cycling · fitness

Sam rides around New York Saturday morning (virtually)


As readers know, I’ve got my winter cycling options all lined up. I’ve got my bike in a trainer in my home office and Netflix awaits. But I’ve also been watching friends post their Zwift workouts and I’ve been feeling intrigued. I’ve also been looking for indoor bike trainer classes in Guelph. I miss Chris Helwig’s basement.

Enter the Bike Shed. It’s a bike studio in Arkell just outside Guelph  I first spotted it on my way back from a ride around the country side east of campus though I wasn’t sure then exactly what it was. Turns out it’s a converted schoolhouse set up with bike trainers and screens. You bring the bike and the owner, Neil, supplies the trainers and technology.

What’s Zwift? Part video game, part bike training software, it places you in a virtual world with cyclists from all over the world. Your speed on the actual physical bike translates into your bike avatar and if you’re on a smart trainer, like the kind the Bike Shed has, hills translate into much harder pedaling. You can ride in groups, with friends, or do your training plan.

We rode in a virtual New York the Big Apple but with no cars and added hills.

That morning there were more than 9000 cyclists from around the world on Zwift.

What did we think? On the whole, Sarah and I both found it pretty engrossing. The time on the trainer passed quickly. I loved trying to keep up with people, just like in real life. 

Sarah says she didn’t find the smart trainer accurately reflected riding up a hill. She found you had to spin faster rather than harder – like you had already downshifted. She joked that it was like riding a bike with an automatic transmission.

I liked that the were segments you encountered over again and it reported how much faster or slower you were on subsequent rounds and ranked you against other riders.

It was odd not steering! And not crashing. And riding right through other people. There’s no way to go around them.

Back to the Bike Shed: The studio owner Neil was super welcoming. We felt at ease pretty much right away.  He was encouraging and enthusiastic and proud of the space he’s created. You can see it in the video below.

We’ll be back!

Here’s a shot of virtual New York.

Here’s the Bike Shed owner talking about his studio:

Are you a regular rider on Zwift? What do you think? I know I’m late to the party but I’m anxious to get back out there.