I’m no cyclist, but recently, I went on an hour-long bike ride with some of Ottawa’s strongest and fastest — and I kept right behind them the whole time.
I was pedalling way slower than they were and with lower resistance as we climbed hill after hill. So how did I do it, you ask?
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Ride inside programs — more popularly known as spin classes — not only allow feeble, jimmy-legged wannabe cyclists (like myself) to stay with the pack, it lets hardcore cyclists train through the most gruelling winter weather.
It’s 6:30 a.m. — so early I barely have strength to lift a coffee cup, much less move at a rapid clip — and already Cyclelogik’s preternaturally perky instructor, Ian Fraser, is shouting out instructions at us.
Cyclelogik has been running its ride inside programs for the last five years, attracting up to 300 riders a week. Not surprisingly, the indoor riding groups have become hugely popular in a city like Ottawa, that gets snow five months a year.
The classes give serious cyclists a way to keep up their riding in winter, said Fraser. Before ride inside classes, cyclists mounted their bikes on indoor trainers.
“They trained in a lonely environment, typically in a basement, watching VHS back in the day,” said Fraser, a former Canadian National Team triathlete. “I watched the whole O.J. Simpson trial live that way.
“I have a bike on a trainer at home, but it’s easier to put it off without people there,” said Scott Hall, an engineer who competes in marathons and triathlons.
Peter Mason, who attends cycling classes in the winter to keep in shape during the off-season, also likes the group environment.
“This is like going dancing, but you’re getting exercise at the same time.”
“Everyone in the class is at a different level,” said Ottawa triathlete Monique Giroux. “But you can adapt it to your level and you don’t get dropped.”
It’s all-inclusive, said Fraser. “You can be a first-timer sitting next to someone who’s world class and get a workout on your level.”
As sweaty as I am from all the hills and intervals, I feel fabulous by the end. Energized. Socialized. Coffee is the furthest thing from my mind.
“People come in looking like zombies and they leave looking alive,” Fraser said. “We bring the dead back to life.”