Tis the season when outdoor cycling becomes more challenging. I know there are a lot of tough guys out there who ride all winter no matter what and scorn the indoor types like me… Riding in the winter evidently puts hair on you, ironically it’s these same people who then shave it off.
But it’s not only the frequent rain, resultant wet and slippery streets, cold, wind, and tire-puncturing grit that discourage me; more than anything it’s the limited daylight. Take today for an example: a nice day, but being out for a few hours with my wife and returning at three o’clock, it was too late to go out for a ride by that point. And no, in Vancouver I am not brave enough to simply light-up and ride at dusk.
And believe it or not, I actually like indoor work-outs. Last year when I bought my bike, one of the first purchases I made was a resistance trainer. A trainer is a stand which attaches to the rear axel of the bike, elevating the wheel a few centimetres off the ground, and whose flywheel provides resistance to your cycling effort.
I’d borrowed a friend’s trainer and found it quite satisfying to pop a movie or hockey game on the TV and spin for 30-60 minutes every day or two. I eventually bought one for myself – a CycleOps Jet Fluid Pro, which is advertised as a high quality, durable, relatively quiet and smooth trainer for long, steady rides (all qualities I happily acknowledge). To increase the challenge on a trainer, you simply change gears and the higher the gear, the more resistance the trainer provides.
I’ve found a corner of our office/TV room, facing the 40″ TV, to lay out my yoga mat, set up the trainer and mount the bike. Whilst training, I have my Dyson fan and a few towels laid about to catch the sweat. One thing about riding indoors is the complete lack of airflow (regardless of a fan) and boy do you build up a sweat! It’s brilliant and feels great to be dripping and glistening at the end of a good 60 minute work-out (much to the disgust of my wife).
Heading into this winter season, however, I’m finding that watching movies, TV shows or anything non-cycling related does not sufficiently motivate or distract me from the work at hand. I’ve discovered that I’m not unique in my temperament, as there are an increasing number of web-based training programs and communities which cater to indoor riding.
One such service is called “Pain Cave” (the world of cycling is inundated by hyperbolic nouns and adjectives denoting incredible effort, sacrifice and accomplishment - good article on this trend here), evidently a relatively new start-up whose episodes offer a motivational coach directing you through 30 or 60 minute programs, whose work-outs are shown on screen; with athletes in a studio doing the same work-out; and enticingly and distractingly, footage of previous years’ Tours of California. Each work-out and accompanying footage is different, offering diversity for each ride. I’ve found it thoroughly enjoyable, making an hour go by much faster and easier and with more fulfilling results than if riding on my own. Drills include fast cadence work, one-legged pedaling, over-gear (big gear, slow, methodical chugging), VO2 Max drills (12 out of 10 effort for a defined period), sprinting, and more. Pain Cave is set up a little like Netflix, with unlimited viewing and a low monthly recurring fee that you can cancel at any time.
Another service/program that I’ve yet to try is The Sufferfest (note the hyperbole I was talking about?).
Post ride, it’s fun to review telemetry, since everything is so steady (there aren’t any red lights, traffic or opportunities to coast hindering your work-out). And Pain Cave episodes involve all kinds of intervals, ladders, pyramids and other exertion exercises meant to build up aerobic and anaerobic strength.
Today, I did something a little different – I put a YouTube episode of Stage 18 of the 2011 Tour de France on my iPad, which I then AirPlayed onto my TV and watched that while I rode steady-state for 60 minutes. Thanks to Pain Cave’s Tour of California highlights, I’ve found that watching cycling is very motivational to watch while cycling, however without Pain Cave’s work-outs and coaching, I did find myself watching the clock a bit too much today as well. That said, it was nice to chug along at 90-95 RPM, 200-240 watts, 165-170 BPM and 30-32 km/hr for 60 minutes.
Of note: I am startled by the lack of ‘proper’ Tour videos (of any race) available online… Were this other sports, you’d think the Tour de France would have previous years’ race broadcasts for sale on DVD or iTunes, but I’ve found nothing. I am happy, though, to watch it for free on YouTube.