Yep, it’s that time where holiday baked goods quiver in fear inside their tins, and meals are no longer calorie counting affairs, but rather a gluttonous undertaking of epic proportions. Hello fat pants, oh how we’ve missed you.
Gone are the days of carefully monitoring wattage and heart rate, and so are the days of interval training and hammer rides. Welcome to the days of off-season base miles—a time to say goodbye to the big ring for a few months and hello to some long, easy miles in the saddle.
Unfortunately, if you don’t take the proper precautions, base miles can get a bit boring—fast. So, before you let your winter miles sink into an apathetic obscurity, here’s a few suggestions to liven up your next ride. (Some of which may or may not have come from personal experience.)
Repetition is boredom’s best friend, so before you head out on yet another lap of your standard long loop, you’d be well served to blaze a new trail. Climb that hill you’ve never climbed. Find a way out to that fire road you’ve seen snaking throughout the local foothills. Heck, venture into that biker bar out on the old highway for a mid-ride cold one and mix it up with a 6’ 4” behemoth in a leather jacket who goes by the name of Tiny. Just don’t challenge him to a game of pool. Tiny always wins at pool. Always.
To add some variety to your riding, don’t be afraid to ride a little dirt. Yes, on your road bike. Skinny tires weren’t always destined for pavement-only duty. Just think of how many paved roads pre-date the advent of the bicycle—here’s a hint: not many. Early bikes cut their teeth on a hearty diet of dirt and gravel, so why not revisit cycling’s roots with a little dirt adventure of your own?
I recommend a road bike and the slickest tires you have—a recipe sure to make you’re ride all the more interesting—but if you must, don’t feel bad about breaking out the ‘cross bike for such an adventure. Just make sure the route is worthy of being called as such.
Just carry an extra tube or three and be on the lookout for any ‘No Trespassing’ signs—Lycra, while great at managing heat and perspiration, is a poor defense against a round of buckshot.
Yes. You read the title correctly. Sure, getting wet is a tough pill to swallow for some, but it can be a great way to mix up your ride. Whether it’s heading out into a squall, fording a creek or even a mid-ride skinny-dip in the lake, sometimes a soggy chamois can be just the ticket for a good time. (Just don’t read too far into that one folks.) As kids, playing in the rain was some of the best fun available—provided Mom let you do it, of course. Well now, the same holds true for riding in the rain, except Mom can’t say no. (If indeed she still can, then it might be a good time to think about finally moving out, her cooking can’t be that good.)
It’s easy to lose sight of just how many things are possible on a bike when you’re occupied with the singular goal of training. Sometimes we forget what a liberating tool the bike can be, so next time you hop on a saddle, take a second to remind yourself that every ride can be an adventure, and that base miles can be much, much more than just the foundation of this year’s training plan.
P.S. Tell Tiny I say hello.
Kevin Rouse may have been a bit late to the bike-riding party, but he’s certainly making up for lost miles. Having discovered cycling while studying journalism at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, he enjoys long days in the saddle whenever—and however—he can get them. You can usually find him on two wheels, but if not, you’d be well served to check the nearest coffee shop.