No matter how much you love your bike, there are winter days when the idea of layering up and riding in chilly rain or wet snow for hours is a truly unappealing prospect.
At the end of a long week of soggy, cold weather commuting, even I find my motivation to go for longer rides on the weekend somewhat lacking.
The obvious answer, of course, is to grit your teeth and head out anyway - unless there's actually snow or ice on the road. However, there is a warmer and dryer option: ride indoors instead.
The trusty stationary bike is one way of doing this, but I've personally never been much of a fan. They take up a lot of room (not practical when you live in a condo with limited space) and, well, they just don't feel like riding a real bike.
Spin bikes are a much better option. They more closely replicate a real bike riding position and have a heavy flywheel that allows you a wide range of resistance adjustment that feels a lot more like being out on a rolling, hilly ride. Being able to stand up and pump the pedals also means you work more muscle groups than a traditional stationary bike allows you to reach.
The down side of spin bikes is they're very expensive, and take up just as much room as a stationary bike. However if space or cost is a concern, Vancouver's community centres all provide spin bikes for public use. Although you will need to purchase a flex pass or pay for drop-in access ($6.50 or $50 for a 10-session pass), it's much cheaper than buying your own equipment - and you don't have to worry about storage. Community centres also offer group classes, as do many private clubs.
My personal preference is an indoor bike trainer, which you hook to the back of your bike to provide stability and resistance. These take up almost no room, are easily portable, and basic models are relatively inexpensive in comparison to a stationary or spin bike. Best of all, they let you ride your own bike indoors, which increases your own comfort and the realism of the riding experience.
There are three primary types of indoor trainer: wind trainers, which uses a fan blade to provide air resistance; magnetic trainers, which use magnetic resistance; and fluid trainers, which use chambers filled with liquid to generate resistance. In this order, the trainers get progressively quieter and progressively more expensive.
My biggest challenge with indoor riding is boredom so I set my bike up in front of the TV and watch something distracting while I ride. I've done a lot of indoor riding while rehabbing injuries and make a point to use a training tire so I don't wear out my more expensive road tire with resistance from the roller.
Of course, there's really no substitute for getting out and riding outdoors, with the wind in your face and the scenery scrolling past. But a good indoor riding setup will make it easier to spend time on the bike on those wet, gloomy, chilly days.
Kay Cahill is a cyclist, librarian and outdoor enthusiast who believes that bikes are for life, not just for commuting. Contact Kay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Short, hard workouts on a trainer can fast track your fitness much better than hours pedalling to nowhere. Bicycling.com recommends these two workouts to improve your power and speed.
If you'd rather tune out to the Ellen DeGeneres Show, by all mean, any relaxed ride is better than vegging on the couch.
Begin with four one-minute fast-pedal intervals in an easy gear. Maintain as high a cadence as possible at 50 per cent your maximum effort. Recover for two minutes between bursts.
Pedal easy for five minutes.
Go hard with 10 to 12 intervals of 30 seconds "on" at 95 per cent your maximum, followed by 30 seconds "off" to recover. Stand or sit as needed. Don't stop pedalling. Make it harder by adding intervals.
Simulate ascending a hill by raising your bike's front wheel.
Ride 10 minutes at a pace you can maintain for an hour but push yourself to ride at 80 per cent. Once every two minutes, stand and attack every 12 to 15 pedal strokes at an all-out effort.
Spin easy for 10 minutes. Repeat three times.
Make it harder by lengthening the interval to 15 minutes, adding more intervals or shortening the recovery.
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