The cyclists on this bike ride might be riding in central Illinois, but they are negotiating courses with a couple thousand feet in elevation change and hills with up to a 15 percent grade.
They have varying levels of speed, but they ride next to each other, chatting throughout the one to two hours on their bikes.
And they work out throughout the winter in shorts, sweating profusely and not worrying about snow or winds or icy roads.
They are members of the Wandering ElderBarrys Indoor Biking Cave, an unfinished second-floor space on South Neil Street in Champaign, where they ride on their bike trainers using a computer system that simulates cycling courses from around the world.
Many cyclists ride indoors on trainers throughout the winter. And many ride along to videos of bike courses. But what makes the bike cave special is both the space where a group of riders can work out together — and the CompuTrainer computer system the riders use, says Peter Goldsmith, who along with several others had the idea for a bike cave after seeing one several area triathletes used.
Goldsmith found the space to rent, and the group set up its bike cave.
About 10 riders share the cost of the renting the space. The cyclists ride together every Wednesday and Sunday morning, but they all have keys and can use the space whenever they want.
The CompuTrainer system integrates all of their bike trainers with a computer simulation of an actual bike course — for example, there are several from Ironman races. Two of the group’s favorite courses are in Alabama and Chattanooga, Tenn. The system automatically adjusts the resistance of the trainers as they ride the virtual uphill and downhill segments of the course, giving them practice shifting.
The monitor displays each of the riders on the course and their positions relative to each other. And it measures their miles per hour; watts, or power generated; watts per kilo of weight; revolutions per minute; and the gap between each of them and the other riders, among other things. When the ride is done, the cyclists have all kinds of performance data to analyze.
“It definitely trains you differently when you’re indoors on the CompuTrainer,” Ryan Porter said. “Outside, you can get some speed up and you can coast a little. In here, there’s always resistance.”
It’s also a competitive one, where each rider can see the position of the others on the virtual course and how much power they are generating.
“We ride much harder when we’re together,” Goldsmith said.
Said Porter: “It gets me up in the morning because people are waiting.”
“And we make fun of you if you don’t show up,” Brockenborough said, then added that he is motivated to show up because the other riders push him to be faster.
“You’ve got to be really, really motivated to keep up the same intensity (riding alone) in your basement,” Porter said.
While the cyclists are competitive with each other, they are also “extremely social,” Goldsmith said.
He described himself as not as strong a biker as some of the others. On outdoor rides, he’ll sometimes get left behind. Indoors, “they’re still leaving me, but we can chat and they’ll give me grief about being an old man,” he said.
Said Brockenbrough: “I enjoy the working out, but the thing I actually enjoy is the stories, the witty banter.”
“We have some people who are very good talkers, no matter how fast you’re going,” Porter said.
Photos: Top: Clockwise from top left, John Brockenbrough, Kelly Cunningham, Ryan Porter, Shane Cultra and Peter Goldsmith ride on their trainers in the Wandering ElderBarrys Indoor Biking Cave in Champaign. Bottom: The screens in the bike cave allow riders to keep track of themselves and their friends as they compete on virtual courses. Photos by Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette