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OPINION

Neither of my bike sheds are 'pain caves'... and that's exactly how I like it

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"Don’t be a caveman", says VecchioJo in the most serious defence of riding outside you're every likely to read

I’m a very lucky boy in that I don’t have a pain cave, I have two pain caves. This makes me an apex Zwift predator (see me strut, hear me roar). I’m also an even luckier boy because neither of them are actually pain caves... they’re sheds. Just sheds. Sheds with no glamourising fetishisation of riding a bike going nowhere in them. 

Outside Face Sun.jpeg

The one closest to the house is full of bike crap. A pile of mountain bike tyres the height of a small child, plus half a dozen boxes of other tyres that have been neatly folded and taped up so you can see the logo, and then chucked into boxes roughly separated into road and cyclo-cross with a new one for gravel.

There are split plastic containers of saddles and seat posts, handlebars and stems, front and rear derailleurs and zip-tied cassettes, brake callipers and levers, a plastic bag hiding some tatty old Campagnolo, and a box of disc rotors of varying strata of worn and wobble that are never going to get used again. It’s a history of a life on two wheels with a patina of wistful sentimentality gommed on it that would probably wash off with a spray of degreaser and a determined rub.

There are several sets of forks, one of which I use for hammering home headset crown races as it has the steerer tube removed. There’s a chest of drawers with the random stuff in: tools for obsolete parts, imperial Allen keys, some suspension seat post elastomers, jockey wheels held together with freezer ties, a healthy breeding colony of plastic light mounts, a pick-up-sticks of quick releases and enough ancient alloy bits of uncertain use to keep Alice Roberts going for another series. A bag of plumbing paraphernalia, tins of paint, jars of nails, a garden table, a power drill and accessories, some bamboo canes and all the stuff, tat and maybe-useful-someday gubbins that a shed is meant to have in it. See me shuffle about rummaging for something I know is in here somewhere, hear me mutter and tut.

While there might be enough parts in there to build up a bike or two, I have never ridden my bike in my shed. 

That's because for me, cycling is about being outside. 

Outside Face Buff.jpeg

A bike is a conduit for me to experience as much outside in the time I can spare. I can’t remember how I settled on cycling as it was a long old time ago, and I suspect it was a slow assimilation and progression from just riding to my mates and the sweet shop over there, but I was shockingly flailing at team sports, walking was too slow and running was simply painful. Bikes offered ease, freedom, speed and getting to the real outside quickly without having to deal with the complications of other people.

Over the intervening years I’ve discovered that it does bring with it countless other benefits, but mainly I use cycling to dive into the space rushing around my head. I can get a little tetchy if I can’t feel the wind and the noise and sometimes the rain, and once a while the sun, and the heat and the cold and the surrounding myself in all of the ever-changing whatever that stepping out the front door might entail. It is the full body immersive experience, that starts with the standing in the street divining the colour of the sky and speed and shape of the clouds to decide how many or few clothes to wear, and what to roll in the back pocket for later thanks to living in a temperate climate.

Others may embrace cycling for its fitness gain, its sociability, its travelling to new places, its riding to work-shops-friends-pub, its pedalling a long way, its riding a short way but faster; and while all of those things are also vitally important to me and during any ride some or all of those will bubble cheerfully to the surface, it’s doing all of this with the elements buffeting my face and air billowing around my grey matter that matters the most. 

Outside Face Telegraph.jpeg

It is, I think, being involved, immersed, noticing the headwind kick in as you turn that corner, or the reward of the tailwind after a few hours of battering into it. It is the satisfaction and relief of making it to the top of the climb, it is feeling more than a fan in the face and gliding through a collection of pixels. For all the mumbled oaths of the last miles home in the cold and sloughing wet clothes next to the washing machine whilst spooning peanut butter straight from the jar, there is the inhaling a fridge-fresh Fanta while your skin cracklings in the sun. It is the ache of hunger and tiredness with still enough miles to go and then getting a corner just right so it makes you smile, and that ache and hunger is immediately forgotten. It is both the warm embracing hug and cold sharp slap against the skin. Feeling something, I think. 

Outside Face Spots.jpeg

It is noticing the thousand imperceptible things that go by unnoticed in the minutiae of differences within the day to day on the roads that I’ve ridden day after day, month after month, year after year. The sigh of realising that winter’s not going to hold back any longer because that puddle on that corner has settled again and will be there for the next six months, and the counterpoint of the hushed rejoicing when it disappears at about the same time the sun doesn’t dip below the hill until 6pm and you can maybe just maybe think about going a layer lighter on the next ride.

