We here in Central Texas have a nice advantage over many other places during the winter. It never really gets too cold to bike. Oh, we moan about chilly weather, as in the case of last Sunday’s ride, but our conditions that day would have been welcomed in, say, Iowa.
So when I got home from work today, the first thing I wanted to do was jump on the bike. It wasn’t even chilly today — 66 degrees (19C) at 4 p.m. I added a pair of arm warmers to my usual summer bike clothes, and hit the road.
I stuck to a familiar route through the neighborhood, knowing that I wouldn’t be out for much longer than an hour. Wide suburban streets with little traffic. But I didn’t feel the need to push it. Instead, I settled into an easy, steady pace, and pretty much maintained it for the entire ride.
Because even though our winter is mild, it’s still a time to relax on the bike. No need to ride as hard as possible, or to do intervals, or to maintain an average speed above a certain mark. Winter is recovery time — time to build the base for the upcoming season.
Instead of speed, I concentrated on more mundane things, like keeping a steady pedal cadence, making sure I applied even pressure to the pedals throughout the stroke (“pedaling in a circle”), and keeping my heels down on the pedals. I never breathed hard during the ride, and don’t expect to do much hard breathing for several more weeks.
At the Veloway, I passed several guys decked out in racing kit as they faffed around at the start of the track. Midway through my second lap, I rounded a hairpin turn and saw one of them gaining on me fast. Soon, he zipped by me with a friendly “Hi!” I think he would have been glad of some company, but I just let him go (I never did figure out where his two buddies got to). I checked my watch, realized it was time to head home, and did so, getting passed in a two and a half mile stretch by three more cyclists.
A couple of years ago, I took a cycling clinic at the onset of winter, and all we did was pedal in Zone 2 (That’s slow and easy riding, where the heart rate doesn’t get elevated much). The clinic leaders explained that while it’s tempting to ride faster, we need to resist the urge for awhile, and let our bodies recover from the hard riding we’d done in the spring, summer and fall.
I wasn’t maintaining Zone 2 on this ride, because I did pedal strongly up an easy hill or two. And when I got home, with 18 miles on the computer, I was once again surprised (this shouldn’t surprise me anymore, because it happens frequently) that my average speed was 15.8 mph. Riding easy will still get you from Point A to Point B in good time.
I’m looking forward to taking it easy for another four or five weeks.