Friday, November 27, 2009

Rolling in the attic

Apart from painting, the last major project I completed in my house was to redo the attic.

When we moved in, the attic had one light bulb hanging from a cord in the ceiling, a separate (unlit) room, complete with doorway and walls made of wainscotting planks, wide pine board flooring and a sink at the bottom of the stairs. It was also filthy with dust and roofing crud, had no storm windows, and no floor in the addition over my daughters' bedroom (just open insulation). And via gaps in the antique exterior trimwork, it filled up every fall with ladybugs and brown stink bugs (neither of which was much in evidence when I was a kid, one town over, btw) that made their way into the house every spring, much to my wife's chagrin.

Today, it's completely different up there. It's not living space (the floor joists would have to be sistered up for that), but it's much more usable space than it was. I pulled out the room, replaced the stair treads, replaced the floor, added additional insulation underneath, added some storage shelves, added more lighting, insulated the end walls, hung a layer of that mylar bubble wrap stuff on the rafters, and generally made it a much brighter, cleaner more pleasant space to be.

The attic is mostly empty, but I store air conditioners up there off-season, and keep my camping gear up there, along with christmas decorations and the like. I've set aside a corner of the space for my daughters to use as an art studio, though they need a drawing table up there. Maybe a drafting table. I've also hung maps of the world, of the USA and of Massachusetts up there for the girls and me to plan places to visit together. One we checked off last summer was Provincetown. And with some luck, we'll head to Amsterdam next summer.

Getting to the point of this post, I also have my training rollers up there, set up in a riding stall I built while I was redoing everything. It's a great setup that I used "for real" the first time a few weekends ago, and maybe a half dozen times since. The rollers are Minouras that I got for Christmas a few years ago. They're nothing fancy, but they fold for storage and easy transport, and how fancy do they really need to be, anyway? The stall is about 30 inches wide, so it's a good width for rollers. I'm not crowded, but at the same time, it'd be pretty hard for me to get to a point where I fell off the rollers or tipped over far enough to hurt myself. I can actually use the full width of the rollers, and just about brush the wall on each side with my upper arm and shoulder, while riding at the outer edges of the drums. I reinforced the walls at about where my shoulders sit, so as to prevent accidentally busting through the blueboard. The stall is lit from above, and the rollers are sitting on interlocking foam pads. Not at all a bad place to spend some time in. I use the Kestrel, exclusively, up there.

For entertainment, I have an old Denon receiver sitting on a shelf next to the stall, with a pair of Cambridge Soundworks Model Six speakers to either side. The receiver pre-dates iPods and the like, but the CD inputs work just fine with my iPhone or my girls' iPods, so we can all listen to music whenever we're spending time up there.

The rollers are far more interesting than a clamp-in trainer, but because you can fall off, it's generally a good idea to use them in a hallway or doorway or stall like the one I built. The nice thing about rollers is they help you not only with your cadence and having a smooth spin, they also force you to be smooth in how you balance the bike, and give you the ability to play games with placing the bike on the rollers as you ride.

For a smooth spin, I tend to focus on spinning my ankles and feet in circles (vs. focusing on my quads and my leg stroke). A computer with speedometer, odometer ride time and cadence is perhaps not a must-have, but certainly a big plus in terms of getting to a consistent spin and keeping track of my workout. As for bike control, I sometimes lock my eyes onto a point on the maps opposite the stall, sometimes practice ranging from one edge of the drums to the other and back, and other times even try riding with my eyes closed. It's amazing how hard it is to tell what I'm doing by inner ear alone, by the way. Invariably I end up at the right edge of the drums, with my right shoulder up against the wall, when I do that. Don't take that as a recommendation to try riding with eyes closed.

The rollers feel a bit like riding on the road, effort-wise, except that there's really no coasting. Your body's forward momentum (considerable, in my case) doesn't play into anything, so the only thing that keeps the wheels spinning are the comparatively small rotational momentum of the drums and wheels, plus whatever energy you put into the drivetrain. So, stop pedaling and you've got only a couple of seconds to restart, unclip and get a leg down, or otherwise balance yourself.

I've heard rollers are hard on tires, but so far mine don't seem to be too bad that way. I need to replace the tires on the Kestrel in the spring anyway, so burning them out this winter is no big deal. On that subject, I recommend smooth tires, for the sake of vibration and noise -- no heavy treads, and I assume you're smart enough to stay clear of knobbies. Using the rollers (or the floor pump you see in the foreground at right) also terrifies my newly adopted dog, Jake, shown here with Ava. I keep him out of the attic while I ride, rather than risk giving him a heart attack. Fair warning.
In any case, I'm enjoying my riding stall while I can, though there are still no offers on the house, even though last spring it was virtually ladybug- and stink bug-free, courtesy of all the work I did. I won't claim to be a world-class cyclist or roller-user, and honestly I don't understand where people find more than 45 minutes or so to spend on a bike trainer -- a guy I had Thanksgiving dinner with yesterday says he spends hours on his. But I can bang out a 10 mile workout in less than an hour, including time getting dressed, grabbing a towel, filling a water bottle and the like, plus a few minutes at the end with the dumbells. And I expect that as I increase my frequency, fitness and pace, I'll be able to squeeze a few more miles into that hour window.

If I stay, I'm also planning to set up a workstand up there for the handful of bike projects I've got planned for the winter. As always seems to be the case, I've got some setup changes, maintenance updates and one major rebuild to do. More on those another day.

All for now,


No comments: