18 ways to keep your motivation high this winter - mix up your riding with these top tips

Braving the cold can be satisfying and fun - if you’re in need of a little inspiration, here’s how to keep your riding interesting this winter

Male cyclist riding outside during winter
(Image credit: Future)

Winter riding need not be a chore. The weather conditions may not be ideal for long hours in the saddle, but there’s always a reason to get outside – or into the pain cave – and get pedalling. We’ve compiled 18 varied, affordable ideas to inspire you to keep riding while the wet, grimy roads remain less than enticing – easily enough to carry you through to spring! 

1. MEET A FARAWAY FRIEND

Most of us have a friend or relative who lives just a bit too far away to meet up with as often as we’d like. Use visiting them as an excuse for a longer ride. Plan a circular route, with their house roughly the midpoint, and let them provide the coffee and cake instead of the cafe. It’s quality time on and off the bike, and the return journey will pass much quicker after the enjoyment of seeing your old chum.  

2. ADD A SPICY INCENTIVE

What better way to persuade friends to come out for a postwork ride than by making it a curry night? Book a table at an Indian restaurant or cook up a big batch at home in advance. Make sure your bike lights are charged and powerful enough, and then head into the local lanes or hills for two hours, before coming back for an evening of curry and beers. Best of all, it needn’t be too expensive – $30 / £20 for a curry, a few beers, laughs with friends and quality training. What could be better?  

3. INDULGE YOUR EXTREMITIES

Male cyclist pulling on a pair of cycling gloves

(Image credit: Future)

That feeling of wearing a new piece of clothing for the first time always feels great. A new set of winter cycling gloves or cycling overshoes, or just some funky cycling socks for a tenner, can all provide feel good vibes without breaking the bank. Whatever the item, you’ll be itching to get out on the bike for a few hours as soon as possible to try them out and get heads turning (in your mind, anyway). 

4. CREATE A MOTIVATING PLAYLIST

Research has consistently shown the positive effects of music on performance, with one study by professor Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University London finding that positive, uplifting tunes delay fatigue and result in higher than average levels of endurance, power, and strength. It’s an easy little boost to your performance: set aside time to create a motivating playlist for your indoor sessions. Choose songs that remind you of previous good times and memories; start with two bangers to get you moving your hips; throw in a few different genres to refresh the sound; come back to the playlist after a few days as there will be songs you’ve forgotten.  

5. BOOK A SPRING RIDING BREAK

Male cyclist riding in Sardinia

(Image credit: Future)

Knowing you’ve got a spring cycling holiday in the sun coming up will coax you onto the bike to make sure you’re in good enough shape to enjoy the beautiful roads of your riding destination. 

If you want to train in Dénia and Jávea, the Spanish winter destination of choice for pros, there are cheap return flights to nearby Alicante. Or base yourself in Almuñécar, birthplace of Ineos Grenadiers’s Carlos Rodríguez. Malaga airport is just one hour away, and the roads are majestic. You could go further afield and head to mountainous and peaceful Cyprus, staying in Tochni or Paphos. Sardinia would be our springtime Italian choice. 

Should you be looking for an organised trip, Peak Tours have a few spaces left on their brilliant Portugal end-to-end rides, while Marmot Tours have availability on some of their southern France May dates.

6. CHANGE THE INDOOR BIKE TRAINER SCENE

Female cyclist riding indoors

(Image credit: Future)

The environment in which you ride on the indoor bike trainer should be slightly altered every week, according to coach Scott Maclean. “People can fall into the trap of the same playlist, the same set-up, but once your body’s got a steady state, it doesn’t progress. A successful workout is one part physical, nine parts mental, so change things around frequently,” he says. “Turn off the hamster wheel and stimulate the brain into thinking it’s a new setting. Point your bike in a different direction; move or add an ornament or something new; put a picture up of your favorite rider and make an emotional connection with them after the effort.” 

7. COOK A HEARTY POST-RIDE MEAL

“You’re looking for warmth in winter, but that doesn’t mean something straight out of the oven – you can build heat with spices,” says Anna Brones, author of The Culinary Cyclist. She recommends Mujadara, a classic and warming Middle Eastern recipe.  

Mujadara

INGREDIENTS:

  • 250g of basmati rice
  • 250g brown or green lentils
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 spring onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1.1l of vegetable broth
  • Chopped, fresh coriander 

Method: In a large pot, bring the water to boil and reduce heat to medium. Stir in the rice and lentils. Meanwhile, sauté the onions in a pan. Combine the onions with the pot of lentils and rice, and add the rest of the ingredients together. Serve with fresh coriander.

8. RIDE A EUROPEAN SPRING SPORTIVE

Don’t just marvel at the pros riding the cobbled climbs of the Tour of Flanders – emulate them! The Tour of Flanders sportive takes place the day before (30 March) the race, and Sportive Breaks offers a three or four-night trip from $560 / £479. Alternatively, UK riders could nip across the border and ride the ParisRoubaix challenge on 8 April, where to complete 19 cobble sections a few hours in front of the pros costs €49; for the full whammy of 30 stretches of pavé, you’ll be paying €69.

