Cycling through Covid-19
Finding alternative fitness routines to health clubs and outdoor cycling was a consideration for cyclists to maintain their fitness through the Coronavirus pandemic. Most cyclists have had to consider changes in their cycling behavior in the midst of the pandemic. One of the overarching considerations is whether to cycle on a road or trail or move to a stationary indoor venue. In some regions of the world cycling on a road or trail was restricted. If those restrictions applied to your region, then the decision was easy, and cycling inside or on a stationary bike was your only option. On the other hand, if you had the freedom to cycle outdoors, perhaps there were reasons to think that the circumstances might change, or for some other reason, the growing popularity of indoor cycling caught your attention as a viable alternative to heading out on the road or trail.
Given all options are available to you- road, off-road (MTB), and stationary cycling, which option is the best option? And, if you are in a region where the Coronavirus restrictions are lifting, what decisions will you make? Coronavirus introduced significant risk not only to our health and well-being, but also our lifestyle, and curtailing or modifying our cycling program is not easy medicine for us to take.
First, let’s explore stationary/ indoor options. Many elite athletes choose to train at least intermittently on a stationary set-up, whether it’s a semi-permanent system or mobile system such as rollers or a device that attaches to the rear wheel of your bicycle. Training on a stationary set-up can provide several advantages over riding the road or trails.
Weather, temperature, and light are known considerations and involve no pre-planning, and clothing decisions are simple, and no helmet. Food and water are conveniently available, and in unlimited quantities. Road and trail hazards such as automobiles and animals are not of concern. I’ve been hit by a car and collided with a horse in a race (future blog articles). Streaming music, video, podcasts, and audio-books are all on demand.
Other reasons to ride indoors (if you’ve never considered them): conference calls where your participation is mostly listening, young children needing supervision (and you can’t leave although you want to), waiting for a service to arrive to repair an appliance or your very-important WiFi.
Assuming that your default training/ recreation program is outdoor cycling, and you’re not set up for indoor cycling, let’s take a look at options for setting up stationary/ indoor cycling taking into account several factors.
Your considerations should include: floor space available, semi-permanent or mobile equipment requirement, and electric power availability.
Additional considerations are:
Finding the optimum environment and physical space to support my equipment.
- Will my system disturb the neighbors, is it loud?
- Is the space large enough to support my stationary bike?
- How much will this cost?
If you are restricted by floor space, and you need a compact and mobile solution, your best options are either rear-wheel resistance trainers or rollers. Rear wheel resistance trainers offer stability. Rear-wheel resistance trainers and rollers can be loud, and if you happen to be on a second floor residence, the people below you may be disturbed, and if you share a residence with someone, this cycling set-up is best in another room if someone may be sleeping while you’re cycling.
Many elite athletes prefer rollers for their real-feel. They provide a highly-authentic cycling experience. If you’ve never ridden rollers before, they can be challenging (and possibly dangerous), so proceed cautiously.
Stationary semi-permanent systems are typically known as spin-bikes. Some are energized systems which can offer computerized training solutions, and others require no electrical connection. Typically, both systems are relatively quiet, and some are essentially silent, which makes them a nice option if you live on a second floor residence or if you share a residence with someone. They are typically heavy, so moving them can be difficult, and may require help to initially set-it up, or to move it from one place to another. Some of these systems are similar in size to a rear-wheel resistance training or roller set-up: none of these systems are more compact, and many of these systems are larger.
If low cost is your goal, then the lowest cost option is a rear-wheel resistance trainer or rollers (although there are some higher-end, more expensive models).
Stationary semi-permanent systems range from medium to high cost.
So, you’ve considered your options, and you’ve decided to cycle outdoors. What are your risks and what are your rewards?
- Collisions with automobiles, road furniture such as signs and curbs, animals, trees, etc.
- Injury requiring medical care- have you considered the cost, and is your local region prepared in the midst of Coronavirus to care for your injuries?
- Equipment failure such as a flat tire, broken spoke, broken chain.
- Poor weather conditions and poor light which can lead to physical stress and/ or increase your likelihood of a crash.
- Mental rejuvenation- it feels great to be outside cycling, fresh air, changing scenery.
- The physical challenge is off-set by distractions of the terrain- the 30 minute climb is not a mechanical slog in the midst of a podcast, but rather the anticipation of an actual mountain pass, and a thrilling descent.
- You can cycle with others around, and even with the requirement of social distancing, you can be nearby other cyclists or teammates.
- The training is authentic, your program, fitness, and race goals remain on-track without any adjustment to indoor cycling required.
I’ve found a compromise that I think I can live with, and that can work for me. I’ve come to enjoy stationary cycling outdoors. What I mean is, if you have a yard, garden, patio, veranda, deck, etc. you can put your stationary cycling equipment outside and enjoy some of the benefits of being outdoors. Of course you'll have to consider rain or snow, and in some cases electrical power.
I’ve chosen a non-energized system that is mobile/ semi-portable, and placed it outside in my yard/ garden. I can stream media to my mobile phone, and even connect with other cyclists using an app via my mobile phone.
Stationary cycling in an outdoor venue was the best of both worlds for me. It presented the best opportunity for cycling fitness with the lowest risk, and the least disruption to the household. Coming out of the Covid-19 lockdown, I'm sure to venture back out onto the road and trails, but cycling through the Coronavirus pandemic on a stationary bike has added a dimension to my cycling enjoyment, and it has demonstrated that stationary cycling can become a practical and valuable part of a training routine.
Stay fit, healthy, and safe.