Friday Group Ride #389

Friday Group Ride #389

The snow has not yet fallen (though we are told it is imminent), so I was surprised to hear from not one but two cyclist friends in the last two weeks that they had been riding in their basements. Subterranean riding runs a much wider gamut than it used to, of course. Back in the day (a point in time that doesn’t actually exist), you could ride rollers (for the Euro-inclined) or a static trainer. You could do so while listening to music, or you could do it while watching television, preferably and typically the replay of one of the Classics or the Tour, envisioning yourself in amongst the peloton.

You don’t have to envision much anymore. Zwift, Peloton, etc. will put you there, virtually, digitally, but also very engagingly. It has been the most astonishing to see which friends, perhaps formerly of the purist variety, have flocked to which new form of basement suffering, because, in the end, it’s all still pretty awful. It has also been interesting to see some of my non-cycling friends adopt one of these new technologies out of nowhere, becoming virtual cyclists before they have their first proper road bike.

I remain, for a guy called Robot, pretty low tech. I’m space limited and underwhelmed by most of the activities that transpire indoors. I have a trainer. I put a towel over my head and listen to music loud enough that I can’t hear myself think, and I crank out as many minutes as I can. I do this only when the roads are iced over and the snow in the woods prohibits even the bite of studded tires. Don’t do what I do. It’ll leave you slow, moody, and roundly dissatisfied.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what is the nature of your indoor riding experience? Do you skip it altogether, braving whatever elements you must? Do you keep it simple with just rollers or trainer? Do you go all the way with the latest technology? Do you have hard deadlines about what time of year is basement time vs. outdoor time? Or do you switch back and forth as circumstances evolve? Unrelated, do you think Bernard Hinault ever rode in his basement?


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  1. Kevin Collings

    Rollers gather dust in my basement, I’m outside year round (in KS, where my coworkers are convinced I’m nuts). Commutes have to sub for most training rides & I never want to pay for the virtual “group rides” or “training”.

  2. Lyford

    I’ve hated most indoor exercise machines, bikes included, for most of my life. Last winter I bought a “smart” traner and tried Zwift and some of the interactive video programs. I was amazed at how engaging they were. Part of me was fully aware that I was staring at a monitor on an ironing board, but the rest of me was determined to finish the climb and pass that guy in the black jersey who passed me last time. Heck, interactive video is probably as close as I’ll get to climbing the Stelvio, so why not? It beats staring at the drywall.

    The local bike shop sets up trainers for indoor group rides. You can be together in the real world and the virtual world.

    Fat biking is booming here as another alternative for the snowy months. The heavy use of road salt makes road riding in the winter an unattractive option.

  3. Brian Ogilvie

    I have TruTrainer rollers in my basement. Since I live in New England, where this time of year the sun sets around 4 pm, and I have a job that sometimes lets me take off time in the middle of the day but, conversely, often requires 10-12 hour days, I find that late November through early March, I spend a lot of time on my rollers. That’s especially the case since I haven’t been running since January due to a slip on the ice (I have no problem running down to 0°F, but I don’t like cycling below freezing). I can snowshoe and walk no matter how cold it gets, but they’re not aerobic in the same way.

    Rollers are boring as hell, but they do let me do intervals, listen to music and podcasts, and refine my balance and ability to hold a line. They’re a lot nicer than basic trainers. I occasionally think about getting a computerized trainer that works with an app, but in a certain way, I appreciate the tedium of rollers: I exercise on them so that as soon as it’s nice enough to ride outdoors, I’m eager to do so.

  4. david

    I have a set of rollers that haven’t been used in years……maybe I should post them to Craigslist?

    I’m currently retired in North Texas and am able to ride year round, with only a few rides in tights, or more accurately leg warmers.

  5. Andrew

    I have my road bike set up on the trainer in the basement, but I haven’t used it yet. I have used the spin bikes (with cadence/power) at the gym several times. Sometimes it’s just the only way I can get a ride in- we have a pretty incredible gym at work, so I am lucky. I probably use the Sufferfest videos about 70% of the time, and the rest of the time just throw on loud music and do my own interval workouts. I never, ever, do the actual spin class… I find the Sufferfest videos to be extremely good- I get a great workout, the race footage is excellent, the stories are entertaining enough, and I like the music he finds for it.

    I haven’t bothered with Zwift. My internet connection is dodgy in the basement, and I can’t use it at the gym. I’m really just interested in my own personal misery anyway, indoors.

  6. Arnie

    Gave up my rollers, and indoor training at the gym, 6 years ago. Strictly riding outdoors all in Pennsylvania winters now.

