Watching media while on the trainer when you’re dependent on your laptop

Looking at the laptop from between my aerobars

A common view.

The trainer is wonderful: it’s an easy way to get in a workout when you’re feeling antisocial and don’t want to leave the house. No stoplights, no rain, no heat & humidity.

The trainer is awful: it’s an easy way to faff off on a workout when you’re feeling lazy & just want to spin. Also have you ever been on a trainer? Fuck, it’s boring. No sights, no sounds, no breeze, no forward progress.

Any aches and pains you acquire after riding your bike for 3 hours are the same aches and pains you will acquire after riding a trainer for 45 minutes. At the half hour mark my shoulders are tight, my feet are numb, and my seat is digging into my bits like a prospector going for oil.

My trainer set up has evolved since I got the thing off of craigslist (an excellent place to find good trainers for less money), and oddly enough, one of the last things I added to my routine was media. I don’t own a tv so my media habits are hit and miss & I rely mainly on internet services and Netflix that I can watch on my laptop. But laptops don’t go well with bicycles, even ones with aerobars.

Screenshot of control panel of VLC Remote

Don’t judge, man.

Enter VLC. It’s my favorite media player because it plays nearly everything, fixes the stuff poor video converts don’t fix themselves, and there is a shiny iPhone app to boot. The iPhone app is the key here. Called VLC Remote, you download it to your phone and then configure your laptop using their setup assistant to be visible and accessible to the phone. Once it sees your laptop, you can pull up your VLC and browse through your media folders on your laptop and pick out your show du jour. You can play, stop, pause, change complicated sound settings, etc. all from your phone as you spin away at 90, ok, 80RPMSs a minute. It’s pretty nifty.

Unlike VLC on your computer, the iPhone app does cost $4.99, but I’m pretty happy to pay the small cost if it alleviates even a modest portion of the boredom of trainer rides. The only thing it doesn’t do is control streaming video, such as from Netflix or Hulu or YouTube, because, well, you don’t use VLC when you’re watching those. Still, having at least partial control over my laptop is excellent and it’s much easier to stick my phone in my back jersey pocket than try to fiddle around with my laptop while getting a workout in.

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