All of these things and little moments are more important to me than watts and power-ups. It is the feel and rumble and drag of different tarmac textures and the swerves round potholes and drain covers, the total concentration mixed with the cocoon of mindlessness that can wash over after an hour or so when my body has stretched into the ride and settled into itself. And it goes quiet for a bit. Which is why I’m here. Even the mundane nothing of tapping out the miles is a necessary comfort.

Outside Face Grimmace.jpeg

Of course, this mean that there are times when I’m stuck indoors tracing rain drops down the window pane. There are seemingly endless interminable, head-filling, thick dark cloying soup days. So I mindlessly and mindfully bike tinker and do stretches and basic body maintenance routines instead, so that my rickety old body might be a little more limber for when it’s my level of passable to go outside again.

While there is a level of rain that it is pleasurable to ride in, and the romantic in me sees a beauty in it, it happens only infrequently. It’s often becomes just a retrospective justification for that very expensive jacket, and it can get old pretty damn quickly. Some days it’s a faux-rugged giggle, some days I’ve done this shit enough times already and I don’t need to do it again.

I’ve tried riding a bike indoors, and while I get a sweat on and feel like I’ve moved blood and air around a little bit faster than just being on the sofa and made lungs and legs hurt and worried about dissolving headset grease with sweat, I feel desperately unfulfilled and… empty. I have some rollers that are trundled out once a year just to check I’ll never really use them, and I bothered a turbo for a while when I had a broken arm, merely wanting to agitate legs to stop them from atrophying while I watched half a film a day. It was the Turbo Of Illness that was passed around a group of friends for several years to whomever was broken at the time and needed to fool their muscles that they were riding a bike. I’m not sure if anyone knows who actually owned it initially, I’m pretty sure no one knows where it is now, I’m guessing under some stairs where most turbo trainers hibernate and die. That has been it. 

I’m not dismissing riding staying still, as it is clearly a remarkably effective tool if that’s what you want. I’ve noticed when cycling friends have spent time in their garages and sheds indulging their sufferfests that they’ve got noticeably quicker, and it takes a little more effort on my behalf to keep up with them on the hills, or I watch the elastic snap and resolve to up my game. I see it as good training for me, for free.

Does it mean that in whatever race I might enter I’m erring towards the fast sluggish rather than the sprightly, and I’m there mainly to prop up a page of names? Yes. Am I that bothered? Not really, as my personality isn’t podium-based. Do I know that if I used this static tool in the shed as part of structured training I would be better able to withstand the rides I want to do throughout the year, those big rides with enough outside as it is? Absolutely. If I want to ramp up the efforts I’ll sprinkle more hills into my ride instead, and then throw another one in just after I’m about ready to go home. When there’s no option to just climb off and stagger back into the house, it tends to concentrate the mind and focus argumentative legs towards one more pedal revolution. It’s a training regime of sorts, and more importantly it makes me smile inside. 

Outsde Face Kitty.jpeg

 

Crawling into a cave (Pain, Man or otherwise) to play Super Mario Cipollini Bros just isn’t for me, and that’s aside from that posturing terminology giving me the eyerolls. I need to ride a bike outside because it’s Outside, and that brings me necessary release and escape. I am happy to tolerate that this option might not be available all the time, and to accept both the rain and the sunshine with equal grace and apply some kind of carrot-based system to every cold, gritty, damp, component-destroying ride followed by a aftercare regime that’s three times as long as the ride with the promise of skipping up the road under bucolic dappled shadow some time later often nudges me out the door.

I might be miserable, but it’s a more contented miserable than your being in a shed miserable...

Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.

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47 comments

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Velophaart_95 | 5 months ago
1 like

Pain cave, suffering etc aren't really great adjectives for the sport, are they? I thought cycling was meant to be an enjoyable past time......If you're suffering, in pain, then you're probably doing it wrong......

Party pace is far more enjoyable......

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mctrials23 replied to Velophaart_95 | 5 months ago
1 like

Party pace is just as wanky a term as pain cave. 

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Patrick9-32 replied to Velophaart_95 | 5 months ago
1 like

A lot of people enjoy the suffering, its gratifying to push your body close to its limits. 

