Journey(wo)man: A Beginner Rider’s 100 Mile Story
Finding Winter Motivation
Real talk: I’d be lying if I started this off saying I’ve been training my very hardest in the lead up to my first 100 miler, now just 5 weeks away. This is my first winter being a “cyclist” and truthfully the colder-and-snowier-than-normal Colorado winter has affected my expected motivation to spend time on the bike outside.
When I think about what I would like to say to all of my fellow beginner cyclists out there, I wish I was crafting this to tell the story about how the cold didn’t bother me and I’ve been crushing my training. But alas, that is not the case and fabrication is not the point of my chronicling this journey. So to be honest, it has been really stinkin’ hard to convince myself to get my butt into high gear and get outside.
Maybe I’m making excuses, or maybe it is a legitimate thing, but I do really believe being a beginner is impacting my drive to get time in the saddle. While I have been told that the first and most important step to finding motivation during times like these is putting a race or goal on the calendar, that just simply hasn’t been enough. I’m still building confidence on my bike. I’m still figuring out how to dress. I’m still figuring out where to ride. And I’m still figuring out what the right way to train is. So with all of that on my mind, and my weather app reading 17 degrees, it has been very easy to say “nah” and avoid tackling all of those learning pools, while also avoiding the windburn and dry, chapped skin.
Thankfully, I’ve got a ton of experienced riders at my fingertips as coworkers and friends, so I tapped into them for some advice. Here is what they provided me:
- Set a goal or put a race on your calendar – looking ahead to something in the near future should motivate you to be prepared
- Make it social – winter is more about base miles and endurance rather than high intensity, so enjoy some good, social rides with friends and join group rides. Misery loves company!
- You never regret actually doing the ride after the fact (just easy to come up with excuses). Outside is always more fun than the trainer. Winter riding will prepare you for dealing with inclement weather, which is really critical.
- Invest in the right gear, and have it prepped before it is time to ride. There are so many pieces that go into a winter kit in order to ride comfortably so having everything sorted and prepped before you plan to ride outside in colder conditions makes it easier and holds you a little more accountable.
As someone with a cycling network, but not necessarily many female friends to ride with, some of this advice is easier than others to take. There’s a huge part of me that wants to join group rides, but I feel intimidated because I ride solo all the time and don’t actually know what my skill level or pace or anything is or should be. But that’s a terrible excuse, so here’s to bucking up and the next time you hear from me, I solemnly swear to have attended a ride!
Regarding winter gear – nothing could be truer than the advice above. On a few rides I wore leggings over my chamois and double layered my socks, but my feet went numb, my chamois was not comfortable, and the ride kind of sucked. I’ve said this in previous posts and I’ll say it again, cycling is a monetary investment. We can all pretend that it doesn’t need to be and talk about inexpensive ways to ride, but I’m learning that if you really want to enjoy your time out there, the right gear is super important. I did go out and purchase cold weather gear, and really tried to stick with the “basics” which includes:
- Shoe covers for the toes
- Thermal arm sleeves
- Full-length leg warmers
- Ear warmers
- Neck gator/buff
- Gloves (I personally prefer standard running gloves over cycling gloves as they feel more comfortable on my hands)
- And the most critical piece for me, wool socks
Sticking to that list of 7 items helped mitigate the spending potential on gear but completely changed my outdoor riding. The wind cut through me a little less, my face and hands and ankles stopped getting as chapped, and I really just felt comfortable out there.
The last thing that has really helped me in this winter funk is spending time on the trainer. I know – trainers are not the same as being outdoors. But when it is ridiculously cold, or the gravel is muddy from snow melt, there is no excuse to not hop on the indoor trainer. To make it a bit more enjoyable for myself, I’ve taken some performance-based spin classes at my local Life Time club. Yes, it’s only 1 hour on the bike, but it’s better than 0 hours on the bike and quite honestly, I think all of my time at spin classes has actually made me a more solid rider when I’ve gone outside. I’ve found myself naturally getting out of my saddle on ascents, pedaling at a faster cadence, and having a stronger pedal stroke. As well, I’ve just hopped on the spin bike solo and pedaled hard for 2 hours. I think that has really helped improve my mental toughness and strength in suffer-mode, and from what I’ve heard that is a huge part of the game in long rides and races.
To close with a huge truth, I do regret how little time I’ve spent on the saddle outside. Okay so I may be being hard on myself – I’ve got a handful of 40+ mile rides in over the last month and a half, and 2-3 days a week on the trainer, but we all know that’s not enough for 100 miles in Oklahoma in 5 weeks.
My coworker’s advice is true, you never really do regret the ride once it is over. So time to saddle up, put my big girl chamois on, and get after it! 5 weeks to go, it ain’t over yet!!!
Follow along with the rest of my journey at @womenrtw and #journeyto100. You can also find me on the ‘gram at @meeeshyd if you want to pick my brain with any questions!
This blog is written by Michelle Duffy, Assoc. Marketing Director of Life Time Off-Road Events, including the Dirty Kanza. She is on her own personal journey to ride 100 miles, after picking up cycling in September of 2019, with a goal of inspiring beginners, particularly women, to feel more comfortable on the saddle and in the cycling community. Salsa is supporting her journey, and has provided her with a Journeyman to take along the ride.