  7. Roberto

    To me, riding a bike can only mean riding outdoors.So, all of my miles are outdoor miles up here in Minneapolis MN. Current gear options allow for comfortable riding down to about 0 F. Below that, I stay off the road.

  8. Hubcap

    As others have noted, Zwift is great. Bottom line is that I actually look forward to a few 50-60 minute blasts on it a week with a smart trainer up here in the inland northwest where winters are long, whereas before, 40 minutes was a chore. Use a rowing erg for cross-training, some XC skiing and actually get stronger in winter (as a mtber). Mix some icy rides in occasionally to keep it real. I enjoy having an off-season and riding less. I find that I enjoy the rides I do get out on more, appreciating the subtle pleasures of riding, swoops are swoopier and such, when I’m not on the bike 5x a week as in summer. Mental key for me with indoor workouts is to make the key distinction between exercise and riding. It’s not riding…it’s exercise, which I enjoy.

  9. MikeL

    Basic trainer and Zwift in my office.
    The wind has been brutal this fall in Wyoming and the older I get the harder it is to face.

  10. Girl

    I admit that I am a weather weenie. Plus I live in Ohio (cold winters) and don’t get home from work until after dark. I have a Ketler spinner bike, a DVR and a DVD player. I exercise to Spinnervals DVDs or I watch TV. I do find it hard to get motivated, at times. But I refuse to pay a monthly fee to ride a bike, be it with on-line people, a computer, or whatever. I figure that I own all of the gym equipment I need, so why should I pay to work out? (This goes for Cross-fit gyms, too. I own lots of weights and work-out gear, so I can’t justify driving my car someplace to exercise.) But today is the first snow of the season, so I think I’ll take my fat bike out for a spin.

  11. Winky

    Outside all year-round for me. Tried a trainer once. Didn’t care for it. Tried spin classes. Similar result. Went outside instead.

  12. Stephen Barner

    Way back when I was selling RacerMates and Kreitlers, I decided that trainers were not for me. If I’m going to ride stationary, I at least want to get the benefit that rollers bring to my balance and smoothness. I ride year-round in northern Vermont, the vast majority of it commuting, in the winter. The days are too short and cold to ride for fun, and there are many other ways to keep fit, such as splitting firewood, clearing snow, or skiing, which I can do right out my back door. If the weather keeps me off the bike for several days, I’ll often break out the rollers. I juxt bought a second hand, folding set that should be more appealing to ride than the one’s I’ve been using for 35 years. I have always ridden the rollers without anything but the stereo, but one time a few years ago, I decided to watch a DVD of the Tour. I was fine through the riders’ long grind up some mountain, but when they leaned into a curve on the descent, I rode right off the side of the rollers and ended up on the floor! I have no interest in Zwift, but I have thought it might be fun to video some of my favorite rides and relive them on the rollers in the dead of winter.

  13. Michael

    Rollers when I have to. Have to means when the roads are icy and the woods full of snow – about RObot’s criteria. The rollers are because I might as well train to ride smoothly during the winter. I don’t mind cold, so it can be well below freezing and, if the roads are not icy, I am happy. I commute in all weather except deep snow, when I walk instead because it is too dangerous to drive too.

  14. Hoshie99

    Wahoo kickr plus a plan for intervals keeps it short, sweet and effective. I like the power and erg mode options so I be focused.

    Friends seem to enjoy zwift and I can see why.

  15. PNW Rambler

    I’ve really disliked “the trainer experience” for years. Based a lot on Fatty’s endorsement of Wahoo Kick’r and TrainerRoad i tried it and am the better for it. I like the structure and focus and feeling fit in the winter. Podcasts, Audible and Netflix help pass the time.

  16. Jeff Dieffenbach

    I do 26 structured indoor sessions a year, 2/week beginning in early Jan. (During the CX season, I *may* do another 2-3 indoors if I simply can’t get outdoors to ride and want to keep my “fitness” up.)

    Since I don’t use my road bike much anymore, it (the most expensive of my bikes, although not expensive by current standards) goes on my Kurt Kinetics trainer. The workouts are delivered via Trainer Road (but others in my group use Zwift). I use virtual power, which works fine. Sandbagging on the FTP Test session helps.

    I watch TV/movies to help the 80 minute sessions pass.

    The rest of the time, it’s CX/MTB/FTB outdoors.

  17. Arizona Guy

    Even in SoCal with perfectly ridable weather year round, I do a good bit of trainer work. With reduced daylight and family, it’s nice to be able to drill it for an hour and know you did some good.

    I set up my trainer and an iPad stand made from galvanized pipe on my back patio and do Sufferfest videos as I watch sunsets or sunrises. Having an actual breeze is a nice change vs a fan in the basement ( we’re recent transplants from Colorado )

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