I’m terrible on the bike. A few reasons why would include inexperience and fear.
It’s not rocket science to know what to do to remedy inexperience. Riding more will take care of that. Playing with gears and maintaining power will help bridge the gap. Sitting in the saddle for longer periods of time will eventually take care of any discomfort felt sitting on a something that is totally unnatural.
Now fear is something that can be overcome by facing it directly. Sure, the fear of catching a flat tire, or two even, in the middle of a ride is always there, and that’s easily handled by being prepared and also knowing how to use a repair kit. There’s also the fear of some crazy dog running up to greet you with a bite to the leg, but in my experience, that occurrence is so rare that it has happened to me exactly zero times!
No, I’m talking about the fear of hitting loose gravel during a turn while travelling at 70-80 km/h and wiping out during a solo ride. I’m also talking about the shitty drivers who think that failing to give way to a cyclist is funny, or that it will somehow deliver some sort of message to the rider. Or the dumbass drivers who intentionally try to nudge a rider with their side mirrors like it’s some sort of game fucking around with another human being’s safety and life.
On one of my rides I had this guy in a big Caterpillar Truck that had side mirrors that stuck out about a foot or so and he nearly clipped my head. He got to about one inch from knocking me. I caught up to this asshole at the light and confronted him. You know what he did? He tried to run me over with his truck as he said, “I hate you fucking bikers!” Yeah, as if my riding in the dedicated bike lane is causing him severe suffering. My hand slammed down on the hood of the truck, causing my hand to swell, in defence and it helped me to push off as I jumped backwards. With Spidey Senses tingling, I had a feeling this guy wanted my blood and was intent on hitting me, I moved out of his way and he sped off. Long story short, I called the cops. Not sure what transpired afterwards, but I sure didn’t want to be a rider with drivers like that on the road.
For the last ride of the season my buddy joined me on a long ride. I took him to a neighbourhood with lots of hills. Since it was early morning, there was very little traffic. About midway through I lost my buddy somehow, so I pulled over to wait. I saw him off in the distance closing in and things appeared fine. When he caught up to me he told me some guy was reversing out of his driveway and wasn’t paying attention and nearly hit him.
Lets not forget the countless news reports of cyclist hit and killed by motorists. It’s senseless, and fucking maddening.
I’m an experienced motorcyclist. Even on a motorbike I had my great share of stupid drivers. I saw drivers that didn’t check their mirrors or blind spots or shoulder check. I’ve had drivers squeeze into my lane. I’ve also had drivers who thought they could outrun a motorcycle. I’ve also had drivers try to hit me intentionally by slamming on their brakes.
If drivers are that bad when I’m on a 500 lbs motorbike, well they’re worse when I’m on a 25 lbs bicycle. I needed to ride, but doing so outdoors was beginning to take on a certain risk that would qualify for Fear Factor. And no Joe Rogan, I’ll take my chances with eating worms than go riding.
There was my dilemma. How do I continue to train on my bike to take care of my inexperience, especially when the weather turns bad, but also keeps me safe from the stupid drivers on the road?
Research led me to this contraption that I was never aware about called a Bike Trainer or Turbo Trainer. Basically it turns a bicycle into a stationary workout bike by clamping the rear wheel that is in contact with a fly wheel that provides resistance. Genius! I needed one!
There was one more trainer on the market that had rollers where you had to bike to stay upright. This was akin to a treadmill, but for bikes. Freaking crazy!
More research on this training tool was required because there are three varieties available and within these are different designs and technology that can get really complicated quickly and as you might guess, costs can rise quickly depending on the trainer.
Three Types of Trainers:
The adjustable resistance on the fly wheel is applied by either fan, magnet, or hydraulic fluid, and the loudness of the unit decreases with the fan type being the loudest and fluid being the quietest. Costs go from cheapest at the top to more expensive with the fluid models.
Some makes and models have the ability to use virtual reality and can mimic your ride through any segment of the Tour de France, for example. Of course, this option is expensive and probably best suited to those who take cycling very seriously. But how cool is that? You’re parked in front of your TV riding a course through France and your trainer automatically adjusts for hill climbs and descents!
I’m not that serious to invest in something like that, but a quick look on Craigslist can dig up some buried treasures. I got lucky and found a brand new one for cheap and this (pictured at top) is a respectable unit. It has a magnet fly wheel with 10 adjustable settings for resistance and it’s quiet!
For a beginner like me, brand new isn’t practical, neither would a top of the line model be either. I’d have to do so much riding each month in order to outgrow the model I have right now. When I work on hill climbs I have the setting at 5 and that’s pretty challenging. I have another 5 levels of resistance available to keep me challenged.
Really consider a pre-owned to test things out before making a big purchase. How I see it, $50 or $100 on a unit is a small investment that may end up back on Craigslist, or it will last for a few years before requiring an upgrade. And there’s no tax!
Also, you may be the type of person that needs to be outdoors. Obviously an indoor trainer isn’t for you. However, I’ve seen people take their trainers outside when the weather is nice.
What sort of things can be done on a trainer? Training on a trainer, I’ve learned, doesn’t have to be long and boring. By adding variety to the program it is possible to grind out a long ride or bust out a super intense short session.
Right now I have several programs that I follow to address the many facets of cycling.
- The long and easy bike rides (I’m up to 75 minutes before my ass starts to rebel).
- The sprint intervals where I’m spinning my legs like crazy.
- The ladder program where I spin at a moderate cadence and at various times I increase the gear I’m on but maintain the cadence, and then reverse the process.
- The killer hill attack program that takes my heart rate to max and gasping for air.
Other things to consider?
Training on a trainer is very different than riding outside. Unless the trainer itself is built to allow for side-to-side tilting, you’re stuck upright making standing attacks somewhat challenging.
Being indoors and stationary also means no wind. Having one or two fans will help keep things cool. The rear wheel tends to get really hot during intense sessions and having a fan pointed to the fly wheel can reduce some of the heat and prevent the rubber from burning.
Have lots of water or electrolytes since trainer workouts tend to make you sweat a lot. This also means having a mat or towel underneath and a small towel on the bike to catch sweat.
For the easy rides, having a movie or several episodes on deck will make time fly much faster and it will reduce the boredom factor. Or putting on a pair of headphones to listen to music or an audiobook is another viable option.
There are bike trainer DVDs available to watch and will help you work out hard. There’s also an app available for subscription that are virtual reality, challenging, and motivating.
One last thing: no helmet required.