I didn’t want a contest. I just wanted to work off the Delta Snack Box, the QDoba Mole Burrito, and the TCBY Frozen Yogurt (with mini M&Ms) I had eaten before, during, and after my flight.
I just wanted to try to do something right, food-and-training-wise, during my trip.
So as soon as I arrived at the hotel, I dug out some shorts and a jersey, put on the running shoes — I figured there was no way the hotel’s gym would have SPD pedals — and headed to the second floor.
There were only two stationary bikes: one upright, one recumbent. And both of them were taken. Both the treadmills were taken, too, which is good or I would have been forced to run. Ick.
So, confronted with the options of either lifting weights or skulking menacingly near the stationary bikes, I skulked.
It worked. Within a few minutes, someone got off one of the treadmills, and the woman on the upright stationary bike hustled over to it — clearly, she had been riding the bike just to kill time.
I got the seat to something approximating the right height for me — not easy when the saddle only adjusts in one-inch increments — and started pedaling the Lifestyle 2000 (or whatever it was called).
Hill Workout Plus
I’m pretty sure that in 1983, some very good salesperson sold the same exercise bicycle to every hotel in America, and that nobody has sold any exercise bikes since then. Meaning, yes, I’ve been on a bike like this before. I started pedaling, pressed the “Hill Workout Plus” button, and started pressing the “Level Up” button over and over, until I felt some resistance.
Then I turned on the iPod, put my head down, and tried to switch off my brain.
I did not succeed.
Here’s the problem with hotel exercise bikes. They’re poorly maintained (mine had a sticking point at the 8:00 position on the left crank), they have short crank arms to monkey up your spinning motion, and their built-in programs are specifically designed to bore you to death and back again.
OK, technically that’s more than one problem.
I endured the Hills Plus workout program pretty well, keeping my cadence right at 100, my heart rate right at 145. The hills never lasted more than a minute, so I didn’t really feel like they should be called “hills.” More like “very big molehills.”
As I rode, I occasionally looked over to my right. There, on the recumbent, spun a guy — about my age — who looked like a triathlete. You know the type.
Now something I’ve noticed in hotel gyms many times: nobody stays very long. I arrive, start pedaling, and by the time I’ve done a half-hour workout, there’s been a complete turnover in the gym.
But not this time. The guy was still pedaling, a nice 95+rpm cadence by the look of it.
So, when the workout ended, I immediately dialed up another one. This time a “manual” workout: a half-hour long spin where I got to specify the resistance at will.
A Brief Contemplation on Saddles and Sorting
As I pedaled, I devised a simple and foolproof test to tell whether someone is a cyclist. Here’s how it goes: Offer a person identical bikes, except one has a narrow saddle, and one has a big, padded saddle. The person who picks the big, padded saddle is the one who doesn’t know better — i.e., the non-cyclist.
The reason this simple test occurred to me is that the saddle I was sitting on was big and padded, and I was rapidly discovering how awful such a saddle feels — the thing was cutting into my butt in any number of painful ways.
On a good bike with a good saddle, I can literally ride all day. I could not, however, ride a bike with this saddle for more than two hours if my butt depended on it.
And it was while I was thus thinking that second half-hour workout ended.
And still, the triathlete (for I was increasingly certain he was a triathlete, though we had not yet spoken) pedaled on.
So I dialed up another half-hour workout.
It was official (in my head, anyway): it was a contest of endurance.
An hour and seventeen minutes into my workout, the triathlete finally spun to a stop. I contemplated saying each of the following things:
- “Done already?”
- “Better luck next time.”
- “Good effort.”
Instead, I said none of these things. He, however, walked up to me and asked, “So do you ride mountain or road?”
Oh, so he was going to try the friendly approach. Fine. I can play that game. “I like both. How about yourself?”
“Oh, I’m a triathlete.”
I knew it. Knew it.
“Hey, enjoy the rest of your workout,” he said, and left.
I continued spinning, at a renewed pace.
Until he had been gone thirty seconds and I was confident he wasn’t coming back. Then I got off that stupid bike and promised myself I’d never ride on a hotel exercycle again in my life.
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