Known for riding off the front of group rides only to be caught in the first mile, CJ got back on a road bike and realized he must win the Donut Derby at least once in his life. Regularly pledging he's "not a climber," he can be found as a regular attendee of Trexlertown's Thursday Night Training Criterium or sitting on the couch watching Paris-Roubaix reruns. CJ has been a constant rider of the Hell of Hunterdon in New Jersey and races the Tour of the Battenkill before going into seasonal hiding on cross-country ski trails.

Review: The Sufferfest’s Nine Hammers

Review: The Sufferfest’s Nine Hammers

(2015) An old Japanese martial arts proverb stated, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” Muhammad Ali apparently uttered this quote often during training. But what about the ninth time? Did anyone prepare for nine strafing runs? The Sufferfest does not care if you are unprepared. A week or so ago it finally rained in these parts. We needed it. The garage got cleaned. It needed it. With heavy precipitation, the bike stayed stowed for the day, or so I thought. Moving some things around the garage led to a horror movie moment. There, folded up, were the rollers. They leaned against the extension ladder as a mobster with folded arms. They were my Pennywise the Clown prop. I continued with my cleaning.

I felt the rollers staring at me for the entire time. “It’s a natural rest day,” I told myself. Convincing myself. The evolution unrolled from there. “Perhaps I’ll just hop on and do a light spin later.” The rollers had me in their grasp. Finally, I decided on making my time worth it. I was going to step into territory not often visited: a summer Sufferfest session.

Not only was I going to make my hour worth it, I was going to make it hurt with The Sufferfest's Nine Hammers. This cycling season has putted along. Races were missed or canceled. Weather forecasts calling for severe thunderstorms made me second-guess day-of registration. And then there were the double race weekends. No. Today I was going experience all those missed races into an one hour effort.

I must record two observations about new Sufferfest videos. The warm-ups are shorter and harder in effort than in videos’ past. The second observation regards the beautiful high-definition footage, much of it onboard. This makes the video massive. It’s 2.6 gigs of hard drive space. Although as of recently one can purchase a monthly membership of ten dollars (USD) per month and pull any video down from the cloud.

But let’s talk about the video. Climbing on the bike and starting the footage, we’re met with a dramatic start. I feel like a knight riding into battle. I momentarily forget what I signed up for. By the way, I rode to this video in the winter when it came out, so I knew what I was in for.

Ah yes. The warning. And then the big red phrase spiraling around the screen of IWBMATTKYT. The dramatic music continues then goes into some head nodding music. I’m digging it. It’s indicated the footage comes to us from the Tour of Romandie and the Tour de Suisse. And then we go into how to read in the telemetry on the screen.

Now I won’t go into every detail. I don’t want people to prepare for this flogging and say to me, “Creaky, thank-you for making my Sufferfest easier.” That is certainly cheating. Sufferfest studios will send the minions over to threaten me. My rollers would stare at me as I slept. Perhaps now I should state that the remaining video is riding through beautiful sunflower fields with the attractive person of your choice riding next to you offering to stop and have a picnic.

The rock music continues and the announcement is made that warm-up is six minutes long. Do not let this fool you. Really the footage makes it easy to get lost. It’s crisp. It’s clear. It almost feels like we’re actually riding in the break. At this moment The Sufferfest lets us know of the workout. It might be a good idea to have a “nervousness bucket” nearby. It’s as painful as it looks. The clear footage makes it quite easy to see the clapping spectators who are more interested in not suffering by watching professional cyclists who suffer.

  The start of Nine Hammers has a six-minute warm-up.

The start of Nine Hammers has a six-minute warm-up.

The workout progresses and an unknown perspective is witnessed. Professional cyclists argue a bit during races. Also, the workout has become more race-like. If the Sufferlandia rider is caught out, so are we. For a moment the workout seems, I don’t want to say fun, but ,fun? The pedestrians give us nice words of encouragement when things calm down. And then we are awakened from our dream state with the first effort.

