Look at bad weather as a challenge...
If we’re being honest, most of us don’t really fancy a ride when we wake up in the morning, open the curtains and find that it’s hammering down with rain and the temperature's none too pleasant.
But even though some days are just too grim for even the most dedicated to get out on the road, you shouldn’t just park your bike in the garage or on the turbo from October until March.
For the pros, winter’s the time that next season really starts. The work they do then will have a huge effect on how well they ride months into the new year, and even though the rest of us don’t have a dedicated programme like that, it’s a good idea to keep riding and maintain that fitness through the colder months.
Plus, riding inside is boring. Even if you’re the sort of person that can cope with a three-hour session on the turbo (and I tip my hat to you if you are), you’ll almost certainly agree that riding outdoors is just more fun.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of five reasons you should keep riding outside during the colder months - so stick on those mudguards, dig out that winter jacket and get back in the saddle.
Because you'll go mad on the turbo after an hour
Indoor riding certainly has its place but let’s face it - riding a bike indoors involves all the parts of training we hate, and leaves out all the best bits.
If I wanted to spend an afternoon not enjoying myself I’d just crack out the staple gun and go to town on my legs rather than sit on a turbo trainer for hours (one hour’s the limit for me, that’s something I learned early on).
While you can’t deny that the turbo offers the opportunity to get quality training done in short time periods, there’s no substitute for being out on the road, enjoying all the sensations that come with riding.
And, frankly, riding outdoors in bad weather is an incentive in itself. If you want to keep warm you need to ride at a certain level of intensity, which means no five hour rides at 15kph. Getting out and riding a hard, focused 90 minute session in bad weather will keep you warm, be quality training time and you wont be able to let up otherwise you’ll start to feel cold. It’s like getting a head start on a crocodile in a swimming race: you’d better go hard if you want to keep your toes.
You’ll improve your bike handling
Naturally, almost everyone is more tentative riding in the wet. Even the pros. And that’s because cycling in the rain requires a little more care, a little more attention and more than a little finesse when it comes to cornering.
Now the temptation is to stay inside when the weather’s really bad, but if you do that then you’re never going to get any better at riding in the rain, are you? Let's face it, there's going to be a time when you have to ride in the rain, perhaps in that sportive you've spent months training for.
Riding in the wet is great, because it puts you right out of your comfort zone, and brings conscious thought into play during riding in a way that most of us don’t need to on a dry ride. In the wet, you’ll suddenly find yourself thinking about cornering rather than relying on your natural riding instincts, and that’s where the problem starts.
By riding in the wet a lot, you’ll get good at riding in the wet. And if you don’t, you won’t. It’s as simple as that. Plus, if you stay inside all winter and don’t venture out on the bike you’ll probably find you’re a little rusty when you climb back aboard come the spring, and you’ll need a few weeks to get back into it.
Plus, once you’ve learned to take corners relatively quickly and capably in the wet, cornering in the dry will feel rock solid by comparison.
The weather's rarely as bad as it looks
I don’t know about you, but for me the worst part about riding in bad weather is sitting in the house pre-ride and looking out of the window.
From the warmth of your sofa the weather outside always looks appalling, and taking that mental step to get outside and ride is by far the biggest battle.
Sure, the first couple of kilometres might feel rather cold while your body heats up, but on 90 per cent of bad weather rides the real thing isn’t anywhere near as bad as I feared when I was sitting inside.
One way to solve this is to make things easy for yourself. If your riding clothes are ready and accessible, and your bike is ready to roll then the transition from sofa to saddle is far quicker than if you have to dig things out or shift clutter around.
Another key element is making sure you pick the right kit. For example, the key part of riding in the rain is staying warm - not necessarily keeping dry - and that's why weatherproof clothing like the Castelli Gabba has become so popular in recent years. If it’s raining hard enough you’re going to get wet no matter what, but it’s whether or not you keep warm that will be the central factor in whether or not the ride turns from fun to miserable.
Similarly, when it’s cold you need to master layering, and if you need any ideas, take a look at our winter clothing guide. While you might worry about the cold, you also need to think about what’ll happen should you find yourself getting a little too warm. Whether it’s a jacket that unzips, something with extra vents or a removable and packable top layer, you need a way to cool down (without going too far) when you work hard and your body starts to produce a lot of heat.
Peace and quiet
Now this one obviously depends on where you ride. If you live in central London you’re probably not going to find quiet no matter where you go or what time you do it, but personally I find something very peaceful about riding in the rain.
Maybe it’s the consistent sound of the rain hitting the floor (and me), or maybe it’s that the grey skies make the world feel a lot smaller, but there’s an element of intimacy in bad weather riding that the summer just doesn’t have.
I like riding in groups or with friends, but a long, solo winter ride has a personal feeling that nothing else matches, that classic cycling cliché ‘just me and my bike’.
And, in my experience at least, there tend to be fewer people out when the weather’s bad, so you’ll find yourself with a little more privacy than the summer months when it seems like every road is the M5.
You'll be hard as nails
Let’s be honest, who watched the apocalyptic 2013 edition of Milan-San Remo and didn’t think the guys looked hard as nails?
Looking past the fact that the majority of the peloton didn’t enjoy that race one bit, there’s definitely a level of kudos to be gained by being spotted out riding when the weather’s bad.
If you’re out in driving rain, snow, minus temperatures or similar, that’s something legit to brag about to your clubmates (unless they were there, of course, then the story might get a little boring). Hell, even number nine in the Velominati’s crazy rules says riding in bad weather is badass.
But remember, looking hard when riding in bad weather doesn’t mean going out in zero degree temperatures or driving rain wearing just a jersey and shorts and getting hypothermia after an hour. That’s just stupid.