9. BAKE YOUR OWN BIKE SNACKS

Homemade coconut balls for a mid bike ride snack

(Image credit: Getty Images - The Washington Post)

Cycling chef Anna Brones says: “At this time of year, it’s really important that your bike food excites you.” In other words, bring along treats. “Be nice to yourself,” she adds. “Know your cravings and respond to them. Make eating fun, and if you see a bakery, stop in and grab something. Listen to your body’s wants and needs.” 

No-bake energy bites with a difference

INGREDIENTS:

  • 250g of oats
  • 150g of shredded coconut
  • 125g of creamy peanut butter
  • 125g of chocolate chips
  • 100g of honey
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract 

Method: Mix everything together, chill in the fridge for two hours, and roll into individual balls. Simple!

If you’re looking for more ideas, over here you can find four energy bar recipes, including cookie dough protein balls and chocolate peanut balls. 

10. CREATE A PRIVATE STRAVA SEGMENT

There’s probably a quiet stretch of road that you use on most rides. Monitor your progress by creating your own private Strava segment. “It’s a really good method to measure two-minute power, and over time you can see if your power is going up or down,” says Scott Maclean. “I recommend doing the segment at the end of the ride. It’ll be a hard effort for two minutes, and it can be a very rewarding way to finish a ride.”  

11. GO ON A BIKEPACKING WEEKEND

Take a Friday or a Monday off work and head away for a long weekend, with or without friends. The key is getting it planned. Once the hotels and time off work are booked, you’re committed – whatever the weather. Simon Parker, a travel writer who chronicled his journey cycling around Britain in his book Riding Out, advises: “Be on the road at the break of dawn to give yourself time to deal with any problems, but also to visit sights or pubs along the way. Six to eight hours is enough – you don’t want to be knackered or in pain the next day. If you hold your nerve and wait until the last minute, you can find reasonable accommodation for $ / £30-40, and that’s better than shivering in a tent.”  

12. PB ON ALPE DU ZWIFT

Cyclist riding up Alpe du Zwift

(Image credit: Future)

The Alpe du Zwift is the ultimate challenge on Zwift, and if you follow these tidbits of advice you could record your best ever time. 

  • Do a practice run or two at 80% effort to learn the mountain
  • Make sure you’re fully fuelled
  • Aim for a negative split: start slower than your targeted average speed, and finish faster.
  • Ride 10 minute blocks of intensity, with two minutes of easier riding in between  
  • Allow for rising heart rate, as your core temperature will increase 

13. LOOP WITH A LANDMARK

Simon Parker had a new sense of appreciation of Britain when cycling around it. “Pass through any tiny hamlet, village, town or city and there’ll be a church that is 1,000 years old,” he says. “Most countries around the world would give anything for that sort of history and culture, whereas we too easily take it for granted. Winter’s a good time to duck into a museum, a gallery, a church or a quaint pub to get warm and to feel the history. There’s no shortage of things to see in the UK.” Suitably inspired, we challenge you to explore what’s on your doorstep. 

14. TARGET A STRAVA SEGMENT

Male cyclist targetting a Strava segment


(Image credit: Future)

Spend a little bit of time hunting for a local Strava KOM segment that hasn’t been ridden by thousands of people, and then set a target of making it into the top-10 or even taking the King or Queen of the mountain. Coach Scott Maclean offers these tips: “Use advantageous weather: dry conditions, even a tailwind; warm-up properly: if that means activating the legs on the turbo in the warmth, do it; try the segment at different points of a ride – you may not know if you perform better earlier or later in a ride.” 

15. SUNDAY RIDE TO SUNDAY LUNCH

Change your Sunday morning social ride by ditching the cafe stop and replacing it with a post-ride carvery in a country pub. To fully earn the roast and all the trimmings, make the ride at least three hours long, and add to the adventure by choosing a carvery in a place you’ve never been before. A tip here: riding home on a full stomach of meat, potatoes and gravy could be a painful affair, so choose a pub that is either a very short ride from home or has a nearby train station.

16. RAISE A GLASS TO SOMEWHERE NEW

Coffee, tea or beer... ride to a new location, order a drink and chat to locals. “When you’re on your own, you’re much more willing to chat to strangers,” says Simon Parker, “and often the conversations are in-depth, worthwhile and fascinating. Just being in your cycling gear makes you intriguing to locals, so be curious and inquisitive in return – speak with them.” Having had an interesting conversation will make the journey home a breeze. 

17. ELOPE WITH A DIFFERENT CLUB

A group of cyclists on a bike ride together

(Image credit: Future)

The benefits of joining a club are numerous, but have you thought about ‘loaning’ yourself to a different club close to home for one weekend? You wouldn’t be betraying your current club-mates, but instead spreading your wings and making new friends and having different conversations. They may even show you a new route or some new roads – valuable intelligence!  

18. RIDE A RACE ROUTE

Plot a route that includes the exact same sections used in pro races such as the Tour of Britain, Women’s Tour or National Road Series. Watch some coverage from the last edition of the race to get you ready. As you replicate the pros hurtling through the lanes and slogging up the hills, you’ll have a connection to the race, one that will endure and help you to better relate to the riders the next time you see them on TV. Strava tells you they climbed the hill in four minutes – what can you manage? It’ll make you appreciate (and envy) their prowess even further.  

The first version of this article was published in the print edition of Cycling Weekly. Subscribe online and get the magazine delivered direct to your door every week. 

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