Journey(wo)man: Finding Winter Motivation

Real talk: I’d be lying if I started this off saying I’ve been training my very hardest in the lead-up to my first 100-miler, now just five weeks away. This is my first winter being a “cyclist,” and the colder-and-snowier-than-normal Colorado winter has affected my motivation to spend time on the bike outside.

When I think about what I would like to say to all of my fellow beginner cyclists out there, I wish I was crafting this to tell the story about how the cold didn’t bother me and I’ve been crushing my training. But to be honest, it has been really stinkin’ hard to get my butt into high gear and get outside.

Maybe I’m making excuses, or maybe it is a legitimate thing, but I do really believe being a beginner is impacting my drive to get time in the saddle. While I have been told that the first and most important step to finding motivation during times like these is putting a race or goal on the calendar, that simply hasn’t been enough. I’m still building confidence on my bike. I’m still figuring out how to dress. I’m still figuring out where to ride. And I’m still figuring out how to train. So with all of that on my mind, and my weather app reading 17 degrees, it has been very easy to say “nah” and avoid tackling all of those learning pools, while also avoiding windburn and dry, chapped skin.

Thankfully, I have a ton of experienced riders as coworkers and friends, so I tapped into them for advice. Here is what they provided me:

  • Set a goal or put a race on your calendar. Looking ahead to something in the near future should motivate you.
  • Make it social. Winter is more about base miles and endurance rather than high intensity, so enjoy some good, social rides with friends and join group rides. Misery loves company!
  • You never regret the ride after the fact (it’s just easy to come up with excuses).
  • Outside is always more fun than the trainer. Winter riding will prepare you for dealing with inclement weather, which is critical.
  • Invest in the right gear and have it prepped before ride time. There are several pieces that go into a winter kit, so having everything laid out before you plan to ride makes it easier and holds you a little more accountable.

I have a cycling network but not necessarily many female friends to ride with, so not all of this advice is easy to take. A huge part of me wants to join group rides but I feel intimidated because I ride solo all the time and don’t actually know what my skill level or pace is or should be. But that’s a terrible excuse, so here’s to bucking up—the next time you hear from me, I solemnly swear to have attended a group ride!

Regarding winter gear: nothing could be truer than the “Invest in the right gear” advice above. On a few early rides, I wore leggings over my chamois shorts and double-layered my socks, yet my feet went numb, my chamois was not comfortable, and the ride kind of sucked. I’ve said this in previous posts and I’ll say it again: cycling is a monetary investment. We can pretend that it doesn’t need to be and talk about inexpensive ways to ride, but I’m learning that if you really want to enjoy your time out there, the right gear is super important. I did go out and purchase cold-weather gear, and tried to stick with the “basics,” which include:

-       Shoe or toe covers

-       Thermal arm warmers

-       Full-length leg warmers

-       Ear warmers

-       Neck gaiter or buff

-       Gloves (I personally prefer standard running gloves over cycling gloves, as they feel more comfortable on my hands)

-       Wool socks (the most critical piece for me)

Sticking to that list helped mitigate my spending on gear but completely changed my outdoor riding. The wind cut through me a little less; my face, hands, and ankles stopped getting as chapped; and I felt really comfortable out there.

The last thing that has helped me in this winter funk is spending time on the trainer. I know—trainers are not the same as riding outdoors. But when it is ridiculously cold or the gravel is muddy from snow melt, there is no excuse to not hop on the indoor trainer. To make it a bit more enjoyable, I’ve taken some performance-based spin classes at my local Life Time club. It’s only one hour on the bike, but that’s better than zero hours on the bike. Plus, I think my spin classes have made me a more solid outdoor rider. I’ve found myself naturally getting out of my saddle on ascents, pedaling at a faster cadence and with a stronger pedal stroke. I’ll also just hop on the spin bike solo and pedal hard for two hours. I think that has improved my mental toughness and strength in suffer-mode, and from what I’ve heard that is a huge part of the game in long rides and races.

I regret how little time I’ve spent in the saddle outside. Maybe I’m being hard on myself—I’ve done a handful of 40+ mile rides in over the last month and a half, plus two or three days a week on the trainer. But we all know that’s not enough for 100 miles in Oklahoma in five weeks.

My coworker’s advice is true: you never regret the ride once it is over. So it’s time to saddle up, put my big girl chamois on, and get after it! With five weeks to go, it ain’t over yet!

Follow along with the rest of my journey at @womenrtw and #journeyto100. You can also find me on the ‘gram at @meeeshyd if you want to pick my brain with any questions!



Michelle Duffy is the Assoc. Marketing Director of Life Time Off-Road Events, including the Dirty Kanza. She is on her own personal journey to ride 100 miles, after picking up cycling in September of 2019, with a goal of inspiring beginners, particularly women, to feel more comfortable on the saddle and in the cycling community. Salsa is supporting her journey and has provided her with a Journeyman to take along the ride.



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