A hamster in a wheel

Last Autumn I borrowed a friend’s Turbo Trainer, an odd looking device that allows you to use your bike indoors for training. With the nights getting longer and the weather getting worse, it seemed like a good way of retaining the fitness gains and weight loss from the summer.

My first experience wasn’t that great, rather uninspiring in fact. The bike is locked into a rigid position, there was a fair bit of noise (even though this was one of the quietest ones) and it felt nothing like cycling on a road. For my second session, to a proper structure and keep up the interest, I played a Sufferfest video, which helped a lot. Here’s the trailer for the one I bought, ‘The Downward Spiral‘…

If you’re watching this trailer sitting on a sofa, rather than a turbo trainer and bike, you might chuckle at the music and captions feeling a bit overdramatic. Believe me, it doesn’t once you’re on the bike and you get the instruction to ‘close the gap!’ you go for it. 25 mins later however, there was the strong smell of burning rubber, and lo, I had melted the rear tyre, and the floor was littered with rubber shavings. I’d love to claim this was because I was doing such an intense workout, but I think I’d just set it up with the wrong resistance.

The way around this is to use a special turbo trainer tyre, made of a much harder compound, and the easiest way to do that is to have a separate wheel setup ready and change it over for a turbo session. That means getting another tyre, wheel and cassette! But that’s not all you need, as the you also have to prop the front wheel up, have a fan on to keep cool and protect your bike from the corrosive sweat that drips off you in bucket loads.

It’s an awful lot of faff!

However, it wasn’t until the next ride that I felt the benefit. Just doing two short sessions during the week made the Friday ride much better. In the end though, I decided that getting a turbo trainer was the equivalent of a sandwich toaster – a dust-gatherer after the first couple of uses.

Now we’re in February, and the UK is having an extended cold snap where my usual routes have layers of compacted frozen snow. After falling off my bike last November, which made my ribs sore for weeks afterwards, I don’t fancy the risk, and I’ve finally caved in and got one. It’s always going to be better to riding outside, but for the times I can’t, I can at least do a hamster in a wheel impression.

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