To know Dragi is to know that his body is often on the mend in one way or another. This month, Dragi sports a sling on his left arm to aid recovery from a recent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff.
For Dragi, a surgery is bad luck, but it doesn’t keep him from spinning triple-digits on any given day. How does he do it?
“I can’t ride outside like this. I have to ride on the trainer,” he says raising his bound arm.
The trainer is a stationary bike fitted with Zwift training and race simulation software. While viewing a virtual course on a screen attached to the bike handle bars, Dragi rides solo or with others. Once he joins a race, he can see himself and other racers on the road. In true Dragi fashion, the virtual road he travels on brushes up against volcanoes more than violets, narrows through tunnels and moves up mountains.
Dragi and friends on a virtual course in Hawaii
“The virtual rides are very realistic. If the virtual road goes uphill, my bike responds and I have to pedal harder. However, on a decline, I still have to pedal. I cannot coast. This is where virtual riding deviates from the real thing, and it can be harder than actual cycling. In real cycling, even with a flat tire, you can coast a long time,” Dragi explains.
Along with great views, the software produces virtual inclines that signal a mechanism attached to the bike to apply pressure to the wheel rims. The resistance Dragi experiences makes his leg muscles burn and helps him maintain the muscle mass required for high-mileage riding.
“I have to keep riding the trainer. If I stop my daily riding because of an injury, I lose muscle. I cannot let my muscles go down, or else I lose stamina,” he says.
Dragi’s roads, even the virtual ones, hold the company of good friends and good cyclists. Veteran cyclist Ray Dybowski co-rides with Dragi in Ray’s garage. Ray broke his femur in March when he fell during a ride in Royal Oak, MI.
“With our injuries and broken parts, it takes two guys to equal one man,” Dragi jokes.
Two Guys, One Man
Ray is an active member of the Wolverine Sports Club cycling organization and often accompanies Dragi on challenging rides such as the Michigan Mountain Mayhem in Boyne City, MI.
Though Dragi appreciates what a trainer and virtual riding can offer, he prefers to ride outdoors. Prior to his surgery, he took advantage of the uncommonly mild February temperatures in Detroit and road the D-Ride, the Detroit loop to Belle Isle and back, with the Team O2/Cadieux Bicycle Club. Unfortunately the ride included a crash and flat.
Riders Chris Donnelly and David Wassman, also known as “The Chief,” helped Dragi fix the flat. This particular crash made Dragi sore, but he managed to escape serious injury.
To end the month of February, Dragi tallied another century ride. If his bike is up, his followers know at least 100 miles are behind him.
Apparently a torn rotator cuff could not diminish the urge to revel in the finish.
“My bike only weighs 13 pounds. Yes, I have pain in my shoulder, but I need to put my Bike Up,” he says.
Though Dragi had some great rides outdoors this winter, much of the months were spent on a trainer.
Earlier in the year, Dragi’s travels landed him in Mexico and Macedonia. Though he wanted to ride the streets in those countries, work and time commitments forced him to ride mainly inside on a stationary bike.
“The good part is that I can train wherever I am. When I was in Mexico, I was working so much. I could not ride a real course, I had to jump on a stationary bike, and one without a simulated race to join. I had to rely on my own memories to entertain myself,” Dragi says.
“I couldn’t help but think about the beautiful murals I’ve seen so many times at home in Mexican Village. I look forward to seeing those again on my bike once my shoulder heals,” he says.