The thing is, in the 1990s I spent my winters chasing fitness with skate skiing and crazy-long trainer sessions. Even though I was a PSIA-certified ski instructor, a good week saw me on the snow maybe four days, so I’d spend the other days doing rides on my trainer. My last winter in Northampton saw record-breaking snowfall. It was still snowing in April. I got a lot of trainer time that winter. Three-hour sessions several times a week resulted in burned-out bearings for the resistance fan and on one occasion my workout was so vigorous that I managed to scoot the trainer across the floor until my bike’s rear tire was rubbing one of the cushions on my couch. I managed to burn a hole in the cushion. Made for a delightful meal of crow when my (ex) wife got home.
Ever since that winter spending time on trainers has been as attractive a thought as seeing an ex at a holiday party. Magnetic resistance and fluid resistance trainers may have made trainers quieter, but it has made them less pleasant to ride. Most of the units I’ve tried in the last 15 years lack the smooth resistance offered by fan-based resistance. I’ve still got one fluid-resistance trainer in my garage and even on its lowest setting riding that thing is like pedaling up a 20-percent grade. Any pause in pedaling results in the feeling that you are starting from a dead stop.
You might say I’ve been celibate for some years.
When I encountered the LeMond Revolution at Interbike in 2012, I was pretty impressed. Because it uses a fan for its resistance, it’s noisy, though it’s not so noisy as the wind trainer I owned in the ’90s. The LeMond Revolution adds an interesting twist to the wind resistance unit—it includes a flywheel. The upshot is that you get the resistance of a traditional fan plus the inertial feel of rollers. You can skip a few pedal strokes and actually coast without having the trainer immediately come to a stop. Tiny fidgets in the saddle in which you might ease up on the pedals for a moment don’t result in the feeling that you just shifted up a gear.
The Revolution is based on a design that a physicist LeMond knew came up with in the 1980s. The only American winner of the Tour de France used that prototype from ’82 until his retirement in ’94. LeMond says that when in your biggest gear while pedaling at 110 rpm, you’ll generate more than 800 watts. That makes for a great rebuttal should anyone worry that anything so easy to pedal could actually provide a reasonable workout.
The irony of stationary trainers is that they are sold on how hard you can go on them. The greater reality about them is that this time of year most riders need them most for logging base miles. It’s in doing easy miles that the more unnatural the feel of a trainer, the more unpleasant the experience is.
Even if you are opposed to the idea of a wind trainer, there are plenty of other reasons why the LeMond Revolution is better-designed than other trainers. By eliminating the rear wheel and mountain the rear triangle of the bike to the trainer, wheel and tire wear are eliminated. Tire slip against the roller during hard jumps is eliminated. Funny lean angles caused by bent or misaligned trainer legs is eliminated thanks to adjustable pads the trainer sits on; you can level it just like you would your stove. By eliminating the rear wheel, the Revolution tackles another common problem with trainers—how to level the front wheel. By positioning the axle at the same distance from the ground as that of a rear wheel, the front wheel need not be propped up to make the bike level. Pretty genius.
The trainer, with cassette goes for $659. That’s not cheap, but in my mind I liken it to the expensive health club that you use more because it’s not a dive. I can’t stress this enough; I’ve avoided trainers—avoided them—for many years because I just couldn’t stand the experience anymore. The LeMond Revolution has been enough of a revelation in experience that I’ve begun to see it as a way to sneak in extra miles, like after the boys are in bed.
I live in a place where the trainer isn’t necessary and yet the Revolution seems useful, a way to help my fitness. Imagine how useful it could be to everyone in the real world, that place where winter can screw up everything from trees to plumbing to fitness.
This isn’t quite what love feels like, but I’m willing to date this one.