I rode 100 miles on the indoor trainer yesterday. It was not fun.
One of the downsides of my job is that I’m on call 24/7. Yeah, that’s even during my vacations. While never truly being “off” is not always ideal, it’s a tradeoff I willingly make: I enjoy some flexibility with my schedule, and I get to work from home.
Anyway, during my recent two week vacation I had to do a few hours of work nearly every day and, as such, I amassed some comp time. My vacation ended this past Sunday, and it took me a couple of days to get caught up. Yesterday was looking clear for a comp day, so on Tuesday evening I decided that Wednesday morning I was going to ride an Imperial Century (100 miles), solo.
I wanted to start no later than 8:00 AM. Unfortunately yesterday morning the entire area was blanketed in thick fog and, as my self-imposed start time approached, the fog situation was not improving. Rush hour traffic combined with heavy fog makes for dangerous cycling conditions, and I was reluctant to head out.
While I was trying to decide if I wanted to ride in the fog, I looked over at my bike, which was mounted to my Kurt Kinetic fluid trainer. Sigh. I instantly knew what I was going to do: a 100 mile ride on the stationary trainer.
“Oh well”, I thought, “I need to make sure everything is functioning correctly for my upcoming Home Gym Page update. What better way to do than than spend the better part of an entire day riding in the damn thing?”
So I filled my water bottles, fired up Zwift, loaded Netflix on my tablet and was off…
While I was on vacation I did a 100 kilometer (62 mile) ride on Zwift, and I did that ride at a Zone 2 pace (206 watts NP). That ride was 3h13m long–more than double the length of any other previous indoor trainer ride I’d done before. It was not an enjoyable ride.
Zwift is pretty neat, but (at least right now while it’s in Beta), it’s a closed little ~3 mile island circuit. If you’re just doing an hour or so, riding hard, doing intervals, chasing KOM/sprint/lap jerseys and racing other cyclists then it’s a lot of fun. If you’re out to ride steady-state for a long time, well, it’s just as boring and tedious as any other long indoor trainer ride.
I decided that for this 100 mile ride I would maintain a fairly easy pace, around 165 watts or so. At that pace I knew I’d be on the trainer in excess of 5.5 hours. That’s just a crazy amount of time to spend on the stationary trainer.
Netflix definitely helped with the boredom, and I also had my laptop, smartphone and MP3 player to mix things up a bit. Still, as minutes slowly turned into hours and the drops of sweat under my bike grew into pools, the fact that I was sitting in my gym pedaling nowhere became impossible to ignore.
To help keep things interesting and more “real” (and give my aching ass a break), I’d often upshift and get out of the saddle. I’d also sometimes alter my usual cadence and focus on pedaling mechanics. Basically anything to help keep my mind occupied as I ground out the miles.
Unfortunately I had the Zwift version of a mechanical, and started to experience some ANT+ dropouts. At one point my heart rate was not being received. That was a little annoying, but far from a ride-killer.
A little later something much more serious happened: Zwift was reporting that my ANT+ dongle could not been seen. Without an ANT+ dongle, Zwift has no way of knowing if I’m pedaling. I was about 4 hours into the ride at that point, and was not happy that I might have to abandon (although part of me would have been relieved, I must admit).
I have the ANT+ dongle on the floor (using a USB extension cable) just under my bottom bracket, and that’s because it needs to be that close to my Stages power meter in order to not experience power dropouts. I think the dongle got wet in my sweat. Thankfully I have a second ANT+ dongle, and I was able to install it and pair it to all my devices without leaving the in-progress ride. Whew!
The last 20 miles sucked especially hard. I really wanted to just get off the bike and go do something–anything–else. Of course there was no way I was going to quit, and so I pedaled on…
Finally, after more than 5.5 hours on the stationary trainer, I crossed the 100 mile mark. Zwift dutifully announced that I’d completed 100 miles, and awarded me the coveted (?) black Imperial Century jersey, which I put on for good measure:
I remarked on Strava after the ride: “I would definitely not recommend this to anyone. Unenjoyable, to put it mildly. I rode this at a recovery pace, and it still felt harder than some of my 23+ MPH average centuries in real life. Boredom, I guess.”
Zwift is cool, and I do like it, but it’s not going to transform your indoor rides into the great outdoors. I do think there’s a lot of untapped potential, and I’m very excited about the future development of this great concept.
You may be wondering if I would willingly spend this kind of time on the trainer again? Well, I “never say never”, but hell no! 🙂 Seriously, I guess if there was a virtual 100 mile group ride and the Zwift universe was expanded so that it was not repetitive I might, but as things sit right now I’m definitely done with the long endurance indoor trainer rides.