Content and images by Jefe BranhamWinter is a beast. A cold, dark, powerful creature that can devour you. One has to be ready to take on this beast in order to come out of the season still sane, happy and ready for spring. Being a cyclist can make winter seem even longer, more sinister. It becomes a long time to try and stay motivated and focused. It can be easy to drink too much, slack too much and lose sight of your goals. Living in the Gunnison Valley winter is full on. It is long, sometimes it snows a ton, the streets become glazed with tire eating ice and it is cold, really freaking cold! It can really make one wonder why not migrate to warmer climates… Ever since I got really into racing bikes there have been events both early in the spring and even right during winter, 24 Hours of Old Pueblo for example. Not little short suffer fests that you can sort of fake your way through, but long hard rides with lots of saddle time, miles and miles of pedaling. I have had both success and failure at these early season races, it really comes down to keeping your focus and adding in some creativity. Until recently I have done a ton of XC skiing including long all day tours, I have run a good bit and ridden the trainer. A really great thing to do in the winter is core work, yoga, stretching, pilates, lifting weights any and all of these are great things to help balance out the time spent bent over the bike all spring, summer and fall. I believe the key is to keep moving, doing something. Some long slow days, some hard short bits. Never really letting go of the fitness that you have at the end of the cycling season. Sure, it isn’t the same muscles and all that, but motion is motion and it can all contribute to keeping and improving fitness. The thing is, you do have to ride the trainer, or ride something, some sort of pedaling and sitting on a saddle. Got to keep some of that muscle memory fresh and the real bottom line is keeping your butt calloused, burnished, polished, whatever you’d like to call it. This is so key, so important to being able to ride your bike for a 24 hours or even few days in a row. Otherwise it is going to hurt. Of course now there is the wonderful, and more or less available tool, the snow bike. This really changes thewhole game if you ask me. I still ride the trainer and more than ever as I am being tortured by my coach. I still ski, I should still run, but I don’t….I lift a bit of weights, I stretch a few times a week. Yet the introduction of the fattie into my life has made winter not so bad at all. With a little thought and exploration I have found a bunch of places to ride. I can go for miles and miles, hours and hours. Not only keeping my cycling muscles flowing, my butt calloused, it gets me out of the house for long periods of time. It makes me smile, giggle and look forward to more. More snow, more winter, more riding. Perhaps the most important thing about any winter training is staying focused, happy, stoked, and hungry for more. You don’t need a fat bike, a gym membership, ski pass, etc. It is quite possible with just a few simple tools, but it does require focus, and lots of it. You have to remember what you are doing it all for. When it is cold and nasty outside and all you want to do is sleep in, drink coffee, eat too much and drink beer — remind yourself of your dreams, your goals and get off your ass and get after them. Be strong, keep moving, stay focused and don’t let the beast of winter take those dreams away!