Finding The Motivation to Ride in Sub-Zero Temps

Like many other cyclists out there, there are times in the fall and winter that I struggle with finding the motivation to ride. This is especially true when the thermometer dips below freezing. Just a few weeks ago, we had our seasonal time change, letting the clocks fall back an hour and plunging ourselves into the evening darkness that much sooner. As much as I love cycling, the reduced daylight hours and the chilly temps pose an annual challenge for my training and fitness. I’ve recently come off of another fantastic season of managing and leading bike tours in Europe and I got the chance to ride in some of the best cycling regions in the world. But now that the trips are on hiatus until next spring, summoning up the motivation to swing the leg over the road bike and head out on a cold, overcast and frigid day can be tough.

snowy road

As is typical for me in the fall, I look forward to the training transition and the change of seasons. I dust off both my cyclocross and mountain bikes in order to explore the nearby trails and routes rarely ridden during the summer. I enjoy the change of pace, the sometimes shorter rides and the unstructured-ness of it all. But herein lies the catch: it can be a slippery slope of lessening your amount of riding to an all out lack of riding. “A couple of days off won’t hurt”, I say. This is true, but it’s easy for a couple of days to become several and even many consecutive days. The grey, bitter winter wind makes the hibernating comfort of the indoors that much more appealing. And I know that 90% of the battle is just getting out the door, that my real challenge this time of year is in my head and not outside. I’ve rarely (if ever) regretted going for a ride. You may recall that I’ve mentioned a friend that told me once, “If it’s a question to ride or not, the answer is always the same. Ride.”

“If it’s a question to ride or not, the answer is always the same. Ride.”

So once I’m out that door, the weather no matter how cold and wet, becomes a badge of honor. I may suffer through the ride, with frozen hands, feet and other body parts, the entire time cursing the conditions, but I never return home, regretting my decision to head out. As my friend has said, riding is always the right choice.

I started thinking about this seasonal condundrum again, because of an article I just read about “Hibernation and Motivation” during this time of year and how it plays havoc with one’s training. I related to many of the things the author wrote, but I must say that I found it a bit funny to note that she lives in San Diego, California AND is a cycling coach herself. Yes, I know that it gets dark early there too, but I know it doesn’t get that cold. I guess it just goes to prove that everyone, even cycling coaches and Cat. 1 racers need to find their own motivation to ride during this time of year.

To all of us: let’s get out there and ride.


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