‘Cross diary 23: It’s raining turbots

February 28, 2013 at 9:54 pm | Posted in cycling | 2 Comments
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So, winter. Proper winter, too, with snow and ice and freezing winds and two and a half hours of daylight* and all that. Around this time of year, a young [cough] cyclist’s thoughts turn to staying inside out of the ruddy weather, FGS, thank you very much, what do you think I am, crazy?

Rainy Day

But sitting around eating cheese footballs and watching Masterchef only appeals for so long. While Christmas is traditionally a time for getting our fitness baseline right down so that we have something to work on in the New Year, by February most of us are surveying our rears in the mirror with growing distaste, unfriending people on Facebook because they’re on holiday in Tenerife, and biting anyone who suggests we might just go out for a little walk, you know, to clear our heads?

The solution, of course, is folded up in the corner of the spare room: the turbo. I’ll confess to a bit of a love-hate relationship with the turbo. I owe it a lot. My first winter of turbo training** revolutionised my cycling. The following summer, instead of trailing up French climbs throwing mental grenades at @spandelles as he disappeared over the horizon, I actually beat him up Mont Ventoux. (‘I’ve created a monster,’ he said ruefully over pizza that evening.) The turbo kept me sane during pregnancy, when I was dutifully trying to keep my HR down so as not to boil the baby, or whatever was supposed to happen if I exceeded 135bpm. When I gave myself an arch strain jumping around the kitchen in my socks to LCD Soundsystem*** and couldn’t run for nearly a year, the turbo saved me from going postal.

Despite all this, turbo-ing can be a depressing prospect. However, with a few tweaks to your routine, you CAN enjoy your turbo session. Based on extensive personal experience, here are my top tips. You’re welcome!


1. Have a playlist with some fast tracks on it, and some REALLY fast tracks. Choose ‘shuffle’, and try and keep up with the music.

2. Do 20/40s, or 30/30s, or 10/10s, or whatever other heinous alternation of sweating and wheezing you can muster.

3. Sing. This is the one time that singing along to your ipod is completely acceptable. (If you can sing along to ‘I Will Always Love You’, mind you, you may not be working hard enough.)

4. Take advantage of those inevitable trips to go to the loo/ answer the door/ get your towel/ check your @mentions by honing your cyclocross skills: dismounts, remounts and getting your feet in and out of the pedals at speed can all be practised on the turbo. (Well, maybe not the remounts. See ‘wonder why your arse hurts’, below.)

5. Fine-tune your raceface. Take a few pictures on your phone, to check yourself out. Make sure that your raceface is sufficiently distinct from your sexface. You don’t want your race pictures showing up on those sites, again.

6. Observe the functioning of your body under stress. Wonder why your elbows/ wrists/ knees sweat so much (delete as applicable). Try to get your HR into zone 5. Try to get your HR back down out of zone 5. Wonder if anyone will miss you if your drop off the turbo stone dead, or if you’ll be discovered three weeks later with the cat eating your face.

7. Think about bike fit. Does your arse hurt because your saddle is too high, or because you’re wearing your shortest shorts? When you’re in TT position, can people see down your top? (You’ll need a mirror, or a friend, for this one.)

8. Have a really brilliant idea for a blogpost/ million selling book/ dastardly world domination plan that you can’t write down. Forget it by the time you get in the shower.

* I may have been watching a bit too much Borgen, here

** by which I mean, riding my bike attached to the turbo; ‘training’ is overstating it a touch

*** When I told the doctor this story, she looked at me and went, ‘Idiot.’


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  1. Some great ideas here – should make turbo (I use a spinning bike) more palatable. Though not really sure I’d care whether people can see down my top – I’d be more worried about what they’re doing in my garage! A fan is another good thing to help – even in the depths of winter – not so much for the temperature, but I find the humidity in the garage goes through the roof.

    • Thanks for commenting! As you can tell, I’m usually too busy daydreaming on the turbo to notice intruders in the garage… Yes, the point about fans is well taken. I turbo indoors and open the window in all weathers. Old skool… 😉

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