The onset of summer should have me excited about cycling. Ditching the arm warmers on rides. Saying goodbye to the long-fingered gloves. No more headbands under my helmet. The only problem is, I live in San Francisco where the summer months are Mark Twain's equivalent of cold winters. When you can’t see the end of the street due to dense fog, and intense headwinds turn your flat roads into slog fests, it's easy to lose your cycling mojo.
Husband to the rescue. He planned a destination cycling weekend, also known as a credit card ride. We rode the California coastline from San Francisco to a little motel on the Sonoma coast, stayed overnight, and cycled back the next day. There's nothing like an adventure on new roads to inspire you to get back on your saddle and enjoy the ride.
Of course, it's not always feasible to take a weekend and devote it to cycling so here are a few more ways to ride away the cycling blues.
Mike Olzinski is an assistant coach with purplepatch Fitness, the coaching company founded by IRONMAN U Master Coach, Matt Dixon. He shares several ideas that will give you a fresh perspective on your next ride.
→ Tune out power and tune into technique. "The monotony of focusing on a certain power or pace can be mentally exhausting, so switch up your next ride and make it skills-based, practicing simple cycling drills that will boost your confidence and enjoyment of the bike."
→ Variety is the spice of the bike. "Stop riding at the same intensity. Integrate some intervals where you ride very easy and very hard to mix up your bike sessions. This can stimulate some different nerves and light up some areas in your brain that have been under-used and dormant."
→ Be social. "Few things motivate more than a group of like-minded individuals. Social riding, friendships, and stimulating conversations can be a magical way to get jazzed for your next ride as well as develop your cycling fitness. Use the social settings from your local bike shops, cycling and triathlon groups to find new cycling partners and fresh motivation for your next ride."
→ Sign up for a new event. "If you're newer to cycling, riding in groups may be a bit daunting, but you'll never learn if you don't even try. There are lots of beautiful, supported rides around the world of varying distances that will accommodate all levels of cyclists." Check out the Velothon series here.
Moira Horan is an IRONMAN Certified Coach and a Board Member of Women For Tri. She agrees with Olzinski that "ditching the data," whether it's power, pace, or heart race and heading out for a ride could be a great tonic. She also has a couple of other suggestions to find the joy in cycling again:
→ Try a new ride. "Don't mistake this idea for checking out a new cycling route; rather, try a different kind of bike. Get off that road or triathlon bike and get on a mountain bike and ride in the woods! Never ridden a fixed gear bike before? This may be a perfect time to try one—see if your local bike shop has one you could rent or demo, or borrow from a friend. Know anyone who has a tandem bike? It could be just the opportunity you need to introduce your significant other to the sport."
→ Pay it forward. "What better way to get excited about riding than seeing cycling through a beginner's eyes. Try paying it forward by organizing a beginner ride through a local bike or triathlon club. Sharing your skills and experience on a bike can open up a whole new appreciation for riding."
→ Check in with your coach. "Talk to your coach and ask them to take a fresh look at your training plan. Does your weekly schedule need to be changed up? Is it challenging enough? Is the schedule too predictable? Ask them to mix it up." (If you don't have a coach already check out How to Choose a Coach to get you started.)
British triathlete and IRONMAN Certified Coach, Darren Goswell, is a strong advocate of cycling "sportives" (also known as Gran Fondos and Velothons) as a way to add variety to your cycling. Like Olzinski, Goswell believes these organized rides are a great way to meet new riding partners, but he also points out that they eliminate route planning and other organizational aspects that you might do if organizing your own ride. Goswell also suggests that you play with cadence to mix up your ride.
→ Gear up and gear down. "Break rides up by focusing on different cadences through the ride. For example, you may spend a period of time focusing on higher cadences that you would naturally ride at over given terrain. You would follow this with a period of 'overgearing,' or riding at a lower cadence than you would normally select, and compare how your body responds."
Lifetime Fitness triathlon coach Joshua Wolf agrees, suggesting that 'bored cyclists' eschew the data and just get out and ride. As he notes, "sometimes we bog ourselves down with data: power, cadence, heart rate, speed, you name it…we lose touch of why we do this in the first place: to have fun!" Wolf also thinks group riding with road cyclists can help a triathlete get out of a cycling rut.
→ Roadie ride. "Jump into a group ride with road cyclists. You'll want a road bike for this one, but if you train primarily alone or with one buddy, getting into a big pack can restore some vigor, teach you new skills and improve your fitness."
Jordan Blanco is a multiple-time IRONMAN finisher, Kona qualifier, and writer living in San Francisco.