Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Look Ma No Hands

I’m not a super good looking guy, just a run of the mill bloke who does what he can not to visually offend people. But I’m partial to my face and body, and the skin that covers it. It was for that reason when training, I decide to “skip” the ice, snow and fog that has plagued these shores and their roads for the past few months and invest in some indoor cycling equipment. This meant that I could get on my bike and hit the “virtual” tarmac whenever I wanted and not battle Mother Nature to see who would emerge victorious. Let’s face it, if she had won, I wouldn’t have been in good shape.

When considering this new avenue, the choices here are numerous and as always each have their own pros and cons. If you want a standalone machine they range for a common exercise bike and progress right up to the pro spinning bike. But if you want to use your actual bike (Which I did/do) there are only really two choices. The Turbo Trainer or Parabolic Rollers.

Turbo Trainer:

In its simplest form the “Turbo” is a frame with a resistance roller. This attaches to your bikes frame via a specialised spindle that replaces the current rear wheels spindle on your bike. The rear wheel then rests on the resistance roller to give the effect of a rolling road, thus replicating actual forward propulsion. As with all things there are higher spec. versions of this theory, with various features, mechanisms, coffee makers, shoes polishers, space and time transportation........ But in essence simple to ride, balance and get on and off.

Turbo Trainers

The Parabolic Roller:

Dubbed the “Most realistic” of the indoor cycling methods. Here the bike sits on two connected rollers. The bike is not attached in anyway and uses the centrifugal/centripetal force of the wheels to remain upright.  In theory they also help hone your bike handling skills and improve pedalling technique, making you smoother and more efficient when on the bike. They have been used for years by track cyclists in-between events.

Parabolic Rollers

After much deliberation and thought I opted to go for the Rollers as my preferred choice of indoor entertainment. So it was straight online to make a purchase. A purchase which, in time would fill me with pleasure, pain, fear and jubilation.

The day of delivery came, a nice shiny new box with my brand new rollers in. That night I took it home unpacked it, and put all the pieces together. It was a glorious sight of glossy red and matte black plastic. Sure to turn me into the next Fabbian Cancellara overnight.

Unable to hold my excitement in anymore, I went to “strap up” for my first indoor ride. Now I had read that Roller novices could find it hard to make the transition from standing to actual riding on the rollers. But I had been riding a whole 4 months, how hard could it be..........

Having read somewhere that it is easiest to hold onto a wall or a doorframe to get you going, I positioned the roller and bike next to the garage wall. Mounted my trusty steed (Hand still firmly on rear brakes and wall) and prepared myself. I began to pedal...... Before I knew it the bike shot from side to side on the rollers as if I was trying to ride a wheel of butter on rollers of ice. It was something that I had never experienced before, complete and utter terror on my bike! Before I go on, let me stress the situation. My feet are firmly clipped in, I’m on my bike which if fairly tall anyway but when you put it on rollers it is another 6 inches off of the floor. There is no gentle fall from this height. I continued to pedal, bike zigging and zagging just maintaining enough control to stay within the “Safe” parameters of the roller width. After 15 minutes I still hadn’t managed to remove my hand from the wall,  and there was only a mild improvement. I decided to cut my losses for the night and retire to the house to research what I was doing wrong, IT CANT BE THAT HARD!

After trawling the internet, mostly Youtube for tips, it would seem it IS THAT HARD. The whole web seems littered with people trying to master the art of “The roller” and just as many have posted photos/videos of themselves falling off them: Some examples

Admittedly there are people also that can achieve it, and do tricks on them to boot, but I put that down to them being Aliens or something.

The next day I psyched myself up and went for round two. Having watched all the videos surely I would be able to do it and not make the same mistakes. 15 minutes of Wall hugging later, I was only slightly better. The following thoughts then started to go through my head:

“The spinning of the wheels are what keeps me upright!”

“If they spin faster it will be easier to remain upright!”

“If I really go for it there is no way I will fall off, I’m generally good at balance”

You can see where this is going right?............

“I’m just going to go for it”

“Let go of the wall and gun it”

“This will work!”


Before I could say “Eat my dust Bradley Wiggins”, my face was bouncing on the garage wall, bike wheel spinning mid air and I was laying prone on the now motionless rollers. It hadn’t worked..........

A few more attempts later, and I had adopted the “slowly, slowly catchy monkey” technique. Slowly building up the RPM on the bike and tentatively moving my hand from the wall. After what seemed like an eternity (In reality about 2o minutes) I could remove my hand from the wall and actually hold the bars on the bike. Albeit only for a few seconds at a time. This was all the encouragement I needed. That week I dedicated all my training time to “taming the rollers”, and by Friday, I could actually do it!!!!! Now I wasn’t amazing at it, and the balancing took more effort than the actual peddling, but I could do it. I was the king of the garage, nobody could say otherwise! The greatest moment came as my wife walked in to change over the washing whilst I was mid flight. “That’s looks dangerous” she said. Yes it is, extremely , and I was conquering it, I was a god amongst men!!!!!

I have now come to realise that my accomplishment was not one only achieved by only supreme beings and ultra athletes, but I’m ok with that, I learnt to ride on a roller dammit!

That winter I used the rollers when there was Ice, snow or fog on the roads through until Spring broke. Spring, Summer and Autumn strewn with glorious sunny rides with the boys. Then at the back end of 2012 Winter returned, I was thinking about cracking out the rollers again but I received a phone call, it was Oli.

“I have discovered this thing called Sufferfest, you’ll need a Turbo Trainer”

But that’s a different story.......................


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