Thursday, February 4, 2010

Beginners Page # 14 Computrainer Chapter 1

Along the middle of last year, Christine hurt her thigh muscles trying to emulate the cycling techniques of what she thought the big boys on the Tour de France were doing. Each time she would cringe from pain, I would say get a referral to sports medicine. Eventually she went to a doctor and was told to hold off on riding for two weeks, and then slowly work back into our riding routine.

Christine and the doctor also discussed working out on a training device such as a Computrainer to make sure her riding technique was not continuing to aggravate the problem. So recently, Christine informed me that she had made an appointment at Randy’s Bike and Run to work out on the Computrainer. I immediately suspected ulterior motives of trying to get faster than me and take over bragging rights. I had read somewhere that if you got on one of those machines, you would become 2-4 mph faster. No fair! I whined enough that she called Randy and set up an appointment for both of us. (Insert secret smile here).

Just about all I knew about a Computrainer was what I said above. If you sit on one of those machines you will become 2-4 mph faster. I can do that. Oh boy, talk about a babe in the woods.

But first, let me share some hindsight information about the Computrainer so if one is truly a beginner, he can stay up with the story. A Computrainer is similar to a resistance trainer to which your rear wheel is attached.

 You can pedal in a stationary position with various resistance levels and remain indoors. It has a lot of monitors to tell what is going on with the body. Some of the information immediately available while pedaling is your speed, distance, time, rpm’s, and power output (watts). One of the big things is what is called a spin scan. It is to analyze the pedal stroke in real time (instantly as you are pedaling) and assist one in developing an efficient stroke. An efficient stroke means you can go faster but use less energy in doing so. That part I liked.

We showed up at our appointment time and Randy asked a few basic questions to set up a profile for the computer stats. Then I discovered the traumatic part. You have to do more than just sit on the trainer. YOU HAVE TO WORK! I should have kept my mouth shut when Christine told me about her appointment. But alas, I was there so take it like a wimp. So, I “let” Chris go first. I needed time to adjust to the fact that you have to pedal fast, hard, and CORRECTLY!

Here is what the spin scan is supposed to look like. (Don't pay any attention to the name on the top left)

Here’s mine. Lots of work to do.

The program on which we started was a level course with no wind. There is a silver guy that can be programmed to set the pace or you can race against. The silver guy has a “perfect” stroke so his stats are displayed below yours so you can compare and try to be more like him.

Trying to stay up with the silver guy or match his stats is hard enough. But what really makes it hard is that Randy will watch and then say to make the left leg work more, put more power on the 9 and 3 positions, relax, breathe, ease up on the right leg, push, drop that heel, fire up those muscles, keep the pedals light… Now my brain and body will respond to only one instruction at a time. Do you want me to breathe, relax, concentrate on the left leg-right leg or what? I can’t do it all at once. Just as soon as I would breathe, my “circle” would collapse in the middle (meaning I would be just push-pulling on my stroke). Concentrate on the stroke and my shoulders would go up to my ears. Relax and then find myself blue in the face-breathe-breathe. Whoops, the circle just became a figure 8. Can’t hold more than one thought at a time.

So much for my sitting on the machine (which as mentioned turns out to be your bike connected to the training apparatus and computer) and instantly becoming 2-4 mph faster. This is going to be work!!!!


  1. That's neat. I personally don't really like training on the computer, but I suppose it could be useful for a lot of people.

  2. @king james: I am not sure how this is going to turn out as it is a process. The part I like so far is the instant bio-feedback from one's actions or inactions. The rider can immediately see how he is doing and try to make on-the-spot corrections rather than having to analyze a computer read-out after a ride. But time will tell if you can teach an old dog new tricks.