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Just like bears coming out of hibernation, cyclists undergo a similar transition as we detach our bikes from the trainers and emerge from the basements that served as pain caves all winter. The off-season can be a particularly tough time for us as outdoor miles are often limited, and this can lead to feeling unproductive or a loss of fitness. Spring represents a new cycling season—a fresh start of sorts—and is generally filled with long, liberating days in the saddle, followed by longer afternoons catching up on the spring classics (Sagan-Roubaix repeat, anyone?).
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But despite finally getting to ride outdoors after a long winter, spring isn’t without its own set of challenges. Besides shaking out the legs, early-season rides might also include dealing with allergies or surviving an unexpected downpour. Don’t let these issues deter you from getting out there—here are a few ways to make the most of your spring cycling season.
Dealing with Allergies
First, know what’s causing your allergies. Is it the mold spores in wet, woody areas, pollen from trees and grasses, or exercise-induced? You can get tested by an allergist to find out what you’re allergic to and how sensitive you are, says Stanley Fineman, M.D., a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “Know what conditions will make your symptoms flare can help you avoid a lot of grief,” he says.
If pollen or mold is the issue, we recommend riding in the evening or after a rain to reduce your exposure. You can also check sites like weather.com and pollen.com to check the local allergen forecast—if the levels in your area are too high, it might be safer to opt for an indoor spin instead (woof, we know).
Knowing what sets off your symptoms can also help you take preventative measures before heading outside. “If your symptoms aren’t too bad and only warrant an ‘as needed approach,’ taking an oral antihistamine like Allegra, Zyrtec, or Claritin at least one to two hours before a ride may be a good enough strategy for you,” says David Erstein, M.D., a New York-based allergist and immunologist.
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Surviving the Rain
While spring can offer great ride temperatures, the shoulder season’s weather patterns can be unpredictable. Even if you checked the weather before you headed out the door, you might occasionally find yourself caught in the rain miles from home. The important thing here is to be prepared before you’re in a less-than-ideal situation. Pack your cell phone in a Ziploc bag or waterproof phone case to prevent water damage, carry a lightweight and packable waterproof jacket to keep your core dry and warm, make sure your headlight and taillights are fully charged, and throw a cycling cap and gloves in your jersey pocket for extra warmth on the go.
Once you’re mid-downpour, avoid riding through any standing water or on the painted lane lines, and be especially aware of distracted drivers. We also advise slightly dropping your tire pressure to increase traction on the wet road surfaces. Once you’re home, it’s critical to take care of your bike to prevent excessive wear and tear.
No matter if you’ve been Zwifting away on an indoor trainer or you left your bike neglected in the garage all winter, be sure to thoroughly examine your bike before you start your spring training. Replace your tires, lube your chain, check your brake pads, and make sure all the bolts are tight on your stem and headset. Take your bike on a quick spin around the block and run through the gears to make sure it’s shifting properly, too.
If all this sounds like a hassle, drop your bike off at your LBS and have them take care of it for you. It’s better to be proactive and get a proper tune-up so you’re not stranded on the side of the road with a mechanical.
Building Better Endurance, Safely
Once spring rolls around, it’s not like everyone will just wake up and suddenly have 20 hours to spare for low-intensity rides. According to coach Jeb Stewart, C.S.C.S., owner of the online coaching company Endurofit, “you can get the same amount of training stress in a 90-minute tempo interval workout as you can in a three-hour endurance ride.” If you’re crunched for time (who isn’t?), build your fitness foundation with his four-week plan.
Added bonus: The fast-pedaling intervals will help improve pedaling efficiency while increasing workout intensity. Win, win, win.