cycling · Guest Post

Low-tech cycling in my basement (Guest post)

By Diane Harper

FIFI bloggers often post about their cycling adventures and I read them all with a sense of awe. To me, cycling is a purely utilitarian thing, a way to commute around the city. That attitude developed as a kid living in France and then Germany, where older folks wearing suits or dresses, riding their one-speed bicycles loaded down with groceries, passed me regularly. I don’t even feel a little bit bad about that; high school friends had hilarious stories about biking trips in the Swiss Alps, where they were barely able to move their fancy bikes uphill, only to have some old fellow on his farmer bike go sailing by.

I work relatively close to home, so my second-hand bicycle and flowing dresses are adequate; in fact, the dresses are deliberate camouflage to tell drivers on the busy streets that I am not one of “those speed-obsessed guys in spandex” that so many people blame for accidents. The blue floral child’s helmet adds to the faintly ridiculous look that I hope makes me look like less of a threat and keeps cars well away (the mixed blessing of having such a small head I can’t find an adult helmet that fits).

This is me at my one-and-only try a triathlon a decade ago on my retro commuter bike, complete with panniers.

Grimacing woman in shorts and a tank top, riding a bicycle with a canal in the background.

Clearly, I am not the target market for Zwift and the makers of fancy indoor trainers. However, with the arrival of COVID 19, I started to think about riding my bike indoors this winter, since some of my winter fitness options had disappeared. Someone in my neighbourhood posted a trainer for sale during the summer, so I jumped on it. A few weeks ago, I set it up, along with a television so I could watch something while pedaling.

Blue and white bicycle on a trainer, with a bookshelf in the background.

I’m pretty happy with how it works. I don’t do great distances or long times, though I couldn’t tell you how much I do accomplish as I haven’t gotten around to setting up the little computer thingy yet. I certainly don’t work up much of a sweat! But I am able to cycle for the length of a television show a few times a week. And I can do so without too much hamstring or quad discomfort, which means I will be much more likely to keep it up.

As my office is also in the basement, I particularly enjoy hopping on for 15 minutes between calls, to get some blood circulating when I am cold from sitting too long. From time to time, I will speed up just a little and pretend I’m in one of those Zwift races I read so much about, but mostly I imagine myself one the way home from the grocery store, with some veggies and a baguette in my basket. It fits well with my goal of staying fit so that I can be active and independent for many more years, just like those European cyclists from my youth.

Diane Harper works for the federal government in Ottawa. She loves to break the stereotype of the stodgy bureaucrat by trying new things and pushing limits as often as possible.

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