The off-season; a mysterious time of year to a lot of amateur cyclists and a time of much needed rest for the pros. Cycling's off-season tends to start around the end of September in the UK when the racing calendar begins to dry up and usually a few weeks later for the pros once the last of the international races finish.
It's the time of year where those that have been racing hard all year can kick back and relax for a few weeks. If you follow any pro riders you'll probably notice they take a couple of weeks completely off the bike and even sometimes do something different like go for a run. It's as much a chance to mentally recover as it is physically. It also tends to be the wedding season for pro athletes who only really get a few weeks a year to do what they want before they get back to the rigour of training.
Amateur riders in the UK tend to follow suit and take a few weeks to chill over October and maybe even November before devising their plans for next season and starting all over again. Of course, an off season isn't necessary for everyone. If you're just doing weekend rides then chances are you're probably not going to feel so drained you feel the need for a month off but if you're racing two or three times a week or riding mega miles day in, day out, then you'll probably be grateful for the break. I'll hold my hand up and say I probably need a break but it kind of hasn't happened yet this year.
The more you look into the off season, the more you realise there are a few different types of amateur off-season...
The first is the "I'm going to eat everything" off season; this is the one where the rider tells you about their struggles of keeping weight down for their summer of riding so now needs to devour everything in sight without a care in the world, only to wake up on Boxing Day and suddenly realise they maybe went a little bit too far this year. Cake is compulsory for these people.
Then you have those that vanish, as if they were merely a figment of imagination over the summer. They start the off-season in September and kind of forget it's only a few weeks long. Dark nights and cold days don't mix well with these riders so they just extend their off season until around about March before panic training.
You do have those that do it properly; these tend to be the racers amongst us that are guided by their coaches and held accountable for any excessive riding. They'll probably do some cross training instead as instructed. They're hardcore and stick to the rules.
The final type of amateur off season is the denial. The rider that tells everyone they're on their off season, eats more food, drinks more beer but actually clocks up the same number of miles as they did in July. Infact, they're probably out there right now riding into the night in search of the off season gains. They'll make you suffer in January but fall off the pace as soon as there are April showers.
Unfortunately this year I kind of fall into the denial category. 15,000 miles deep into the year and I probably do need a rest, but whilst I feel okay and the weather is good I just fancy some more riding. I often use November as my period of relative rest; it's usually the wettest and windiest month so makes sense to use as a period of rest.
Until then though, I'll eat more cake, drink more beer and tell the world I'm chilling!