Monday, 20 April 2020

Posted by Velouria Posted on 12:10 | No comments

The #BigDayIn 2020

The BigDayOut has become an institution - a reason to take the day off and head out on an adventure. A bike adventure. With mates. We've gone to some crazy places, seen some crazy things, and eaten some crazy snacks, and somehow survived to tell the tale. We've battled extreme temperatures, slogged into killer South Easters, and fought our way up over mountain passes - overcoming whatever stood in our way. We choose to go on these adventures, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

Tour d Garage: BigDayIn about to start

And then a itsy bitsy teenie weenie virus locked down the entire world (except for Belarus). How were going to satisfy our need for adventure from the confines of our homes? The answer was staring us in the face, but none of us wanted to contemplate the implications. The elephant in the room, or in this case, the stationary bike in the garage was just too awful to consider. The very things that the BigDayOut was founded on would all be missing. The things that made Ritchie Porte and Cameron Wurf head out on that 400 kilometre birthday ride back in 2014. Camaraderie, freedom, jaw-dropping scenery.

My view on a stationary bike has always been that it's a last ditch alternative the real thing. Especially in Cape Town where good weather is usually just a day away. It was something that you indulged not because you wanted to, but because you had to - a quick interval session here, a leg loosener there. Anything longer than 90 minutes was just your own masochistic streak coming out.

Passing the time
But, COVID-19 changed all of that. While April is the most amazing month for bike riding in the Western Cape, we were all restricted to our homes, longingly looking out of the window at the changing of the seasons. We had no choice - time to conquer the stationery bike demons, or get fat eating all the homemade bread piling up in our pantries.
At first, I felt like a super hero for surviving 3 hours on the Wattbike. Hardcore achievement unlocked. And then I did it again. And again. And before I knew it, my brain was coming up with a scheme. A "I-missed-out-on-the-BigDayOut" kind of scheme. Just because we're holed up in our houses, it doesn't we can't do something epic. It wouldn't be BigDayOut epic, but these are special circumstances.
The first problem I faced with the BigDayIn was finding companions. It's tough enough convincing Captain Craig to do the BigDayOut at the best of times. And Snack Monster Mike is an indoor trainer newbie - 90 minutes and he's done. That left "I'm on a big miles mission" Tim. But, for some reason, he was busy! So, BigDayIn would be a solo adventure this year.

What epic part of BigDayOut could I replicate from the comfort of my garage? Certainly not the camaraderie, or the scenery, or the dodgy burger from Miss Piggy's in Rawsonville. The only other founding principle of the BigDayOut thatI could honour was the requirement to ride further than we'd ever gone before. In this case, that meant riding 417 kilometres.

There are definitely some advantages to using an indoor bike to chase the kilometres - there's no wind resistance, there are no hills in my garage, no traffic lights, and no need for lights. On the flip side, there is no freewheeling, no cooling breezes, no targets to aim for, and no company during the dark patches.
As is tradition, the BigDayOut occurs when other people are going about their normal lives, on a weekday, and the BigDayIn was no different. I took a day of leave, had breakfast and walked over to the garage and hopped onto the Wattbike. Some simple maths showed that I'd be in for about 12 hours of riding, if I rode at 35km/h.
And that's what I did for the next twelve hours - I watched the numbers. Some stayed the same, like my average speed and normalised power, while the others slowly ticked along - the elapsed time and distance covered. Unlike riding outdoors, you can't distract yourself by looking around. Well, you can, but unless you're a goldfish, this gets tired after about 5 minutes. You can count things - 37 slats on the courtyard wall, 48 gaps in the pool fence, 19 pedal strokes between the beeping of the washing machine. And you can do maths - 180 watts is enough to power 20 LED bulbs for an hour, riding 417 kilometres is the same as riding to work and back just over 12 times, burning around 650 calories an hour would result in over 7500 calories being burnt for the ride, which is about 26 hamburgers (I'm still about 23 hamburgers behind!). Other than that, riding on a WattBike for 12 hours in mind-numbingly boring. I tried various techniques to pass the time, with varying success. Binge watching Netflix seems to make time slow down. Social media seems to make time speed up. Creating 144 character tweets with appropriate pictures would take ages! Towards the end, the only activity that I had the mental capacity for was counting pedal strokes. 72 strokes seated, 72 strokes standing. Repeat. Over and over.

The BigDayOut broadens horizons, creates memories, and is filled with so many emotions. There's something about suffering with mates, enjoying the best that forecourt cuisine has to offer, and riding bikes all over our beautiful country. Whereas, the BigDayIn shrinks your world to a couple of numbers, while blurring everything between the start and the finish into one fuzzy memory of sweat, butt pain and monotony. The sense of achievement after a BigDayOut hangs around for weeks. That feeling that you did something truly exceptional. While there is a sense of achievement in riding 420 kilometres on a Wattbike, it's much like that feeling you get when you finally dislodge a piece of popcorn from your teeth. And that's it. No fireworks. No beers with mates. No celebratory fist bumps. Just hop off the bike, have a shower, a burger for dinner, and bed.
The BigDayOut is a physical challenge - the only way to get home is to keep pedalling. The BigDayIn is a mental challenge - you're already home and you have to use every trick in the book to stay on the bike and keep pedalling.
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