After our earlier blog post here about riding in the winter, I also wanted to help those of you who wish to stay inside but still want to spin those pedals. Indoor cycling options are many. So which is best for you? And what do you need to know before you jump in?
Indoor training is doable and it can be fun. There are many fitness “bikes” you can buy, from recumbent bikes to spin bikes and more. However, the focus of this post will be on the indoor cycling training that uses your own, current bike. The advantages of this are plenty. First, generally indoor cycling comes with a lower cost if you already own the bike. Second, you maintain the same position and set-up that you are already used to outdoors. And, third, you get the closest thing to “real” biking as you can!
As a general rule, the more you spend the quieter the trainer will be. This may be crucial depending on where you might set up your training. Noise may not be a factor in a garage, but inside a small multi-family dwelling it very well could be! Not many neighbours will take kindly to being woken early in the morning to the loud whir-whir-whir of a bike trainer. So while “good fences make good neighbours”, in this situation maybe “quiet trainers make good neighbours” also applies…
In addition to where you are going to set up, you should also look into an option to help your mind pass the time. Indoor training can drag on if all your brain has to occupy itself is the pain you’re feeling! Outdoors, you have sights to see, changing scenary, road or trail conditions, and more. While indoor cycling, you get none of these things to distract you. Therefore, some might use YouTube or watch a movie. There are also options such as Zwift, Rouvy, BKool and more. Most of these apps require sensors on your bike to communicate your efforts, speed and cadence but will take your training to another level that encourages you to get on and ride! Some trainers have these sensors built in. Others, you may need to add sensors to your bike to make it work.
Now let’s look at the various trainer options you have available.
Rollers are an excellent option if you have less time, enjoy a spirited workout and want to maintain or improve your balance and bike handling. At first glance, it’s hard to understand just how exactly one stays upright on these! However, it is something most cyclists will quickly adapt to as the feel is very “road-like”.
One of the biggest advantages of this setup is how quick it is to setup and take down. In addition, you can use these without changing anything on your bike, meaning hop on for a quick morning spin if it’s raining, then when the sun comes out later grab your bike and go for a ride.
This does take some getting used to and if your balance needs some work, you likely will want to start in a door frame or beside a wall to help you get started. Once you have that figured out, just start pedalling! Very minute movements will cause the bike to sway side to side on the rollers, so focus and attention are required. Using a program like Zwift or even a video of a winding road may cause issues when your brain wants you to “lean” into an upcoming corner…
Wheel-on trainers are excellent for just getting those miles in. And they can be the most budget friendly option as well. The premise of these trainers requires your wheel axle to be clamped into the unit, and the resistance wheel to be tightened against your tire. As this will lift the rear of your bike, you will also want a front wheel rest to level the bike. As there is a good amount of pressure on the rear tire and pedaling will cause friction (and thus heat) a specialized trainer tire is highly recommended. You can use your existing tire, but it will wear quickly and depending on how much you use the trainer, you likely will want to buy a new tire next time you get out on the road anyways.
The less expensive options will have a magentic resistance wheel, while the more expensive will be fluid. Magnetic trainers (called “MAG” trainers) typically have an adjustment you can set (some can be controlled with a lever at the handlebar). This is typically a “set it and forget” resistance and it’s either on or it’s off.
As you go up to pricier models, you will find fluid trainers. These have an impeller that spins against fluid inside the unit. This means as you pedal faster, the resistance increases. A fluid trainer will be quieter than the MAG trainer and also gives a better “road like” feel during your trainer.
If you wish to connect your training efforts to an app on your phone, tablet or laptop, you will need to add speed, cadence and power sensors to your bike.
Models such as the Saris M2 shown in the picture above have sensors built in that will relay information such as cadence, speed and power to your phone or computer via Bluetooth or ANT+. This can be connected to apps such as Zwift, Rouvy, BKool and more. In addition, once connected to these apps, the apps can then in turn control the resistance of the trainer! This means as you start going up a hill in these virtual worlds, it will be harder to pedal. This connects and engages you much more into your training process and thus helps you log more miles.
Direct mount trainers are going to be your most expensive option. They have a heavy flywheel that is resistance controlled typically through an app to give you the most road-like feel possible. On the one side, there will be a freehub where you can mount your cassette (or a new cassette just for this purpose). You then simply remove your rear wheel and mount your bike directly onto the trainer and start training!
These trainers have a few advantages over the others. First, they will be the quietest option. Second, the road feel is as close as you can get while staying indoors. And, third, if you purchase a cassette for the trainer it’s a simple as a wheel swap to go from indoor training to outdoor and back again!
In addition, most of these trainers such as the Saris H3 pictured above have sensors built in with great accuracy that relay your cadence, speed and power via Bluetooth or ANT+ to your phone, tablet or laptop. As with the M2 we mentioned, this will connect directly to various apps and services which in turn can also control the resistance on the trainer itself.
It never gets easier. You just get faster.Greg Lemond
Training inside does not need to be boring. It can be fun, it can be engaging and most of all it can help you stay in pedalling shape when those cold months keep us locked up indoors for far too long. Don’t let half the year disappear without doing what you enjoy. We live in a land where winter is something we cannot just dismiss. By adding an indoor trainer, you can ensure that you can keep pedalling no matter the weather.
If you are unsure of whether the bike you have will work with a trainer, come visit us soon and talk about what options will work for you.