Abi Smith: Top Ten Tips for Cold Weather Bike Training

This women’s cycling blog from pro rider Abi Smith was first published on Voxwomen in March 2023. But as the winter has closed in around Europe we thought it would be good to read her tips for Cold Weather Training. Next season she will be joining Team DSM Firmenich Post NL

Enjoy her top tips:

Hi all – it seems like a long time since I last checked in, probably because it was! I’ve had a bit of a rough time health-wise in my first pro year, so took an early off season to get myself back to full health. I’ve since had a solid Winter of training at home to climb back up to fitness and can’t wait to get stuck into some more racing.

 

Photo: Michael Cullen. Training in the classic Yorkshire winter weather

I was lucky enough to jet off to California for Team Training Camp in December, and then to Australia for Tour Down Under in January. A quick review of the latter –

  • The positives: A great first race of the season for the team and for myself, a big turnaround from where I was this time last year. It was so nice to be ‘back’ and being active at the pointy end of the racing. 
  • The negatives: As is life, after every high comes a low. That pesty covid was back again, followed by a viral illness straight after, so I wasn’t able to race or train for about 3 weeks in February. However, I’m back now and it’s the big Strade Bianche up next before some Classics.  

 

Photo: Zac Williams. Racing at the Tour Down Under.

 

So yes here in the UK, since about October – and probably until about June – it’s a lot of cold, wet and miserable riding. And don’t be fooled, it may be March now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Spring is in the air yet. 

But don’t you all worry. You’re out on a cold, wet and miserable ride? You feeling a bit blue? Are you a bit blue? 

I’ve got you covered. Welcome to… Abi’s Top Ten Tips to Surviving Cold Weather Training:

 

Number 1: Layer up! Merino base layers, buff, headband – you name it. Personally I’d rather be a smidge too warm than too cold. Plus you can always take it off (or just practice your heat adaptation for the summer).

Number 2: Perhaps my favourite discovery this Winter has been mini handwarmers. I absolutely recommend this to those of us that are lizards. When even the thickest gloves are not enough, stick a couple of these in your mits and your hands will stay toasty hot for hours.

Number 3: Another good purchase has been a ‘bottle flask’. If the name wasn’t giving you any clues, it’s a flask shaped as a water bottle, so you can warm your insides with a hot cuppa (Yorkshire) tea without having to wait ‘til you’re home. 

Number 4: Do NOT stop for more than one minute if you can help it. Practice your race-pace toilet stop, get off and on as quick as you can. Hurry up or you’ll miss the convoy! 

Number 5: You don’t have to sacrifice the beloved café stop, but sometimes it’s best to have it at or very near home. Don’t stop for it mid-ride, your icicle legs will snap when you try to turn the pedals again. 

Number 6: Clean your bike after every ride. Worst part of the job but must be done. There’s a lot of salt, farm muck, oil and other unmentionable things out on the roads. Even if it’s dry, all of that will get clogged up in your bike and make the parts wear away real quick. It’s worth looking after your trusty steed. 

Number 7: If you’re on your own give someone your location (I use Find my Friend or WhatsApp), or at least make sure someone knows where you’re going. You never know when that triple puncture day might hit. You’ve not had it yet? It’ll come. 

Number 8: Always have lights on and wear bright clothes. Even if it’s a bright sunny day it’s better to be safe than sorry. I wear clear or low light lenses a lot of the time too, just for extra visibility. Even if it means everyone can see your pain face… 

Number 9: Bring the morale snacks. Oreos are a popular choice; can’t go wrong with pack of jelly babies either. 

Number 10: And finally – if icy, just be sensible. Main roads only and / or head out later in the day to let it melt a little. And if it really is THAT bad, you can always swap it for a rest day and wait for a better day to head out. Or, if you must must must ride TODAY… well… the only option remaining is the dreaded turbo. Or a rest day and a hot chocolate. 

So that’s the list! Hopefully some of it might be helpful to you guys. Or maybe I’m just silly for riding outside all the time. But as I said, it might be getting warmer now, but you never know with the weather…

 

Racing earlier in the year at the Tour Down Under. Photo: Zac Williams. 

 

You may ask why I don’t live abroad – somewhere warm and sunny perhaps? In fact, we’ve just bought a house up here in the North of the UK (a story for another time…) so I’m very much staying put for the time being.

I won’t rule out moving abroad in the future, but I do like having my friends, family and favourite roads close by. I’ve built up a great support network here and it really feels like home to me. All be it a cold, wet and miserable a lot of the time!

Find me on Instagram at @abijesmith and abijesmith.art to keep up to date with what I’m getting up to, I’ll be back with another blog for you soon 😊

Thanks for reading,

Abi 

Abi Smith will race for Team dsm-firmenich PostNL in 2024 and 2025. In December 2022 she wrote about the art of the off season. What do professional cyclists get up to in the colder months?

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