If you asked 100 people why they like to cycle I guarantee that 99% of them will say something along the lines of
- It’s a great way to travel
- It gets you out in the fresh air
- You meet new people
- You see new places
- You can get muddy and do wheelies
And it is. Cycling is all about movement, company and being in the great outdoors.
All the elements of fun that are basically missing at the moment as I grind out another stationary hill in my conservatory, staring at the same pile of boxes and garden chairs that I’ve been cycling by, and failing to pass, for the last 15 minutes.
I am literally going nowhere.
Why? Good question. I keep asking this as my legs reluctantly press out another dozen revolutions.
I hate cycling indoors. It is the anathema of why I love to ride a bike, but a combination of freezing, wet weather, winter darkness and a rising R number have finally beaten down my absolute resolve never to get on a turbo trainer.
For the uninitiated, a turbo trainer is a small, triangular metal frame that clamps onto the back wheel of your bike, lifting it off the ground. It places the back tyre against a flywheel which provides resistance against which you can pedal, on the spot, ad infinitum in a gear of your choosing. As with anything bike-related the cost and engineering of these range from my very basic, prop-it-up-on-a-brick, type model (Tacx) to all singing-all cycling feats of rocket science (Zwift etc) that involve dismantling half the bike and hooking you into NASA’s mainframe to measure every vital statistic you ever had. The cost of these is approximately more than several annual gym memberships but without the benefit of complimentary water coolers and changing facilities.
However, with gyms currently closed and the outside a less than hospitable environment I’ve reluctantly dragged the turbo-torture device (as it’s affectionately known) out of the shed and set it up in the freezing, drafty glass structure that operates as a conservatory/shed/junk storage area. This is now my ‘Pain Cave’.
Despite being the most basic trainer available it takes way too many hours and much muttering to couple the bike to the turbo machine. Either the fly and bike wheels are too far away to connect leaving you spinning in space or they are wedged together making it something akin to riding through toffee. You can tell when it’s finally rideable though as the connection between spinning wheels produces a sound like a large swarm of angry bees.
With knuckles bleeding from some particularly intense mechanical persuasion I collect a water bottle and little sweat towel (optimistically as it’s freezing) and finally mount the bike.
I then dismount after a single pedal revolution to adjust the saddle and subsequently a dozen more times over the next 20 minutes for further adjustments to comfort and to collect a sweatshirt, music, heart rate monitor and to shut the blinds so the neighbour’s cat can no longer laugh at me from her position on the windowsill.
The bright side of all the faffing is that I’m warming up a bit.
Back on the bike, set up completed, the next 15 minutes are spent trying and mostly failing to connect various sensors to the bike computer to tell me how far and fast I’m going (on the spot) and my heart rate whilst doing it. A large proportion of time is given to adjusting the borrowed heart rate strap, a tight elastic band around my chest that records beats per minute. I’ve not used one before – apparently to make it work you need to ensure good skin contact and you do this by spitting on it. Not easy when the strap is buried under 3 layers of clothing and sports bra and you’re balancing on a wobbly bike. Despite copious amounts of spit however the damn thing won’t connect. Switching the computer off doesn’t help either and neither does M, helpfully popping his head around the door and informing me that the strap is actually missing its rather vital sensor part. Turns out the pad I’ve been spitting on so enthusiastically is just part of the elastic strap.
Some headway is finally made when the bike computer grudgingly starts showing my speed and distance travelled. I wish I hadn’t bothered however, as it merrily informs me I have travelled a whole 800 yards at the pace of an asthmatic donkey.
Finally, with the whole caboodle set-up, seemingly as good as it’s going to get for today, and before anything else goes wrong, I at last launch into my athletic programme, carefully sourced from the internet and written in biro on the back of an envelope.
As I pick up pace and move through the gears the swarm of angry bees tails me, picking up volume. Music is pumping out through the speaker balanced beside me and I’m focussing hard. Muscles working, my heart rate is rising and I’m finally in the zone and doing ok. I’m doing this, I’m awesome, I’m …….leaping off the bike as the doorbell is going crazy with the parcel delivery I’ve been expecting now for days.
The poor delivery driver actually winces as my lycra-swaddled form clatters across the tiled floor in cycling cleats and promptly slips straight on to my arse, landing at his feet.
Parcel received and bottom smarting from impact with the floor, I stomp/clatter back into the conservatory, unplug the music, stop the computer and firmly shut the door on my turbo session.
In 4 and a half hours I have ridden the grand total of just over one mile, burnt about 50 calories, skinned my fingers, bruised my coccyx and frozen most other parts of my body.
As I break open the band-aids and a consolation packet of chocolate biscuits I think, “Maybe I’ll just take up running instead?”
Roll on summer!
If you enjoy reading about adventure, travel, cycling or all 3 why not check out my book: How To Cycle Canada the Wrong Way.
It’s the story of a forty-something woman with no clue in life and no cycle touring experience. What she does have is a sense of adventure, a second hand bicycle and a skirt and the idea of riding across Canada….the wrong way.
Available on Amazon in e-reader and paperback formats.
Banner photo from from pixabay.com