Kickstart Your New Year's Riding


, by Max Leonard

Photography by: Rena Schild

You may still be focusing on Christmas pudding, and the office parties may not quite be done, but now’s the time to begin thinking about riding into form in 2024. Here’s a few ways Strava can help.

Get outside

Some people love riding through the dark days of winter; others… don’t. Whichever side of the divide you fall, there is good evidence that, despite the many advances in training and technology, the classic tactic of stocking up on long, slow rides during the winter will help you build a stronger engine to power more intense, faster riding later in the year.

So why not head out, to return home smug in the knowledge that you’re putting money in the bank for the warmer days ahead?

While the mud and cold of your local ride may not measure up to summer on the Riviera, there’s plenty of satisfaction to be had, and strategies for making it bearable and even fun.

Photography by: Tobias Klein

Kit up well

Make sure, for example, that you kit up well. Cover your feet with warming oversocks or waterproof overshoes, depending on the conditions, and wear some good layers – but not so much to make you extra-sweaty with your exertions: that’s what gives you the chills when you stop. A bit of trial and error will help you find what works for your metabolism – and even the lightest gilet on top of other layers can make a big difference to your comfort when wind chill is a factor.

It’s not just clothing that counts. With more dirt and grit on the roads in winter, the chances of a puncture are higher, and the average person’s tolerance of long roadside stops lower. So take a good pump and an extra tube, plus a few patches to insure against the worst-case scenario of multiple flats. A reliable, packable toolset or multitool will also keep you riding if something goes wrong. And perhaps the biggest tip: mudguards are your friend. If your winter bike is a few hundred grams heavier, no matter: the goal is not to slim down but to keep moving. Clean your bike after you ride and you can monitor how it’s looking and avoid problems – as well as extending the life of your components.

RELATED: 6 Ways to Kit Up for Winter Riding

Join a Challenge

Riding with friends outside is a sure way of keeping you going, but whether you have on-the-road companions or not, Strava Challenges add an extra layer of motivation.

At this time of year, our go-to Challenge is Rapha’s Festive 500: every year since 2010, the British clothing company has been challenging riders to ride 500 kilometres (310 mi) between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, inclusive. With family and other commitments it can be difficult to find the time to ride an average of 62.5 kilometres (~40 mi) every day, but with over 300,000 people signed up, you’ll be in good company and surely find inspiration to keep the pedals turning.

Photography by: Colombo Nicola

Aside from the Festive 500, there’s a variety of distance-based and other Challenges to sign up to, with new ones added monthly.

Get mapping

Winter is the time to deepen your knowledge of your area: exploring every last nook and cranny of your local environs, and finding new sights and new routes, will help to maintain your enthusiasm, plus you’ll never be too far from home. Head to Strava Routes and scrutinise the map in detail: what about that road that goes left where you usually turn right? Or that trail close to home that might not work out on your road or gravel bike… might it just be worth a try?

Programme in some café stops, too, to take advantage of some coffee and cake. Not so fun on your own? Join a Strava Club to find local people to ride with.

Stay indoors!

Even the hardiest riders don’t want to head out every session. If you’ve had enough of the cold, or if you think IRL friends are over-rated, indoor training can be a great way of focusing on high-quality workouts. And with some of the sophisticated virtual indoor cycling systems it can be surprisingly sociable too.

Try something new!

The bike may be your focus, but there are plenty of other sports available. Strava supports more than 40 activities, from yoga to pickleball. Some, like Nordic skiing, may be more suitable for the season; others, stand-up-paddle boarding, less so unless you live in Hawaii. Even a family walk after Christmas lunch counts. So keep moving and enjoy the holidays!

Related Tags

More Stories