Winter Cycling

Endurance athletes: Don’t beat winter, embrace it!

Cycling training in the northern US presents many challenges. Shorter days, inclimate weather, and possibly even psychological factors associated with seasonal affective disorder may lead to training inconsistencies. Living in a subarctic climate presents challenges of training indoors versus outdoors and making optimal workouts can be a task. Potentially even more important than your chosen exercise modality however, are the things that we can do surrounding our training that help us not only overcome winter, but grab it by the horns.

Choose an alternate modality.

When you get bored with riding the trainer or riding gravel in fierce wind doesn’t sound anything like fun, as stated previously, try something new. With snow on the ground, an obvious choice is fat-biking. Don’t have a fat bike but have a mountain bike? In many cases the mountain bike will work just as well if the conditions allow. This past year I made a pair of studded tire for less than ten dollars and a couple hours of my time.

Here’s how:

  1. Wash the tire, inside and out. Remove all previous sealant and mud. Dry.
  2. Mark the studs you intend to drill with a paint marker or something like it. Ensure adequate coverage, especially edges.

2.5 stand up and stretch

  1. Pre drill all the holes from the top down, through the center or most structurally sound part of the lug. watch your fingers !
  2. Turn tire inside out and screw in from the inside out until snug.
  3. Using an angle grinder with a stone disc, grind the tips flat, without scuffing the tire.
  4. Run it tubeless? I guess I’ll find out, otherwise gorilla tape + tube.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box of Size 6-20 self tapping wood screws. Depths of 1/4 to 3/8 depending on the lug height.
  • 1, 5/64 “ drill bit and drill.
  • Some patience and about 2 hours per tire.

Some other modalities of choice: snowshoeing, running with running spikes, Cross country skiing. A favorite winter activity among many northerners is ice fishing. Trust that pulling a sled across the ice for a couple miles on a frozen lake is not easy. If just looking for a workout, load a sled up with snow, loop the rope around your waist and go do intervals!

Establish a dynamic strength routine.

One of the best ways to establish strong core and total body strength and flexibility is to do some time of dynamic strength routine. Many of the cyclists I work with have deficiencies in  flexibility, postural alignment, or strength and many times all of these at once. Heavily loading training on poor form leads to suboptimal results. In addition, we want a balanced body prepared to endure the race not just by pedaling the legs, but by maneuvering the bike. Strength and flexibility will prove to be highly beneficial paired with as much skill work as possible.

Get your mind right.

In addition to strengthening the body, what about creating a strong mind? Yoga for example, is a great example of a disciplined practice or routine that is not only physically but mentally challenging. If you leave dripping with sweat, you know you did it right and generally the feeling is amazing. In addition to Yoga or a meditation routine, One of the best ways to encourage feelings of well being is to get some sunlight. If you have a room in your house that receives sunlight a few hours of the day, try to hit that window of opportunity by laying down or sitting in this area, skin exposed, for 15 minutes. Just this amount is about all that is needed of direct sunlight to help your body make a daily dose of vitamin D.

Winter should not be about hiding from the elements, but rather embracing them and the challenges that harsh weather presents. As always, doing something is better than nothing when it comes to getting a planned workout in. With these helpful tips to get you through winter, you may even plan these in as you develop your strategy for the next polar vortex or winter storm warning.

About the Author: Grant Harrison grew up competing in a variety of sports including college football, competitive soccer and hockey. Since then things have switched all things cycling- in multiple disciplines to boot. His extensive Master’s education in Human Performance gives him a solid background in all things athlete-related. He’s focused on the delicate balance between pyschological skills, coaching, nutrition, and athlete performance. In addition to coaching services, he also offers one-on-one nutrition consultations. Learn more about Grant or sign up for a nutrition consultation with him or email him at

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