Racing to try out virtual velodrome

An icy wind was blowing snow in my face as I headed for the gym, but half an hour later I was cycling round the sunny hills of Tuscany.

Andy Bishop from Apple Gym in Worksop and reporter Helen Johnston with a new cycling training bike G130322-5f
Andy Bishop from Apple Gym in Worksop and reporter Helen Johnston with a new cycling training bike G130322-5f

I stuck close to the peloton as I sweated my way past vineyards and farmhouses.

My trip to Italy was all thanks to a virtual reality turbo bike owned and operated by Andy Bishop at Apple Gym, Worksop.

Andy, 34, has just returned to cycle racing after a spine operation, coming second in his first race back.

His road bike was set up on the turbo for me, in front of a TV screen with the real time Tuscany footage.

All I had to do was hop on and start pedaling.

As soon as I sat down on the hard, narrow saddle I realised I had made a big mistake by forgetting my padded cycling shorts.

Within minutes I was too uncomfortable to continue.

“Why don’t you try that on?” said Andy, pointing to a GB suit hanging by the mirror.

It once belonged to Team Sky rider Ben Swift, of Anston, and with its generous padding,it was perfect.

The first part of the ride was all uphill.

The turbo bike adjusts to every incline, and adds resistance.

I’m not used to the racing bike position and after five miles my shoulders and neck were aching, probably because of nervous tension as much as the physical challenge.

Andy was great at encouraging me, saying my pedaling rhythm was good.

He also put some music on to take my mind off my exertions.

Then it was time for an even tougher challenge – 25 laps of the velodrome.

This time the screen was animated and my avatar, also wearing a GB kit, was responding to my efforts.

This was the serious business of racing and that meant being timed, wearing a heart monitor, and having my power output measured.

I had a few seconds delay right at the start through not concentrating, and then it was just a sheer gruelling slog.

Andy counted down the laps and advised me to power through the corners and ease up a bit on the straights.

I reached the finish line 11 minutes and 21 seconds later. It was only 3.8 miles but felt like a lot further. My max power was 423 watts and my top speed was 24.5mph.

I got a great buzz out of it but have come to the conclusion that, when it comes to cycling, I’m built for comfort, not speed.

Andy can offer various options on the turbo trainer to help with improving cycling ability, and you can take your own bike along if you prefer.

A one hour session is £25, analysis and set-up is £50, which includes working out your optimal bike position for maximum power, efficiency and injury prevention.

There is also a coached progression package at £90, of three one-hour personal training sessions, with the option of Andy training you up for a time trial at the end.

For more information call Apple Gym on 484106.