Freewheeling: There’s More To Life Than Cycling


Get fit for cycling – and have a ton of fun — by shredding pow turns.

Editor’s Note: Freewheeling is the ongoing column of features editor Jason Sumner. Once a week (usually), he’ll use this space to prattle on about all things cycling, be them interesting, innovative, inane or annoying. If you have a comment or question, or just want to sound off, drop a note in the comments section below.

I’ve been meaning to write this column for weeks, but life kept getting in the way. Impediments included the usual subjects: work, family, eating, sleep – and wintertime recreation! See, unlike many of my fellow cycling friends, I love to tuck the bikes into the back of the garage during the colder months and do other things – like skiing!

Don’t get me wrong. I love cycling. Really love it. Sometimes in an unhealthy, addictive way. I own five bikes and lust for more. I have more cycling kit than normal clothes. I take a spin class. I’ve raced cyclocross in a blizzard. Last summer, I competed in three different mountain bike stage races. One crossed the whole of the Pyrenees in eight days and required 65 hours of saddle time. It was torture – and it was awesome.

But right now, as I look out my window and see light snow falling on the streets of Boulder, I am not thinking to myself, boo-hoo, I’m not going to be able to ride my bike for a day or so. No, I’m thinking, hot damn, maybe we’ll get one more decent powder day after all.

Point being, if cycling (and trips to the gym, cross-fit class, or other indoor-based recreation) are the only physical outlets in your life, you’re missing the proverbial bobsled. That’s especially true if you live in place with mountains, or snow, or ice rinks, or Nordic trails.

The author has a little off-bike fun at Colorado’s Monarch Mountain.

Here in Colorado, even in a down snow year (which this was), there were still four solid months of on-the-slopes ski and snowboard fun to be had. It’s great exercise. It gets you outside in pretty places. And from a cycling standpoint, it’s a great way to balance out those over-developed hamstrings with a little quad work.

Not the Alpine skiing type? Head out to your local Nordic center, buy a pair of used ice skates and find a frozen pond, or just go for a run on a snowy trail. In the short term, you’ll get to try something new (which is good for the brain). In the long term you’ll develop muscles and skills that are not linked solely to one’s ability to turn a crank (which is good for the body).

Of course the opposite is also true. By taking up a new sport, there will be something besides your Strava account that benefits from all your summer saddle time. For instance, I spent last weekend at an extreme skiing competition in Crested Butte. It was the first time I’d ever been to one of these competitions where entrants plunge down uber technical terrain, trying to impress judges who grade on difficulty of line choice, control, style, and air time.

Afterwards every competitor I spoke with said cycling played at least some role in their training and preparation. Some took spin classes, some road biked, some raced cross-country, some were hardcore downhill mountain bikers. All of them lauded the cross-over benefits between the two sports. Going fast on skis compliments one’s ability to go fast on a bike — and vice versa.

You can find similar examples in lots of other sports. My former cycling coach, Neal Henderson, has worked with several members of the Colorado Avalanche hockey team, including former all-star defenseman Curtis Leschyshyn who subsequently became a passionate cyclist and amateur road racer.

Same goes for the world’s best basketball player, Lebron James, who this seasons started riding his bike to practice and games. Is it coincidence he’s having the best season of his career, while playing the most minutes? Hell, no. Because riding bikes is great — and great for you. And so is doing other things.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)
About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the / staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.

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