoy so much. After all, there’s nothing like seeing the smile on the face of someone you’ve introduced to cycling when they're helping themselves to a slice of guilt free cake at the tea stop.
With more and more people owning powerful feature-packed smartphones, there has sprung up a plethora of cycling-specific apps designed to track, record and monitor your cycling. Such apps make it really easy to track your weekly mileage and hours in the saddle. Many can do cool things like allowing you to set a weekly or monthly target, such as a mileage or climbing goal. Some have successfully introduced a social network aspect that allows you to compare and contrast your rides with friends, and even provide, as is the case with Strava, leader boards for favourite roads and popular climbs.
If you enjoy riding fast and are inspired by the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, maybe this is the year to pin a number to your jersey and try your hand at racing? It’s really easy to get into racing, all you need is a road bike and a licence, and you're good to go. The best way to get into racing is just to get stuck into it.
You don’t need much to start bicycle racing, a bike with drop handlebars obviously (it doesn’t have to be an expensive bike, many race competitively on £300 bikes) and a helmet. You then need a licence, you can’t race without one, you can either pay £10 for a day licence, ideal if it’s your first race, or join British Cycling. A licence starts from £20.
Next you need to find a race series near you, and there is probably a race series not far from you - British Cycling list races on their calendar and it’s a good place to start. You can race throughout the year now, many areas have winter series that are running right now. Winter racing is a good motivator, racing each week is a good way to get some interval training and a measure of your progress.
There are races and categories for all ages and abilities, for under 12 up to adults, men and women. You can sometimes enter on the day - just turn up and hand over your money - but sometimes you have to pre-enter. And that's it, you’re set to race, now it’s just time to get stuck in. Do well and finish in the top ten and you get points, and rack up enough points and you can start moving up the categories.
The UK now boasts a handful of cycling shows and they’re an ideal place to see some of the latest bikes and kit that you read about on the pages of road.cc everyday. As well as the latest shiny kit to feast your eyes on, the shows put on a lot more activities such as demo tracks to test the latest bikes, indoor crit races, skills demonstrations, seminars from experts and professional cyclists, and plenty more besides.
Two of the most popular shows are the London Bike Show at Excel London on 12-15 February, and the UK Handmade Bicycle Show in Bristol on 17-19th April, the largest collection of custom and bespoke frames from around the world.
Maybe you've got your own tips for boosting cycling motivation? Let's hear them in the comments below.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.