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Indoor Cycling Training & Turbo Training Guide

Indoor Cycling Training & Turbo Training Guide

Just when we thought we’d seen the last of winter, we’ve all been (rightfully) forced inside by the COVID-19 virus outbreak. Fortunately, though, this shouldn’t mean a lack of riding or loss of fitness. Thankfully, indoor training has improved in leaps and bounds over the last few years.

Now, not only can indoor training allow you to avoid harsh weather conditions (and world-wide pandemics), but it can also facilitate more effective workouts. Without interruptions and distractions like traffic lights and other road users, you can focus solely on your effort, and train with better structure and more efficiency.  

Similarly, with the advent of training applications like Zwift, indoor training has never been so interactive and engaging.    

These points considered, it’s clear that indoor training can (and, many would argue, should) become a part of any cyclists training regime – whether you’ve been quarantined or not.   

So, how do you get started, and what equipment will you need? Well, luckily, we’re here to answer all your questions with our handy guide to indoor cycling training. 

What Type Of Space Do I Need For Indoor Training?

Ideally, the space should be clear, bright, ventilated and sheltered. Typically, we’ve found garages and conservatories to work well, but any spare room should suffice. Preferably, you’ll also be able to wipe the floor clean too – indoor training can be sweaty work.   

It’s also important to appreciate that some turbo trainers can be quite loud, so you should also consider how soundproof the room is, especially if you live in a shared house or flat.    

If you’ve got a smart trainer, or plan to use training applications like Zwift, then the space will also need electricity. 

What Turbo Trainer Should I Buy?

Next, you’ll need to decide on trainer that best suits your goals and budget. Broadly, turbo trainers fall into one of these three categories – smart trainers, basic trainers and rollers.

Smart Trainers  

Smart trainers are the most popular type of turbo trainer. Most are direct drive, meaning you’ll need to remove your rear wheel to attach your bike and begin riding.

Due to the direct-drive design, these types of turbo trainers simulate real-world inertia incredibly well. Most have in-built power meters and allow you to hook up to training apps like Zwift and Trainer Road, resulting in better workouts and a more interactive experience – (some can even replicate the feeling of gradients and descents up to 10%) 

Basic Trainers 

Basic trainers are another type of indoor trainer. Typically, they hold your back wheel in place and provide resistance directly to your rear wheel.  Because these types of indoor trainers aren’t direct drive, they can’t simulate gradients or real-world inertia as well as smart trainers, and tend to provide a less realistic ride feel.

On the other hand, basic trainers are generally much more affordable, so do provide a great entry into indoor training for those on a budget.

While some offer inbuilt power data and are compatible with training applications out-of-the-box, it’s always best to double-check the specifications before taking the plunge. If your trainer doesn’t provide power data as standard, then you can always pair it with a regular power meter so that you can use it with training applications like Zwift and Trainer Road.  

Finally, because basic trainers don’t have a heavy flywheel like most smart trainers, these units are typically a lot lighter and smaller, making storage easier. Ideal for those with limited space. 

Rollers 

Rollers are the oldest type of turbo trainer and they’re probably the easiest to set up too – simply put your bike on and pedal. Because they don’t fix your bike into place like smart trainers and basic trainers, they’re great for those who want to improve their bike handling and pedalling technique.  

Best bike rollers 2020 reviewed | Cyclist

However, unfortunately, due to their design, traditional rollers provide a very limited amount of resistance, meaning they’re not ideal for those who want to build or maintain fitness. Thankfully though, most are fairly cheap, lightweight and easily foldable, making them perfect for those on a limited budget or with a lack of storage space. 

What Accessories Do I Need For Indoor Training?

It’s not just about the turbo trainer though. To help ensure you get the most out of indoor training, you’ll need a few essential accessories too. Staying hydrated is critical for an effective training session. Having water bottles close to hand is essential, and stocking up on hydration tablets will ensure you feel capable of tackling longer, intense turbo sessions.     

We’d also recommend having a fan in your pain cave to help stay cool when you’re cranking out the watts.

In terms of clothing, some brands have released indoor specific kit, but we’ve found that lightweight, breathable climbing kit or a simple pair of bib-shorts work just as well.     

A training matt can be another useful addition to your set up, helping to minimise damage to the floor caused by a heavy trainer. It can also help provide added stability too.

If you’re planning on using Zwift or Trainer Road, then you’ll need a tablet or screen. It’s worth bearing in mind that the larger the screen, the more immersive your set up will be. 

How Should Structure My Workouts For Indoor Training? 

Now that you’ve found a suitable space, and you have all the equipment, it’s time to ride.  But how you decide to structure your sessions are entirely dependent on your goals – Do you just want to keep moving? Or do you want to make real, tangible improvements to your fitness? 

Whatever your goals, to get the most out of indoor training we’d recommend using a training application. Although most require a small monthly fee, they’re are well worth it, keeping you focused and motivated to train.

If you’re looking for the most engaging overall experience, then Zwift is a great option. Not only does Zwift provide a variety of tailored workouts within an animated interface, but it also allows you to free ride and explore across eight huge maps.

With 500,000 claimed users, you can ride with and race against friends, strangers, and even the occasional professional. Often, Zwift feels more like a game than training. Think Grand Theft Auto, with a lot less crime, and a lot more cycling.

(Zwift User Interface. Photo Credit: Zwift)

 

If you prefer more to train with more structure, then Trainer Road might be a better option. By providing thousands of workouts and hundreds of training plans, Trainer Road allows you to focus on every aspect of your cycling fitness, from speed-endurance to sprinting and climbing. Instead of the ‘game-like’ format offered by Zwift, Trainer Road uses a simple, clean graphic interface that displays all the critical data you need for your workout, – from your power and heart rate, to speed and cadence. 

Now you have all the knowledge and equipment, prepare to make incredible strides in your fitness and breathe new life into the sport you love.



Thomas Flynn

Thomas Flynn

Writer and expert

With almost a decade of riding under his belt, Tom has dabbled in almost every major cycling discipline. These days, he's usually found aboard his fixed-gear gravel bike tackling the best trails and towpaths around Manchester and the Peak District.