Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Even Steven

Pre-Assembly. This is not an endorsement of any kind other than for me: I can use a ratchet set.
(Photo: Becky Jo)

Are you frustrated? Maybe a little bit? I love seeing my neighbors out on their bikes more, but I’m frustrated our city isn’t giving more road ownership to pedestrians and cyclists during this unprecedented time.

I’m just now getting comfortable enough to bike anywhere for a 20-25 mile roundtrip, but I certainly can’t get my kids to go that far, nor would I want to in these conditions. How are you doing with the increased reckless driving versus less traffic? What about kids biking in it? Some kids on the 2nd grader’s classroom calls are saying they’re out biking all over on their own; but you have to take a kids’ statements with a grain of salt, you know?

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

I see some cities are at least experimenting with car-calming measures and/or giving over greenways to pedestrians and cyclists on residential greenways. Meanwhile, our government seems to be doubling-down on leaving all roads to drivers, some of which have chosen to discover illegal drag racing. Not exactly something I want to go biking around.

Two weeks ago when the husbeast said he was being sent a stationary bike, I sort of laughed. He’s like Kramer or Elaine – did you ever see that Seinfeld episode, The Opposite? I’m married to Kramer. Stuff just appears at the door for him. It’s weird. Me? I’m Jerry: Even Steven. I assembled the bike in about a half-hour. I didn’t really want to assemble a bike today, but now I can ask you about stationary bikes during quarantine. I can’t go out on 20-25 mile rides like before as I’m helping kids with school, but now there’s a stationary bike to supplement the little 5 mile bike rides I go on with the kids. See? Even Steven.


Look ma! No hands!
(Photo: Becky Jo)

Bonus: I can finally ride a bike without hands or a helmet.

Where are you getting your biking fix? What are your thoughts on bike trainers and stationary bikes? Or are you riding outside anyway? Or maybe a little of both? Are you finding other tricks on getting your rides in? I know our fearless leader is getting up before dawn to ride, but I’m not functional that early. 

As always, thank you so much for hanging out with me here.

— Becky Jo, @BeckyJoPDX
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David Hampsten
David Hampsten
2 years ago

I work with a community group that finds, fixes, and gives away donated bikes to our inner city youth and immigrants. We regularly receive used bikes that must have been used on trainers – the wheels, rims, tires, and most other parts are still nearly new, but the entire center area around the front derailleur is utterly corroded. It’s amazing what damage the ammonia from people’s sweat can do over time – any steel part has thick rust on it and the aluminum (including the frame) looks like liquid vomit. If you are using rollers or a trainer, my advice is to cover the mid section with plastic wrap.

2 years ago

If it’s the same kind of mechanical resistance trainer that I have, I don’t think wear and tear on the bike is a significant concern – you have the skewer preventing you from clamping too tight. However, a few things to be aware of – the trainer probably came with a dedicated skewer with a lever shaped to nestle into the clamping jaws of the trainer. You really should use that or you’re likely to get an unstable fit which can lead to the bike working loose…ask how I know.

Also if you ride a trainer a lot, you’ll likely wear out your rear tire and need to replace it when you start riding on the road again – the trainer roller creates a lot more wear and tear than riding on the road. This is a bigger concern with road tires.

Kyle Banerjee
2 years ago

The good news is that you’re unlikely to mess up swapping out skewers — and if you do, the results won’t be horrible.

Worst case scenario is that you don’t secure the cam adequately and pull your wheel forward into your frame and/or brake calipers — this will bring you to a fast but not catastrophic stop. Not a good thing, but you probably won’t fall or do any damage.

I don’t think you’ll make that mistake — all you have to do is make sure the cam (lever) is locked down firmly. You don’t need to muscle it, just enough force that you don’t think it will flip up.

The more likely mistake is that you’ll get your rear wheel out of alignment when you lock down the cam causing a brake rub. This is more of a nuisance than a safety problem, but you can verify things are fine simply by spinning the wheel and making sure it’s centered within the rear stays and calipers after you have things in place. If it’s not correct, just redo it.

I would recommend getting a replacement skewer if you use the trainer — it will be cheap. The trainer skewer is will secure better and tolerate the clamping forces better.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
2 years ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

I had a Chris King bottom bracket corrode pretty bad on a Ti bike I used for my trainer. That was fun to remove.

Kyle Banerjee
2 years ago

The trick with trainers is for them to make sense to you — you’ll need more than simply turning pedals in your garage, basement, or living room to stay motivated. I used them for years, but I ride almost exclusively outside now.

I personally liked to ride the numbers (HR, power, etc) to cycling training videos. Way more fun and you get a lot better workout. If you want for it to be a bit more sociable and interactive, Zwift can make sense. What works is highly personal. You’ll know you have it right when you look forward to your rides, and you still have work to do if you find yourself dreading them.

I wouldn’t worry about damage to the bike. . So you get a bit of corrosion from sweat — it’s a tool, not a jewel. Wiping down with a rag helps a lot. The tire is also no big deal as you’ll get thousands of miles out of them and they won’t get cut up by glass shards and other stuff. It will get glazed. Use an old wheel/tire if that bugs you.

I’m a bit curious about the trainer design – the ones I’m familiar with, it literally takes less than a minute to set up and take down for a regular commuter or race bike even if the trainer is stowed away. As Dan mentions, it’s important to use the dedicated skewer. I personally think it’s dangerous not to and there’s a high risk of messing up your regular skewer.

Just in case your trainer is set up in a living area, keep pets and small children away — the spinning wheel is very dangerous. Also, while I wouldn’t worry about your bike getting messed up you can mess up your floors with sweat, so I recommend throwing a towel down or keeping one on your bars to wipe with as you ride.

Regarding reckless drivers, you always have to watch out for them. There may be a higher percentage of reckless drivers now, but I still think it’s safer because it’s much easier to identify them and take appropriate measures. Avoiding the times/places they tend to be helps, my personal experience is that early mornings are pretty good about that and times when people like to drink are worst.

As far as kids riding? Depends entirely on the kid. I see a lot of kids that have better skills and judgment than most adults — definitely wouldn’t worry about them. It’s possible that some do ride all over. When/where I grew up, it was common for kids to be miles away though latchkey kids were also a lot more common back then.

2 years ago

I don’t hate bike trainers, or Zwift / Peloton. But I think they can help to develop poor habits. Consider the difference between ballet dancing and stationary ballet dancing in virtual reality. It’s just not the same.

What you miss on a trainer, beyond all of the environmental feedback, is the pitch and roll of the road. This is the best part of cycling. More than that though, there are body actions you develop to respond to the shape of the road. On a trainer, you’re a sack of flour with lungs.

Sure, you get cardio. And I guess if you are limited to that being your only option for cycling (which is reasonable right now), then it’s not the worst thing ever.

My biggest concern with virtual trainers would be retraining your brain to *not* react to curves, corners and hills. Because, if you try to lean into the corner on a stationary bike, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Of course, if you wanted to train with rollers, I say go for it. Because you will be developing a very useful skill. staying perfectly stable. Something that (wild estimate) 90% of cyclists don’t do. If you think you do, try putting a camera on your handlebars and be surprised when you find out the truth! 😀