Sunday, November 8, 2020


Club coach David McGaw thoughtfully strokes his chin and writes...
I hate winter. I really really hate it. Don't you dread that feeling at the end of summer? Crunchy brown leaves on the ground. Nights drawing in. A chilly nip in the air. The smell of wood burning fires. Riding to work in the cold. Riding home in the dark, whilst cold. There's a storm coming. It's going to last six months and it's going to SUCK!

For me autumn always feels like the end of something special. Riding your nice bike, racing (and winning!) and all those lovely evening rides in the sparkly sun. The thing I love most is holidays: epic rides in incredible mountains with a gorgeous electric blue sky.

That's all over now.
Thing is that because of the way that the earth spins and the trajectory of the sun, it would not possible to have summer without winter. Also if it was always summer in the northern hemisphere it would quickly turn into an uninhabitable desert devoid of life. So, you know, slightly worse than winter.
Too much of a good thing can be sickening. If it was Christmas everyday it would quickly become unbearable - really, how many times can you watch The Sound of Music and put up with your extended family? In the same way, to fully put into context the cycling highs you need to experience the cycling lows. A win is so much sweeter when it justifies all the pain, hard work and disappointments that preceded it. If it was easy it wouldn't be fun.
Really we could maybe think of winter as being the price of summer. Or possibly that every day of winter is like putting away a small amount of sunshine into a bank account that you get to withdraw in 6 months. 

Winter is a time for nature to recuperate from the excesses of summer: to gently evolve and get ready for next year. It's time for us to do the same. There's an expression you're "too busy chopping down trees to sharpen your axe". Winter is an excellent time to sharpen your axe. To prepare for the next season so that in spring you can go on an axe wielding rampage (metaphorically of course!). More specifically it's a time to recharge batteries, take stock, regain motivation, get stronger and generally make plans for your next campaign of hedonistic cycling debauchery.

I don't want to sound like a total heretic but, you know, I think there are some less sucky aspects of winter...

I find it's a great time to stuff my face with cake and become more "rounded". You know, with all that cold it's important to have some extra layers of fat. Just ask Jan Ullrich who (legend has it) would come back from a ride, put a jar of nutella in the microwave then drink it through a straw. Or Adam Hansen who would drink maple syrup, straight from the bottle.

Some people like sitting at home, alone, in front of their computer, all sweaty, zwifting away. I tried that once but didn't like it. I much prefer a kind on turbo'ing kata (go on, look it up on wikipedia) where I repeat the same sessions again and again. For me turboing can become a groove that you can really get into. Also since turbo sessions are shorter it means that there is more time in the evenings to do other things.

With all that spare time it gives the opportunity to do maintenance and prep for the next season. Did I tell you about that time I totally dismantled my TT bike then re-greased every bolt, replaced every bearing and put it all back together again? Oh. I guess I just did.
Since there's no racing in winter it's nice to have a long lie-in and then go for a gentle pootle with my training buddy instead of having to get up at stupid o'clock on a Sunday. Plus there's no need to fret about the weather because it's basically guaranteed to be rubbish (either too dark, cold, wet or all of these).

However, if someone says "there's no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing" you need to punch them in the face, really hard. I'd never say that, although I have found a few things that can make bad weather slightly less awful. Specifically: woolly bootie socks, assos base layers, mudguards and winter shoes.

Winter is going to suck. But that doesn't mean that cycling has to suck too. We can use it as an opportunity to rest, recover and plan out our next chapter. Normally by the end of winter I find that it actually was not that bad after all and I'm all fired up for next season.

When a storm starts it can be so cold, grey and wet that it feels like it will never end. That it's inconceivable that things will ever get better. However as surely as day follows night, summer will return. The storm will eventually pass and the sun will shine again. So let's just enjoy the journey.