Sam had shared with me that one way she kept cycling through the winter was with rollers. (See her post on winter cycling options for some roller ‘how to’ basics.) I liked the idea that I could get used to my own bike on a flat plane. It seemed to me the bracket trainers pitch a person a bit more forward. I’m building my core strength on a road bike as most of my cycling has been on my mountain bike and I find even a cruising posture challenging.
I’ve done two triathlons on my mountain bike. No, that is not a good idea. I finished in the pack on a try-a-tri distance but I definitely saw everyone pull way ahead the following year on a sprint distance. So this year I scored a 1963 road bike on my dumpster diving budget and have fiddled around with it to a point where I can ride short distances. I am very wobbly and this has kept me from riding with others. I’m embarrassed. I then remembered Sam talking about how rollers help with stability and I thought this could be the tool I needed.
I knew my extended family would gladly pitch in on equipment to support my goals so I started shopping around at local cycling shops. I have to say that I hate buying gear. It seems to always involve a man scanning me from head to toe with a doubtful look. They don’t believe I run. They don’t believe I bike. They see a 5’4″, 250 lb woman with very large thighs and think I do nothing. I hate that. I feel like I have to defend my right to even be in the shop in the first place.
The roller shopping was a typical example. I asked about rollers. The salesperson asked me why I thought I needed rollers. I explained a friend had recommended them as a good way to work on stability and I wanted to build my confidence before going on group rides. I told him I was self conscious about being so wobbly. He agreed it was the right tool for that but continued to give me a skeptical look, so much so that my life partner spoke up and said “She knows what she wants, she does triathlons”. I was glad he was there. As a lean, fast responder man he gets instant fitness cred. Some days I’m just not up to having to call people on their bull. After chatting and getting the price we left the first store and my partner turned to me and said “We are never spending money there again.” We went to two more shops with similar results.
I knew Sam had gotten her rollers from Mountain Equipment Co-op (see here) so I went there and found them, no hassle from staff and brought them home for Christmas. I stared at them until Jan 1. My beloved had tried them and found it challenging but useful, today was my turn.
I chose to try them with my mountain bike. It has street tires and I felt the wide grip and shifting from the grip would be easier. I set up in a door frame and promptly rolled backwards off the rollers. Tried again and rolled forwards. Tears welled up. I thought of that first guy and his skeptical look and I felt ashamed that I couldn’t do this plus I’d promised Sam I’d blog about this! Turns out I hadn’t adjusted the roller length to the longer mountain bike frame. A few minutes with the Allen key and I was ready to roll.
The resistance was weird and I was glad for the door frame to lean on. Cycling is way harder on rollers than the street.
I only went for 10 minutes and was lathered in sweat from the extra effort of balancing and the resistance. I noticed that my peddling is not as smooth as I thought. My right leg does way more of the work than my left and there are sections of my rotation where my effort is uneven. I am guilty of coasting when I ride outside and this will force me to dump that bad habit.
As I’m writing this my two sons are trying the rollers out too. I love sharing my fitness challenges and successes with them. I’m still a little weepy from a humble beginning. I often have unrealistic expectations when trying new things and I shed tears for my full spectrum of emotions regularly. I have realized that being brave is usually just continuing to try rather than quit. So I’ve registered for the Kincardine Triathlon this year and will, for the first time, be racing with some great friends I have met though this blog so I better keep rolling until it warms up here in London, Ontario.
Natalie is a feminist mother of two who happens to be the Fund Development Coordinator at Regional HIV/AIDS Connection. She is thankful for paid work that supports anti-oppression and funds her other life projects like eating good food, housing her family and exercising.