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For even the most diehard of cyclists, there will invariably come a day when riding outdoors in the cold is not enticing. For these days, having an indoor trainer at your disposal is a great alternative.

While a spin bike is good for short workouts, you are most always at the mercy of the instructor’s workout and even though they are good for calorie-burn, they aren’t always ideal for winter base training, as they are generally quite short in duration. Additionally, the position on a spin bike will be very different than your road bike, which may lead to discomfort.

An indoor trainer, on the other hand, is designed to be ridden using your bike.

Several types of indoor trainers are available at various price points. The simplest version is a traditional wind trainer. This uses a clamp system to mount your rear wheel into the trainer. A roller that is pressed against the wheel as well as a weighted flywheel provides resistance. The wind trainer creates resistance by the fan. While these are generally the least expensive, they are quite noisy. Moving up the ladder there are magnetic and fluid trainers. Both of these use a similar roller/flywheel combination but because the method of resistance is not wind-powered, they are quieter. I personally find that the magnetic and fluid trainers also provide a smoother-feeling pedal stroke.

If you want something that features interactive on-line training programs, there are a few models on the market including the Wahoo, a traditional resistance trainer with a digital interface that provides routes and virtual ride partners to help the time go by.

A heavier, but even more realistic trainer is something like the CycleOps Silencer. The first thing you’ll notice is that it is heavy, about 25lbs. Second, you’ll notice that instead of using a skewer to attach the rear wheel, this trainer required removal of the rear wheel and instead the rear derailleur mounts directly onto a cassette mounted onto the trainer. Changing your gears, the same as if you were riding on the road creates resistance. There is no friction of a tire on a roller, which to some riders provides an even more realistic ride feel.

Indoor training is the ideal way to add base hours when the weather outside won’t cooperate.

Finally, if you want to splurge and buy something that perhaps the entire family is able to use, there are several models of full “exercise” bikes available. The difference in these verses your spin class model, is that they are adjustable to provide a position that a very similar to your bike. Like the Wahoo, they also feature available digital interfaces and some even come with the ability to join virtual “classes.”

Now that you’ve decided to purchase a trainer, you’ll want a few accessories. If you’ve purchased a traditional resistance trainer, tire choice is critical. Because of the friction of the roller you will wear the center strip of your road tires rather quickly. And there is nothing worse than heading out in the spring only to be met with a flat tire a few miles in. Use a trainer tire, such as the Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Home Trainer. It is constructed with a long-life rubber compound that dissipates heat and reduces wear. An even better option is to buy an inexpensive spare wheel so that you have one for your trainer and one for the road. This will mean less time switching tires when the weather is fickle.

The second thing you’ll want is a mat to cover the floor. A thin, non-cushioned yoga mat covered with a towel is ideal. You will sweat indoors and you don’t want all that salt to ruin your flooring. Additionally, a few inexpensive hand towels draped over the bars come in handy to wipe sweat from your brow. On that same thread, you’ll want to wipe down your bike frame after workouts.

If you tend to heat up easily, a small, portable fan will help you to stay cool. Point it upwards to provide air circulation rather than having it blow directly on you.

While you are sweating away on the trainer, you will need to hydrate. Hydration is perhaps the most often ignored aspect to indoor training. Heating systems dry the air out and humidity is lower. Moisture evaporates quickly and you sometimes you won’t realize you are sweating. Drink about a bottle per hour and be sure to add a small amount of electrolyte mix to your bottles. Though you may not feel like you need it, it’ll keep cramping at bay. That said, don’t feel as though you need to ingest a giant bottle of a store-bought hydration drink. Generally, they have more sugar than you need and will not complement your workout.

Finally, if you plan on spending a good deal of time on your trainer, you’ll find music and movie watching to be good ways to help the time pass. Because trainers are inherently noisy, and your neighbors probably don’t want to listen to your television show, you’ll find that soundproof ear buds or headphones are particularly useful. When I started training, I had a 15foot headphone jack that ran to the TV. Nowadays, you’ll find many Bluetooth-enabled headphones that make connecting to your device simple and cable-free. Watch a movie, play a videogame, read, sing, hydrate, do your taxes — multitasking helps the minutes tick by faster.

Whichever trainer you decide is right for you, you’ll be adding valuable training to your winter riding regimen.


About the Author

Dena Eaton is a former competitive ironman triathlete and professional track cyclist. Residing in San Diego, CA, she is a professional SCUBA instructor, faculty at Palomar College, and a freelance writer in the outdoor industry. Her writing focuses on cycling gear and training articles as well as product copy and reviews for other outdoor sectors. In her free time she can be found hiking, winter camping, or ice climbing in the Sierras. The occasional mountain bike ride still makes its way into her schedule.
Post Category: Training & Preparation