Our MTB partners, The Contour Collective, have prepared this blog post in hope to help you find motivation to get out and about on your bike, even on those overcast days filled with showers.
Firstly we wanted to delve into a few benefits to help convince yourself that it’s worth pulling the front door behind you and leaving the house to ride, even while the weathers less than favourable outside. Some of these points have helped get us outside a few times.
The benefits of getting out and riding, whatever the weather:
- Keeping it social
Having literally just come in the door after a group road ride I can’t emphasise the joy I got from riding with others, getting pulled up some hills and enjoying a beer afterwards with mates. Admittedly it was a crystal clear night but you just can’t recreate a group ride without actually being in a group. The social side of biking will always get me out riding, especially when it’s raining.
- Improve your bike skills
Of course jumping on the turbo is going to be better than not riding at all but there’s lots of added value from actually getting on your bike, whether it’s your road bike, gravel bike or mountain bike you’ll reap the benefits. You might not consciously think about it but every ride you go on you’re improving your handling skills and getting far more than just aerobic fitness benefits; or anaerobic if you’re focused on some intervals. Being out there riding throws real obstacles, features and challenges at you which you just can’t replicate indoors so whether you’re working towards your first sportive or aiming for the top step of the Enduro World Series then these skills are all going to add up to make you a better bike rider. Who really wants to sit in a shed all the time anyway.
- Vitamin D
If you’re like me you probably spend a lot of time in front of a computer. This can certainly be hard in the summer but at least you may get some evening rides in and actually see the sun. Seasonal affective disorder can occur from a lack of serotonin in your system which you can get from natural light. With it affecting more than 2 million people in the UK heading out for a ride is a pretty fun way to help combat it.To get around this, and depending on your job and time available then maybe try to ge out during the week to ride to top up your Vitamin D. In some places in the world this can still be an issue and Vitamin D tablets have been recommended to keep the levels up. I try to block out an hour and a half in my work diary once a week during the day to get an hour of riding over lunch, throughout the year. It’s not much but sets me up for the afternoon well and is perfect for some intervals.
- Mental Health
This partly rolls on from the last point but the benefits of sport and being active are well proven to positively affect our mental health. It’s recommended that you should do 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, that you enjoy, so while you might hit that on an indoor trainer studies have shown that ‘green exercise’ can yield health benefits over and above other environments. Plus how nice is that feeling of rain hitting your face!
- Ride for Longer and Enjoy the Views
Time seems to pass so much quicker outside so you’re more likely to ride for longer. The benefit of changing views can help increase visual stimulation and keep it more engaging. There’s always a way of mixing up your route so why not pre-plan it and try something new. Just riding your ‘normal’ weekly route backwards might keep things fresh from time to time.
Advice on prepping for your potentially rainy ride:
Once you’re out there, whether it’s night or day, here’s a few ways to help keep you smiling; even when the elements are against you. At The Contour Collective we’re all for maximising comfort and minimising post ride efforts, especially when it comes to cleaning your bike and yourself. Here’s a few tips to help make it more appealing to ride in the rain.
- Kit up
Many of us stretch our budgets to get the best bike we can; however does that leave enough for making sure you’re kitted out for all conditions? There’s a few bits of kit we’d always invest in for winter whatever bike you’re riding. Winter specific gloves. This one’s particularly essential for road or gravel miles where the average speed is higher and the wind chill increases. We’re a big fan of neoprene options and in particular for mtb ones with a neoprene back and a more traditional front. Neoprene has some magical way of staying warm even when wet. Buffs - these come in all shapes and sizes with normal thin material or ones made partly with fleece. Either way carrying a few of these for your head or neck is a winner. Riding Trousers/Bibs. This one’s more mtb specific but it’s not unknown for us to throw a set on for our gravel rides. While some options out there are waterproof they’re typically too warm unless you’re on an ebike where the addition of a motor tends to keep your core body temperature down. The shower leg scrubbing is quickly eliminated and for this reason alone we’d recommend investing in a set of riding trousers. For Gravel or Road long leg bib thermals or just leg warmers are life savers and a good addition to your riding kit.
- Have your food and drink supplies at the ready!
Pack some food, even a hot drink and throw in a few extra layers too plus a first aid kit doesn’t go a miss. A spare buff can be a lifesaver when your body temperature drops. We often head out on a mtb ride with more than we actually need but it’s come in handy on more than a few occasions. We tend to opt for a backpack but many riders like the waist bag/bum bag. Opting for on-bike storage options can keep your pack weight down and a top tip we recommend is to pack extra gloves for the best riding comfort when it gets really wet.
- Keeping you and the bike clean
Firstly, throw a mudguard on. Most definitely a rear for the road and gravel bike and we’ve seen more people using them on the mountain bike recently with mudhugger being big advocates of the rear option. Front’s are a must on the mtb and are something we use all year round. You never know when things might rain, especially if you hail from the Northern regions of the UK. Secondly we would always encourage cleaning your bikes as soon as possible after a ride. It’s not just about keeping it clean, it's always significantly less effort than letting the bike dry in the garage before cleaning. There’s loads of great cleaning products out there specifically for bikes and many sprays and cleaners promise to add a layer of protection, where mud literally falls off. We’ll not touch on chains other than saying keeping on top of the cleaning here makes life a whole lot easier. Pro-active maintenance does have it’s benefits.
Alternative ways of keeping warm:
Over the years we've picked up a few ways of keeping warm beyond just good riding kit so we'll let you into a few secrets, just don’t tell too many others...
- Add some hot water to your water bottle. This in fact saves you energy. Your body uses energy to heat up cold water you drink to bring it to body temperature so while a refreshing icy drink can be sensational save this for the summer and head out with a comforting warm drink.
- Just keep moving - this is the best way of maintaining your body heat, so be sure to keep on moving and don't forget to maintain your energy levels with regular food at the same time.
- The Penguin. You’re probably wondering about this one but it’s been passed down from main British Cycling and Scottish Cycling training camps. Simply put your hands by your side and shake your shoulders up and down - it seems to work!
Now hopefully you can kit up and get out there and ride in the rain!
This was written by The Contour Collective who have over 50 years of riding and racing experience between them, have raced around the world in some of the harshest conditions (hot and cold) and have had to endure decades of Scottish riding conditions. You can keep up with us at the races by following us on Instagram or subscribing to our YouTube channel and if you see us, don’t be shy, say hi.