Dec 08 2008

Going Nowhere, Swiftly and With Style

On Saturday, I found a pair of thick, fleece-lined neoprene booties and toasty windproof cycling gloves in the post. The day was cold and windy, but the roads were free of ice. It would have been a good time to give my new wardrobe accessories an outing. But I had work to do. Tomorrow, I told myself. Wait till tomorrow.

The next day augured well. A few snowflakes drifted lazily through the air, but that was no problem. So I set about making breakfast. By the time I’d downed my first cup of coffee, however, the prospect had changed:

Whiteout!

No, I didn’t shoot this at too high an ISO. The grainy appearance of the photo is due to blowing snow. (That dirty streak in the foreground is the town road, by the way.) Anyway, I watched traffic creep along while I tackled my second cup of coffee. A pickup passed, its rear end fishtailing, followed almost immediately by a small sedan, which spun out just as soon as the gradient steepened.

That was enough for me. I figured this wouldn’t be a good day to ride. And who knows how long it would be before all the fishtailing drivers had swerved, skidded, and spun their way to their ultimate destinations? April, maybe.

Still, my legs craved movement, and since the snow hadn’t yet drifted deep enough in the woods to warrant strapping on snowshoes, that left me only one fitness option: going nowhere.

Going Nowhere

Which pretty much sums up how I feel about my stationary bike. It does the biz, of course, getting my heart rate up and giving a pretty fair imitation of a fast ride through the Adirondack hills. Moreover, since it has no freewheel, you can’t coast along between spurts of effort. You have no choice but to keep cranking. There’s a downside to this, however. If you’re a fixie pixie, used to braking by using brute force to retard the rotation of the cranks, you’ll get an unpleasant surprise the first time you try it on a stationary bike. Check out the picture below. That’s a heavy iron flywheel up front, and the momentum stored in its whirling mass is more than equal to the job of pulling your knee apart at the seams. Fortunately, a handbrake on the ‘bars brings the flywheel to a quick (and painless) stop.

Overheating is another problem. Even in a cold room, the sweat will soon be dripping off your chin. And you’ll be bored to tears, into the bargain. What remedies exist for these afflictions? Well, a fan helps you keep your cool, while a television provides some much-needed diversion. You can buy training videos to encourage you to greater efforts, but they’re not to my taste. I’d rather watch paint dry. My choice of nowhere fare? Classic race footage. How else could I hope to ride with Eddy Merckx, let alone lead the peloton up Mont Ventoux?

Going Nowhere in Style

Mostly, though, I just look out the window as I ride, hoping to catch sight of an indomitable chickadee, a cheeky jay, or a determined downy. Or maybe just a glimpse of the sun. Going nowhere on a stationary bike is no substitute for the real thing, obviously, but it’s better than going nowhere on a La-Z-Boy. And it’s certainly safer than dicing with death on icy and snow-covered roads. April can’t come too soon!