Published: 13 November 2013
Report: Oisin Sands
Sportive Bloggers Homepage
Plummeting mercury and rising damp means a bleak forecast and blank calendar for sportive cyclists - at least if you're hoping to keep your tyres on tarmac.
Dig a little deeper through the mulch though and there are a few truffles of consolation to be unearthed - cyclocross events, warm-weather training camps overseas and even a sprinkling of late-season sportives for the hardcore. Take the Wight Winter Sportive for example, a 64-mile loop around the south-west of the island with mince pies and hot drinks to keep the chills at bay.
Missing the summer sunshine? Ibiza is nice this time of year: winter in the Balearics means 23 degree temperatures, perfect cycling conditions and a lively post-ride party scene. Velo Club Ibiza are just one of several local outfits who offer guided cycle tours and will hire you a bike and kit - handy if you're loath to entrust your pride and joy to the airline baggage handlers.
For those of us stranded in Blighty, indoor training is a tried and tested way of putting the miles in. Hook your bike to a turbo trainer and, like the miller's daughter in the fairy tale of Rumplestiltskin, spin yourself some gold-standard legs from those pasty winter straws...
If spinning your nights away in front of the telly loses its lustre, put those idle hands to work with a bit of bike maintenance. Wintry roads, awash with grit and salty sludge, play havoc with your bike's delicate bits so chances are the annual bath is in order. Check those chains and cassettes for wear while you're at it - winter can be a good time to get in replacement parts, as bike retailers start their end-of-season sales.
Or why not while away the dark nights building up a winter training bike? Sourcing and assembling a frame and parts is a rewarding experience; you'll learn how your bike works and gain some useful skills, maybe even a rideable bike at the end of it. A few days ago I found a Raleigh shopper folding bike abandoned next to a dumpster, and took it home in the car as a fixer-upper. The whole journey home my mind was ablaze with the possibilities as the rusting bike clanked in the back seat behind me. I won't be tackling l'Etape on it, but a bike can be accessory to more than one kind of adventure - take inspiration from these guys, who carried inflatable dinghies on their Bromptons to explore the Shetlands. Winter is a time for dreaming and scheming.
Of course, for some of us the winter doesn't herald the close of the season at all. For the pros, off season is ending now and their dreaming is sublimated into hard training for next year. Take my adopted pro, Felix English for example - I was pleased to see him back on Strava this week, putting in a gentle training ride after a long leave of absence.
For some, winter means relaxing, indulging, telling tall tales of high deeds round the fireside. Did I ever tell you about the time our Felix beat Sir Chris Hoy in a track sprint? But for the true addicts among us, winter's just another Strava segment in the Gran Fondo of life. So pull on your thermals and your hi-vis gilet, and let's savour the season.