After finishing the 2014 Tour de Cure last June and notching a few 40-45 mile rides later in the year, I signed up early for the 2015 Tour and vowed to ride my age in miles – the tour’s 62.5 mile route, also known as a “metric century” because it’s 100 kilometers. But during a bitterly cold and long Western New York winter, how would I continue conditioning for longer rides or even maintain the conditioning I worked so hard to develop last year? I’m neither wealthy nor crazy enough to buy a “fat bike” and continue riding outdoors in sub-freezing temperatures.
Meet my bike desk. You may have heard of the treadmill desks that are somewhat in vogue these days. In vogue, that is, if you have $2,000-4,000 available to buy one and a work environment (including your boss) that permits you to use it. It’s a simple premise: take a desk that can raise or lower to a height that fits you, and place a treadmill where your chair would go, then proceed to do your work while walking at a pace that suits you – phone calls, reading, computer work or most any other desk work. After all, sitting is the new smoking.
I’m fortunate, in more ways than one, that my job allows me to work from home, and the treadmill desk mini-wave set me thinking about bicycling indoors, but I’ve not discovered anything similar done with bikes, and I wouldn’t spend that kind of money on such a device anyway. So I mounted my Trex FX 7.2 bike on a CycleOps fluid trainer in our basement, placed a music stand in front of it and, after some shopping around, acquired a mobile laptop cart that raises its work surface to 47” – just about the right height to place my laptop at hand while sitting on the Trek and large enough to hold my portable extension phone. Voila: a bike desk.
Sounds great, right? And it is, but the trainer makes a very audible, whirring white noise when I’m pedaling at speed (frankly so do I – and no one likes talking to a “breather”), so I have to slow down considerably when I’m on the phone. Handling email is fine, or reviewing documents, but it’s not a very effective mode for anything that requires profound thought.
You’d think, then, that I’d be logging some long miles in the basement. Since January 1, I’ve pedaled 350 miles down there, and that’s not bad, but I’m behind on my own goal for the year. As a baseline, my odometers tell me I rode 2,400 miles in 2014, and I resolved to boost that to 3,600 this year. Crunch all of this, and with 25 percent of 2015 behind us, I’ve ridden only 10 percent of my goal. Ugh.
One challenge, of course, is that cycling indoors can be deadly boring, but there are iPads and e-readers, music and televisions to fight the boredom. The real problem is that cycling on a trainer is more physically and mentally grueling, mile-for-mile, than riding outdoors. Out on the roads and trails, there are hills and valleys and corners to negotiate, which means changes of pace and posture that provide physical relief. On the trainer, there is nothing but resistance, and sitting on a stationary bicycle seat (even a well-fitting one) for even an hour is literally a pain in the ass. That’s the physical part – and the mental part is the voice of your body demanding that you get off and take a damned break.
But, I soldier on. Countless bicyclists have gone this way before me, so I know to vary the pace on the trainer, kicking up the resistance and rising off the saddle periodically to provide my sit bones some relief. An interesting soundtrack helps. And – bike desk or not – I can’t really get a good workout and do my job at the same time.
Thankfully, spring is coming to Rochester. Soon. I know it is. I just know it is, and when it arrives, I look forward to boosting the weekly mileage up over 100 and getting on track against the goal. The Rochester Tour de Cure, on June 13, will be just the first waypoint on the journey.