Nothing divides opinion in the shop come the winter months like the question of where to conduct your winter training. Many a quiet hour is spent going over the finer points of riding on an icy morning verses succumbing to the monotony of the indoor trainer. Turbo or rollers? To Sufferfest or not to Sufferfest? Or worse, to go to a spin class? Even worse, to get Zwift?! To invest in expensive winter kit and risk scuffing elbows and knees on slippery roads? Is there such a thing as a quiet set of mudguards that don’t get inexplicably bent out of shape when you’re not looking? All of these are hot topics for debate on the shop floor.
Personally, my own feelings are born of an ultimate motivation to be outdoors and breathe fresh air. I can’t help but feel that there’s something really wrong with riding your bike inside. Unless you’re in the velodrome, or your town is under 3 feet of snow (although there are bikes for that too, now), I just can’t understand the appeal. Why you would want to suffer away on an ill-fitting bike in a sweaty gym spin studio, or harness your poor steed to a turbo trainer, when there are endless unexplored roads and inviting coffee shops selling Christmassy beverages to be found?
However, the drawbacks of winter riding are varied and many. Hundreds spent on kit to keep you warm, only to ruin it with holes after careless falls on patches of ice and slippery white road markings.
The endless indecision of which bits of kit to wear, only to be too hot on an unseasonably mild December’s morning, or worse, caught out on an icy autumn afternoon and left shivering and vulnerable, cursing the decision to leave the fleece overshoes in the kit drawer. We’ve all been there, stranded outside the front door because our fingers are too numb to get the front door key out of the stupidly small jersey pocket. Club rides can be even worse – it only takes one careless individual in front of you who hasn’t fitted mudguards to ride through a wet horse poo… you know what I’m talking about.
It’s not that I haven’t spent time on the turbo or rollers. My first proper winter’s training consisted of 5-6 days a week on the turbo, plugging away every day to get a solid base. And it worked, but I could never shake the feeling of wondering if I could have done more after each session. After all, nothing quite gets your heart going and legs burning like 30 miles spent riding home into a 20mph headwind with 48mph side gusts.
For me, the sound of mudguard rattle and occasional bits of cold spray making it through the barrier of winter cap, headband, buff and glasses are what keep me feeling alive through the dark, hibernation-inducing months of a harsh British winter. The feeling of collpasing on the couch after a hot shower and warm snack at the end of a winter training session is simply incomparible to climbing off the turbo in a damp dungeon, mind totally numbed from an hours’ worth of staring at your Garmin and your own forearms.
But I know many of you will disagree with me. What are your thoughts?