Off-season and Winter Cycling Ideas

| October 31, 2012

by Joella Baker (newsletter 10/31/12)

Offseason and winter cycling can be a really tough time for triathletes. Athletes are coming off training hard and trying to find ways to stay fit. The shorter days and winter months are really tough for those of us living in Western PA. Therefore, it’s time to get a little creative. Use this time to try something new with your cycling. Here are some ideas to help you out this winter.

Outdoor Cycling
Mountain biking Whether it be on the local trail, fire road, in-city for an urban assault or in the snow, mountain biking is a great way to improve your bike handling skills, power and pedaling efficiency. It is very challenging, but the learning curve is steep. Warning: you have to be willing to fall especially in the beginning, but the fun is well worth it. I always look forward to the offseason so I can mountain bike. It not only gave me a way to get off the busy roads, but also kept me from getting burned out as a triathlete and opened up a love of a new sport.
Cyclo-cross is a combination of riding and running on various terrains. Athletes have to dismount and carry their bikes over obstacles then remount and continue on. It not only keeps you fit, but keeps riders from getting cold by keeping the numbness out of your feet from the cold wind and also keeping your heart rate up and body warmer. Typically there are cross bikes that resemble road bikes with knobby tires, but athletes also can doctor up their road bikes or use mountain bikes.
Riding your mountain bike in the snow Wide tires with widely separated knobs work best on snow. Lower pressure (15 to 20 psi) gives you more traction. The trick is to pedal as smoothly as possible and stay relaxed especially when you hit soft snow or ice. If the bike starts to slide, avoid over steering. Try to make small adjustments and ride in a straight line. Also avoid riding too slow, the more you keep your speed up, the less effort it takes and less likely the tires will sink into the soft snow.
Your Road Bike: On nice days, we will take the road bikes outside to do some hill repeats more than anything. Pay attention to the Facebook Posts and messages to see if we will be outside.

Taking it indoors
Offseason is the ideal time to work on cycling skills and drills because it allows time to learn the skill and teach your muscles to remember it.
Pedaling Efficiency Skills – Incorporate isolated leg drills and drills that focus on the various phases of the pedal stroke. You can unclip one leg and place it on a chair while the other leg does all the work, or just focus on the one leg doing 80 percent of the effort while the non-working leg is still clipped in.
Cadence Work – High cadence puts a demand on your aerobic system, so offseason is the perfect time to work on it. Slowly try to increase your cadence. Practice spin ups: start out at a average cadence and bump up your cadence by 5 rpms every 15-30 seconds until you max out. Then back down a tiny bit and hold that cadence for 1-2 minutes. Repeat.
Bike Fit – Offseason is the ideal time, even if you had one the previous season. It allows you time to adjust or tweak the fit as needed. Make sure you have a professional fit rather than just using the eyeball method. It will pay off come race season if you train your body with the right fit.
Trainers or Rollers Trainers are more stable and allow athletes to work on pedaling efficiency and cadence. Rollers require bike handling skills such as balance, riding a straight line and pedaling efficiency. A Computrainer can simulate riding on the road with access to a wide variety of courses. They are also an ideal way to work on your pedaling efficiency with the spin scan.
Group Trainer Classes Another option is to join us for some indoor cycling classes with our trainers this winter.
Spinning Classes can help you obtain a smooth spinning stroke. There are several of us at the YMCA who simulate outdoor riding in our classes. These are the classes you should focus on this winter. The fitness type spin classes are also good, but focus on a higher anaerobic base that isn’t always necessary this time of the year. Staying cool and well hydrated when riding indoors. There is no wind to cool you down so keep your house cooler and use a fan. You will sweat a lot… make sure you drink!

The key to off season and winter cycling is to strive for balance and try some new ways to train! Spend some time indoors at the gym, on your trainer and other days try to go outside to ride! You can also incorporate functional strength training, yoga and other cross-training machines (stair climber), all of which will also benefit you as a cyclist and should be part of your off season program.

Category: Archive, Bike

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