Since I took up cycling in 2012, I’ve had issues trying to keep fit over the winter. Even back in Sooke, where snow almost never fell, I didn’t put many kilometres on in the dark and wet of January through March. When I bought the cycle trainer in 2013, I knew that motivation would be the primary issue. How many people have exercise bikes and/or home gyms that are currently being used as laundry racks? 😉

The first winter with the trainer was not particularly successful. In fact, it ended with my DVT, which I attribute at least in part to my lack of exercise in the months leading up to it. I was mostly using online workout videos for my training and they weren’t exactly fun.

The second winter I used the Shaw PVR to record lots of UCI world cycling tour races, and I would use the trainer while I watched the coverage. I would cruise along for 30-45 minutes, then stop the race and pick it up the next time. This was pretty good for motivation, since if I wanted to see how the race stages turned out, I would have to get on the bike. The downside was that I wasn’t really working out hard. I’d get a sweat, but not really raising my heart rate to threshold.

Call that a partial win.

This winter, Tammy and I are trying Zwift, an online multiplayer simulation/game, and so far, it works. Boy, howdy. The basic idea is: you have speed and cadence sensors on your bike that talk to your computer, which is running the game. It takes your performance data, turns it into how hard you are working, and then that is how you are doing in the game. Here’s a picture from my point of view, with my cycle computer at the bottom, Tammy’s laptop on the stand in front of my bike, and the computer display mirrored on the TV.

Zwift setup

Zwift setup

It really works well, and I find myself motivated to an incredible degree. There are sprint points, king-of-the-mountain (KOM) climbs, and overall lap times where you can compete against yourself and against the hundreds of others who are on the (virtual) road with you.

Today was a real milestone. I grabbed the KOM jersey for a short while, climbing 2.4 km in 4:47, with an average wattage approaching 400W. I was drenched with sweat when I made it, beating out a fellow from the UK by just under a second.


Simon wearing the polka dot jersey!

That competitive bit really elevates the experience, and I find I’m working really hard and having fun at the same time. It’s very cool.

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