Updated: Nov 17, 2020
One day you'll wake up, and there'll be no more time to do all the things you wanted to do. Do them now.
How do we ensure we can continue to ride over the winter period! We will begin with outdoor kit and then move indoors to battle the internal climatic conditions we could be facing for the foreseeable future.
The bike is where kit can become essential for both comfort and overall gains. As this requires a bit of trial and error (of which I’ve had to experience the hard way), I’ll be a bit more specific about what kit I deem more than adequate.
Safety first… A good helmet (MIPS) and some lights, front and rear for both summer and winter, day/ night. Lights which are on the body can be best as moving lights are proven to be more visible… better to be safe than sorry and have them on the bike as well. In addition to this, don’t forget to take a spare inner tube and puncture repair kit, you don’t want to be one of those people relying on others if you get a flat!
If you’re uncomfortable on the bike for long rides it can make life miserable. A good bike fit and saddle is the first port of call, however clothing then comes into play to combat potentially awful conditions, typically found in South Wales, and general comfort on the bike! You wouldn’t want to be caught short of the correct gear to get the job done… just ask some of my training partners (Ollie Turner). Having recently moved to Wales he has had some rude awakenings as to how kit can make a big difference. Not only can it make life easier whilst on the bike, it can also help prevent illness if it stops you getting too cold, or rubbing and chafing.
Whilst talking about winter clothing here, a good pair of bib shorts can be equally important in the summer for comfort to avoid irritation. Ensure there is a decent pad within the bib shorts to maximise comfort for those longer rides. Also consider a ‘lighter weight’ bib short to minimise sweat, as this could also cause irritation when the bib shorts get wet. I’ll start with Castilli, due to its value for money, it’s quality and longevity… my go to for 75 percent of the year is a short sleeve Gabba and nanoflex bibshorts, complimented with nanoflex arm warmers and leg warmers. This way you have the flexibility of a large temperature range. I’ve been comfortable in anything from 0 to 25 degrees whilst training in Australia before the Commonwealths. This is subject to different base layers, both cooling and thermal. I tend to like the ‘Craft’ base layers (merino wool for thermal). Sealskinz for the extremities… their gloves (all weather) are great and haven’t let me down yet and overshoes. I would also recommend wearing fingerless gloves for the warmer months as they provide protection for the hands just in case there is the misfortune of a crash.
The finishing touches are from ‘Gore’ and ‘Oakley’ in the form of Cap, rain jacket and glasses. The Gore shakedry cap and rain jacket are great for keeping the rain out of both your eyes and from penetrating through the Gabba which keeps you warm. Oakley jawbreakers are great for both visibility and keeping the wind and rain out of your eyes. You can easily change the lenses dependent on changing conditions. I go for a set of prizm lenses and photocromatic for the days with diminishing or improving light. I wear all of this kit almost every day throughout winter and can’t really fault it. As a whole, this kit is an expensive purchase (don’t do it all at once!), however you don’t have to buy it often at all. They last ages, especially considering how often they get worn, and in my eyes are invaluable.
There are of course additions to this in the form of a power meter, heart rate strap and bike computer, all of which I would say are highly valuable for a certain level of training however not necessary to get the job done. Simply getting out and about and enjoying your experience is the priority, as this leads to consistency in training which is essential.
To make cycling more enjoyable inside, I’d highly recommend an indoor smart trainer. The middle of the range smart turbos between £400-600 are well worth the money and revolutionized the way I and many others train indoors. They will give you plenty of data including power and cadence, hold you at different resistances, provide ‘erg’ mode and more. A standard resistance trainer is better than nothing but just doesn’t cut it in terms of enjoyability, and I went from being able to tolerate up to an hour to managing five! To compliment this, a program to run some erg / resistance training is great such as Zwift or Trainer road (other platforms available) which provides a social element and some interest rather than looking at a Fan... Which brings me to a Fan. A 20” industrial fan is highly recommended and in addition to that, a towel, head band (trust me...) and sweat protector which goes over your top tube to protect your bike from the inevitable drenching. A Matt that goes under the turbo and bike saves your floor and also reduces some excess noise. Some form of stand that you can then place your tablet, laptop or computer / phone on to watch whatever cycling platform you chose on could also be useful... A cheap music stand is something I’d recommend as its easily adjustable and does the job well!
The biggest thing with indoor training is to find something that you like doing, whether it be joining in with social rides on Zwift or following the sessions on Trainer road... racing others or sticking to your heart rates and powers. Using training peaks / Zwift / trainer road / Strava as ‘habit trackers’ or fitness trackers keeps the motivation to keep ticking over and follow your progression over time. Find satisfaction in whatever you are doing and you’ll be able to rack up the time and get those endorphins flowing. Don’t underestimate how valuable this can be during this time of isolation.
… with some extras.
Helmet / Lights / Bib shorts (with a decent pad… worth spending the money here) / jersey / base layer / arm and leg warmers / gloves / rain jacket / cap / sunglasses / puncture repair kit / buff (for those really cold days) / bike fit / comfortable saddle / tracking device
Like minded people / Heart rate monitor / power meter / strava / training peaks / nutrition (this can make or break a session, fuel correctly, ensure you’re hydrated and fuelled sufficiently)
Smart trainer / sweat protector / head band / fan / training platform / music stand / floor protector / towel