For the last couple of months I was racing. It was either one hour recovery rides or very hard hill intervals – with nothing really in between. I didn’t go out on long rides because I was always thinking about the next race. There wasn’t so much time to ‘enjoy’ the bike. The end of the racing season is often a chance to take a complete break from cycling. But, at the moment, I don’t feel like taking a break, and have started training already. Training actually feels the wrong word. I would prefer to see it as just riding the bike; at this stage of the year I have no specific training target apart from the good old fashioned ‘get some miles under the belt’. I reckon if you can enjoy the cycling, that’s the best kind of training at this time of the year.
There was a time when a cyclist was almost measured by the volume of miles he completed. About 15 years ago, I remember getting a free pull-out mileage chart from Cycling Weekly I would love filling in the bar chart to show how many miles I’d done a week. It appealed to the ‘stato’ in me (I also had many volumes of Wisden). I now have a more modern version on my iPhone GPS cyclometer – very convenient but doesn’t quite have the same ‘je ne sais qua’ as a bit of paper and pencil. Modern training methods tend to downplay the role of ‘getting the miles in’ – there is more talk of ‘training thresholds’ ‘power meters’ and target zones e.t.c. All the kind of things which leave my head spinning. Anyway, at least at this time of the year, you can forget all that and just do whatever you want.
November can be a great time of the year to cycle. You get the last of the autumn colour, the roads are relatively quiet. If it is dry, it can be very beautiful. Last Sunday, I went out for four hours towards Burford on quiet roads. It was a very even pace, I just kept turning a high cadence for miles on end; I really enjoyed just riding and enjoying the scenery. I love that almost mantric quality of spinning the pedals for hours on end.
I know these roads in the Cotswolds about 90%, so I just try to keep off the main roads and follow my nose (it’s quite large so I always have something to follow). I barely saw another cyclist and motorists seemed to be surprisingly well behaved. During the ride, the 70 miles felt almost effortless – it’s really given me a taste for ‘getting the miles in’. At the end of the ride I was tired, but it’s that kind of satisfying tiredness that makes you feel you’ve done something worthwhile. The next morning it was more of a struggle to get up – always a good sign you’ve done a good four hour ride. Whilst the weather is good, I will try and keep a steady routine and do as much as I can. In winter, I take the opportunity to visit new roads and places, just enjoying the freedom to cycle around.
The only drawback of November is the shocking realisation that at 4pm it’s getting dark already. I should really get used to it. But, every year, I’m taken aback by the sudden plunge into early darkness. I would love summertime to be made permanent….
Training in Winter
As I mentioned in winter cycling training, I don’t do any intervals or specific training in the three months of Nov, Dec, Jan. That doesn’t mean I have a heart rate monitor which starts to beep if I go over 85% Max HR. I just ride purely on feeling at this time of the year. For me that usually means quite a good steady pace. I never really enjoy pottering along at 15mph. If I can do 18mph that is much better.
Quite a few people have asked about turbo training in the winter. I will do a piece later, but generally I try to avoid it! unless there is a really prolonged period of bad weather or I’m feeling particularly keen to get some miles in rather than go out in the dark / wet / cold / ice.
Hope you can enjoy the winter cycling season!