  One of two instances in the video with peloton arguments.

One of two instances in the video with peloton arguments.

The first effort sucks. No matter how many times it’s approached, it kicks your ass. If it helps the scenic towns make the pain a little more tolerable. The second effort sucks. It could be perceived as easy because of the whizzing scenery. It’s not. Attack guns are going off at what feels like every two seconds. At one point we’re told to stand. That's not going to happen on rollers when sweat is flying everywhere like a Saint Bernard’s jowls on a hot day. I’m getting stressed out reliving this.

  Disagreement situation number two in Nine Hammers. Don't push a rider if he doesn't want to be boosted.

Disagreement situation number two in Nine Hammers. Don't push a rider if he doesn't want to be boosted.

Here’s a piece of good news: There are seven more efforts remaining. SEVEN! Not exactly heavy progress. The rest even gets in our head. The quotes are saying what we’re thinking. We also volunteered to do this. Which is what Sufferfest does so well. At any time we can stop this workout. However, we become so entrenched in the storyline; we feel a sense of belonging. If we climbed off the bike at any given moment, who’s to say we wouldn’t also do so in a race situation? Think of that if the pins are misfiring in a race.

  The end of the second Hammer with seven to go. Good luck plowing through the last seven.

The end of the second Hammer with seven to go. Good luck plowing through the last seven.

Effort number three has more arguing amongst the riders. It also marks being one-third of the way through the Nine Hammers. We’ve done three hammers. Go ahead, put a positive spin on Three Hammers. Effort number four is actually one that I look forward to because of the music. While music tastes vary, I quite like the until-now-never-heard-before-band called Softwhere. The song has a rhythm that gets the legs moving again. This will help with the fourth effort. This effort features a European Subaru dealer taking advantage of passing cameras. It also continues with the beautiful scenery of gigantic mythical snow-capped mountains and quaint mountain villages. It’s also apparent that it’s a long way down if a rider were to go off the road in this segment.

  The recovery footage is relaxing if you can get your breathing under control in time.

The recovery footage is relaxing if you can get your breathing under control in time.

The efforts continue to challenge in the typical manner. Obviously there is one effort that stands out as the worst. That’s for you to find out which one. The Sufferfest continues its style of verbal flogging juxtaposed with pat-on-the-back encouragement. Those who are into numbers will keep track of the number of efforts, lose track, get back on track only to lose track again, and then realize the end is farther than previously thought. That’s just how it is. There’s even a moment when a rider must do a double take to contemplate whether he’s actually heard MC Hammer give directions. With waning power, the screen is adorned with hammers destroying things. You must destroy the breakaway. Destroy them. Don’t look at the scenery. Destroy your breakaway group.

  That's right. You'll start at 10/10.

That's right. You'll start at 10/10.

The cool down has a toe-tapper of a song that makes one consider downloading it. The heavy breathing and throbbing ears makes it hard to decide. Consider it (forget it in ten seconds) for later. It also ends with the Sufferlandia flag flapping in the wind. The Nine Hammers have been conquered (barely).

  Some of the beautiful backdrops throughout Nine Hammers. Not that you'll be oogling over the scenery for the hour-long flogging.

Some of the beautiful backdrops throughout Nine Hammers. Not that you'll be oogling over the scenery for the hour-long flogging.

As someone who has been a staunch supporter of The Sufferfest for many years, I must say this video is one of the best. Let’s admit that riding indoors is tough regardless of the season. To get lost in the plot lines of a Sufferfest video makes riding hard for one hour indoors more tolerable. While I would love for The Sufferfest to produce some sort of One Hour Record video to really blow every rider apart, their list is extensive. For a low price of $12.99 (USD), one cannot go wrong using this video at least twice a month. Hop on the bike, become part of the workout, and magically find that, on the weekends, you’re dropping the riders who swear they’re riding decent trainer programs. Perhaps the old Japanese proverb should be updated to say,"Complete The Sufferfest's Nine Hammers, win ten times."

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