Winter Riding for Cheapskates

James Knott riding his spin bike in the basement in winter.One of the things that draws me to cycling is life on the open road (or trail).  I love getting out and exploring the world and I’m always discovering something new or interesting in my two-wheeled travels.  That’s why I’m reluctant to spend my winter pedaling in the basement.  There is no adventure while sitting on a spin bike.  The only wildlife sightings are my cat slipping into the litter box and the occasional centipede free-climbing a seam up the basement wall.

Despite that, I’ve made the calculated decision that training indoors will be better for me than trying to brave the elements outside.

On the downside, there is no adventure awaiting me for the next couple of months.  However, there will be no frostbite either.  I know some people say that they would miss the winter if they moved south – I’m not sure that I am one of those people.

We all have our limits about how much cold weather we can take.  The local mountain bike trail wants you to stay off the trail if it goes above 28 degrees F because of the thawing of the mud.  I’ve ridden when the weather dropped into the low 20s and even teens, but my rule of thumb has usually been that the thermometer had to be above freezing and I would just go on the road or bike path.  Lately my limit has been inching up into the 40s.

No matter how I bundle up, I can never seem to get my hands and feet warm enough.  I’ve experimented with multiple layers of socks, shoe covers from Pearl Izumi & Nike, plastic bags & foot warmers.  Nothing seems to work for me.  It’s survivable, but it really does start to steal the fun out of my favorite recreational activity.

I was shopping for winter cycling shoes because I heard that it would make a big difference.  Most local bike shops around here don’t carry a good selection of winter shoes.  I looked on-line at shoes from Shimano, Mavic & Lake, but I had a really hard time shelling out two or three hundred dollars when I wasn’t sure whether the shoes would actually fit right and guarantee me a warm ride.

When I started thinking about all the gear that I was going to have to buy and all the maintenance that goes along with riding in snow, ice & salt; riding year-round started to sound really expensive.

$200 for shoes, $40 for new gloves, lube for my salty chain, flat tires, general wear & tear…  Then I thought about the time spent getting dressed and doing extra laundry.  So many layers of clothing!  And what if I get too warm?  I’m going to need a bag to put those extra layers in?  What if it threatens to rain?  I’m going to need a rain coat to protect me in the 40 degree weather – there’s another $100.  Plus, I usually have to workout in the evening so I have to drive to someplace that is safe to ride after dark.  And the lights, don’t forget the lights.  Those lights from Light & Motion ain’t exactly cheap and I always seem to break at least one somehow.  And the batteries for the lights… charging the batteries.  Are they charged?  You don’t want to overcharge and shorten their life.  So much battery management…  Aarrgh!

Or, I could just slip on some riding shorts and walk down to the basement.  I spin for an hour and I’m finished in a fraction of the time I would spend preparing for, going on and cleaning up from my ride.

So this year I settled on a spin bike from Phoenix, the Revolution Cycle Pro II for about $450.  When you think about all the things that I was going to need to ride outside, I think I may have just saved myself some money.  I will definitely be saving myself some hassle.

This will be my first winter riding indoors and I’m wondering if I will miss the adventure.  I hear horror stories about how riding indoors is incredibly boring and I have my Netflix queue stacked a mile high on my Roku.

I definitely won’t miss the frostbite.

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