Tips to Boost Training After Daylight Savings Time Ends


Darkness is coming! Saturday night we turn the clocks back an hour, gain an hour of sleep, and lose an hour of sunlight at the end of each day. For early-morning exercisers, the return to standard time is a welcome change. For those who rely on afternoon or after-work for training, earlier sunsets make training more challenging. As Daylight Savings Time ends, here are some tips to keep training through the darkness.

Light up

Over the past year I have grown increasingly convinced front flashers and rear blinkers should be used on all rides, at any time of day. They have become so small, powerful, and unobtrusive you’ll barely notice they’re there. But they absolutely help drivers and pedestrians notice you! As the days get shorter, I recommend investing in a more powerful headlight for navigation, not just safety. For either commuting or night mountain bike rides I like to have a light that can pump out at least 750 lumens. Generally speaking, get a headlight more powerful than you might normally need. You can always use a lower light setting, but if you need more light it’s good to have that option.

Layer up

It’s time to break out the booties, warm gloves, and beanies! Workouts and commutes turn miserable rapidly when your feet, hands, and/or head get chilled. If you start out an afternoon ride and know the temperatures are going to drop significantly while you’re out, carry layers but don’t put them on immediately. Add layers as the temperature drops. When you overdress while it’s still warmer, those layers get wet with sweat and are far less helpful when the temperature drops.

To help you make good clothing decisions, here’s a temperature-based guide to layering.

In addition to the normal shorts, socks, helmet, glasses, etc.:

  • 30-40 degrees: thermal base layer, long sleeve jersey, wind or thermal jacket, full-length leg warmers, cap that covers ears, insulated gloves and booties.
  • 40-50 degrees: base layer, long-sleeve jersey, full-length leg warmers, cycling cap or skull cap, full-finger gloves, wind-resistant booties (optional)
  • 50-60 degrees: base layer, long-sleeve jersey or jersey and arm-warmers, knee warmers, shoe covers (optional)
  • 60-65 degrees: base layer, jersey and arm warmers, knee warmers
  • 65 +: base layer, jersey

Brighten up

That murdered out kit with the murdered out black on black bike sure looks cool, but it sucks for visibility. However, because I remember 1980s fashion trends, I still have an aversion to fluorescent yellow. Nonetheless, it’s probably a good thing hi-vis apparel is cool again. If you thought no one saw you in broad daylight, you can be doubly sure they’re not even looking for you in the dark.

Toughen up

Training and commuting in the cold and dark is like jumping into a cold swimming pool. It’s kind of miserable to think about, and it sucks for the first couple minutes, but then you get used to it and end up having a ton of fun. Don’t be squeamish about it, just layer up, light up, and get out there. Once you have a few cool-weather rides under your belt you’ll toughen up and get on with it.

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Set up your trainer

Between a broken collarbone and shorter afternoons, I’ve been on the trainer more in the last few weeks than I have been all year. For me, pairing a Wahoo KICKR smart trainer with Zwift has been a complete game-changer for indoor cycling. You can train effectively on a fluid trainer, mag trainer, or rollers, but a smart trainer adds a level of versatility and engagement that helps make indoor training more appealing.

One of the ways I fit in longer rides in the afternoon or early evening (when I don’t have a broken collarbone) is to ride outdoors for an hour or so and then finish my ride on the trainer. Depending on the workout I either do my intervals outside (e.g. 2-4 minute uphill VO2 max intervals) or put in some miles at endurance or Tempo intensity and then complete lactate threshold intervals (e.g. 3×12 minute SteadyState) indoors on the trainer. Either way, I fulfill my desire to get outside and I can complete a longer training session without needing to be out there long enough to freeze my butt off.

Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS

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Comments 11

  1. Chris, great article and thanks. Do you have any suggestions for us runners that love to run throughout the year? I live in Michigan and the temperature has really plummeted this November, and we have at least another 4 months of winter to endure!

    Take care and keep these awesome articles coming our way!

    Sincerely, Frado

  2. Also Bruce, my light protect me in several ways other than just being seen. They keep the “creep’O’s” out of my way on those dark freaky bike paths. I would hope that police officer pulls that driver texting on the phone while driving before pulling the cyclist over for protecting themselves. (Just say’en!)

  3. Have you seen the headlights on most vehicles especially trucks?They are so very blinding. So with the true fact, that there is no competition, between the automobile and a cyclist. The automobile always wins. I will always use my front flashing lights. Let alone the front flashing lights make every street sign flash at least 100 yards up the road. Yes it’s an eye catcher and thats what is supposed to do. Catch your eye! ,)

  4. In many places those front flashers are illegal and for good reason – they blind approaching riders and drivers. The flashing makes it hard to determine approaching speed unlike a steady light. Get a steady light that doesn’t shine above the level of your handlebars.

  5. What I am curious about is a training plan that would generate FTP increase over the winter with only 4-6 hours of available time a week and no trainer ride longer than 1 hour. I find on the out of doors on my fat bike it is hard to get sustained periods of high intensity going because of terrain and other things so it is at best sub threshold intensity with a few intense short climbs… any suggestions for this sort of time crunched planning?

  6. I am very much in concert with Chris about the small lights and using them during the day. The one that I have wraps around the stem and weighs approximately one once. The brightness is highly visible and it helps me help those drivers that are miopic at best.👍🇺🇸🚴

  7. Smart trainers seem great but expensive. I had already invested in a power meter and with my 100 fluid trainer and about 35 dollars for a cable and an ant + dongle I am Zwifting. 1000 dollars is a huge barrier and so far this has been a great way to experiment with the “smart” side.

  8. The reality is that many of us ride in temperatures colder than 30-40 degrees. I Ride into the upper teens and I know people who ride at temps near 20 below. You really have to step up your clothing game and be particularly aware of your extremeties “read hands and feet” with outer shells, wool socks, winter boots like 45 North and Bontrager that accept SPD style cleats and warmer gloves, lobster claw gloves or mittens that at times include liners and a shell.

    My biggest challenge is keeping my feet warm and I have yet to try chemical foot warmers, but they are an option as well. Once my feet become cold I am pretty much done, because they don’t warm up for hours.

    My hands on the other hand take a long time to warm up, sometimes taking up to an hour to warm up, but once they do so are fine for the balance of the ride.

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