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Written for:  The Gainesville Times

By: Michael Crowder

     For the road cycling enthusiast the arrival of winter changes the way you approach your rides. The shorter days and colder temperatures make outdoor riding more difficult. Only the dedicated manage to keep getting their mileage in.

     The easiest way to maintain your fitness through the winter is by riding a trainer. Trainers come in many different types but the most popular units use your existing bike. The bike fits in a frame that provides resistance to the rear wheel.

     Video workouts are available for trainer use. They provide professionally designed workouts and decrease the boredom that can be associated with riding indoors. My personal favorite tape is called "suffer-rama".

     Riding outdoors presents several more challenges for cyclists. First is the weather. Cold temperatures and higher average precipitation force you to dress differently. A forty M.P.H. downhill run can be mighty chilly without the proper clothing.

     A rainstorm can make you hypothermic quickly. Proper rainwear is indispensable. Your local bike retailer can best equip you with the proper clothing.

     Unfortunately most of us have to go to work. For the average eight to fiver it is dark by the time they get home. High power headlights and taillights are commercially available for riding at night. The better units are expensive but the higher output provides an extra margin of safety.

     You also have to expect a higher number of mechanical difficulties in poor conditions. I seem to hit a lot of potholes after dark. A pothole is not friendly to a lightweight road bike. Be prepared for minor emergencies. A cell phone can be invaluable for the major ones.

     If you want to ride outdoors after dark it takes an entirely different mindset. Many of the automobiles you encounter have no idea how to react to a cyclist at night. While most pass with no trouble some cause extreme problems. From the large four-wheel drive trucks that will not yield one inch of pavement to the oblivious drivers talking on their phones, you cannot ride after dark without having a close call.

     Although winter provides more challenges for the cyclist, the true riders always manage to get in their miles. Riding a bike on the road during winter conditions is challenging at best. Inexperienced cyclists should get accustomed to riding during good conditions before setting out into winters teeth.

     For those who brave the cold and dark there is a great reward. Getting to listen to the other riders suck wind during the spring rides makes it all worthwhile.