OH MY GOODNESS!!! Could last summer have been any hotter? I can’t even count the number of times I burned my fingertips when I accidentally touched the frame of my bike while I was out riding. And off-road riding wasn’t any better. Every ride that I had been a part of this summer, no matter how many miles long it was, had been preceded by the words: Hotter Than Heck! Such as: The Hotter Than Heck ONE! Or even: The Hotter Than Heck Half Mile. And now, before we know it, it’s going to be cold. Freezing cold. Then every ride will be known as the Colder Than Heck something or other. It seems that we just can’t win.
So, what IS the best way to beat the outdoor elements and maintain ride-time on the bike? Obviously we need to just ride indoors in nice climate controlled conditions. This typically means mounting your bicycle onto your trainer and keeping a supply of towels handy to collect the sweat all while you are simply bored out of your mind and getting nowhere fast. I don’t know about you, but that option just doesn’t sound too appealing to me.
Well I say, “Who says you have to mount your bike on the trainer?” When we’re on our bikes, we want to go somewhere. We don’t want to just stay in one place and watch a video of a road or a mountain bike trail. We need to feel the speed, feel the turns, feel the climbs – we need to RIDE our bicycles. So pitch that trainer back in the garage, air up those tires, put your helmet on and get ready for…
GUIDELINES FOR BIKE RIDING INSIDE THE HOUSE (OR APARTMENT)
- Proper furniture placement – Before you can just jump on your bike and start riding in your house you naturally have to take some advance precautions. You’ll want to maximize your riding area and the best way to do this is to pull all of the furniture away from the wall. I would normally suggest a good three to four feet but this can be adjusted as to your own cycling skills or the width of your rear end. If you have lamps, appliances, or other electrical items on this furniture, I would suggest hiring a competent electrician to install electrical outlets on your ceiling in convenient locations so that the cords will not drape across your pathway. A less expensive approach might be to construct little bridges across the electrical cords. Use extreme caution when routing the cords under the bridges to ensure that no part of the bridge will rub against the cord or that no nails or screws have penetrated the protective plastic coating around the wires.
- Ventilation and Air Flow – Primary Rule #1: There is no such thing as “too many” when it comes to fans scattered along your in-house trails. You will want to make sure to adjust the thermostat for the coolest temperatures possible. You WILL work up a sweat indoors. If you have installed bridges, teeter-totters, or other obstacles, you will need to pay special attention to where they are in relation to ceiling fans. Make sure that you’ve allowed plenty of headroom while riding. You don’t want to simply rely on the person in front of you to yell “Duck!” (Which has shown to be a significant challenge while swallowing a ceiling fan blade at the same time.) Box and pedestal fans should also be placed along the route to ensure that the riders do not overheat. Be sure and adhere to the guidelines above regarding precautions with the electrical cords.
- Stairs (for those with multi-level homes) – Like any good off-road course, nothing beats the challenge of a good steep climb or descent. But then again, nothing can be more dangerous than to have a head-on collision in these areas because of sloppy, or no, signage. If you are fortunate enough to have two staircases in your house, this is pretty much a no-brainer – designate one as the “up” staircase and the other as the “down” staircase. Since home staircases tend to be steep, you will want to prominently display the sign with three arrows pointing straight down (designating an extremely steep descent). If you only have one staircase, this can pose some slightly different challenges – but nothing that cannot be solved. One option would be the freefall drop. Just pick up any good off-road publication and you will see endless photos of downhill racers flying off into thin air from the top of a cliff. You can recreate such an obstacle from your second floor by simply removing a three- or four-foot section of handrail at some point along your second floor. Use a trial-and-error method to determine a safe landing point on the ground floor and then make sure to clear any furniture out of the way. You might want to use one of your least-favorite children, or possibly a younger brother or sister to test ride the bike through this section of the course until you get the landing spot tuned in. For those with more carpentry skills, skinny little ramps can be built from the second level and, depending on the layout of your house, could involve all sorts of twists and turns before delivering the rider back to the first level. If you happen to be more “electrically” inclined, it would also be an option to install traffic lights at the top and the bottom of the staircase. Quite simply: green means go, red means stop. As you can tell, staircases can greatly enhance the excitement of indoor cycling.
- Water features – Nothing can be more fun for an indoor cycling course than a water crossing. Consider possibly altering some of your indoor walls by knocking huge holes in the sheetrock to allow the course to travel through one of your bathrooms. Nothing can spice up a shower or a good soak in the tub more than the possibility of your cycling-fanatic family member zooming through from time to time.
- And speaking of family members - let’s not forget our non-cycling loved ones who live with us – Yes, you know who they are. That wife who dutifully washes all of your cycling clothes each week. That husband who is firmly an integral part of the couch all weekend long. That child who left their bike out in the backyard to rust once you taught them how to drive the car. That infant who is too lazy to crawl yet, let alone ride a bike. Yes, those that you call loved ones. If you’re going to be converting your house, you need to make sure that you make certain allowances for them.
- Okay, you’ve got the thermostat set on 58 while you ride – you need to make sure that you’ve provided for their warmth: electric blankets, parkas, Snuggies (the fancy ones not the cheesy looking ones), mittens, ear muffs and wool caps. You need to accept the fact that you will need to spend more money on things like these.
- The television could very well be a major part of your non-cycling loved one’s life while you ride. Have the foresight to NOT route your trail between their favorite chair and the TV set. I personally know of too many divorces that happened because of this thoughtless act.
- Sometimes while cycling, you will be very loud and downright noisy. This could be irritating to family members. Make sure you get them the best quality earmuffs you can find – the ones with built in speakers so they can hear the TV.
- When nature calls, you won’t want you loved ones to be wandering across your trail as you come hauling butt through the dining room or something. Academy, REI, Camping World, and most good family department stores sell fairly inexpensive porta-potty units. Be a considerate indoor cyclist family member and invest in one of those for your loved one and place it close to their TV set.
Remember: the love you give is equal to the love you get.
So there you have it – a good start on pretty much everything you need to know about constructing an indoor riding course through your home and designing it in such a way that your family members won’t hate you. (However, it would be a pretty good idea to remove all weapon-type things from your home. You know, things like rifles, crossbows, blow darts, sabers, axes, etc… just to be on the safe side.) Please feel free to share construction ideas and tips as you begin to build you own indoor trails – and don’t forget to take plenty of photographs. Who knows? - we may just feature YOUR trail in an upcoming More On Cycling article!
Enjoy the ride – and enjoy it in indoor comfort!
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