I’ve never enjoyed indoor cycling training (what cyclist does?), but it often beats the alternative. Indoor training has its benefits, namely it’s often easier to do intervals or test your FTP because you don’t need to worry about stopping, traffic or terrain. As an added benefit, turning your spare bedroom into a cycling studio gives you an excuse to stick your in-laws in a hotel during their next extended visit. While the advice and gear below isn’t likely to make riding inside fun, hopefully it can make it at least bearable and leave lasting fitness benefits for when spring finally rolls around. Here’s how I did it:
Entertainment & Software
My indoor cycling entertainment set up is a TDL 40-inch HDTV that we picked up at Costco.com for about $260, as well as a relatively ancient Apple TV and a Macbook Pro with an ANT+ dongle.
If you don’t have a power meter or smart trainer, try the Sufferfest app/videos. My wife neither races nor has any desire to train with power. So when she does ride indoors, she uses the Sufferfest videos. Sufferfest structures workouts around real UCI race footage. Riders use perceived effort on a scale of 1-10, meaning they determine how hard to go, which can be a good or bad thing. The workouts are tough; the first time I did the Downward Spiral video, I was off the bike and dry heaving after starting the second set of intervals. We bought nearly a dozen videos at about $10 a pop when Sufferfest first arrived on the scene, but now you can pay just $10 a month for access to all of them (as well as structured training plans and more) on the iOS and Android apps.
If you have a power meter and just want to focus on numbers and effort, try TrainerRoad. My teammate Greg Dyas used TrainerRoad last year to become a monster on the bike and destroy us all during our pre-season training camp.
“Ideally, if money was no object, I’d sign up for focused, individualized coaching and training, but that shit’s expensive,” Dyas said. “I’m your standard middle-age, mid-cat weekend warrior. Paying just $100 for a year of TrainerRoad slots right in my price range.
“I’ve done a fair amount of creeping on my friends’ Zwift sessions and there doesn’t seem to be enough structured training for me. TrainerRoad’s workouts are less entertaining, but very rigid. The eight-week schedule is great for building into your winter training.”
If you have a power meter – or better yet, a smart trainer – and want to pretend that you’re riding outside, say in London or a mountainous island, try Zwift. I need something visual to focus on during my rides, so the video game-like aspect appeals to me. For the Strava addicts, each of the various locales have KOM segments, allowing you to compete against riders from across the globe. It’s not unusual for me to ride more with – or more accurately, near – my hometown friends on Zwift than in real life.
The drawback to Zwift is like with any group ride, you can get sucked in. On many rides, I start with the intention to ride tempo for an hour, only to find myself dripping in sweat 90 minutes later, desperately trying to catch the rider in front of me on the Watopia volcano climb. Zwift recently upped their monthly price to $15, so I need to decide if it’s worth the cost going forward.
Don’t want to spend additional cash or just want to turn your mind off for an hour or two, go to the old standby, Netflix. Feel like turning things up a notch? Pick 3-5 words or phrases common to the movie or TV show you’re watching – for one of my favorite shows “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” it’s “engage,” “make it so,” “transporter,” and every time Picard tells Wesley to shut up – and every time a character says one of the those, do an all-out sprint for 30 seconds or a minute. A friend of mine who helps train a youth development team recently invited the kids over to watch “Elf,” but made them sprint every time someone uttered the words “Christmas,” “Santa,” “Buddy,” and “Spirit.” The poor kids may be traumatized now.
A Smarter Trainer
I’ve been testing the Elite Direto direct-drive smart trainer for a couple of months now. I was amazed how well it worked, particularly with Zwift. Most of my indoor training to this point has been on standard trainers such as the CycleOps Magneto and Kinetic Road Machine. Both are great trainers, but it’ll be hard to go back to either of them now.
Unlike those trainers, the Direto ditches the rear wheel; the chain goes around a cassette mounted on the actual trainer. The benefits? By having the flywheel in the hub position, the trainer gives a more real-world feel. Eliminating the variables of the adjustable-tension flywheel and the rear tire gives a more consistent and accurate power reading. Riders have less wear-and-tear on the wheelsets and tires. The Direto also seems to be a touch quieter than traditional trainers.
When using Zwift, the trainer reacts to what’s happening on the screen. The road goes up, it gets harder to pedal. Descending, you’re downshifting and trying to stay on top of the pedals. It gives an added dimension to the program, making it more fun – albeit more difficult as well. After the first few trials on the Direto, I thought the power meter readings were a bit low, but it turns out it was just my legs that were faulty.
The main drawback to the Direto is the $900 price tag, which is on the low end for a direct-drive smart trainer, but double or triple the price of a standard fluid trainer. My advice? If you have the cash and want the best possible experience, go for it.
I may get a chance to test out Wahoo’s new Kickr Climb that simulates incline changes in the coming year; if so, we’ll either post an updated version of this story or do an entirely new article.
Other Items to Remember
An oscillating or box fan is an absolute must when riding the trainer. I bought a $30 oscillating fan off Amazon that manages to cool my wife and I both when we’re riding our trainers at the same time. I also use a neoprene mat underneath my trainer to protect the carpet from my noxious dripping sweat. I keep a stack of hand towels in the training room as well to wipe down both me and my top tube after a ride. And, of course, you also need your bike.
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