cycling · fitness

Is it ridiculous to ride inside in the summer?

Yesterday I read that in the UK riding for both leisure and commuting is down. As usual perceived lack of safety is the main reason people give for not riding and preferring other methods of exercise and getting to work.

Here’s British cycling policy manager Nick Chamberlain, “While cycling remains statistically safe, traffic speed, close passing or potholes can often make riding a bike in Britain intimidating and unpleasant, especially for those who are trying it for the first time. “The impact of this is clear in the numbers of people still making short, cyclable journeys by car – with all of the associated consequences for congestion, air quality and physical activity.”

I’m not sure what the numbers look like in North America and elsewhere but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same.

Interestingly, indoor riding is on the rise. And I’m part of that trend. Oddly enough.

Chamberlin said British Cycling was pleased to see “a moderate spike” in the level of indoor cycling, “and we hope that last month’s inaugural British Cycling Zwift eRacing Championshipscan help to further grow the profile of this discipline and encourage even more people to take part in the coming years.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about Zwift lately, about safety, women’s participation, and the gamification of sports. I will have lots of things to say!

Truth be told, I’m even considering riding inside myself during the summer, some of the time anyway. There are reasons: I don’t like riding alone. I’ve got a very complicated schedule. But it’s not just that.

Zwift is also fun in its own right. It’s fun racing down virtual hills, zooming down hills without braking. Fun taking corners at speed. I’m not worried when Zwifting about crashing into other bikes. I’m not worried about cars or other traffic. I love sprinting on Zwift with zero tension or fear, no looking out for cars.

A white feather on a green circle.

It turns out that I enjoy the gamification of sport. I liked getting a virtual feather the other day that when applied dropped my weight by 15 lbs. I wasn’t sure at the time what it was our how to use it but now that I do it’ll be fun to see the difference that has on my climbing speed. You can also get trucks which increase the benefit from drafting and aero helmets that make you more aerodynamic. For a better, more complete, explanation, see here.

The weight thing is interesting. Zwift knows my actual weight and hills are harder as a result than they would be for an average sized cyclist. Both watts and weight matter when determining your speed. But my avatar–see below–doesn’t look as big as I do. What matters on Zwift is that she can keep up. And she can, because in the the real world I can. What matters is watts per kilo. I weigh a lot but I can also put out some pretty good watts. I’m okay–if occasionally disgruntled with the math and the physics of it all–with working harder to climb on Zwift. No one looks at me oddly. No one comments on my weight. Other riders just know my watts per kilo and I’m okay with that. I’ve had no weight loss suggestions, no comments on my size. That way, it’s a pretty relaxing environment. It’s made me realize how much people noticing my size bothers me in the real world. I’m sure I’ll have more to say later about this. I’m still thinking about it all.

Oh, also having good indoor options makes it easy to stick to a training schedule. Some articles I read about Zwift in road cycling magazines said that North American summer was a ghost town in Zwift. It’s just full of Australians riding at odd times of day and triathletes who prefer indoor training. But as indoor cycling becomes a sport in its own right, it’ll be interesting to see what the summer numbers look like.

That’s me below in the in the orange stripey jersey and my new sunglasses, earned for riding a certain number of kilometers. I also earned a helmet but opted out. This is one place I don’t need to worry about hitting my head.

7 thoughts on “Is it ridiculous to ride inside in the summer?

  1. Now that I’m on Zwift I think I will probably leave my setup up all summer, too, for those days where I don’t have time to get all the outdoor gear ready, or the weather is really bad, or the traffic seems especially nuts. I’m a little worried that in places like my country (US) where car culture reigns, it will become expected that “cycling” is mostly virtual, and an “indoor sport”, and further devalued as a mode of transportation or a recreational activity that is allowed outside. I hope that we continue to build cycle track/protected bike lanes in our cities, which I feel deals well with the negative perceptions and the dangers altogether.

  2. I ride indoors in the summer because I’m not comfortable doing intervals on open roads, at least not the roads near me, plus it’s nice to have someone in my ear telling me what to do, and I don’t do headphones on open roads either. Hill work I can do on the real roads, and real hills keep me honest. (I need to do more of them–I am headed to Paris-Brest-Paris this summer, eep!)

    I think it’d bother me on Zwift that I couldn’t make my avatar look like (fat) me, but I’ve sprung for the *other* big name in indoor cycling: I have the Peloton app, which is way cheaper than the bike and gives me a basically infinite supply of spinning classes at varying lengths and intensities and music genres etc.

    I do worry about the affects on outdoor cycling, but where I am (Boston) commuting etc seems to still be growing leaps and bounds, and indoor cycling seems merely to be one of the latest fads in what sort of little boutique exercise places are showing up; in a few years they’ll be on to something else.

  3. I only have a basic fluid trainer (not smart) so I can’t connect it to Zwift. It makes my indoor workouts really boring.
    But I think the broader issue about cycling outdoors is that it’s not the same as driving, where people are just trying to get from point A to point B. Cyclist do commute by bike and run errands, but others do it for recreation (e.g., families riding together for fun), and still others are training and racing. While cycle tracks and bike lanes are great for commuting or recreation, they really don’t serve those of us who want to ride longer and/or faster than those would allow.

  4. I am an all-year Zwifter, sometimes it’s just easier when you get home late from work and it’s dark/wet outside but you still want to get the legs turning. I hated the turbo before they got all “smart” and connected. Now I actually (almost) enjoy my indoor sessions, haha! 🙂

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