We're finally out of the summer heat! It's time once again to really enjoy riding outside, that glorious period where mornings are cool enough to wear arm warmers but don't require booties, where it's possible to just jump on the bike and ride without thinking about your digits freezing or basic overheating after 2 hours.
Sadly, the school year has also started, and that means far less flexibility in my schedule. I reveled in the morning air for about 30 seconds before everyone got up, camping out on the back porch in 55F chill at 5:45 a.m., well before sunrise. Then I went downstairs and rode for an hour on the trainer.
This doesn't feel like what fall should be. Back in the grad school days, this season was where I got to ditch work in the middle of the day and take a few hours to just enjoy the good weather. Sure, that meant working more in the mornings and evenings, but it didn't make any difference when that was done: I'm not a clocked employee who needs to be around 9-5 every day.
Sadly, with an office that's far enough away to make me miss meetings if I leave after 7:45, it's hard to justify waiting with my kids for the school bus and then riding. But it's also hard to disappear for an hour or two before the drop-off for an outdoor ride thanks to darkness -- which, sadly, is not accompanied by less traffic.
That leaves the trainer, which I can realistically tolerate for no more than an hour on most days and have never succeeded in spending more than 2 hours on in a go.
Kick me outside, and a 2-hour ride feels decent, a 1-hour ride feels like I've barely started. On a trainer, 45 minutes leaves me mildly bored and staring at the clock; at 2 hours I'm pretty much leaping off the bike to end the ride. The sacrifices need to be made, though: getting out of cycling shape is pretty easy, and the trainer offers the only viable alternative in the wee hours where I can ride and, if needed, watch the kids. (The bike trailer may seem like an option, but by the time the kids are up and ready to get in it, any traffic-filled rides that might be done with children in tow are perilous at best.)
The biggest issues I have with the trainer are:
1. Excessive heat -- Houses are warm, which means it's always a 70F ride. Remove any airflow and the ride is never particularly comfortable.
2. Boredom -- There's not much to look at in a house. You can only think about cleaning the cobwebs from the corner so many times; you can only consider all the ways that a small piece of a toy ended up under the couch for so long; you can only watch so many Netflix offerings in a go (also, auto-play kicks out after 2 episodes, which confines rides to "hour-long" shows and movies).
3. Lack of ride variety -- And there are no hills! And no obstacles! It's just straight riding. I briefly propped up the front of my bike to work some different muscles, but it takes effort to put something like that in place. Maybe I'll get an electronically-activated hydraulic jack to make the experience more interesting.
Regardless, it looks like the trainer is going to dominate rides for the next couple weeks until our schedule has stabilized. That doesn't sound too appealing, but it's better than losing what little cycling shape I might have these days.
It's official: I have a touring bike! Well, mostly.
The local bike shop does builds with used components, and I had a bunch of parts lying around. They put a cyclocross frame together with a steel fork, strapped on some new cranks and a new cassette, bolted my parts to it, and gave it back. All that leaves for me to get are a couple fenders, a pannier rack, and some panniers. With all that, I'll be kitted out for routing, or just commuting more comfortably.
The whole package was well worth the $500, since it comes with much higher-end components than I would have otherwise gotten. The only downsides: the shifters are a tad abused -- one of them came from me -- and the fork is actually very very very very very dark green.
Indeed, as seen in the above setup, my first real ride on it was on a trainer. The weather promptly turned rainy, and I wanted to give the whole thing a test without having to clean the bike after 12 hours in my house.