The Spoke November 9, 2011

To Turbo or not to Turbo...?

Is that really a question? 

I read a Cycling Plus article recently about the benefits of using a turbo for Winter training. What caught my eye was the preface which went something along the lines of saying now its getting towards Winter you'll stop riding your bike and train inside on your turbo instead. Dumbfounded, confused, I read on.

From a technical perspective, I have no doubt that using a turbo can scientifically improve your cycling ability and if you are going to do this then Winter would seem like the best time to do so. Being able to control your environment allows you to focus on specific elements of your ride or fitness and come the Spring you'll be in a position to reap the rewards. I get that. Indeed, I am sure we could all benefit from focussing our cycle sessions, optimising our time on the bike thus maximising our performance. 

There's just one flaw with the whole bike-in-the-lounge setup though; you're not out on the road. To me, the whole point of having a bike is to be outside, whatever the weather, getting a good dose of fresh air and the wind in your face. It is entirely possible that I might be missing out on a highly motivating training experience, but I'll take my chances on the road any day.....and above all, it doesn't sound much like fun either.

Take my last training ride. I rode at night, in the rain, making the most of my quite limited opportunities for cycling (or any exercise for that matter), over the next fortnight or so. Agreed, this experience had its drawbacks. (And reasonably, you might query my definition of 'fun'). That said, I wouldn't necessarily want to be out much more than 50 km in the driving rain. Being dark now, there's also a greater personal risk associated with riding at night. More washing to do as well because there was no way I could wear any of those clothes again unless I fancied a dose of pneumonia! Nevertheless, I  was joined on this sortie (by someone else who needs his head tested), Swazy, so we had a laugh regardless, climbed a few hills in Brighton (properly), got some fresh air, plus it helped me sleep (having sat on my bottom all day at work). Case, I believe comprehensively, rested.

With the Specialized (now plus Zipp's) currently in the LBS being tweaked, I was Single-Speeding it. Hard work given the easterly wind blowing across the coast, rendering the ride to the 'other side' of Brighton a significant slog. However with the onset of Winter close at hand, I've decided it could be time to 'invest' (note the very careful choice of words describing this purchase) in a specific Winter training bike. The notion behind this is that I don't always want to be riding Single Speed during the Winter and now the Spesh sports some very sexy hoops, a hard wearing and robust bike might be what I need to brave the mainly appalling roads of East and West Sussex. Agreed, buying a turbo would probably be cheaper, but the point is, it's not a bike. I can't go anywhere on a turbo. It will just sit there. Given that this year has been fairly good on the mileage front (and it didn't really get effected by bad weather), I reckon the plan is solid. Let's face it, a new bike is not ever going to be a waste, I can guarantee that. Plus I'll be buying it from the LBS, so I'm helping support the local economy. (Justification session over). 

All in all, I don't have the motivation to want to use a turbo. It just goes against the reasons why I like cycling in the first place. Good luck to those who do; I'm sure you'll be overtaking me next Spring. However, if you are thinking of buying a turbo, spend five minutes mulling this over; when you're sitting in your lounge, wouldn't you rather be outside, riding for real? I know I would. 

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