Some riders will go through hell to get the miles in during winter, never to be seen when the summer approaches. Just don’t let them drag you down with them.
Former international bike rider and now occasional triathlete, Tim Barry has been around for a couple of decades worth of winter training and there’s not much he hasn’t seen. In this dispatch he talks us through the perils of getting the winter miles in and profiles – tongue in cheek – the riders sent to try us during these cold and wet days in the saddle.
It’s that time of year again. The Facebook and Twitter machines have been hopping with updates from cycling clubs all over the country announcing their winter training spin is back on the road.
Things really got complicated with the advent of heart rate monitors and more recently power meters, so much so that it’s a good idea to bring a UN observer on every ride to keep both the peace and everybody in the correct zone.
To survive the jungle that is club winter training, you’ll need to recognise the main players and their modus operandi. It’s only by knowing your enemy that you can hope to defeat him.
The Winter Warrior World Champion
Winter is his time, mainly because he stopped racing last April due to his annual bout of glandular fever.
He got back on the bike in July after watching the Tour on TV, got more miles in during August so he was ready to begin motor pace work in mid-September, all in preparation for the winter training season.
He will torture you throughout the winter but only if you let him. Don’t take this personally; he wants to torture everybody.
This anger is a result of the frustration he feels after another lost season. Next year he vows is going to be different. His favourite tactic is “half wheeling”, also known as “the long bike”.
We’ve all been on the receiving end of this even if you didn’t spot it at the time; that club mate that constantly rides a foot in front of you.
No matter what speed you ride at, you never draw level .
Many moons ago while training with a very tall winter world champion I cracked and asked him why he was always half a wheel ahead of me?
His reply was that as he was taller his bike was longer so it needed to be that bit further in front.
Now don’t worry about this guy too much as he will hit peak form by Christmas , begin to dip by the start of the season and will be finished with the bike by the time the Gorey Three Day rolls around, having been struck down by “the fever”.
A fair weather cyclist who turns up at the beginning of winter only to vanish like a lump of sugar in a cup of tea after the first good wetting in November.
He’ll return next spring after spending the entire winter on the turbo trainer.
He will text regularly arranging to meet up for spins but with only a hint of moisture in the air sadly he never appears. You hear on the grapevine that he is going really well, clocking up 500km a week on the indoor trainer.
There is even a story doing the rounds that Electricity Ireland have hooked him up to the national grid and that he is currently generating enough power to run two NAMA hotels in south county Dublin, but this in unconfirmed.
The simple truth for Turbo Man is that he was born in the wrong country.
What can I say about this guy? If you have to ask a team mate for a lead out up a shitty drag on a road through a bog in a “virtual race” for a non-existent prize you need serious psychological help.
On a recent spin “Strava Man” attacked our group for no apparent reason disappearing up the road.
The rider next to me who wasn’t up to speed with Strava Man’s tactics asked what was going on.
I explained the whole concept and the reason for the sudden acceleration, at this point the rider next to me uttered the familiar Cork term “langer”. Enough said….
“National/Pro Team Kit Guy”
A rather stylish individual who knows his stuff as he raced abroad once when he bluffed his way onto a team at the last minute as one of their riders suspiciously fell down a flight of stairs breaking his collar bone.
Luckily he happened to be in the right place at the right time with his bike and shoes at the ready.
Sadly his shot at the big time landed a bit short and he was listed as DNF in the results. On his return home he explains this was an error and he actually finished 31stbut just outside the prize money by one place.
On the upside, he got to keep the kit after hiding in the toilets of the sports centre behind the sign on while the team soigneur searched for him in vain.
Now back at home during the winter he always trains in his cherished kit which has to be washed, dried and ironed every Saturday after training so as to be ready for Sunday’s spin.
This is done to impress any of the club members know to him as “Freds” who missed the previous days spin.
This character will appear at the beginning of winter dressed entirely head to toe in high end cycling apparel including saddlebag and iPhone cover.
His winter bike is so flash it would put 99 per cent of the pro peleton race bikes to shame.
He only lasts a few weeks after being unlucky enough to be the only other person that turned up for training when the winter world champion (WWC) was at his peak
What Assos/Rapha dude didn’t know was that the club had changed their meeting time to avoid another battering from the WWC, but he never got the message.
After taking a few weeks off to recover from that horrible experience which his doctor estimates took five years off his life expectancy, he reappears on December 26th in the latest high tech cycling apparel which was a Christmas gift to himself.
He’s in a full cycling onesie all in red with white seasonal trim.
It has a built in Nespresso machine in the back pocket or as it’s called in the marketing blurb “refreshment area”. He says “ it’s a one off limited edition, like you know”. You reply; “a bit like yourself“ and pedal off .
More triathletes are turning to bike racing as preparation for their own event.
So not alone do we cyclists have to risk our lives in races due to their questionable bike handling, but we also have to suffer their company on training spins as they natter on about brick sessions,transitions, hill repeats and aero this, aero that.
How will you know that the rider next to you in the group is a triathlete? He will tell you!
Visually they are also pretty easy to spot as they will be the ones without socks or overshoes.
Leggings are replaced with calf guards. And no matter how cold it gets its jerseys all the way with gillets only added when the temperature drops to -1 or lower.
The upside to this lack of clothing is that once hypothermia sets in they tend to go very quiet and stop annoying you.
Do spare a thought for our triathlete friend because when you are nice and dry safely sitting down to your well-earned Sunday lunch he will still be running around the local park in the freezing rain like an asylum escapee finishing his “brick session” in preparation for an Ironman.
“I am going to kill him and bury his body in that ditch,” you mutter under your breath as you hear the call of “puncture” echo around the group.
Without even looking you know who it is. Now anybody can get a puncture. Why, even on a bad day you can get two. But this guy averages three every ride .
