The most essential jobs you need to do now to make sure you can ride consistently and efficiently over the next 6 months and beyond.
The transition from Autumn to Winter is the trickiest change of all when it comes to cycling. All of a sudden it means having to think about more layers, less daylight, dirty bikes and charging lights. Compared to the simplicity of a summers’ evening ride it certainly feels like a chore but with a little forward planning and a slight shift in focus the transition can be an exciting and enriching one. All being well the spring and summer will have seen you getting quicker and feeling stronger on the bike but often, with prolonged hard training, comes bad habits which become ingrained into your riding style and can result in injuries. Autumn is also the perfect time to unload them and press your physical ‘reset button’.
1) Record your race bike measurements. Assuming that you feel comfortable with your riding position by this time of year, recording your bike measurements is a wise move. What ever happens to your beloved bike then you always have those scribblings as a back-up. Using your own measuring rules you should record : Saddle height, ‘reach’ from the tip of the saddle to the middle of the bars, crank length (usually printed inside them), bar height (top of the bar to the ground is fine) and then finally, hang a ‘plumb line’ or string from the tip of the saddle down to the ground and then measure how far it hangs in front or behind the centre of the bottom bracket axle. Once recorded, just keep it somewhere safe.
2) Prepare a winter bike. Lots of triathletes like to have a ‘winter hack’ which they don’t mind riding through the grit and grime. Just try to make sure that it is set up as close as possible to the measurements above. A carefully prepared winter bike should leave you with no excuses for not getting out on it. That means it is ready to go and can cope with all conditions. This is the time to fit simple mudguards, heavier puncture resistant tyres, a set of reliable lights and a ‘fit and forget’ saddle bag which has everything in it that you might need for repairs. That way, it’s ready for action without leaving you many excuses as the winter draws in.
3) Get back to having fun. Far too many triathletes will have started to take themselves too seriously as the year has gone on and with this hardened mental focus and an all too common focus on formulaic training based on the latest scientific research you can often lose sight of the fact that you should really be enjoying it too. Something that pro cyclists have been doing for years is just starting to catch on in the tri world and it involves having a window in October when only new training sessions and routes are allowed to be used. Also catching on are ‘non-training training camps’ such as a weekend away mountain biking somewhere challenging and where the focus is on the element may have gone : Fun.
4) Get in line! There’s nothing like a racing season to ingrain tightness and bad posture and nowhere is that more evident than on the bike. Classic signs are feeling like you are sitting slightly ‘side saddle’ or that you want to adjust your cleats and yet no amount of adjustment seems to help. Most Osteopaths now offer what has become known as the ‘full body check’ where they look for alignment issues that maybe causing niggles and inefficiency. Not everyone needs this but if you have noticed becoming less and less comfortable on the bike as the year has gone on then now is the time to sort it.
5) Mix it up! A big part of British Cycling’s dominance on the world stage in recent years can be put down to their insistence on the young athletes in their academies taking part in at least three different cycling disciplines until they are 18 , at which stage they are allowed to chose their specialism. If you have never tried more than two different types of cycling then you are missing out on being a more complete rider, not to mention all the fun that can be had doing it. Borrowing a Mountain bike, cyclo-cross bike or even a BMX at this time of year can be just what’s needed to inject the fun back into your routine. If you feel like you are hopeless at it then that’s a good thing as it will make you appreciate just how far you have come on your normal bike.