Thursday, January 1, 2009

My First Time

It finally happened. It's been 13 years, 7 months and 3 days since my first road bike purchase and yesterday, I finally lost my roller-riding virginity. It was lost the way I envision most roller-riding virgins are deflowered; the rollers are generously lent to the virgin by a friend (in my case, Steve). Steve's rollers are a set Performance polly-drum rollers, that, well, let's just say they've aged pretty good considering. Here's a pic if any one is longing for some good old 80's nostalgia. Dig that logo!!

So I bring them down to my basement and set them up in front of the TV. I know, everyone says to put them between a doorway, but, come on! I've been riding on the road for over a decade, I'm as steady as can be and some experts in the field would even describe my pedal stroke as supple. It can't be that hard... I set my bike on the rollers and realize the first challenge: gosh, my bike sure is high up, how the hell do I get up there?? Luckily, I had a small aerobics step nearby which worked out great. Time to saddle up!

I carefully get one foot clipped in and start pedaling to get some balance. Whoosh, whoosh go the rollers, two pedal strokes later and I'm still not clipped in and my back tire is off the drum resting on the roller frame. I set the bike back on and try again. Still no success. This happens about twice more and I realize that I've either underestimated the difficulty of roller riding or overestimated my cycling prowess (probably both).

I move the rollers to the doorway (I see now why this is the recommended starting point for newbies). I get set up and get on the bike. Bracing myself with one hand on the door frame and the other on the handlebars, I get clipped in. Success! I pedal. About 10 revolutions in, I gingerly remove my hand from the door frame and place it on the bar tops. I'll be damned, I'm actually doing this!

The sensation I get within the first five minutes of unsupported roller riding feels something like I imagine the premier performance of Road Bikes on Ice would feel like as performed from the deck of a large fishing vessel in the Bering Sea. Eventually the sea sickness subsides but I still can't shake the riding on ice sensation. Perhaps that's because any little movement on rollers has big consequences.

After about 10 minutes, I start moving my hands to the hoods and drops. Not too bad. One thing that is quickly apparent to me, this takes a lot of concentration. Any lapse and it's welcome to Swerve City. I also make a note that balancing on the bike is totally independent of my legs turning the pedals. It's all subtle shifts in my body. And I do mean subtle.

20 minutes in - things are going quite well and I'm actually working up a sweat. I thirst. My water bottle is in it's cage. Hell, muscle memory alone knows exactly where it is. Shouldn't be too much trouble to just reach down to retrieve it... Squueeal, thud, thud. Faster than you can say "Ciussi" my attempt to retrieve my bottle has landed both my wheels on the edge of the roller frame. the only thing that saved me was my shoulder hitting the door frame. I right myself and take a couple drinks while holding on to the door frame. That's definitely something I will need to work on.

With no other incidents to report, I cap my first session at 30 minutes. I coast to a stop and unclip, careful to make sure I don't slip and break my neck as I place my cleated foot on the plastic aerobics step.

That was more difficult than I imagined but the challenge makes it fun. Next session I'm going for 40 minutes and try a shift to the big ring, look out! My big goal will be to progress out of the doorway and to be able to drink some water... Is that asking too much?

Any other good roller tales out there? How about your first time, was it good for you? Let's hear it!


  1. Every time is a first time for me dammit, seriously. Your storyy makes me feel like less of a loser. There are soe incredible videos out there of guys out on the middle of a floor that clip their left foot in, stand on that pedal, swing their leg over and away they go.

    One day...

  2. Rollers suck... of course my first time was on my wife's old Schwinn that had a wheel that wasn't true!! LOL!!