Before:

Make sure your bike is in good mechanical condition and has mud-guards fitted It about being considerate! You don’t mind a wet backside, but the rider behind you may not want a face full of dirty water, likewise whilst everyone on the run will want to assist you don’t want to get stuck 20 miles from home with a broken chain, or only one gear working, and have to get a push home.

Carry a spare! On the wet roads it is always easy to pick up a puncture or two, so carry a couple of spares. …and whilst on the subject of spares, always carry a couple of spare energy gels, they will help you get home if your legs “fall off" and the packaging can be used to patch a gash in a tyre!

Dress for the worst of the weather You lose most heat through your hands, feet and head. So always wear gloves, booties, and a hat. If you get too hot you can always take off a layer, but if you get too cold you are stuck! Also, it takes energy to maintain body heat in the cold you may need all your energy to get round so think sensibly.

Start with the easy group If you are new to the club run, start with the easy group. As you get stronger and more confident, you can always move up. Often you will pick up far more about technical issue, how to hold a wheel etc, by going with the steady group, than spending the morning hanging on to the faster boys!

During:

Drink well from the start of the ride Even in the winter, it is easy to become dehydrated. Drink plenty, and from the start of the ride. Ideally, this should an energy drink (more on this another time).

Don’t race (especially the hills), or work too hard at the start, and share the workload Consider the club run as a long steady ride to benefit your cardio-vascular endurance. Racing up hills, or riding hard at the start of a long ride will not only mean you are more likely to suffer at the end of the session (the faster you go the more carbohydrate reserves you use in the early stages of the ride [again more later]) but you will be working at a rate that does not serve the aim of the ride. Riding through and off, will not only help conserve your energy when you are sitting in, but this way the ride can become more social, and you learn to ride at the front, middle and back of a group.

Don’t half-wheel Aim to keep the pace steady. Riding too hard will only make you and everyone else suffer towards the end of the ride, and mean the purpose of the ride is lost. When you are on the font, don’t take this as a chance to up the pace. Half wheeling usually gets the competitive nature in everyone going, but often makes many suffer!

Record your heart-rate Use a heart-rate monitor to record your progress, and help you ensure that you are working at the desired intensity (usually on the club ride it will be an indicator that you are riding too hard!). It can also serve as an early warning system if you are not drinking enough, or are running out of energy.

After:

Plan a recovery strategy Use the winter rides to develop your post exercise recovery strategy. This should include type and timing of food intake, the need for nutritional products, stretching, possibly a massage, or bath (hot and cold!!!). If you sort this in the winter, the lessons learned will help you recover faster from races in the summer.

Train sensibly in the week Put the good work you have done in the club ride to the best possible use by training sensibly in the week. Ideally this should mean riding 2-3 times as a minimum, with a structured approach considering both intensity and duration of the mid-week efforts.