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Taking Cycling Indoors for the Winter

When the weather sucks, indoor training is just the ticket


Like everyone else in the Northwest, I was adequately forewarned that La Nina would be our winter guest, bringing her icy breath and abundant moisture all season. For sledders, skiers and shredders, that means a bountiful winter worthy of hallelujahs and "sick" days. But if Polartec and Smartwool aren't your thing, what do you do if you're the type who can barely sit still long enough for one rerun of The Office?

Fortunately, I can mix it up in the snow. However, I also call myself a cyclist, and the local road race series kicks off well before spring break. I'm not prepping for London 2012 like another area cyclist you might know, but I'm certainly not one to roll to the start line sporting a spare tire around my waist. Bottom line: It might only be February, but I still need to be pedaling.

Having blown a wad on a shiny carbon machine last fall, I'm not lacking for a source of motivation. I'm simply frustrated by the local weather pattern. It seems like when it's warm enough to ride outdoors, it rains. Then it gets cold, and it snows. Then it stays cold, and if the roads aren't icy, the wind chill from even a slow spin on the bike is guaranteed to freeze your nose hairs, among other things.

Such as it is, many cyclists resign themselves to loss of fitness in the winter months because they cannot tolerate the tedium of being locked onto a stationary trainer, pedaling furiously but going nowhere and hearing the sound of their own sweat drip into the puddle beneath them on the floor. Frankly, I can't tolerate it either.

But I don't have to. Not long ago, I treated myself to an indoor ride at Boise's Endurance Training and Fitness Center, and it was well worth the price of admission (first time is free). Owned and operated by Douglas Tobin and home to the nationally recognized Boise Young Rider Development Squad, the ETFC is discretely tucked into a nondescript city block of downtown Boise. Fitness activity there is limitless, but I chose to hook my bike to a CompuTrainer, which creates a static ride, complimented by a real-time readout of time elapsed, miles per hour and power output. And if the mental gymnastics of figuring out your average production of watts per kilogram isn't enough of a distraction, the ETFC has a giant projection screen on the wall. Entertainment options include simulated road courses with other riders to draft and DVDs of Lance Armstrong climbing the Alpe d'Huez during the Tour de France. Pandora Radio or the cyclist's own iPod provides the beat via surround sound speakers that let everyone in the building enjoy Duran Duran's newest digital release.

The bad news is, if I'm going to retain some semblance of cycling fitness this winter, most of my riding is going to have to happen indoors. The good news is, it doesn't have to be painfully monotonous--and it might even be fun.