Monday, March 23, 2015

Hit the rollers!

As the season advances, colder than average still becomes inexorably warmer. The persistence of subfreezing days and snow cover masks the fact that April is near. I may have only a few days to shift my training to launch the bike commuting season.

With a minor background in racing I use the term "training" a lot. Don't be put off. It's a convenient term for the physical conditioning that benefits anyone self-propelled. I don't consume the magic potions racers do, or meticulously plan my workouts to hone my physique and technique to perfection. I just throw together a few ingredients that seem to help the transitions from off-bike to on-bike. With the best of intentions it's increasingly hard to get myself to actually do any preparation. But I remember how and why I did and should.

I prefer rollers over a stationary trainer because on rollers the bike can be a bike instead of a fixture clamped in place. You don't want to lean into any imaginary corners, but you'll develop an unbelievably smooth and efficient pedal stroke. If you're maintaining strength in other ways, even a half-hour on the rollers helps a lot to keep you saddle-ready and smooth.

Getting ready to ride indoors seems like much more of a nuisance than getting ready to ride outdoors. Indoors you don't get the rewards of actual motion through the landscape. All you get is sweaty. Really sweaty. If you set up a fan to simulate the breeze over you, you have to regulate the temperature and your clothing to maintain your comfort during what is basically an uncomfortable activity. I wear as little as possible in a warm room and let the sweat fall where it may. Dry the bike off afterwards.

The fixed-gear is a great choice for roller riding because it has the fewest moving parts for you to sweat all over. It also forces you to develop smoothness over a wide range of cadence.

As previously stated, when the snow is good I will use the snow. But, inevitably, some winters have little or no snow, and all winters end. They don't start on a fixed, predictable schedule, either.

Going into winter my efforts emphasize weight-bearing locomotion. In recent winters, the weights have been 12-ounce containers of liquid and small musical instruments, but before that I would run, hike, mess around with free weights and specific exercises for strength and flexibility so I wouldn't cripple myself when whatever passed for skiing might finally arrive.

Coming out of winter, my recipe favors cycling. Shape the existing body to the bike. Ride rollers, mostly. If it's been a bad winter for exercise I'll run the stairs in my house as much as I can stand, and then ride rollers. If it's been a good winter for skiing, roller riding reshapes the pedal stroke, alerts the "saddle contact area" and begins to redistribute arm and shoulder mass I won't want or need for propelling a bike.

Time is short. I'll be happy just to go ahead and get the crotch-bruising out of the way and remind myself how to pedal smoothly. Get ready to split the car's hard shell and emerge for another season of free flight.

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