I’ve been watching Season 1 of Prison Break — recommended by a number of readers here — to entertain me while I ride on the rollers. I watched two episodes today, as I dutifully spun in place.
You know what, though? I kept drifting to a stop. It’s not because of the show; it’s an entertaining, action-packed series. It’s just because of one simple thing:
I am so sick of riding my bike inside.
As I was riding the rollers this morning, I tried to think about why, from a purely physical point of view, I have come to loathe riding the rollers so much. And you know what? I couldn’t come up with a reason. With these new rollers I have, the physical experience is pretty darned close to that of riding on the road. I can stand up and sprint. I can coast for a moment. I can set the resistance high — like I’m climbing a steep hill — or low, like I’m riding on flats.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I am sick to death of riding the rollers.
As I turn the cranks, I’ve started wondering: why do I like bikes? Is there anything really all that fun about turning the cranks round and round and round? What’s the point?
Last Saturday, though, the weather was good, the low roads (anything below 5000 feet) were dry, and I had a couple hours to myself, so I got outside. I got on a flat, long, straight road, and rode out for an hour, then turned around and came back in about 45 minutes (the wind direction makes a big difference).
In a lot of ways, the ride wasn’t much different from riding on the rollers. Straight, consistent effort. Not great scenery. Nothing technical. Nothing special.
But there was one huge, important difference: now I was having a lot of fun.
The big question was: why? Why can I absolutely despise turning my cranks over for 90 minutes on the rollers while watching an interesting TV show, but feel almost irrationally happy while doing essentially the identical thing on an unremarkable suburban/rural road?
To tell the truth, I’m not exactly sure. I didn’t start today’s entry with some brilliant insight I wanted to share with you.
Sure, I have a few ideas. It’s better because when you’re outside, your effort is rewarded with the sensation of motion — something rollers can never do. And when you’re outside, you’re going somewhere, even if your destination is the same as your origin. And sometimes, watching something real — even an unremarkable hill covered with dead grass — is more interesting than the best TV show in the world.
These are all pieces of the reason, but they’re not the reason. It’s something I can’t explain. It’s something in my head — and probably in yours, too.
It comes down to this: when you reduce cycling down to mere exercise, it’s nothing special. In fact, let’s be honest: as pure exercise, cycling is exquisitely dull.
It’s not ’til you get outside — pavement or dirt, doesn’t really matter — and go somewhere that cycling gets in your head. And then cycling stops feeling like exercise and starts feeling like something much, much better.