Painful Truth: Cycling dreams start before spring

It’s been unseasonably warm a few times this month. For some this means yearning towards getting out in the garden, or longing looks at the jet ski gathering dust in the garage. For me, it means I’ve started dreaming about bike rides.  

Let’s be clear, I’m not actually some kind of super-committed, hyper-athletic cyclist. My cycling hobby varies between “cheerful enthusiast” and “pathetic couch-bound bicycle-owner.” In 2014, it was much closer to the latter. Towards the end of the year, I started to get the cycling itch again, and daydreams of long rides under sunlit skies began to invade my thoughts.

Unfortunately, it’s still January. As I write these words, temperatures are nearly in double digits and sunny. By tomorrow, no doubt it will be raining and hovering around six Celsius again. Add to that the fact that it’s still dark by 5 p.m. and before 8 a.m., and pre- or post-work rides are still hazardous. 

This leaves two alternatives – the weekend ride, and the indoor ride.

The weekend ride really only depends on weather to the extent that it not be snowing. In the past, I’ve ridden in sleet (painful when it smacks into your face) and hail (makes a delightful rattle on the top of a helmet).

For a good winter ride, you need at least four things:

1) Gloves, really, really warm and waterproof.

2) Waterproof shoe covers, little neoprene booties that look like they were engineered for the space program

3) A waterproof jacket, and 

4) A willingness to let Mother Nature kick the crap out of you.

Returning from a relatively nice day in January and February, you can still expect to find various parts of your body (ie your entire torso) have turned bright red from the cold, your nose is leaking fluids like an elderly Hyundai, and you have a mouthful of grit and road salt.

On the plus side, you get to be smug all year towards any fellow cyclists who didn’t start riding until March.

Or, you can be like me and find all kinds of chores and other excuses to take up your weekends, so you don’t have to go out in actual weather.

If you’re too busy/lazy, the only other option to real cycling is the indoor ride.

Many cyclists, more serious and less miserly than myself, buy what are known as “trainers.” A trainer is a device that clamps on to the back wheel of your bike and holds it upright, allowing you to ride without going anywhere. Amazingly, there is no Sisyphus brand, yet.

There are also rollers. These are conveyer-belt dealies on which your bike sits, sans any clamps. I’m a fan of the device, mostly the many videos you can find online of people slipping off and crashing into their bedroom walls.

That leaves the other option, the stationary bike.

Stationary bikes are not that much fun. My strata has a couple in its small gym; one of them has an uncomfortable seat, the other an excruciating seat. The guys at the factory seem to have decided that if it was more comfortable than a cheese grater, it was good enough.

Still, they’re much, much better than nothing. The strata folks even installed little flatscreen TVs on the stationary bikes. I have yet to turn one on. I’m terrified that if I get used to watching TV while riding, I’ll head out on my real bike, absent-mindedly reach for the remote to change the channel and ride straight into a ditch.

So for now, I’m just spinning away, staring at a blank black rectangle, desperately trying to get in good enough shape that the first real bike ride of the year won’t actually kill me dead.

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