Question: I’m in Louisiana. It’s not cold here. It doesn’t snow. Winter riding should be easy. But the early darkness is killing me. I feel like it’s dangerous to ride when it’s dark. Worse, not riding on weekdays makes me feel sedentary and I can’t get motivated to ride even on weekends. How can I deal with this? — Mike P.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Roadies hate early darkness more than most other active people.
Mountain bikers can ride trails using headlights and not worry about getting driven over. Joggers can run on sidewalks lit by streetlights. Darkness doesn’t matter in the weight room, swimming pool or basketball court. But riding a road bike after sunset is risky.
Solution: Make yourself look like a Christmas tree on wheels.
Invest in a good bike lighting system. A high-quality headlight will let you ride safely as fast as you like, and it will catch the eye of oncoming drivers, too.
Add a bright LED taillight. Good ones can be seen for half a mile. Wear reflective IllumiNITE clothing or apparel with reflective material. (At Interbike this year, RBR noted that more big-name clothing makers are focusing their attention on “be seen” clothing, which is a welcome trend.)
If you’ll be riding your beater bike, adorn it with reflective tape and put a piece on top of the rim between each spoke.
When you’re brightly lit and reflectorized, you’re likely to find that drivers slow down and pass with more room to spare than they do in daylight hours.
There are other training options
If you’re not convinced, you can ride indoors. Sure it’s boring, but it’s also very effective training if you use a program rather than just sit there and grind away.
Or you could take up a cross-training sport that isn’t light-dependent. That’s not a bad idea in winter when a break from cycling will refresh you physically and mentally. You’ll be raring to go on the bike when the sun starts staying up longer.
Finally, remember that some people are subject to SAD, seasonal affective disorder. It sounds like you may be experiencing this.
When natural light is limited, depression and apathy set in. The solution is to get outdoors in the middle of the day as often as possible. Can you ride at lunch? Or even take a 30-minute walk? That would help a lot if you’re afflicted with SAD.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.