It's that time of year again when you've eaten, drunk and spent more than you should have, all in the pursuit of non-cycling nirvana, because apparently Christmas has nothing to do with bikes for most people. (I know, right?) The problem is, no amount of bird flesh or ethanol is going to distract you from the fact that, once again, you've failed in your annual resolve to ride faster, further, and in cooler places. 2016 is nigh, and it's time you made some changes.
Resolutions are for suckers, but we all need motivating one way or another. If your cycling is feeling a little stale, here are a few ideas to get the good times rolling again...
1. Build your own bike
This could be yours
While we'd all love to roll around on fully custom, made-to-measure machines welded together by bearded artisans in poorly lit workshops, financial considerations tend to preclude such frippery. That doesn't mean you can't have something unique that suits your requirements though, and there's immense satisfaction to be had in speccing and building your own bike.
When you buy an off-the-peg ride, the manufacturer chooses everything for you, from the big stuff like the shifters and cranks, right down to the cables and the bar tape. You take the good with the bad, and because it's a new bike, you're unlikely to change any of the basic stuff until it wears out or seizes up, because why would you bother?
So here's what you should do: buy yourself a frame in the January sales or on the forums and cast your net wide on the choppy seas of the internet in search of parts. You want a pink headset and a matching seat clamp? Have at it! You need a fancy stainless steel bottom bracket and compressionless brake outers? Go nuts! It doesn't have to be expensive – you might be hankering after a simple singlespeed to lock up outside the pub, or a new commuter, but the point is putting together something that meets your personal needs, with the kit that gives you that fizzy feeling.
Building bikes isn't for everyone, but if you're the sort who likes tinkering anyway, you're missing out by not giving it a go. And if that's not enough of a challenge…
2. Build your own wheels
It's really not that hard
Wheelbuilding is often portrayed as a black art whose secrets are the jealously guarded lore of a select few. The reality is that while it's not exactly easy, building a rideable wheel is within reach of any competent home mechanic. Your first effort won't be as good as your tenth, but then nothing that's worth doing is totally straightforward.
Depending on your preferred approach to learning, sign up for a course, watch some YouTube guides, or read a book, and dive in. It'll be easier if you shell out for a proper truing stand and fun tools like a spoke tension meter, but they aren't essential.
The raw materials (hubs, spokes, nipples, rims) can be as cheap or as expensive as you like, and the beauty of doing it yourself is that you have completely unfettered choice in the matter.
You can build the weight-weenie special you've always dreamed of, or the 36-spoke scale-breakers your round-the-world tour demands. If you're restoring a classic, you can match the gorgeous vintage hubs of your heart's desire to a set of practical modern rims, because why not?
If bike tech just isn't your thing though, maybe you need to…
3. Ride somewhere new, at home or abroad
There's nothing like escaping properly
It's very easy to get into a rut with cycling, particularly if you spend a lot of time doing the same commute day in and day out. There's nothing worse than letting your hobby become a chore, and sometimes that means shaking things up for the sake of a change.
Not everyone has the cash or the time to fly abroad and scale the cols, but most of us could drive across a county or two in search of vistas new, or hop on a train to somewhere unexplored and ride home with the wind at our backs. Try it! It may be cheating, but it's the good kind of cheating that doesn't involve blood bags.
Why not take your bike somewhere nice?
Failing that, just…
4. Dabble in other disciplines
Roadies are allowed to do this too
If you're obsessive about putting in the hours, maybe you need to take a step back and ask yourself what your motivation is. By all means train if you've got goals to hit, but try to remember why you started riding a bike in the first place: it was probably because it's fun.
If your day-to-day riding has lost its sparkle, why not give another discipline a go? If you're a roadie, rent a mountain bike for a day and find out just how much your bike handling skills suck. And if you're already a denizen of the dirt, climb aboard a modern road race machine and marvel at the lack of weight and rolling resistance.
Whatever you do, do something, and ride your damned bike. Happy new year folks!