Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Art of Riding in Winter (or Avoiding it Entirely)

Psych yourself up: you can do this.

Yes, it is cold out. Really cold. Thus begins the season where your resolve and commitment to cycling is tested. It's different from the summer, when you'd have to put on exactly four articles of clothing (jersey, bike shorts and one sock per foot) before riding and actually enjoy the nice weather. But now, you have to suit up. Once the autumn months are gone and your Ear Bags are no longer enough, you may have to put on a neoprene face mask, a baselayer, a thick jersey, a thin jacket, a thin vest, cold weather riding gloves, thick pants, a helmet cover and neoprene booties for the bike shoes.

However, I understand if there are days when you don't want to dress like Randy from A Christmas Story to go for a bike ride. You open the door and the cold wind just blows you back inside. If there's snow on the ground and/or ice on the roads you'll want to stay in anyway. But you can still ride indoors provided you have one of these: a trainer. Attach it to the rear wheel and you've got an indoor exercise bike.

This is one of the four trainers I own. I have a tendency to see them at tag sales once a year or so and I'll pick them up whether I need one or not. As it turns out, my buying spree has paid off since one of the trainers I bought just happened to be small enough to fit my wife's Trek. Even then I had to use little bungee cords to bring the roller in the back up to the tire, so if you want a trainer, head to your local bike shop with your bike (or pictures of it) so you can find the trainer that's right for you.

Since tag sales are rather scarce this time of year it's better just to buy new. Some trainers can cost up to (and over) $300 depending on options, like measuring power output or, if you're Ed Begley Jr., if you want to generate electricity to make toast. Mine were likely in the tag sales they were in because someone was wisely upgrading to more modern trainers which have more adjustment settings and easier means of attaching it to the wheel.

Now if you own a gently used trainer, you can obviously throw it in a tag sale. If you don't they can often be recycled (with slight modifications) to use in the workshop: add a wooden platform so it can fit in a workbench clamp and you can put your bike right in there for all kinds of repairs.

If you favor fitness over an innovative workstand, put the trainer on the floor and attach it to your bike according to the manufacturer's directions. With that done, you have to level the front wheel so you don't feel as though you are perpetually riding downhill. To level the bike, I highly recommend using the CycleOps 3-level injection molded Climbing Riser Block. If anyone from the CycleOps marketing department is reading this and in need of a pull quote from me, Mike from DIYBIKING.COM, here it is: “Better than phone books.”

When the bike is level or at an incline, it may be a little harder for you to throw your leg over it. I took some 2X3 lumber and screwed them into a piece of IKEA deck tile to make a little step to make getting on and off the bike a bit easier.

Now if you don't care for attaching and detaching your bike to an apparatus to make it stationary and crave a home workout experience that has more excitement, you can buy rollers. Because the bike stays upright by the motion of the wheels turning alone, you have to pedal at a certain speed. Without phone books or a CycleOps Climbing Riser Block you have to keep the front wheel perfectly straight.

When I bought my rollers, I discovered this was a lot harder than it sounds and I wished I had spent a little more money to buy parabolic rollers, which are somewhat related to the birthday party bumpers you find at bowling alleys. Since I couldn't ride on my rollers for more than a few minutes without falling off, I made a few changes.

As you can see I added training wheels to my rollers; specifically a set of wheels from a single inline skate attached via bolts and chunks of aluminum. It is now much, much harder for me to roll off.

It may look silly, but if I want a fast ride I simply place it on the floor, put the Dahon Matrix on it, and ride off toward the television. I have no idea how fast or how far I go (one of the few drawbacks to the Garmin bike GPS) but I know I'm getting some exercise. So head to your local bike shop for some trainers or rollers, find yourself some worthy television and together we can make it through the winter.

Psych yourself up: you can do this.


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