How to keep your cycling momentum going… even after the season is over 

By Molly Hurford

How to keep your cycling momentum going even after the season is over 

For many of us, the offseason is here, other than the hearty few who will race cyclocross into the snowy months, or those who have access to the track again! As the temperatures drop and days get shorter, it may be a bit tempting to hang up your bike altogether, leaving it to gather dust until sunny days are here again next spring. But whether you’re chasing a big goal in cycling or just want to maintain some fitness over the winter, it is possible to stay motivated and make this past season’s cycling momentum keep going even into the depths of winter. Here, we’re talking about a few of our favorite ways to keep motivation high even when you’re not entirely feeling it.  

Remind yourself what you’ve done 

Start with a season audit, looking back at what you’ve accomplished this season. Even if you didn’t race at all, you still might have personal bests. Maybe you trained consistently for the first time ever, or rode your highest mileage week. Maybe you did have a few great races, or just tried something new that seemed terrifying at first. Maybe you joined a club or team and found some new cycling friends. Look back over training journals, photos from rides, race results—whatever tangible evidence you have of your last season of riding. Remind yourself what you loved about it. Heck, if you want to make a movie montage with some of your favorite photos of the season set to motivational music, go for it! Having a 10-second clip like that, or just a few photos or screenshots saved to a Favorites folder can be a great way to get out of the winter doldrums.  

Look way into the future

Make a list of your goals in cycling: Trying that longer bikepacking route, making it into the top 20 in a gravel race, standing on the podium in your category at Provincials… Choose one to three ideas or dreams that excite you, but also feel do-able. (You’re looking for that feeling in your gut that combines excitement with a bit of nerves—a giddy feeling that lets you know you’re on the right track with your dream.) Write them down somewhere that you’ll see regularly. Personally, I like putting them on a list and hanging it near where the trainer and my yoga mat are set up, so I see them every time I have to train inside! 

Look at the next couple months 

Now that you have those big goals for 2022, you can zoom back and look at what you can be doing right now to hit those goals. If you’re hoping to do well in a gravel race, that means you’ll need to train consistently, even if the weather isn’t cooperating. Set that process goal of riding five times per week, for example, and commit to doing that outside when possible, indoors when weather isn’t cooperating. If you’re not sure what to do about training, there are inexpensive training plans available for almost any cycling goal you can think of, or you can consult a coach to get a customized plan built for you around your life and schedule. If you’re new to cycling, though, don’t get caught up in the weeds with finding the perfect plan at the expense of… not training at all because you’re waiting to find the perfect schedule. Just get started! 

Ask, ‘what do I want to do?’ 

This is a big one for cyclists in the winter. Your cycling motivation is getting lower as temps drop, but you feel like your only option is to keep riding. But you have so many options available that will help you get ready for next year! You can try fat biking or indoor track riding depending on your location, or you can get on the trainer and use a program like Zwift to ‘race’ against other cyclists, or you can embrace cross-training and use the winter as a chance to boost your strength training and yoga practices, adding alternative cardio activities like cross-country skiing on days you don’t feel like riding. Don’t try to force yourself into a mode of training that you don’t enjoy. Not every workout will be the most fun, obviously, but training shouldn’t feel like a burden on a daily basis.  

Treat yourself 

Sometimes, a little self-bribery goes a long way. But try to avoid using something like food as a reward, since that can put you on a damaging path towards equating exercise to simple calorie burn—it’s a slippery slope. Instead, motivate yourself with promises of new cycling gear! For example, if you do hit the five-rides-per-week mark for a month straight, treat yourself to that high-vis cycling jacket or new set of bike lights. This won’t work for everyone, and obviously, don’t go overboard if you’re on a tight budget, but I love it as a way to slowly gather the new gear I need for next season, like new gravel tires, in a way that feels motivational, rather than in a single shopping spree.  

Schedule it on your calendar 

You’ve heard the cliche that if you want to make something happen, you need to actually schedule a time for it to happen. Look at your calendar for the next week or month, and actually block off chunks of time dedicated to training—and make sure to leave buffers for getting ready and cleaning up afterwards! Sometimes, your motivation just isn’t there, but if your ride is on the calendar and you get started, you’ll almost certainly get motivated as you pedal. (One sports psychologist explained this to me as the ‘flywheel effect,’ similar to what happens on a stationary trainer: Once you get started, it’s easier to keep going, both [physically and emotionally!) 

Set up your trainer “studio” 

The idea of just getting started brings us to our final practical tip for keeping momentum going: Establish your bad weather training spot somewhere. For many of us, this is the basement or a corner of the house where the trainer lives, with your bike already mounted and ready to ride, your shoes on the ground beside it, and your screen setup already prepared. The goal is to make the training process as easy and seamless as possible, so that it’s actually hard to not train. This might also mean joining a local gym because you don’t use a trainer, but you’re going to lift weights all winter. It could even be a bag with all of your gear for fat biking or for the track that stays pre-packed in the doorway. 

Good luck this fall and winter! 

About the writer:

Molly Hurford is a journalist in love with all things cycling, running, nutrition and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing about being outside and healthy habits of athletes and interviewing world-class athletes and scientists for The Consummate Athlete podcast and website, and most recently launched the book ‘Becoming A Consummate Athlete.‘ She’s the author of multiple books including the Shred Girls, a young adult fiction series and online community focused on getting girls excited about bikes. Molly is a little obsessed with getting people psyched on adventure and being outside, and she regularly hosts talks and runs clinics for cyclists and teaches yoga online and IRL… And in her spare time, the former Ironman triathlete now spends time tackling long runs and rides on trails or can be found out hiking with her mini-dachshund DW and husband, cycling coach and kinesiologist Peter Glassford.