Go off-road to keep fit this winter

Christmas is gone and many cyclists are already dreaming of spring, but winter isn't ready to release its grip just yet. It's time to get off-road to keep the training going and fitness levels ticking over

With snow beginning to fall in parts of the UK as temperatures plummet, cyclists hit the panic button, worried about their training. Unlike in the autumn, when dabbling in different sports or disciplines seems like fun and is a nice break from the road as the weather turns sour, getting those road miles in now feels urgent.

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While the bright, crisp winter mornings are very inviting for riding, these are invariably preceded by sub-zero nights leaving behind those dangerous patches of ice. Now is not the time to crash and hurt yourself as it could put an end to your season before it’s begun. So don’t risk it and never ride if there is ice about.

Avoid icy roads, by avoiding roads completely

Avoid icy roads, by avoiding roads completely

That said, if you’re determined to get out on the road, then try heading out a few hours later than usual. Waiting till that morning frost has thawed will reduce the likelihood of accidents. Don’t worry about daylight hours either. Even if you head out at 11am, there will still be enough sunlight to get a good three-hour ride in.

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To further reduce the likelihood of accidents, why not invest in a set of fatter tyres? Tyres with a larger tread will give more grip in icy conditions. Reducing the pressure in your tyres slightly will also help aid grip as they will offer greater contact with the road.

Discover new route and skills by taking your training off-road

Discover new routes and skills by taking your training off-road

However, in some cases, no matter how many modifications you make to your bike, sometimes, it’s just not safe enough to head out on the roads. In this scenario, it’s best to go off-road. OK, so it might not be quite the same as a road ride, but there are performance gains to be had.

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Riding off-road requires the use of all the major leg muscle groups and will help build a base for cardiovascular fitness — a must if you are to nail those road races and sportives this year.

Although off-road rides will feel significantly slower than what you are used to, you will still be putting in a similar effort because of the wet, boggy conditions. It’s often said off-road miles are equal to double road miles. Basing your rides around time will mean you’ll get the same workout as you would on the road even if the distance is shorter.

Words by Louise Mahé