I am an early morning person. I like to get my workouts in and done before the rest of my house stirs. But when it came time to get in the bike portion of my training, my early morning routine became a problem. Even in the summer, it is dark at 4:30 or 5:00 when I want to ride. I did not feel comfortable out on the roads because cars couldn’t see me and I couldn’t see the obstacles (sticks, potholes, etc.) on the road. I have read about frequent car/biker accidents, and those were happening in broad daylight. It was time to find a better way to train. In came my triangular little friend.
I asked for a bike trainer for my birthday. For those who aren’t sure what a bike trainer is, it is a contraption that turns your regular bike into a stationary bike. It fits on your rear wheel pegs and has a resistance wheel that the back tire rolls on. I ended up making a stand out of scrap 2×4 wood for my front wheel to rest on so that my bike is more level and I don’t feel like I am constantly going downhill. You can pick up a “no frills” trainer for fairly cheap, $50 or less.
I do all of my riding, with the exception of the five or six races I might do, on my trainer. I feel like I get more bang for my buck that way. According to trainingpeaks.com a 60-minute ride on my trainer is equal to a 90 to 100-minute ride outside. How does that math work, you say? On a bike trainer, there are no hills to coast down and no stop lights to stop at. You are able to apply constant pressure to the pedals. I like this idea of getting more production in less time. Maybe not “work smarter, not harder,” but definitely “work smarter, not longer.”
There are a few downsides to riding a trainer. I found out that mine is not the quietest. I used to set it up in the basement of our small house. Air conditioning in the hot summer and heat in the cold winter. Perfect, right? Not so perfect when the whirring wakes your wife up way too early in the morning. So, I was banished to the not-so-temperature-controlled environment of our detached garage. A fan in the summer and extra layers of clothes in the winter work just fine.
Another downfall is that riding the bike trainer takes more mental effort than riding on the road. It becomes easy to cheat and take breaks. I have to be able to hold my desired intensity for the allotted time period. Since I don’t have a fancy “smart” trainer that tells me my power or speed, I go off of a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale of 1 to 10. I take my little brown notebook of workouts, put on my wireless headphones, and use a free music app that is designed to play at certain cadences to help power through workouts. The music is a great distraction and helps keep my focused on the RPE intensity I need to hit.
While it would be fun to upgrade to a “smart” trainer and ride on virtual courses and in virtual races, that would get pricey. I don’t mind the primitive ride I can get in my garage on my simple machine. I like the macho notion of beating myself up and, in military speak, “embracing the suck.” Why worry about cars when I can beat myself up from the confines of my garage…speaking from experience.