RAGBRAI Training: Get Out (or Stay In) and Ride!
by Coach David Ertl
RAGBRAI XLIII is still five months away but that is no reason not to think about getting on your bike and starting your preparation. I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, but if you are fortunate enough to live where it is warm right now and can ride outside, go for it. But here in Iowa we are still battling below zero weather. It seems like a lot of the country is covered in a frigid air mass. So while the idea of riding occurs to us, it is pretty much impossible to do anything about it, or is it? Just so happens there is. It’s called indoor training. Here are a couple of tips on riding your bike indoors as well as riding outside if you can.
Get out and ride
If it is warm enough to ride outside, then by all means do it. Warm enough is relative. Some people I know ride in all sorts of weather whereas some other more fair weather riders wait until it is 30, 40 or even 50 degrees F before venturing outside to ride. Whatever your comfort level, dress accordingly. Cycling clothing these days are really good at keeping you warm in almost any weather. Dress up and particularly make sure your face, feet and hands are well protected. At this time of year, the most important thing is to just try to get some saddle time. How far or how fast you ride is secondary. That can come later. Right now you are just needing to start to get your body used to being on the bike again and your legs going in circles.
Stay inside and go nowhere fast!
If you can’t get outside, either because of the weather or because it is still too dark in the evenings, the next best thing is to ride an indoor trainer. Indoor trainers come in various forms, everything from a stand-alone exercise bike to rollers to a wind- or turbo-trainer. The most common are the trainers in which you attach your rear wheel and apply some form of resistance mechanism to the back wheel. These are typically magnetic, wind or fluid based resistance mechanisms that generate a force as you ride. You can actually get decent exercise on an indoor trainer, and the main difficulty is getting past the boredom. When riding outside, you get the watch the scenery go by but indoors you have to create some distractions. Some people watch TV, other people like to listen to motivating music. Some folks get together with friends and ride indoor trainers together. Again, remember that your main objective is to get on the bike and move your legs. An indoor trainer is a very acceptable way of doing this when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Go for a spin (class)!
If you don’t like the idea of riding alone in your basement on a trainer, and can’t face the wind chill outside, a third option is to go to a gym that offers a spin class. Spin classes are a very good way to get a great cycling workout and even having some fun doing it. Well, okay, it may not exactly be fun, but it is more motivating to be riding with others and having a class instructor keeping you going. You can really work up a great sweat in the middle of winter in a spin class.
Getting some pedaling in this time of year will help you as you can get outside and start to ride. How you do it is less important than the fact that you are doing it. So find a way that fits your personality and your schedule. Get creative and find ways to get some riding in, going nowhere fast!
Coach David Ertl
David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and individual cyclists through the Peaks Coaching Group. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: http://www.CyclesportCoaching.com . He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.