As the front wheel slipped sideways from under me one more time, and my shoulder crashed heavily against the door frame, I had to ask myself whether this was actually any safer than mountain biking alone in the woods at night.
It can be a difficult time of year for a cyclist. Aside from a group ride at the weekend it isn’t easy to get miles in during the week. In previous years night rides in Ashton Court and Leigh Woods have helped, but this year the mtb group has disintegrated and although I enjoy riding on my own at night in the woods, the potential consequences of an accident don’t really bear thinking about.
Most cyclists attend spin classes or use a turbo trainer in the winter. I have bought rollers. The choice seemed logical. With a turbo there is a certain amount of setting up to do each time you use it, or you have a dedicated bike permanently attached to it. With the rollers you just unfold them, get on your bike and ride. Rollers don’t give you the sophistication of variable resistance and all the computer trickery available with a turbo trainer but I’m not interested in that, I just want to spin my legs for half an hour or so once or twice a week to get my heart and lungs working.
Riding a bike on rollers is not unlike riding a bike on ice – in that only an idiot would attempt it. The advice is to set up for your first attempt in a doorway so that the door frame prevents you from falling to the ground the moment you start pedalling. After several attempts I find I am relying less on the door frame to keep me upright but I can report that estimates of half hour sessions were optimistic. It is the gyroscopic effect of your legs going round that keeps you vertical, if you stop pedalling you fall over. 5 minutes feels like half an hour.
On the plus side, after only a modest amount of use, I noticed a small but marked difference when I got back out on the road. My upper body is very still and the bike holds a line like it’s on rails. I may still look like a commuter in a hi-viz jacket, but in my head I am Fabian Cancellara scything through Hyde Park on his way to victory in the prologue of the Tour de France 2007.