Day Eight: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

The other day I was talking to a guy in a bike shop about virtual reality trainers, he was a customer of mine and he was telling me how that with the latest virtual reality turbo trainers, you can pop your bike onto the device, choose a route from a database of cycle rides, climb on board and ride up the famous Alpe d’Huez climb if you wish.

For those of you that are unsure as to what a virtual reality turbo trainer is, I have inserted a YouTube video of once such daemon device.

In the past I have sold such items in the shop and even if I still had a shop, I would not sell them again.  Indeed, if a sales rep arrived with one tucked under his arm I would throw him bodily out of the front door, telling him to take Satan’s Child away shouting “Begone” and all that hocus pocus.

You see the problem lies not with the turbo trainer itself, they are mechanical, and in general are easy to set up.  They tend to just work straight out of the box. The issues start to arise when you are told to pop a CD or DVD with software into your computer and begin installing it.  As soon as you see the word ‘Install’ you might as well give up, box the thing up and post it back doused in holy water. OK I am being a tad harsh here but if anything goes wrong, and believe you me it probably will, then you are royally stuffed.

You see these fancy turbo trainers are distributed by companies who are geared up to distribute chains, brake shoes and ball bearings.  Not devices that require Windows Vista with service pack three point zero five and above and a machine with 1 GB of memory using an OpenGL graphics card (for a list of compatible graphics card please visit ‘I am a nerdy geek dot com’)  So when it crashes mid way through the install process you call up the dealer and say you have a ‘missing driver’. The chap on the end of the phone will probably tell you that you must have the wrong number, that they are not a courier company, that they sell bike stuff and certainly have no idea of the whereabouts of any missing drivers.

I broke the news to my customer that I had experienced more trouble with virtual reality turbo trainers than any other product in the store but he continued to gush on about them.

“It is just like riding outdoors mate” He said.

I nodded and let out a “Hmmm”, hoping he’d realise that I was not about to be converted and would stop evangelizing, but he carried on.

“You can ride up in the mountains, the descents are wicked and you can compare your times to the world’s best” He carried on a bit longer before the phone rang and he was forced to stop.

Yes you can ride up mountains.  Giant software mountains.  And yes you can ride down the other side of these mountains and you can compare your times to others, in fact, you can even do it real time over an Internet connection, but only if you are the senior product manager for Microsoft, are able to programme VCR recorders with ease, or wear white coats like Bunsen and Beaker in the Muppets and have bad coffee breath….

Yesterday I set off from home on a bicycle ride.  It was hot but the wind was strong and was blowing in from the sea.  You could taste the salt air.  The road from my apartment down to the coastal road is about two kilometres long, a gradual descent through a fairly busy residential neighbourhood.  I avoided the pot-holes and the large folds in the tarmac next to the bus stops, swerved (gracefully of course) past the jay walkers and joined the coast road.

I settled into a nice rhythm and with a tailwind I was soon riding in a 53×17 spinning my legs easily with little effort.  The N11 follows the sea from the outskirts of Montgat for over 50KM along the coast to Malgrat de Mar before turning inland and becoming the A2.  The scenery is stunning and time flies by.  Yesterday I was tempted to stop and watch what appeared to be a rather exciting all girl beach volleyball match taking place in Montgat Nord but I resisted temptation and continued on along the coast.  Further up the coast, on the outskirts of El Masnou I was tempted to stop again and watch the windsurfers jumping in the surf and then again in Arenys de Mar, the smell of Gambas cooking over an open fire almost did the same but I swung left and began the climb up to Arenys de Munt.

I was cycling alone smelling the fresh pine trees, looking down at the sea a couple of hundred feet below, the only sound was the wind tickling the pines into a gentle chorus, the noise of the tires on the road and the pounding in my head.

I did not once have to call customer support, the view never froze mid way through the ride and the descents were definitely better than those of any video simulation.

Three hours and thirty minutes later I was back in Barcelona, my legs were rather weary but I was smiling.  It is the longest ride I have done since moving here and I am excited at the prospect of doing more rides when I collect my own bike.  The position and set up will be perfect and I will enjoy the rides even more.

Am I gushing? Sorry but there’s nothing virtual about this reality !

I am wondering what training to do tomorrow, in terms of planning my day that is, as  I have been invited in the evening to a special restaurant that only serves chicken. It is part of a birthday celebration for the president of the Federacia Catalana de Ciclisme who is turning 50.  I guess I will have the chicken then….

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