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  • Writer's pictureStars and Spokes

Sep 2020. The winter season is upon us.

Time to get the 'big lights' out

The leaves have started to fall, the rains have arrived and the temperature is dropping – but the enthusiasm isn’t (ish)! The start of the winter cycling season has arrived. Expected fashion trends for the Autumn Winter 2020 (AW20) collection likely to include:

  • Mud guards. This go to item is an absolute must have in any collection. As funny as I find it to spend endless hours spraying Dan with water from my rear tyre during rides, I also cycle with club mates who find this less funny.

  • Big lights. High lumen lights are due to be on trend this season, think bright and sparkly. My signature piece will be a 1000 lumen front light (aka ‘The Sun’), which is sure to avoid me disappearing down a Surrey Hills pothole during darkness. Hopefully.

  • Overshoes. Neoprene is set to be big this AW20 season, the go to material for any cyclist keen to avoid trench foot in the coming months. Black is the likely to be the colour to be seen in this year, in the absence of any other colour options actually being available….

  • Helmet. Clearly a year round staple, we’ve opted to go bright white for the AW20 season, in an attempt to further increase our visibility to London bus drivers.

  • Brake pads. And so on to accessories. With plenty of colour options to choose from, brake pads are a great way to liven up any AW20 outfit. Whether you go with red, yellow, or good ol’ black, we’ve replaced pads throughout with a view to avoiding death on upcoming wet rides.

  • High Vis Jacket. I’m sorry, that’s too far.

We have officially made the transition to winter riding this month. Long gone are the carefree rides of the summer months, feeling the sun on our backs and enjoying the ability to stop our bikes within 20m when pulling on the brake levers. Instead replaced by hours of riding without feeling in hands and feet, in vain attempts to dry out during the obligatory coffee/cake stops, and clinging on to brake levers in the hope of slowing our bikes down during wet weather downhill descents.

However, there is huge benefit to continuing to ride outdoors throughout the winter, it builds a vital element of distance cycling. Mental strength. It helps you develop the coping strategies required to get the miles done when you would actually far rather sit indoors with a cup of tea and pack of jaffa cakes (just us? Though not…!). For our ride, we will be riding day in, day out, often on tired legs and in challenging conditions – simply not getting the miles done is just not an option. Whilst clearly cycling is a physical activity, the mind is very much part of that.

Ridin' in the rain

Furthermore, the alternative is to spend hours on a turbo trainer indoors, whilst looking at a Zwift screen. That is just not appealing to us, we ride our bikes as a way to interact with the amazing outdoor world that surrounds us, whatever the weather. In our lives, particularly during the recent period of COVID lockdown, we spend enough time staring at screens. Cycling is our escape from this world, we don’t want it to be an extension of it. Plenty of cyclists swear by the Zwift approach, and each to their own of course, whatever works for you – but it is just not ‘our jam’. We want to test ourselves physically in the process, feel the wind and rain on our faces.

On the subject of preparation, this in area that the military excels at. Within the Royal Navy, we are blessed with world class medical support and facilities, employed to support personnel operating in harsh environment (whether that be on frontline operations, or for expeditions such as ours). With that in mind, Dan and I will be heading down to visit the Institute of Naval Medicine (INM) in October, the lead centre for expedition support in the military. During our visit, we will meet with our expedition support team (sport scientists, nutritionist, expedition doctor) in order to build our training programme for the upcoming 10 months. These specialists will develop a schedule that will see us arrive in San Diego next July in peak condition, best prepared to tackle the 5000 km cycle across the USA.

More to follow in coming months, regarding the sports science support we will be getting. Apparently they have lined up multiple VO2 Max tests (all out effort on the bike, basically until you pass out!) for us, to check our progress. Oh dear.

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