Winter Base Miles

Winter Base Miles

Now that it’s February, our winter rest is over. We are starting to build a base for the coming cycling season. That means riding long distances at a moderate pace.
It can be hard to get going for these rides. It’s easy to be discouraged by the cold weather. On the bike, I feel out of shape – as I should be after the winter rest. To top it off, the flat roads on which we start our base miles are a bit boring for me.
Yet these are the most important rides of the year. In years when I skipped the base miles, my season was hobbled by injuries and/or by sub-par performance. Like farmers preparing the soil and sewing their seeds, riding the base miles lays the foundation for the new season.
This is when I appreciate having great friends with whom I can ride. Not only do we remind each other that it’s time to ride, but the company makes the rides much more enjoyable. Riding with cyclists whom I can trust is important. We know exactly what the others will do, so there is none of the constant yelling “Hole!” “Sand!” “Post!” that you hear on organized rides. Instead, we can focus our conversations on any topic that comes to mind: politics, work, philosophy, randonneuring, current events…
As we roll along, we catch glimpses of the distant snow-capped mountains through the clouds, reminding us of the roads we will cycle once summer is back. These “base mile” rides are becoming fun in their own right.
We enjoy visiting places that we don’t frequent during the summer months, when we ride more challenging routes. On cold days, a stop at a bakery is always welcome, but we also know that we don’t want to linger too long, lest our legs get cold and stiff.
And on the way home, we make plans for the next ride. As our form improves and the snow recedes, we soon will begin to frequent our favorite roads again.

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Comments (22)

  • fosterrice

    I’m curious what you consider to be good mileage, pace, and frequency for base-riding? I’m in the Midwest and hoping to participate in my first 200km brevets with the Great Lakes Randonneurs in (relatively flat) Wisconsin in May and June. I’m in decent shape and have been trying to stay in form by bike commuting (9miles each way, ~2x/week) and climbing the stairs to my office (13 floors) but I’ve never done anything longer than 100km and this will be my first season of serious rides so I want to be prepared.

    February 13, 2013 at 9:15 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      It depends on your goals for the season. Our rides currently are about 160 km (100 miles), about every 7-10 days, and riding at a pace that allows easy conversation. If your goal is a 200 km brevet, I’d suggest that you should work up to 100 km (65 miles) rides during your base miles. Generally speaking, it seems that in cycling, doubling your comfortable distance is fine. For example, if you want to ride PBP (1200 km), you should be comfortable riding 600 km…

      February 13, 2013 at 10:02 am
      • fosterrice

        Thanks for the swift and thorough reply! That’s very useful information.

        February 13, 2013 at 7:24 pm
  • Rod Bruckdorfer

    I know I have read too many BQ issues or not enough when I recognize cyclists in photos. Ryan Hamilton is on the yellow Boulder Brevet and Hahn Rossman is riding the dark green frame he built.
    It’s good to see helmets on the riders. Mine probably saved my life when the front wheel slipped out from under the bike on the wet rubber pavement of a rail road crossing. The tires are 32 mm X 700 Conti Gatorskins. I will be pleased to have 42 mm Hetres under me when my lugged built Boulder Brevet arrives in early May.
    Ride Safe, Ride Strong,

    February 13, 2013 at 9:45 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Sorry to hear about your crash. Yes, those rubber coverings around railroad tracks are extremely slippery when wet. Most of them have disappeared around here, but when I see them, I treat them like ice, crossing them upright and without moving the handlebars.
      Our safety mostly comes from avoiding falls altogether. Riding with people we know and can trust is key. Anticipating other traffic’s behavior and choosing where to ride, both route selection and lane positioning, are important, too. Being able to control your bike well helps. Finally, having a good bike, with good brakes and grippy, wide tires, is useful. The helmet only serves as a minor backup in case all of the above fails.

      February 13, 2013 at 10:08 am
      • Rod Bruckdorfer

        I practice the same procedures as you outlined above. I ride a Miyata touring bike which is maintained to a high standard. Other experienced cyclist report the tires fitted to the Miyata are not noted for wet traction. This lack of traction and the slippery nature of the wet rubber paving covering railroad crossing caused the crash. Even though the tires are new, I will replace them with tires that have good wet traction. Becoming “banged-up ” and destroying a $250 helmet is not my idea of fun.

        February 13, 2013 at 1:57 pm
  • lawschoolissoover

    Winter may be over for *you*. Out here on the East Coast, things look a little different. 🙁

    February 13, 2013 at 9:56 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Winter isn’t over here, either, but you are right, you are currently facing different weather constraints than we do!

      February 13, 2013 at 9:59 am
  • Joshua Bryant

    Jan, Great post. Here in Portland we’ve had weekly rides to turn the pedals, chat and generally get outside and enjoy life. I’m curious at what point in your base miles are you comfortable enough to start doing intervals to increase both flat performance as well as climbing. Of course, I’m sure thats the topic for another post.
    Be well

    February 13, 2013 at 11:53 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      After two or three flat base mile rides, we usually venture into more hilly terrain. Structured intervals follow in March…

      February 13, 2013 at 12:25 pm
  • DaveBrumm

    Still near zero here,with ice and snow on the roads,still using the indoor trainer JEALOUS

    February 13, 2013 at 3:25 pm
  • nellegreen

    You are sowing the seeds to reap at harvest.

    February 13, 2013 at 9:39 pm
    • Ortho

      Thank you.

      February 18, 2013 at 7:32 pm
  • Matthew J

    Good thing you wound up in Seattle rather than Chicago. Empty paved tree-lined paths are as good as it gets here.
    The big snow last week almost completely melted away this week. Weekend should see near freezing temps but clear. I think I will be able to get at least 60 miles on the Super Leger 30s I installed during the snow storm.

    February 14, 2013 at 5:49 am
  • kennith quesenberry

    What kind of bikes are you riding in the picture? What size tires?

    February 14, 2013 at 7:59 am
  • Scott G.

    Base miles on geared bikes, the horror.
    Don’t you follow the CONI manual ?

    February 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm
    • Rod Bruckdorfer

      What is the CONI manual?

      February 15, 2013 at 6:35 pm
      • Nick G

        The CONI manual is new to me too, and a quick google took me here:
        It’s the Italian cycle racing association’s manual by the look of it, and all downloadable as PDFs.

        February 16, 2013 at 12:56 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          The CONI manual was the “bible” for bicycle racers in the 1970s and 80s. It covered everything from training to bicycle construction and geometries. Lennard Zinn, in the interview in Bicycle Quarterly Vol. 10, No. 3, talked about how it was the starting point for his framebuilding, but that he quickly found it to be not very useful for outliers, whether large or small frames…

          February 16, 2013 at 6:38 am
  • Wilfried531

    Here, the winter is nearing its end. My first serious ride was yesterday : 156 km between Saumur and Nantes, all along the Loire river.
    It was at first cold and foggy but the last 65km the sun was shining !
    Some pictures :
    A pleasant ride…
    ps : I really need a mudflap ! 😉

    February 17, 2013 at 6:27 am

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