Anatomy of a Bike Cave
I take a lot of flack for not hating indoor training. Not to be confused with Masterbiking or indoor group training, solo indoor bike training is perhaps the most hated and heinous activity in all of Cycledom. To be clear, the fact that I don’t hate it DOES NOT MEAN I dislike riding outdoors in the glorious splendour of nature, anymore than the fact that I don’t like Lance Armstrong means I love cancer. I do, however, feel that some amount of indoor training is a great option when you don’t have the time or inclination to get outside.
The trick to tolerating, and perhaps even enjoying indoor training is creating a welcoming and personal sanctuary conducive to beating yourself senseless. Think of it as the cyclist’s version of the Man Cave. For most of us, this is located somewhere in the least desirable and unused corner of the basement. For example, mine is a weird 6 x 9 foot nook I previously used for sewing. Until recently, it was full of pretty fabrics, threads, and notions, and made me feel about as badass as wearing a hoop skirt.My cave was neither inspiring, nor comfortable, and sometimes made me want to kill people when I was in it for extended periods of time. With winter approaching, I felt a renovation was in order, both for my own sanity as well the safety of everyone around me. While not a dramatic before-and-after, implementing some basic logic to the room has made me feel considerably less miserable – and maybe even a bit excited – when I skulk down into the underbelly of my house to sweat.
1. The Equipment
Unless you are lucky enough to have a very understanding spouse and enough room for a velodrome in your house, you are going to need a stationary trainer. A trainer supports both you and your bike, allowing you to ride for hours without actually moving. This is probably the part that tuns most people off, because part of the joy of riding a bike is going really fast and seeing stuff. On a trainer, you do neither.
Last year I was lucky enough to borrow a set of rollers – a device consisting of three cylinders that allow your front and back wheel to spin, while offering no support whatsoever to your bike. Sound dangerous? You bet, but what better distraction from monotony than a bit of abject terror?When your bike is clamped into a trainer, it’s easy to look around, sit up, stand, get water, and chat with your riding buddies about the latest developments in nutritional supplements and wireless power meters. On rollers you have no such luxury – zone out and you run the risk of taking a header into the drywall. That’s not to say you have to have ninja-like sharpness either – while it took some practice, I can now ride with no hands, grab and replace my water bottle, and watch hours worth of zombie shows without incident. For me, the rollers offered a new and exciting challenge. They helped increase my bike handling skills and, more importantly, saved me from dying of boredom.
And die of boredom you will, unless you have something to keep yourself occupied and distracted while you ride your bike to sweet nowhere. Ideally, that distraction is an actual workout to help you crush and humiliate the people who think indoor training is stupid and chose to do fuck all all winter. Chris Carmichael, former coach to the seven-time winner of nothing, has a series of workout videos you can buy here (pharmaceuticals not included). Other popular choices are Spinervals with the cheerfully masochistic Coach Troy, and, of course, the beloved Sufferfest videos.The videos generally offer a fairly intense workout, and sometimes you don’t need or want that. For short, easy workouts you might opt for some rousing musical accompaniment and throw on your favourite ABBA album. Usually the sound of the trainer, combined with some heavy mouth breathing is enough to drown out the music, so I always use earbuds with an extension cord plugged into my iPhone or computer, and try my best to resist the temptation to check my email and answer texts. If a longer, endurance workout is needed (and I am unable to go outside), I treat myself to a movie download – generally something I would have no chance of seeing either in a theatre, or on a nice quiet movie night at home with the family.
Now that the important stuff is out of the way, it’s time to address the more practical issue of where to put all your shit. It’s taken me several years, and several articles of expensive cycling clothing ruined by greasy bike parts to figure this out. I have recently sorted all of my shit into categories, such as illumination (for lights and reflectors), inflation (tubes, levers, C02 cartridges, patch kits), insulation (gloves, leg and arm warmers, caps), lotions and potions (lube, embrocation, saddle cream, sunscreen) and “miscellaneous” (all the stuff that looks important but I have no idea what it is).Everything has its place, is easy to find and the whole thing make me feel deliciously smug. In your face Martha Stewart.
Many of you will find this particular topic frivolous and unimportant – but this is not Winnipeg CycleDude, so I’m going to talk about decor whether you like it or not. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying your cave has to (or should) look like this:But surrounding yourself with things like comfortable flooring, inspiring pictures and meaningful mementoes of your cycling escapades can only serve to enhance your miserable solitary subterranean experience. I’ve recently covered the cracked and musty concrete floor in my cave with some cheap interlocking playroom flooring that makes me moan with delight every time I step on it.My cork board displays tidbits and treasures from my travels and races, and I recently framed this silkscreen poster by Cast Iron Design I scored last spring at the Old Pueblo crit in Tucson.When I look at these things, they remind me that the work I do in this dreadful place will make me stronger and faster when I release myself into the wild blue yonder.
The great thing is that once you have the basics covered, you can do whatever you want with your cave to make it your own. I am currently negotiation the addition of something like this, which is both aesthetically pleasing and offers a multitude of hydration options :Sure, riding outside is better. Sure, real people are better company than zombies (mostly), but there is something to be said for basking in the misery of your own company once in a while. Especially when surrounded by the opulent splendour of your own personal bike cave.