When the temps dip and the days get shorter, many triathletes decide that it is time to get off the road —at least in part—and do their cycling training in a different way. While the need for winter cycling options in Texas is not quite as pronounced as it might be in the Northeast or Upper Midwest, it is still good to have some alternatives to on-the-road biking when the weather turns and there are fewer hours of sunlight during the day.
If you want to change your cycling routine for the off-season months, there are a few ways to do it. Each comes with pros and cons, and its own type of costs. Here are the best options for getting the most your of your winter cycling routine.
Any full-service health club or boutique fitness studio has plenty of spin classes to choose from throughout the week. The best ones have bikes that talk to each other and the instructor, providing feedback on wattage and intensity, not to mention the ability to clip-in with SPD cleats and make the experience better.
Austin has several good indoor cycling studios (Love and Ride are a couple examples) as well as some full-service clubs like Lifetime Fitness.
When it comes to spinning, the name of the game is finding a class and an instructor that you are compatible with. If you just did an Ironman, you might not want an entry-level, 40-minute class. On the other hand, if you are just starting out and trying to build a bike base, you might not want the intense instructor who has your heart rate in a max zone for 90 minutes.
Most studios and health clubs provide some information on the classes, including the intensity level and who it is geared for, either online or upon request. Once you find a class that works, it can be a great way to keep your off-season conditioning up.
The downsides? First, you might have to pay for each visit, or at a minimum be a member of a club or studio. This can be a sizeable financial outlay with some of the higher-end clubs. Second, these classes have a tendency to fill up. Plan on either making reservations, or arriving plenty early to reserve your spot.
Try Smart Training
The game for indoor cycling changed a few years ago as smart trainers hit the market and never looked back. While not cheap, these trainers really change the way a typical cyclist is able to bike inside their own home.
A smart trainer allows you to set up your regular road or tri bike on a trainer that is connected via bluetooth to apps and other programs. The result is an incredibly interactive experience—the app can tell you your power output, speed, and other key information, and the trainer gets harder and easier based on your program. If you are riding through the Alps, the trainer will mimic the incline and intensity of the various climbs. Or perhaps you want a structured workout, there will be hundreds to choose from.
The trainers themselves are made by brands like CycleOps, Wahoo, Tacx, and the highly-recognizable Peloton brand, which is actually a smart stationary bike. You can do a deep dive on the various trainers and apps here. There are many various alternatives to explore.
The pros are obvious: You can get great workouts without even leaving your house, and you can use your own bike. The cons? These trainers are expensive—$1,000, give or take, and even more if you go with Peloton.
Put your Bike on an Old-Fashioned Trainer
Cycling trainers and rollers have been around for a long time. There is photographic evidence of people were riding on rollers as early as the early 1900s. Trainers came along several decades later, allowing cyclist to mount their bikes on a device with actual resistance, and much more stability than rollers.
While we might call them “old-fashioned” now, they are still highly effective and a cheaper alternative to a smart trainer. Unlike a smart trainer, you don’t get an interactive experience—no power output on the app, and you will need to adjust your gearing to get the intensity you want. But when paired with a good training DVD or streaming workout, you can actually get a very high-quality bike workout in the comfort of your own home.
The bike trainers we are referring to here are the simple ones like these, which last a long time and provide a great workout provided you invest in a good brand. You cou can usually find a good one for just $200 to $300.
Just Keep Riding Outside
Given that we don’t get winters like they might experience in New England or the mountains, you can certainly bike outside all year long if you want.
If you do, you will want to invest in some different cycling gear. A good set of cycling tights and a thermal, windbreaking shell can go a long way toward keeping you warmer on a bike. You will also find that your hands and feet get colder as the temp dips, so it is good to outfit yourself with good full-finger cycling gloves and other gear.
Safety is also an issue, because there are fewer hours of sunlight. Consider a bike safety LED llight if you are an avid road rider during low-light conditions.
Many cyclists we know choose to spend less time on the roads and more time on trails in the offseason. In addition to providing a nice change-of-pace, new scenery, and some cross training, trail riding can be a bit safer during those days when the sun isn’t coming up until after 7am and is already beginning to set by 6pm.
Thank you to Paul from completetri.com for helping out as a guest writer for this blog post. Complete Tri has a wealth of resources including gear reviews, tips, and advice for triathletes of all abilities. All of their information is free, and a portion of their revenues goes back to community triathlon clubs like ours.
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