Winter is a tough time for any serious cyclist, professionals included. Even though the base miles you ride during the winter are some of the most important for the following season, it's hard to get excited about freezing outside on the bike or sweating inside on the trainer. And unless you figure out some way to keep it fun, you risk getting burned out on riding before the season even starts.
In past years, I spent the winters downhill skiing and struggled to build the base I needed for the following year. When race season came around, I struggled in the early season races and didn't see the results I wanted until mid-way through the season. But this year I've already logged over 50 hours since beginning to train in early November, and I'm still excited to ride. Part of what has kept me excited are my goals for next year and the knowledge that training now will pay off next year, but I've also learned a few tricks to keep winter training fun.
First and foremost, I try to ride outside. Unless the snow is so deep that it's impossible to ride, or the weather is so cold that I might freeze to death, riding outside is better than riding inside. Maybe it's the fresh air, maybe it's the fact that I actually go somewhere, but I feel and ride better outside. And if there's snow, I use it as an excuse to work on my handling skills. The more comfortable you are with your wheels losing traction, the better you'll handle high speed descents and mud, so I practice cornering and braking in the snow and it prepares me for sloppy conditions during the summer.
If I can't ride outside, I make sure I have some really good action movies to watch on the trainer. Simple plots are best, so I can follow what's happening through in my oxygen-deprived state and big explosions and chase scenes help too. This winter I've already watched all three films of the Bourne trilogy as well as "The Day After Tomorrow" in celebration of the end of the world. For longer indoor sessions, I choose epics like Star Wars so I don't have to stop and switch movies half way through.
Another trick I've learned is to use the winter to learn a new skill. This year, for example, I decided to teach myself trials skills on my mountain bike. Three or four times a week after my training ride, I have been working on a specific skill until I learn it. So far I've made it through rear wheel hops, pedal kicks and manuals. Up next is side hops. I'm not going to win any trials competitions, but I've already seen my handling skills improve and having something hard and fun to look forward to after my ride has made the cold and subpar training conditions a lot more bearable.
So hopefully the next time you see me, I’ll be manual-ing across the finish line in first place. Then you'll know that my winter training paid off.
The following video is of Macky Franklin practicing his manual.