Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Going nowhere fast

Been getting plenty of use out of this lately.
Winter months are normally the time of year when my road bike collects dust in storage and I pursue hobbies that are more conducive to the weather.

It's not necessarily a depressing time for me. I still utilize the outdoors for things like sledding, running and darkhouse spearfishing, plus I look forward to breaking out my new snowshoes once Mother Nature finally decides to send some real snow in Minnesota's direction. Beyond all that, it's also a time when I do a lot more reading and go on multiple Netflix binges (currently working through all nine seasons of "Scrubs"). I've always been a person with multiple interests in life; obsessing about biking year-round wouldn't really be true to my nature.

However, I have to admit that by the time spring rolls around, I find myself longing for my two-wheeled companion. It's the hobby I dedicate the most time to and, judging by the topic of most of my blog posts, it's also the hobby I have the most interest in.

But this year hasn't been like years past. In addition to an unusually mild winter, my biking interests also got a  year-round boost by way of a thoughtful Christmas present from my mom: A Schwinn Indoor Bike Trainer.

I've been getting good use out of it pretty much since the end of the holiday season. I pedal about 40 minutes a day on it in the mornings and will occasionally use it to unwind after work. In fact, I've been using it so much that I already had to replace a flat tire from it (I guess bike trainers wear down your rear tire a lot faster than normal riding).

Now, I'll admit that I've never been a huge fan of stationary bikes. The biggest reason I got into cycling was because of the travel one can do with it; the fitness benefits were simply a nice perk. It's the reason why I decided to bike across Iowa or do a 3-day trip to Lanesboro instead of signing up for races. My bike is a tool for adventure as much as it's a tool for fitness.

By that logic, it would seem that an indoor trainer wouldn't be much of a Christmas present for me. After all, there's not a lot of travel that comes with biking in one spot.

On occasion though, logic gets tossed to the wayside when you find yourself yearning for something. When the winter months hit, I miss being able to hop on my bike, turn up my mp3 player and hammer away on those pedals for awhile to help clear my head.

There's a certain level of release I get from biking that, for one reason or another, I'm unable to get with other physical activities. Running is too hard on my joints and swimming is a skill that eludes me (seriously, it's pretty awkward).

I could likely get a lot of the same feeling by going to a gym and hopping on exercise bike, but it wouldn't be EXACTLY the same. For one thing, it requires the effort of going to the gym. It also means being more inhibited with other people around (I confess, sometimes I like to sing along to my mp3 player, don't judge). 

But beyond all that, the basic reason that it's not the same is the simple reason that it's not my bike. As avid cyclists can relate, when you ride a particular bike as often as I do, you form a level of comfort with that bike that can't be matched with different equipment. You know every nook and cranny about it, right down to how it shifts, how it handles and what gear you like to be in for a particular situation. It's no different from a baseball player preferring a particular glove or a distance runner preferring a certain brand of shoes.

Thanks to the indoor trainer, I can keep that comfort level going year-round.

Thanks again mom!

*Note: I realize that I could make biking a year-round hobby by buying studded tires and bundling up for rides. But I have two fears about wintertime biking: motorists that can't deal with icy roads and the prospect of having to fix a flat tire in the middle of nowhere out in -20 weather (my reaction to that situation would be something like this).