This thing works best when you participate, by reading the drivel I’ve crafted for you below, and then expressing your views in the comments.
As with so many of our TCI Friday chit chats, the ultimate answer to today’s questions don’t matter much. We’re talking amongst ourselves here. Socializing. This is idle talk not UN debate. I felt like I needed to say that up front, because I’m getting ready to split a hair that might not need splitting. It bears saying that, however you decide to ride bikes is just fine with me.
Our topic today is indoor cycling, and I’m thinking about this because TCI reader John in Michigan wrote me an interesting email about the various ways we ride bikes as a discussion prompt for The Paceline. It is entirely likely we’ll still get to that one day soon, but in the meantime, I have been thinking about what it means to ride a bike indoors.
Riding inside might take the form of a Spin class or a Zwift session or just a lights-down-low, banished-to-the-basement, self-punishment-fest on a trainer. One of them is directly social, in a room with other human people. One of them is virtually social, in a digital space with avatars. And, one is asocial if not anti-social, constituted of a battle of wills with oneself in pursuit of pure fitness or emotional catharsis. Each of these ways of turning the pedals has something to recommend it incidentally.
My perhaps artificially controversial opinion is this though: If you’re not moving, you’re not riding a bike. And how is that? How can I be turning pedals, raising my functional lactate threshold, sitting on an actual bicycle (or close approximation thereof) and not be riding a bike?
Well, and this is what passed for deep thought on Fridays, if you’re playing a racing game on the Xbox or other console, driving a car at top speed around a digital track, are you driving? Or are you playing a driving simulator? Right. So indoor cycling, for me, isn’t riding a bike. It’s using a cycling simulator.
Now, before some percentage of you work yourselves into a swivet, I recognize that what I’ve just done is a bit of semantic sophistry. I’ve defined bike riding as necessarily incorporating movement, and I’ve decided, perhaps arbitrarily that the movement needs to be actual rather than virtual. These points are all debatable, but I think they matter in small and subtle ways, because they have actual influence on the outcome of your efforts.
I’m going to argue that the movement aspect of outdoor cycling produces all sorts of physical, mental and even emotional results that are not achievable while pedaling stationarily. There are elements of proprioception, balance, connectedness to nature, sights, sounds, geographical disassociation, hormonal stimulation, contextual cleansing, etc., that are unique to the experience of moving through space.
I have been told, even by people who love me, that I’m full of it though.
This TCI Friday we’re asking: Is indoor cycling, cycling? And does it matter? Do you have the same sorts of transformative effects from your stationary efforts as you do your motional ones? Is it maybe just the case, as usual, that I’m doing it wrong?
Shimano North America sponsors TCI Friday, and the other culture-shaping content you find here.