After having spent the last few days working on ‘serious’ posts, I’ve decided a change is in order. At this time of year, humor is an essential riding companion for any cyclist – at least those braving the outdoors. This week Autumn finally gave way to Winter, announcing itself in the usual ways.

Firstly, it was the inevitable drop in temperature. For me, this manifested itself after a foolishly optimistic choice of clothing was made – turns out two layers aren’t enough, however sunny it looks outside. Time to dig around in the depths of my wardrobe for the winter base layers and long sleeved jerseys.

On a more positive note, I have been provided with a whole new wealth of excuses for my abysmal average speeds. Cold air is scientifically proven to slow you down, increasing drag and rolling resistance. Plus, the extra weight of winter clothing and all that food you have to bring in order to compensate for the shivering. “It would have been 20 mph” I tell myself, at the end of a particularly long and arduous base ride – for which managed to average, wait for it, 14.1.

I’ve also been caught out as a result of poor time keeping, being a student this is part of the job description. I invited my Father down for a ride in Devon during his week off, of course as per usual we set out an hour later than would have been ideal. Arriving at the half way point to find the café closed was the first clue something was afoot, not to mention a major disappointment. A steady winter base ride soon turned into a 2-up time trial effort – the aim being to get home before the darkness set in.

Speaking of Café stops – my appetite has experienced a substantial increase. My plan of getting down to race weight by January has hit a snag. The shorter hours don’t help – sometimes there isn’t anything else to do other than eat, or bake. I rationalise it, my body must simply be preparing for winter – judging by the extent of its effort we must be due one lasting several years.

The day has come where I have been forced to return to the dreaded turbo trainer. Gone are the pleasant summer months where a cheeky evening spin was an option. At present, I’ve only had to use it for recovery rides and short speed work sessions – yet I know the time for painful two hour workouts will come soon. Every hear I mentally prepare myself for the horrors of indoor training – not once has it worked.

Of course, the bike now needs a service. After four years my faithful Cannondale is in dire need of some attention – the bar tape is fraying, the cable housing corroded and the bottom bracket is making a noise that I just can’t think is healthy. Hopefully, it can be nursed through the remaining six weeks of term before being taken to the bikeshop on a metaphorical stretcher.

Rides now take up far more time than they used to. No more interval sessions for a while, just monotonous winter miles in the cold, wet, hilly and muddy Devon countryside. I have numbers and experience that tell me I have some serious work to do on endurance. There was a time when I’d think nothing of a 4 hour ride – after a summer of short races this is not the case anymore. I’ve never gone through gels, bananas and whatever other sugary sustenance I can lay my hands on so quickly.

It’s not just the rides themselves – before and after each bring their own challenges. I long for the days of Shorts and Jersey – whilst debating how many dozens of layers I’ll need. It takes a surprising amount of time to simply dig everything out my wardrobe. Not forgetting lights, overshoes, spare waterproof and puncture repair kit. In winter the faffing rises to a whole new level.

Then there is the issue of bike cleaning. With no secure storage, mine is having to live in my room – there was a battle with the accommodation staff over this which thankfully ended in my favour. My Bike – stored outside in the cold? There is a line I won’t cross. Anyway, there is no outdoor hosepipe and I’m not prepared to carry a heavy bucket of water down three flights of stairs, especially not after a long ride. This leaves the shower as the only option.

My bathroom, to an external viewer would appear remarkably clean. This is simply due to regularly having to scrub mud off the walls and floor in order to hide the evidence. Hopefully none of the aforementioned staff have noticed how my bike is carried inside in a filthy state and emerges looking like new. The grease marks on the carpet are another concern – my current plan is simply to deny all knowledge and use that favourite excuse, “they were here when I arrived”.

Its not just the mud – giving my bike a full clean involves lubricant, degreaser, specialist bike shampoo and of course a spray to make it shiny. My room is not well ventilated, in order to prevent the place smelling entirely of bike, not to mention protect my lungs – the window must be open wide most of the time. This is of course not conducive to maintaining a remotely civilised temperature – I’ve already had to wear my coat indoors on two occasions.

In previous years – this level of inconvenience has caused a temporary hibernation. However, with a peak planned in April this is not an option. I must constantly remind myself of the goals I have set and that without keeping up the miles over winter, they will not turn into reality.

That’s all for today. Got any winter disasters to share? Comment below.

2 thoughts on “Winter woes – and mud.

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