September. The daylight starts to go away a little earlier and arrive a little later. Students are heading back into the classrooms. For some, it is time to break out the toe clips and start the cyclocross season. But unfortunately for many of us, it just means less hours of daylight and a higher chance of rain or snow ruining our outdoor riding experiences.
Let’s face it – sitting on a trainer indoors by yourself can become a little bit, shall we say, boring. One of the common remedies to this boredom is to position the trainer in front of a TV and find some cycling video to watch. I find this particularly useful for those short interval sessions. There are great products out there like “The Downward Spiral“from The Sufferfest collection. A good video can indeed help alleviate the boredom and provide some much needed motivation.
But sitting by yourself on a trainer with even the most beautiful of ride or race video playing in front of you still has the same flaw – you are alone. The dynamics and social interactions of the group ride, or rush you get when you realize your buddy is still half way down the hill you just crested are often some of the greatest joys in cycling.
Spin classes can potentially help to fill this void. If you simply enjoy sitting next to someone that is pedaling just as quickly as you are, these indoor group sessions can often be an easily accessible approximation of the weekend group ride. They are definitely superb at maintaining and increasing your base fitness levels, and may just find you a few seconds or minutes on next season’s sprints and climbs.
For great head-to-head competition, gold sprints are a great alternative. For those unfamiliar, gold sprints are essentially head-to-head bike races done on rollers, with equipment keeping track of distance traveled. By using fork stands attached to the rollers so that folks don’t have to balance, many have also discovered the “joy” of combining bike racing with beer in a way never before (safely) possible. Local pubs have set these events up right inside the bar, where partying patrons can hop in the saddle and pedal off the alcohol in a controlled environment. Or, more “traditional” events will forgo the fork stands (and the alcohol) and challenge not only the rider’s speed but also bike handling abilities. A great way to produce the feelings of competition in the off season.
Then again, if you are fortunate enough to live near a velodrome getting out on the track is another great “off season” option. Given the simplicity of track bikes, you can actually get a fairly decent ride for a very reasonable price. Most velodromes will have times set aside to introduce the concepts of indoor racing and how to do it in a way that is safe for both yourself and your fellow riders. Plus, that track bike will give you some points with the local hipster/fixie crowd when you take it to the local grocery store.
Finally, there is one thing you can do that can help with all of your woes. Get yourself some good wool clothing, perhaps some rain gear, and get out there and keep doing the same thing you did all summer: ride your bike. The pouring rain leaves only one thing that any reasonable person can say when they pass the guy out riding – that dude is bad ass.