When I was enjoying the quietude and long views of winter on a recent ride, my mind wandered to a popular song from last year that captured the spirit and intent of my riding this time of year: "All About that Base," by Meghan Trainor (who just won a Best New Artist Grammy last week).
OK, so any of you who might have heard that song on the radio knows that it's actually waxing (unpoetically) about a certain attribute of the female anatomy. But I'm stealing it for the purposes of cycling anyway.
For the past couple of months, my riding has, indeed, been "all about that base." Because of a super-busy holiday schedule to end the year, combined with a nasty illness and some equally nasty weather, I've found myself off the bike, and working out indoors, more than I would have liked. So my winter riding has been even more focused on base-building than it normally is.
But I've actually enjoyed it quite a lot, by really focusing on a few aspects that get lost (or are simply not there) during the harder rides in-season.
If you're slogging through your winter base rides, take a moment to try to focus on the positives that this time of year can deliver.
Revel in the Solitude and Quietude
On solo rides, especially, if you're lucky enough to ride somewhere with little or no traffic, you'll notice just how much quiter it can seem in the winter. For one thing, if you happen to ride where people (and cars) flock in warmer weather, chances are good there will be far fewer folks around in the winter months. Focusing on that quiet, and on enjoying the solitude of rolling through time with only your thoughts and senses free to take it all in can make for a really unique riding experience.
Enjoy the Winter Scenery
Part of the special sensory experience for me, living in a very forested area, is what I call the "long views" of winter. By that I mean the unique ability to "see through" and deep into the woods. The lack of foliage affords a completely different view of the surroundings. At Stone Mountain Park, for instance, you can see the granite monolith through the trees in numerous spots where you'll only see green spring thorugh fall. And wide open spaces seem to be even more expansive in winter. I love the different feel and look of the season.
Leave Your Devices at Home
Because you're working on building your base miles – just riding for the sake of riding, in effect – focus on the pure enjoyment of being out on your bike. Now is not the time to be concerned about any metrics other than "It's great to be out today." If the weather has allowed you to commune with your bike and get your ride on, well, do just that! Don't bother with your heart rate strap. Consider leaving your computer at home (unless you really must record your exact mileage). The time for ramping things up is just around the corner. But base building is a more relaxed time, with no real need to measure or pay attention to minute detail. Just ride. Enjoy. Repeat.
Catch Up on the Chit-chat with Your Buddies
This is a great time of year to have more expansive conversations with your riding buddies. Think about it, you're not busting a hump to keep up with anybody or put down a pace to try to dust anyone. You're perfectly happy just turning the pedals and enjoying all that great scenery. And you should be doing it at a "conversation pace" anyway. You'll surely have less opportunity to chit-chat when things get more serious on faster group rides and such later in the season. So take the opportunity to catch up on things and maybe engage in some deep discussion now while you can.
Stop for a Coffee or Lunch
Another thing you may be less inclined to do, or have less time for, in season is stopping for coffee or lunch during a ride. In addition to socializing and enjoying some nourishment, a hot beverage and the chance to get warmed up inside may be just the ticket to helping extend your ride vs. beating it home because of the cold. Many roadies, of course, make coffee stops and lunch part of their regular routine. But if you don't, treat yourself during base-building time. You may like it so much that it does become a regular part of your riding.