By Clair Cafaro
For a cyclist a melancholy sets in with the changing of the leaves. It’s ironic really, because with cooler temperatures and colourful vistas the best days of riding are upon us. Yet we know the fall landscape marks the inevitable end of cycling outdoors.
The first several years with my road cycling club made this marking of the seasons vividly apparent. Summer meant bonding with a group of individuals, sharing ideas, exchanging quips, shedding tears from laughter or from heartfelt confidences. It meant spending countless hours in the saddle with them, exploring new landscapes, discovering tiny country-nestled towns and making lots of new friends. All of this would come to an end with the change of seasons. This always seemed strange to me. After countless hours together how could we possibly say goodbye for 6 long months?
Our indoor trainer rides were born out of this very need to stay connected. In truth, the desire to stay cycling fit all winter takes second place to post-spinning coffee. Coffee time lasts twice as long as actual time on the bike.
Our indoor rides had very humble beginnings, not just in terms of space but what we thought it would be. With space at a premium, our early rides were held in the boxing studio of a local gym no bigger than a breadbox. This intimate environment became my classroom. It’s where I learned about gearing, heart rate, bike fit, form, all the critical things that form the foundation of making me a better rider.
With each passing year our little group grew until eventually we were 48 riders strong. Luckily, one of our new club-mates carved out some space in his warehouse, where for several years we congregated for our early morning rides. I’ll never forget pulling up to the snow-covered loading dock at 7:30 a.m., hearing music pounding from inside the warehouse walls. It sounded just like a night club — except for the a.m. part. It made winter bearable.
Although informal, the rides followed a periodized structure, led by a rotating group of instructors. There’s nothing like putting the hurt on your cycling buddies when your P/W ratio (power to weight ratio) isn’t a factor! We work on bike skills like single-leg drills and get to poke fun at each other when our hip flexors refuse to lift that leg over the top of the circle one – last – time!
(Be honest, there’s no way you do these on your own in your basement!) Doing them together makes them almost fun. While our hills are imaginary, the stairs are very real. Hauling your bike, trainer and gym bag up a flight of stairs is akin to climbing any tough hill. But it’s all worth it.
Perhaps even more worthwhile has been the opportunity to be charitable, to reach out and give a “hand up” to others. Our group has proudly raised thousands of dollars for charitable organizations such as the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation, which funds children’s oncology, as well as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Each of our 48 riders pays $150 for the entire winter. That works out to about $7 per class. A rotating group of ride leaders volunteer their time to teach. If we need to pay rent for the space, we pay that first and then donate the remaining funds. Our indoor trainer rides build bigger hearts in more ways than one.
As my sister Ursula Cafaro puts it:
“Change that helps us grow and expand and soar is a very good thing. Change that helps everyone else around us grow and expand and soar is even better. As we aspire to new things, new environments, new challenges, we need to remember to look back. Chances are there is someone behind us who could use a hand up.”
Clair Cafaro is the president of C.O.R.E CYCLING, an indoor cycling instructor certification program, and writes for www.womenscycling.ca.