Saturday, 7 January 2012

Outside spin class

Now and then, when I remember to book and I've cleared a space in my diary, I'll do an hour-long spin class in the work gym. Yesterday I had space in my diary, the Kaffenback, and would-ya-believe it, a set of cycling kit.

Time for an experiement. The lunchtime "outside spin class".

It's odd. Lots and lots of people at our fairly sporty office go running at lunchtime. The concept of riding a bike, outside, at lunchtime, is somehow alien. Squeeze into some lycra and join fifteen others in a hot, airless, underground spin studio and people consider you normal. Squeeze into some lycra and put a helmet on people think that you're going home early or simply deranged.

Part of the experiment was to see if the timing was any different. I left my desk at the same time I would for a 12pm class, walked to the gym and got changed there. I tend to get to the classes five minutes early to get a decent position and warm up gently. By the time I'd got outside to my bike, unlocked it, strapped on the Garmin and straddled the saddle it was exactly 12pm. No difference there then.

I rolled down the car park ramp, onto the campus ring road (it's a pretty big site) and accelerated towards the back gate. We have a bus service that takes people to town and as it was lunch on a Friday there were tens of people queuing up. As I passed them I could feel the eyes on me, their owners thinking "slacker, going home early" or "why's he going for a run with a bike?".

Onto the road proper and up towards the castle. The "castle" is an ex-English civil war site, with only the "keep" left standing. It has a stony climb around the back of it, then a mix of tracks and golf-course tarmac to get to a wooded common. More tracks, some monster puddles, some branches to hop and some wildlife to dodge.

I had a really weird feeling as I rode. It took a while to place it... the smell, feel and warmth of winter sunshine. Did I mention the weather? Glorious. Clear sky-blue sky. A fresh breeze. A chill in the air. And sunshine. It's only been a couple of months since I've been riding in the sun but on a January lunchtime, escaping from the office, the impact was amplified. The bare trees, the rolling green hills, the splash of tyre into puddle. This was right, very right.

As I continued (out of the common, onto the road, time-trial mode through the villages, looping back) I started to think of the differences between outdoor and indoor spinning. I even compiled a little list in my head.

Here is is.

Outdoor Advantages
  • The view. Trees, bushes, birds, squirels, hillsides and fields outweigh the sight of my own sweaty self in the spin studio mirror.
  • The smells. Crisp winter freshness vs sixteen sweaty bodies.
  • The workout. My rules. My pace. Forget "press-ups" on a spin bike, this was a real death-or-glory blast, attacking every rise like Philippe Gilbert in a Spring Classic, tucking in for every flat section like David Millar escaping the peleton in a doomed bid to get away in the last 2km of a flat grand tour stage, sweeping through the corners like Matt Goss leading out Cav on a technical finish.
  • The time. Everyone knows time runs at half speed in a gym environment, and double speed when you're having fun on a bike.
  • The sounds. Nature + tyres vs a bearded nutter shouting at me.
Indoor Advantages
  • Ladies bottoms. Although as I tend to sit at the front of a class I miss out on these anyway.
Conclusion? Outside wins. It would even be a whitewash if I could find a willing ladies bottom to ride behind.

25km later, and at 12:56, I got back to the bike sheds. Into the gym at 1pm, shower, back to my desk by ten past.

"Spin class?" they asked me.

"Yeah, something like that".
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