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hawkinspeter replied to Patrick9-32 | 5 months ago
4 likes

Patrick9-32 wrote:

A lot of people enjoy the suffering, its gratifying to push your body close to its limits. 

But if you enjoy it, is it really suffering though?

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brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 5 months ago
1 like

hawkinspeter wrote:

Patrick9-32 wrote:

A lot of people enjoy the suffering, its gratifying to push your body close to its limits. 

But if you enjoy it, is it really suffering though?

Perhaps - you could get a bike helmet with pins stuck in it on a grid pattern… 

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hawkinspeter replied to brooksby | 5 months ago
3 likes

brooksby wrote:

hawkinspeter wrote:

Patrick9-32 wrote:

A lot of people enjoy the suffering, its gratifying to push your body close to its limits. 

But if you enjoy it, is it really suffering though?

Perhaps - you could get a bike helmet with pins stuck in it on a grid pattern… 

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SimoninSpalding | 5 months ago
1 like

I only do stationary cycling in a spin class, and I only do those on the basis that instructor focusses on actual cycling and doesn't have us doing press ups etc.

Mainly it is the social interaction with the other attendees and the instructor though that keeps me coming back, and I would NEVER prioritise it over an outdoor ride. In fact a lot of the regular co-spinners have bets on whether I will be there when the wind is gusting 35mph and it hasn't stopped raining for 2 days.

Basically ice and fog are the two things that will stop me going out.

I did have a turbo, and used it 3 times, then sold it to my boss. It turned out to be a gateway drug for him as he now has a full smart trainer/ Zwift set up.

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chrisonabike | 5 months ago
9 likes

I tried an exercise bike but quickly gave up as I didn't feel i was getting anywhere.

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Rendel Harris replied to chrisonabike | 5 months ago
8 likes

chrisonabike wrote:

I tried an exercise bike but quickly gave up as I didn't feel i was getting anywhere.

I wanted to do some cross training so I bought a rowing machine, but it felt like I was just going backwards.

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Bikeylikey replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
0 likes

I got a ski trainer, but it was all downhill from there.

I'll get me coat.

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mark1a | 5 months ago
9 likes

I'm still trying to work out whether this article is a thinly veiled humblebrag way for VecchioJo to announce to the class that he is in possession of.... two sheds. 

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to mark1a | 5 months ago
0 likes

mark1a wrote:

I'm still trying to work out whether this article is a thinly veiled humblebrag way for VecchioJo to announce to the class that he is in possession of.... two sheds. 

And a whole load of terrible selfies. 

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wycombewheeler replied to mark1a | 5 months ago
3 likes

mark1a wrote:

I'm still trying to work out whether this article is a thinly veiled humblebrag way for VecchioJo to announce to the class that he is in possession of.... two sheds. 

as long as neither of them is in front of the front wall of his house. (not to be confused with his garden fence)

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andystow | 5 months ago
2 likes

I rode an exercise bike for an hour once, on week two of a three week business trip to China when I hadn't been able to bike at all. I did not enjoy it.

The next day I bought a folding bicycle and went for a nice ride. It came home in my suitcase at the end of the trip.

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dave atkinson | 5 months ago
10 likes

I like cycling outdoors. Also I like cycling indoors.

IMAGE(https://i.makeagif.com/media/2-21-2017/gUJqxU.gif)

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Brauchsel | 5 months ago
8 likes

I've got a 9-5 job, a primary-school aged kid who stays with me on half the weeknights, and it takes 45 mins to an hour for me to cycle out of London to anywhere vaguely enjoyable/solitary and it's not much fun out there in the dark. Without Zwift etc, my opportunities to spend any time on a bike are pretty limited.

I much prefer "real" cycling, too. The author here has a pretty sweet deal though, and there's something a bit condescending about his tone here that I don't much like. Many of us will have a lot more non-cycling constraints on their lives than he seems to have, and we're doing our best to keep up with our hobby as best we can. 

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henryb replied to Brauchsel | 5 months ago
1 like

I agree. The author seems to have swapped what he loftily calls the "glamourising fetishisation of riding a bike going nowhere" for the 'fetishisation' of riding a bike outside

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mctrials23 replied to henryb | 5 months ago
2 likes

Cycling has a large number of twats in its ranks. Whats funny is that the twats who think they are keeping it real, riding at "party pace" are just as knobby as the guys who take it very seriously and look down their noses just as much as the elitists. They just do it from what they feel is a morally superior position. 

