Goldsprint racing is a rising offseason cycling activity that melds a stationary bike trainer with a video game. Riders pedal to move wheels on a computer-connected roller system, transferring power output to its virtual equivalent onscreen, where an animated biker ticks along.
I tried this strange — and physically taxing — activity last month while on assignment for the local newspaper in Minneapolis.
Goldsprints — which were popularized in cities such as New York and London in recent years but are new to Minneapolis — have a historical connection to roller racing, a similarly obscure format that’s been around for decades. Roller racing employs a mechanical system to move clock arms on a large dial face. Each revolution of the roller under a rider’s wheel transfers to gears that measure and pace off speed and distance traveled.
For goldsprints, computer code and magnetized sensors are used in lieu of gears and clock dials. At the Nov. 30 Minneapolis event — the first in a series of four “ColdSprints” to be held at Grumpy’s Bar & Grill in downtown this winter — a plasma screen over the stage revealed riders’ distance traveled and virtual speed in mile-per-hour readouts.
None of the equipment for goldsprints is available commercially. The Grumpy’s setup was assembled ad hoc by volunteers from the local bike community and Little Guy Racing, an area cycling team.
Behind the scenes, Landon Bouma, a 30-year-old computer programmer from Minneapolis, spent two months creating a custom program for the ColdSprints series he calls “Dash, Minneapolis!” An IBM laptop, a cannibalized bike computer, a magnet sensor, some lead solder and a networking port to connect the analog rollers to the digital interface rounded out Bouma and crew’s Frankenstein-ish creation. “It was a ton of work,” Bouma said.
My effort on the bike yielded a virtual 1,200-foot distance in the first round’s allotted 20 seconds, a middle-of-the-pack score. Physically, the goldsprint format was unlike anything I’d ever done, as you’re forced to go from a resting heart rate immediately to your max physiological output.
For 15 seconds, my legs and lungs held out. Then things got weird, the room going quiet, lights flashing. I was on the verge of blackout. I fizzled through the final 2 seconds, then leaped off, pushing into the crowd lightheaded and woozy to clapping, backslapping and cheers.
Check out another story on Goldsprints at http://thegearjunkie.com/goldsprints