Are off-seasons a thing of the past? Maybe you've never needed an off-season anyway? I spent five years in the past passing the winter off the bike and on skis. Taking time off to recover, rebuild, restore and re-energize your body and mind used to be more common. Nowadays, twelve straight months of riding per year sounds perfect to me, and apparently, this applies to more and more riders and racers.
It's only February, but pro-racers are already pitting themselves against the clock - Valparaiso City Downhill
Let's take EWS racers for example. The season continues to lengthen; the final race was last October 2nd, the first of 2017 is on March 26th. Leaving nearly six months, six months off, easy! Not so fast. There are an increasing number of commitments in the post-race season: fun races, press camps and photoshoots for the riders to attend. DH racers don't get an easy ride either, with more urban and Southern Hemisphere events joining the calendar. Then, before they can shake a stick and have a few nights on the beers, Instagram begins its taunt, with competitors flowing gym selfies and hash-tagging winter training...and all this just weeks, if not days, after the final showdown.
New bikes and sponsor changes mean early-season testing becomes important, getting to grips with new machines before the first EWS takes place down-under, in New Zealand. For the majority of racers, this is no short hop; the 30-odd hour flight means many choose to make the most of it for a month beforehand. This four-week holiday is quickly donated to fulfill more photographic and film posing duties. There is also the draw to compete in a couple of pre-season races, just to be sure that there's enough speed and power on tap.
Mike Levy goes virtual and rides the Zwift during the winter.
Staying in reality, Matt Wragg hits the mat in the off-season.
Most riders aren't racers, so let's look towards the masses. Central Europe's snow season has been dramatically shortened so far this winter. I was lucky enough to be riding dusty trails in Morzine and Les Gets throughout December and into the first week of January. Aside from the cool temperatures and the odd patch of black ice, conditions were better than nearly all of the summer season. Local riders were out in force, and many didn't seem concerned with the lack of snow.
I can't speak for the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, but in Europe, seemingly more and more riders shun ski-holidays or weekends, and are taking trips to the booming coastal riding regions in Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Canary Islands and Madeira.
In the snowed-under areas, fat-bike enthusiast numbers appear to be growing. Scandinavians are out in force, along with North Americans and Canadians; even fat-specific bike 'trails' are starting to appear around the world. So for some, the off-season never arrives as they simply turn to bigger rubber and a different surface.
Do you have an off-season? I haven't this year, and it's been bloody fantastic.