Mara Abbott blog: Time for winter, what riders get up to in the off-season

The first Colorado snow of the season is falling tonight. Finally. Halfway through November it is definitely time for a little winter. Now, I acknowledge that the knee-jerk cyclist distaste of that sloppy, wet stuff does hold some legitimate concerns, but I can't help it - ever since my big brother I were jostling to measure every big snowfall on the back porch with a yardstick (non-American: meter stick) I have loved this time of year.

Winter is the time for adventure. As a northern hemisphere road cyclist with a performance focus on mid-summer, winter is the time when training is prescribed but it is a bit more... open to interpretation?

Now, I suppose that I should note that inclement training weather is not a universal turn-off for all bike rider demographics. The cyclo-cross riders are a special breed, seemingly unbothered by competing and training in ice, snow, freezing rain, gigantic puddles and mud. Some even claim to like the inclement weather, though I don't know that those claims have ever gotten any sort of polygraph corroboration to back them up. Some roadies (notably the Belgian variety) profess similar questionable preferences. Mountain bikers... well, I don't really know what the mountain bikers do. I don't really like to ask them - mostly because whenever I hear about what the mountain bikers in my life are up to, my previous definition of "adventure" is downgraded to the excitement equivalent of some folks' coffee on a Sunday morning. Like, before they even leave the house. And the wintertime bike commuters? Well, I actually know a bit about that. Enough to know that my strategy involves snow pants, fenders, layered jackets, ski mittens and a wool hat. That way I am not only dry but will also look fabulous when I trundle sideways through the studio door - provided I managed to safely make it all the way across town for that anticipated hot yoga class.

In any case - for myself, the off-season affords me the leeway to (rather than stew in dismay over a missed workout) throw spiked running shoes on and go out in the storm, or call up my dad for a cross-country ski day. It is easier to be light-hearted. There is less pressure.

Wintertime also coincides with holidays. Special events, fewer daylight hours and fewer attractive outdoor options often lead to more time with family and friends. I am not the first to confess that the racer lifestyle of, sometimes isolating, weeks on the road is a huge challenge. I love the chance to indulge in extended time at home without worrying about checking in (aisle seat!) for my next plane reservation.

Finally, winter is when I start composing my annual rendition of: "Ode to my Trainer". No, not a personal trainer, but rather that thing you hook your bike up to should you wish to pedal for hours without actual forward motion. My beloved trainer is not one of those fancy ones with a computer that invent hills of their own accord, nor even the kind where you take your back wheel off (saves rubber - very environmental) that has a built-in fan. My old friend was bought secondhand about five years ago and its major feature is that the lever doesn't fall off when I when it clamps down on my rear skewer. Usually.

Shiny, she may not be, but oh the good times we have together. See, the advantage of ‘The Trainer’ is that you can ride whenever you want to, immune to deficiencies of weather or daylight. This was particularly important for me last year. My roommate was a professional open water swimmer (translation: 5 am practice), so in order to "win" and get my workout in first, my (arguably overactive) competitive drive and I certainly had no business waiting for the sun to come up. Plus, those stationary hours also help me to become a better-informed citizen: Balancing the newspaper on the flat surface of my power control, I can be done with not only my workout but a close reading of world news by 8 am!

You aren't excited???

Huh. On second thought, maybe I should have made that a private ode.

In any case.

Shall we move on and tie it up with a global conclusion? Well, for any cyclist, changes in seasons are meaningful - by virtue of our devoted outdoor hours we have a greater appreciation for changes in the natural world around us. So as winter closes in this year, I encourage you to appreciate the shift - get out the holiday decorations, make a big pot of soup with friends, and top priority? Invest in a pair of neoprene shoe covers. Your buddies are only jealous when they call them "moon booties.”

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