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Get out and ride

Get out and ride

1) Get motivated:

One of the hardest aspects of winter training is getting out the door onto the bike: ‘from bed to shed’. Even the slightest distraction or reason not to ride, such as not having your favourite socks clean, can be enough to return to the warm embrace of your duvet. Counter this by making sure all your kit is ready. Make a deal with yourself that, if you don’t feel like riding, as long as you’ve given it a 10-minute go, you can ditch the session. Typically, once you’re out you’ll feel good and go on to ride a full session.

Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during winter. According to the SAD Association, seven percent of the UK population suffer from the full condition, with a further 17 percent suffering from milder but still significant ‘winter blues’. The condition, caused by a biochemical imbalance in the brain, can rob you of energy, motivation and enthusiasm. Physical exercise is one of the best ways to combat it, but often the motivation to exercise is low, creating a vicious circle.

There are measures you can use to prevent this though. “The cause is often a lack of light,” says sports psychologist Dr Victor Thompson, “so sleep with the curtains open, buy a dawn simulating alarm clock and try to exercise during daylight hours. Doing club rides or spin classes can all help to increase motivation to train and the social contact is another benefit that can help prevent down periods. If more help is required consider getting in touch with a psychologist or speaking to your GP.”

2) Layer up:

Invest in some good-quality winter clothing, because getting cold, wet and uncomfortable on the bike is a good enough reason to leave it in the shed and go swimming. With the proper kit you'll be prepared for nearly all that the winter can throw at you. The best way to stay warm on winter rides is to layer up. Here's what we recommend:

Shell: Softshell and waterproof jackets should provide wind stopping coverage to the belly, chest and groin – core areas you need to keep warm.
Base: A moisture-wicking baselayer that keeps the body dry is crucial. Wear an extra thin layer rather than one that’s too thick.
Mid: A thermal layer worn over your baselayer will keep the warmth in, but should work with the base and shell to let sweat vapour out.
Legs: Full-length bib tights are an essential.
Extremeties: Look after them: a fleece beanie that covers your ears; windproof gloves; and two pairs of socks or outer protection overshoes.

With these few must-haves you can train outdoors in all but the worst conditions. Quality clothing doesn't come cheap, but proves a great investment; a solid winter’s training is priceless. Be positive in your approach – do it despite the weather, not because of the weather.

3) Ride safe:

Riding in winter can be exhilarating, but make sure you stay safe by following British Cycling qualified coach Andy Cook’s cold weather counsel...

Be seen: You can’t have enough lights, particularly when riding in urban areas, but they need to be in the right places. So often you see riders with a rear light that isn’t pointing in the right direction or is obscured by their jacket. Make sure your lights are fitted securely and are positioned where drivers will definitely see them. Where you ride on the road is also vital. Take up the primary position and command your space in the road. This has the benefit of allowing you some space if that driver behind hasn’t seen you and tries to squeeze by. And don’t assume you’ve been seen by cars signalling to pull out – especially on cold mornings where commuters might still be peering through a misted or iced up windscreen, or squinting into the sun.

Avoid hazards: Riding a bike in the wet can be great fun, but make sure you do it safely. As with driving a car, it’ll take you longer to stop when braking in the wet because of a build up of water on the rims between the brake blocks and the braking surface. Make sure you take this into account. Also, road markings tend to be slippery when wet, as do drain and manhole covers, so remember to take extra care when riding across them, especially when turning. Avoiding them is the best idea, but if there’s no alternative, anticipate your line and speed as a sharp turn over a wet piece of ironwork or painted line at speed could easily result in a fall.

Look ahead: Everyone’s vision tends to be reduced in winter, especially in the busiest, darkest commuter times of first thing in the morning and in the late afternoon. As a cyclist you need to become very good at anticipating other road users’ behaviour. Always try to catch the driver’s eye, as this is your most effective form of communication. Also watch out for leaf-strewn areas on lanes – wet leaves can create seriously slippery surfaces. If we’ve had a dry spell and then there’s light rain on top of fallen leaves, some of our more rural lanes can be as hazardous as riding on ice. If you’re riding in a group in these sorts of conditions, leave a little more room between you and the guy in front, and try to anticipate any problems that might occur up ahead.

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