Winter training will test any cyclist — the cold and wet mornings, the quick bike wash while stood shivering, and the countless hours spent indoors.If you’re looking to stay in shape and ready to ride in March, whether for a race, a sportive, or even just a ride with your mates, hunkering down and putting in the miles during winter will put you ahead of the peloton.
With training tools such as Zwift, indoor training has never been more accessible. Yes, they’ll still be cold mornings — but now you can skip the bike wash and head straight for the shower.
When to train outdoors during the winter?
Many cyclists choose to ride outdoors during the entirety of winter — it’s almost as natural as turning the pedals for them. It’s impressive, to say the least!
But there’s one problem with that: what are you going to do when the snow and ice surface, forcing you off the bike, hopefully not with a crash.
While cycling outdoors is preferable, you need to know when to head indoors.
On those mornings when the temperature drops below freezing, and there are patches of ice scattered about the roads, you’ll wish you had an indoor set-up waiting for you.
When it’s below freezing, there’s ice or snow, or the rain is especially bad, it’s best to head indoors. But that doesn’t have to mean a stale training session — you can still keep things fun, even when riding inside.
Why should you train indoors?
Training indoors is not what it used to be — you no longer have to stare at a blank wall, wishing away the miles and wanting to be outside.
These days, with smart trainers and apps, winter cycling training indoors can be very enjoyable.
You can join a group ride, plan a structured interval session, or enter a race for a bit of Wednesday evening fun.
You can even interact with other riders, giving them kudos or secretly trying to drop them on a climb. We won’t say anything if you don’t.
Below you’ll find 3 reasons for training indoors:
- Get specific with your training
- Stay injury free and avoid those fallen leaves
- It’s convenient
Get specific with your training
Indoor training is an excellent method for training intervals. You can set the exact duration and intensity, and you can even build in rest breaks at your desired watts.
But beware: there’s no hiding when training indoors — no traffic lights to stop at, no cars or potholes to avoid, and no patches of ice to ruin your season. It’s just you, the humming of your smart trainer, and a mat soaked in sweat.
Stay injury free and avoid those fallen leaves
The risks that come with 23mm road tyres, fallen leaves, and patches of ice are not worth it when cycling in the winter.
Stay injury free and avoid a trip to the emergency room by training inside.
You don’t have to train indoors every day, but an indoor session is definitely the better option when the weather takes a turn.
Besides, clipping into the indoor trainer allows you to get specific — you can get in a brutal interval session without having to follow the rules of the road.
There’s no secret that training indoors is convenient, especially if you leave your bike set up on the indoor trainer.
With less tedious tasks to check off before and after your ride, you can clip in and arrive in Watopia in minutes.
Even for the time-stretched cyclists out there, you can in a great indoor training session in as little as thirty minutes.
And for those with kids, consider setting up your trainer in the house instead of the garage. You can be on parent duty while hitting your ideal watts per kilo.
A few tips for a better indoor training experience
As much as indoor training tech has developed over the last few years, indoor training can still be a challenge for some.
The hours in the saddle feel longer, and you’re less likely to put in those seriously long, long rides.
But to make indoor training more fun and productive, we recommend that you:
- Don’t forget nutrition and hydration
- Use a fan and a towel
- Listen to music, a podcast, or watch some old cycling footage
Don’t forget nutrition and hydration
When training inside, there’s less to think about — no road obstacles or hazards to avoid — so you’re more likely to keep up with your hydration.
But many riders forget the nutrition aspect when riding inside.
If you’re clocking up 1 hour plus on Zwift, then the same nutrition principles apply to regular riding.
Try to get 30-60g of carbs per hour. That’s a BAR50, 1-2 Energy Gels, or if eating on the bike isn’t your thing, you can ingest your carbs by drinking something such as the MIX60 Dual-Carb Energy Drink Mix.
Don’t forget to rehydrate and refuel once you’ve finished your training session, too.
Use a fan and a towel
This advice is not new — but if you forget to turn on the fan, you’ll enter a world of pain. A good fan will keep your temperature in check, keeping your heart rate and RPE down. You don’t want to be working harder than needed!
And while it’s actually better to let the sweat drip — the beads of sweat turn into vapour to cool you down — you can use the towel to protect your bike.
Listen to music, a podcast, or watch some old cycling footage
Training indoors is infinitely more enjoyable than it used to be, but unless you want to hear Zwift noises in your sleep, we’d recommend plugging in to your favourite podcast. You might even choose to listen to the Styrkr DestinationNext podcast hosted by Chris Hall.
If music is more your thing, crank up the playlist and put the power through those pedals. Trust us; you’re gonna need it.
The winter months are excellent for strength training
We know what you’re about to say — but before you ride off into the distance dressed head to toe in lycra, you might want to hear us out…
Adding some strength work during the winter months will increase your performance on the bike and reduce your risk of injury.
While hitting the weights may not be your favourite way to break a sweat, the benefits are well documented. Research shows as little as 3 weeks of strength training will improve cycling strength and efficiency. That also means less rocking side to side when tackling those tough climbs.
- Change your mindset and approach strength training as a way to get better on the bike.
- To get started, try a few exercises such as the leg press, leg extension, mountain climbers, the plank, and the side plank.
- Aim for at least 1 strength training session a week, ideally 2. Once those cold mornings fade and March rolls around, you can cut it back to 1 session if you prefer. But we’d always recommend some strength training to maintain the hard work you’ve put into the gym.
How can I train myself to cycle at home?
Set a goal to make cycle training at home less mundane. Maybe even plan a cycling trip for that added motivation boost during the winter for added motivation.
What’s the difference between indoor and outdoor cycling?
Indoor training is done on a set of rollers or a smart trainer. It’s a lot safer and a great way to get in a fantastic interval session. Outdoor cycling, on the other hand, is done outdoors. But you knew that already!
How do cyclists stay in shape in the winter?
Many cyclists train indoors during the winter to stay in shape. They also strength train to increase performance and limit their risk of injury.
How do pro cyclists train in the winter?
Many professional cyclists use the winter months to build up their base, typically in hotter countries such as Spain. They also add extra strength training to get stronger on the bike.
Take advantage of the indoor training season
Winter cycling training may not be your favourite thing — but with indoor training, you can keep up your fitness and emerge fitter than ever come March. And with a little added strength and conditioning work, you might just be stronger and more injury resistant than before.
For more winter training advice, you can read our top 10 tips for winter cycling training from head coach, Jason Streather at PDQ Cycling.