Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mudguards - Indoor Festive 500 2013

Why am I writing about mudguards when I am riding inside?

The last time I did any real exercise indoors was over 20 years ago. After I moved from North Carolina to Boston, I was certain that I would never be able to ride outside in the winter here, so I acquired what at the time was a very expensive indoor trainer, a Schwinn Velodyne. It was outrageously expensive for my income at the time, so I left the price tag hanging on it just to encourage me to use the blasted thing! The velodyne was a magnetic resistance trainer controlled by an on-board computer. It was actually quite a nice trainer and I must say much simpler to set up than the devices I've been looking into recently. I recall it had a few modes, including a target heart rate, intervals and courses. The computer controlled the resistance, and varied it to simulate up and downhills on a route, or to keep a heart rate steady or for intervals. The display wasn't fancy, but it didn't need to be. One could select the mode and get basic feedback. I didn't need to see a video of the route I was riding, or super details of the terrain. None of that really replicates riding outdoors, so I might as well enjoy a nice action movie instead!

Just as now, I had considerable trouble with the prospect of exercising indoors, but I had signed up for a cross-country bike ride in the summer, and hadn't yet taken up cross-country skiing. We had a very snowy winter, and if studded tires existed then, I had not heard of them. Early on, I took a few nasty falls on evening commutes, and had finally come to the conclusion that if I was to survive the winter, I would need to make us of that indoor trainer. The cross country tour I was training for was one designed for folks with very little vacation, so it would involve high daily mileages, an average of 140 miles per day, to get from sea to shining sea in three weeks time. I felt the need to spend many hours in the saddle over the winter, so I might be strong enough to enjoy the long rides in the summer. I'd usually rent a couple of videos, some action flick with lots of car chases and gunfights or some peppy musical to keep me entertained and keep my spirits up. Ah to have had endless streaming video then!

I was also trying to train myself to eat solid food while riding. Prior to the move north, many of my long rides in North Carolina involved extreme heat and humidity. Over the years, I had converted to a mostly liquid diet, since digesting solid food while riding in those conditions didn't always have the best outcome. Puking was not uncommon on a ride in August with 95F temps and 95% humidity!

I knew that I couldn't afford to use a liquid diet for my three week tour, nor did I want to. So I made an effort to eat while riding on my trainer in my less than chilly living room. I started out with simple bike food like PB&Js, but over the winter progressed to pizza and the occasional roasted chicken dinner. While some folks have to clean the sweat off their top tubes after a trainer session, I had to sweep up crumbs from chips and pizza crust! I'm happy to report that this training worked and I have overcome the need to ingest expensive liquid nutrition and can now pretty much eat anything in any temperature... well almost anything...  I scoff at a can of ensure, just as I turn up my nose to a piece of toast covered in Marmite! But I'm quite partial to chocolate croissants, turkey sandwiches and coffee.

Ah, but this post isn't about food...

So in the winter of 1993, I would fire up a movie and ride for a couple of hours. Then I'd take a quick break to change videos and maybe throw a frozen pizza in the oven. The velodyne ride simulation, combined with a bike with a freewheel, allowed for coasting. I don't recall ever gaining speed while coasting down something steep, but if I stopped pedaling, unlike with my fixed gear setup, the rear wheel would actually continue to spin. The problem here is that one day, when hopping off the trainer to retrieve my pizza from the oven, my shin brushed the still moving rear wheel, resulting in an almightly burn to my shin. The next day I mounted a rear fender to my indoor bike - to protect my poor shin from further injury!

I've no such issue this week, as I've been using my fixie all week. When I stop pedaling, the wheel stops moving! No shin burns!

My Fixie with full fenders and extra mudflaps - full-on social mode!

But I have still thought about fenders, when Fear Rothar has come in with splatter on his face and the front of his jacket. While he has mudguards on his own bike, his riding companions haven't all been so courteous. On group rides, unless you banish all the naked tired bikes to the back of the pack, you will still have to deal with rooster tails and other splatter on wet roads.

So here's what I've been missing by doing all my rides alone in the basement this week, rather than heading out on the daily club rides. Conversation and rooster tails.

