The reason for this thought is marginally less random than in might seem at first glance because I was in my garage spinning my little legs as fast as they would go on an unsupported, unbalanced death trap of a training device known as ‘rollers’. Okay, I wasn’t about to get arrested by the Chicago State Police but the level of stress was pretty similar.
For those of you unfamiliar with these infernal things here is a picture of them. You just put your bike on them, get on and ride until you fall off. For me, this normally within the first few seconds. With practice, perseverance, some Band Aids and a towel to mop up the blood, you gradually develop the balance to stay on them long enough for your heart rate to respond to the exercise rather than the abject terror.
I wrote about these and other indoor training tortures in ReCycled. I was dismissive of rollers then – mainly because I was terrified of them (I still am) and probably because the people I was training with over-advocated their use as a miracle cure for all cycling ills. They lack the resistance of a turbo trainer but they do make you spin the legs faster and eventually relax the top of your body – this is a good thing for souplesse or pedalling fluidity.
You learn this the hard way. To stay on these things it is essential to relax, accelerate your legs and look towards the horizon. The natural reaction of looking downwards, slowing the legs and tensing up as soon as you wobble will simply bring forward the inevitable. I know this is true because I recently rode off the side of mine and ended up under next door’s Mini. In fact, a mate of mine uses them in his garage with a chair/wall combo on one side and a mattress on the other. It works for him…
So why bother? Why take the risk? Fair question. Well, I hate indoor winter training with a passion but it’s a necessary evil for the British racing cyclist faced with dark winter nights and crap weather. Unless you are fortunate enough not to have to work or can spend big chunks of time training abroad, you are going to have to make your way to the garage or kitchen and sit on some kind of training device pretty regularly at this time of year.
I find using a turbo trainer soul-sappingly, mind-buggeringly boring so riding rollers is still a challenge for me: a new learning experience. I have to concentrate on what I’m doing to avoid falling off to the extent I wouldn’t dream of using an iPod when I’m on them. I need all my senses available or I’ll be extracting myself from the tool box and spare wheels pile. Again.
This means, critically, time passes quickly – you are engaged with the experience because the consequence of not being means some kind of physical injury will result. Lose concentration for a few seconds, tense up, slow the legs and it’s hello the underside next doors Mini…
As hard to believe as it may be, Rich Smith is a Level 3 British Cycling coach and is currently banging on incessantly about how he had a liver transplant 20 years ago. He is fund raising for the GB Transplant Cycling team going to the World Transplant Games in South Africa in 2013. Please support them via Just Giving.