Monday, October 1, 2007

Road shock

Somehow I managed to spend the entire summer riding indoors. Between the amount of classes I covered for other instructors and my own scheduled classes and then my inclination to only ride outdoors on days between 65 and 78 degrees and no humidity, my days outside this summer were few and far between.

So this weekend, with Saturday giving us a glorious 77 degrees, light breeze and blue skies, I hit the pavement on my hybrid. Outdoors of all things. It felt so good Saturday, that I suffered the slightly colder, darker and damper Sunday as well. And I realized that after two days and nearly 60 miles logged, I am suffering from road shock. Much like culture shock, road shock brought me to the realization that, no matter how hard we try to simulate an outdoor ride in our spinning profiles, we will always fall short in a few basic areas, yet, indoor riding also has its benefits.

First, we will never be able to effectively instruct how to find a flat road. I found about ten types of flat road on my short excursions this weekend. None of them required no work. Too often, we let our students get away with what I call "free-wheeling" that is, pedaling with virtually no resistance and indeed, pedaling to no where. I've tried to tell them that riding with so little resistance is akin to pedaling if your chain has fallen off. But if you've never ridden outdoors and never had your chain fall off, you'll never get it. Advantage outdoors.

Too, it's virtually impossible to explain the work involved in riding into a headwind or riding a false flat (looks flat, needs some legpower) without having them launch themselves into a full blown hill climb. I suffered about 5 miles of headwind yesterday, never felt as if I was on a hill per se, but my legs were jelly by the end of that stretch. Similarly, I also found about 5 miles of flat with the slightest bit of descent on it. I hit it in a big gear and took it at about 24 mph (amazing on a hybrid!). That's such a liberating feeling that I wish I could convey in my profiles! Advantage, still outdoors.

Hills are not so forgiving either. When you reach down for the resistance knob to make it less of a hill, there's no knob there and you're stuck with said hill. Yes, I did reach for it once outside and was dismayed to find it missing, perhaps a sign that I've spent a little too much time inside! Advantage, indoors if you're not into suffering.

The whole balance thing, you know, keeping the bike upright? Completely underestimated. Arms, shoulders, back and abs are all feeling it this morning, something they rarely do after weeks of spinning inside. Advantage, outdoors.

Concentration is a might bit different as well. Instead of being able to zone out and find my special place for the duration of the ride, I have to watch for traffic, dogs, potholes, gravel, automobile traffic and traffic patterns. Not quite as relaxing as on the inside. Advantage, indoors.

Doing my loop ride in reverse and laughing at myself when I realized why I always went the other way (it was much easier the first time around!) is something I can more effectively communicate in out and back profiles now. Advantage, even.

And snakes? Never a good thing, even in the roadkill form. Advantage, indoors, definitely indoors.

Finally, the soundtrack is missing. On particular stretches of flats, climbs and everything in between, I wanted to reach for the remote and turn up the music, or switch it to something more agreeable for the effort. But like the resistance knob, the stereo is missing too, leaving me with whatever melodies I could conjure up and stick with in my head. Advantage, indoors.

I'm hoping that in the coming weeks I'll be able to squeeze a few more weekend rides in before the temperature falls below my comfort threshhold. I'll keep looking for ways to share my joy and my pain found outside with my classes. After all, that's where the challenge lies for the spinning instructor.

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