Well, actually I haven't missed those rooster tails one bit. Over the years, I have mixed luck with convincing my riding companions to mount fenders on their winter bikes. Even when it's not actively raining, there is often snow melt or puddles or grit on the road, and fenders help keep this stuff off you, your bike and your companions. I have had some luck pointing out my clean bike and dry bottom at the end of a messy ride, as evidenced on the next ride when a few more people show up with some sort of fender mounted. But I'm not yet at 100% conversion rate. Admittedly staying ahead of the less than considerate bloke who insists on spraying anyone drafting can have a good training benefit, but since I actually prefer to avoid training, it's not ideal!

I suppose in addition to riding with the garage door open as Fear Rothar suggested earlier, I should also find someway to blow grit and muck into my face while I'm on my trainer! Nah, I'll just assume that I've finally succeeded in getting all my riding companions to mount mudguards!

But I do miss the conversation. Sure, I've enjoyed mainlining my way through 4 seasons of Jeeves and Wooster, and am now looking forward to some Coupling and Father Ted, but I've realized that the hardest part of riding in the garage is lack of conversation.

Yep, I've claimed that I ride for scenery, and while that is definitely a large part of it, what I really enjoy is the whole social interaction of a group ride, with some spirited conversation, especially a good chat about politics or religion. All my good friends know that weather is a forbidden subject, of course. But at this stage, I'm so starved for social interaction on the bike that I might even put up with some riding companion on my first outside ride saying, "At least it's not raining." But then again, standards have to be maintained.

420km done on a 50/19 fixed gear in my garage. 2 days to go!



  1. I've really gotten a kick out of reading these last few posts about your indoor cycling! I'm about to start on my own indoor cycling… adventure? You mentioned cycling being something you enjoy for the opportunity to socialize and explore. Up until recently I had just one friend that I could do that with. Her employment situation changed suddenly, and now our schedules no longer align. So I've spent the last several months being a solo cyclist. It was nice at first, but I miss the company now. Meanwhile, my (non-cycling) husband has been working out of state during the week, so now while he is home on the weekends I am loath to go out to ride when I could be home hanging out with him, but I absolutely can not just laze about the house all weekend. I'm way to fidgety. Enter the trainer. I haven't bought it yet, but my scheme is to set it up by the couch where we can hang out and watch movies and eat pizza all weekend and I won't drive him nuts with my inability to just sit still. Fingers crossed! Maybe we'll go through the Jeeves and Wooster again. It's been awhile. :)

    1. Depending on what kind of trainer you've got, what temperature you keep your thermostat set on and how close your neighbors are, this may or may not work. Years ago, my neighbors in my townhouse, complained bitterly when I used my velodyne anywhere but in my basement, since it shook the building and was so loud. The fluid trainer is much quieter than the heavy magnetic trainer, but I have only used it in our garage. Aside from being courteous the neighbors in our townhouse, I opted for the cooler temperatures in the garage. I very quickly work up a serious sweat - even with a fan, I've found I prefer the 45-50F temps in the garage - at least after the first few minutes!

      And despite the fact that I've enjoyed taking part in the challenge and watching these videos this week, I can't express how much I am looking forward to being able to ride outside again. I'm excited that I'm regaining some strength that will pay off with less pain when I get outside, but as I've said many times, riding isn't about training or getting strong for me, it is about the fun, and this really doesn't fit my definition of fun!

    2. Hrm… well, since our neighbors have yet to complain about the drill press and table saw being used in our half of the basement, they shouldn't be too bothered by the trainer. Then again, they are my in-laws… I am purchasing a fluid trainer, and from what I've read in the reviews it seems to be relatively quite. I have no idea about building shake though. I hadn't even considered that as an issue. The floor shakes when the cats run across it! Oh well, for an hour or so in the evenings I guess they can live with it. It's just until spring. I might be able to coax the Husband out once the weather warms. He has a recumbent trike that I'm in the midst of rebuilding in hopes that he will come outside and play.

    3. Also, YAY! I'm excited to hear your optimism at someday getting back outside to ride! That's great!