If he isn’t busy puncturing he is picking bits up off the road that have fallen off his bike.
The incessant rattling that came from his machine the previous three hours was probably a sign that something was amiss. But “puncture man” isn’t the best on bike maintenance.
Adding fuel to your rage as you stand in the freezing rain is the fact that, as usual, he needs to borrow a tube and co2 canister. Again.
You don’t want to be known as this guy on the club run because someday the rip cord will be pulled and you will be left in the middle of nowhere to fend for yourself.
They say it takes all sorts. And if you’re new to the game, it’s only at this time of year that you’ll realise what they really mean.
Stay safe out there and try to keep it steady!
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Winter time can often bring questions for cyclists; whether to train mostly in a group or alone being one.
If you’re a racing cyclist, chances are your winter training is already under – it’s only 3½ months to the start of the season after all.
However, for those of you who take a more leisurely approach and are not too sure how to approach the winter period, this Global Cycling Network is for you.
It covers a win range of issues and questions you may have, such as:
How to make winter riding better.
Having time off in winter.
Having a training programme, and why.
Ensuring you get enough recovery.
Staying warm during winter training.
Warm weather training camp.
Training indoors and in groups.
The following user(s) said Thank You: steve_mc, michaelp, Orla MCA, trevor, JennyD
Riding in the rain is part of life on two wheels - no matter the time of year. Here's how to survive, and maybe even enjoy it...
1. Invest in a good waterproof jacket
The most important item of clothing for battling the rain is a jacket. Not only will a good waterproof jacket keep your torso dry it will help you regulate your body temperature. GoreTex is the best material as it is waterproof and breathable. A breathable material is essential so you don’t overheat.
2. Keep splash off with mudguards They may not look great, and they may rattle, but they are essential. Mudguards will keep all that filthy water on the road off of your feet, lower legs and back (where un-guarded wheels will spray the water with carefree abandon).
3. Wear overshoes and gloves Your extremities are the first parts of your body to be sacrificed in order to maintain a core temperature, and when your hands and feet get wet and cold you will feel dis-proportionally uncomfortable.
Your cycling gloves need to protect you without being so thick as to hamper your bike control as you still need to be able to feel the brakes and gears through all that material. However, many brands produce neoprene gloves which keep rain out and allow you to maintain dexterity.
4. Use chain degreaser Cycling in the rain will take its toll on your bike’s chain
After a ride in the rain you should immediately shower and dry yourself. The same goes for your chain.
>>> How to clean your bike in seven minutes
Cover it in degreaser (WD40 or GT85 are both widely available although there are bike specific degreasers like Muc Off) then vigorously wipe it down with a rag until it’s dry. A few drops of lube will then protect it for the next ride. Do this and it can double the chain’s lifespan.
5. Wear a cycling cap
6. Avoid standing water
7. Check your tyres and reduce the pressure
8. Utilise plastic bags
9. Use lights
10. Just get on the turbo or rollers
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Just to add on from John’’s post, please find below some general cycling safety practices.
1 A cyclist should know the Rules of the Road and should understand signs and road markings.
2 Every cyclist should start a cycle by performing four checks – helmet, clothes, bike and conditions. Done in less than a minute, each one adds to safety on the road.
3 Correct road positioning is vital to ensure that other road users are aware of a cyclist and this can vary from being on the left side (but not in the gutter) of a wide, fast moving road, to keeping to the middle of the lane on a narrow, winding, back road to prevent dangerous overtaking. At all times, a cyclist should be where other road users can clearly see them, should cycle steadily and consistently, and should occupy the position that is SAFEST for them.
4 Visibility is always key on the road – this means always being sure to wear bright colours and supplement with hi- viz (vests, bands, belts, bag covers etc.).
5 This also means having good lighting outside daylight hours – a strong white light to the front to see with and to be
seen by approaching traffic, and a strong red light to the rear so that other road users are aware of a cyclist from behind. The generally held position on lights is that flashing lights attract attention, but can make it hard to judge distance and speed. At night, a good compromise is two lights, one steady and one flashing, to allow maximum visibility and attention-grabbing impact.
6 A cyclist should always cycle well within the limits of their vision – this means slowing into corners, allowing for poor weather such as fog, mist and rain, and slowing down at night where vision and visibility is compromised.
7 A cyclist needs to scan continuously and widely to stay aware of problems on the road and to have time to react safely.
8 A cyclist needs to know the road and the weather and needs to constantly adapt their cycling to allow for both these factors in combination.
a. Slow down for weather – wet, icy, dazzling sun, fog
b. Slow for corners in poor weather
c. Slow for poor surfaces – gravel, sand, potholes, broken
edges, drains, oil etc.
9 A cyclist always needs to keep a Safe Stopping Distance – this is the space between the bike and whatever is ahead on the road – it varies according to speed and conditions.
10 A cyclist should always LOOK and consider a SIGNAL before moving position on the road – with only time for one or the other, LOOK to be sure not to move into danger.
11 A cyclist should NEVER go up the path side of a large vehicle (bus or lorry) even if there is a bike lane there – wait until it turns or drives away.
12 In stopped or slow-moving traffic, a cyclist should watch out for drivers from the opposing lane turning across the road, through the queue of traffic – they may not anticipate or see the cyclist.
13 A cyclist should always watch out for opening doors when passing stopped or slow-moving vehicles.
14 Crossing rail or tram tracks poses a real danger for cyclists. To avoid getting a wheel caught, cross the tracks at an angle (90 degrees) and avoid braking on them, as they can be hazardous, especially in wet weather. Approaching the tracks at an angle may necessitate you coming out into the road to create the desired angle. Make sure you signal clearly and leave plenty of room between yourself anid other traffic on the road.
The following user(s) said Thank You: trevor, JennyD