Go on reddit and there are far more people on cheap bikes who think they are better than the weekend warrior on a £10k bike simply because they are better riders. 

Its been fun watching gravel racing take off and people get amazingly grumpy about anyone taking it seriously. Talking about crap like "the spirit of gravel".

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mark1a replied to mctrials23 | 5 months ago
4 likes

This is true, and I think that amongst some, the rise of cycling indoors using a virtual platform (which in itself is massively different from how it was when it was just staring at a wall pedalling against static resistance), is just bringing more division among cyclists, where there is really no need for it. I see it on club rides, there's always a few self-titled "proper cyclists", who will tell anyone listening how there's no point in virtual indoor platforms, disc brakes, ebikes, tubeless, electronic shifting, despite having never used any of them.

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quiff | 5 months ago
5 likes

I used to cycle commute 5 days a week come rain or shine - better than the tube; a good way to start the working day feeling energised, and end it by taking out any frustrations on the pedals before getting home. I now work mostly from home and do miss that. I confess that in my leisure time though, I am now mostly a fair weather cyclist. Cycling in the rain doesn't bother me that much, but the clean up that takes longer than the ride (or, more often in my case, the clean up that doesn't actually happen, leaving a rusty mess for the next time) does - particularly now that I have a kid and that is unjustifiable extra me-timeon top of the ride. I do Zwift, but it's a love/hate thing. Did my first Festive 500 this year, totally indoors - which was both hard work and underscored by the nagging thought that it doesn't really count indoors. Haven't wanted to sit indoors on the bike since. So now I mostly run in the winter. Not far, not fast, but it ticks the getting outside box.           

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Tom_77 | 5 months ago
2 likes

I've got a cheap turbo trainer, it's a poor substitute for getting out in the real world but it's better than nothing. I tend to use it a fair bit over winter then abandon it once the weather improves and the evenings get lighter.

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Karlt | 5 months ago
3 likes

Tangentially, I do find this fetishisation of having a miserable time rather odd. Pain Cave? Sufferfest? What on earth is the appeal of that?

I'm trying very hard not to make a BDSM joke here, you realise.

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Surreyrider replied to Karlt | 5 months ago
4 likes

I hate the phrase pain cave.

 

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mctrials23 replied to Surreyrider | 5 months ago
2 likes

Its twatty as hell isn't it. Very self mastabatory. 

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Dnnnnnn replied to Surreyrider | 5 months ago
0 likes

Surreyrider wrote:

I hate the phrase pain cave.

You're not the only one. See also the unlamented Strava "Suffer Score".

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Secret_squirrel replied to Karlt | 5 months ago
2 likes

I quite liked the term Sufferfest.  Tongue firmly in male humour cheek of course.

It was all very "rugby player/Bro" humour and probably dates badly, but the thought of getting my face rubbed in a rancid goat chamois (or whatever) as the punishment kinda worked for me....

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perce | 5 months ago
4 likes

Agreed. Although I must admit some of the recent weather has made me a bit reluctant to go out. Still enjoy it when I do though. 

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Clem Fandango replied to perce | 5 months ago
3 likes

I agree

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Daveyraveygravey | 5 months ago
4 likes

+1 from me!  I have an old exercise bike, which tends to be a hanger for all my damp sweaty cycling kit, but sometimes gets a 40 minute sess when the weather had been too bad too long.

Strava really should have a filter for those that want or don't want to see people's indoor rides.  I use Strava as much to see WHERE people are going, and indoors doesn't count.  If I'm honest, I'm suspicious of the numbers Zwift comes up, so why do indoor miles "count"?!

I live near the south coast, and we rarely have more than 3 days when you cannot ride.  I'm also at the bottom of the South Downs so I can get off road and really out into nature very easily. 

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Brauchsel replied to Daveyraveygravey | 5 months ago
8 likes

Daveyraveygravey wrote:

Strava really should have a filter for those that want or don't want to see people's indoor rides.  I use Strava as much to see WHERE people are going, and indoors doesn't count.  If I'm honest, I'm suspicious of the numbers Zwift comes up, so why do indoor miles "count"?!

1) You can filter out people riding indoors by not following them on Strava. For more granularity, use the "scroll past activities that don't interest me" functionality. 

2) Miles that you ride, indoor or outdoor, count for you. Miles that other people ride, indoor or outdoor, count for them. 

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