The joys of indoor training: Part 1 – Equipment

Hi Lee,

Thanks for the info reguarding weak hip flexors. I’ve started in on James’ DB combo workout too.

I am looking for some advice on a stationary trainer for intervals to complement my treadmill workouts for the winter. I’ve read about your recumbent on such a device, so I suspect you have an opinion on this.

I ride a GF HiFi Pro and have a RMountain Trailhead for commuting and easier trail riding. I have no racing aspirations, just like riding with a friend for exercise, conversation and fun.

Cheers Greg

Hey Greg,

Dude, it’s that time, isn’t it?

I do not enjoy riding the trainer. When it’s unrideable outside (which is rare), I would rather run, shovel snow, carry my dumbbells around the neighborhood — anything. But trainers serve a purpose. You get a cycling-specific workout. You stay home with your family. You watch Heroes.

Which trainer?

Doctor of Stationary Cycling: World and Olympic XC champion Gunn-Rita Dahle’s training is very scientific, and rollers give her great control of her workouts. I shot her for the book right before the 2004 Olympics. She was riding no-handed and drinking from her bottle like it was her job — oh yeah, it is.

I am not a Doctor of Stationary Cycling (thank goodness) but I’ll offer this:

– Rollers are supposedly the best way to perfect your spin, but they take a lot of mental effort (unless you’re super pro). If I’m on the trainer, I either want to be sprinting my brains out or mindlessly watching TV. Clamp-in trainers are easiest. Plus: They’re easier to use for race warm-ups.

– Fluid seems best overall. It has a decent feel, and it’s way quieter than wind.

– Magnetic trainers let you increase the resistance. This helps you simulate hills or compensate for an under-geared bike.

– A power meter is nice. Power is the best way to quantify your … uh … power.

– If the trainer fits your bike, and it isn’t too loud, and you can afford it, it’s probably fine. The trick is actually using it.

I have an old Performance Travel Trac fluid trainer, and that thing has been perfect for like 15 years. $200 seemed like so much back then, but it’s been a great value.

Last year I picked up a new Performance Millennium trainer. Its wireless handlebar-mounted computer shows time, speed and wattage. Wattage is key. The drum is polyurethane rather than metal. It’s quiet, but when my intervals hit about 600 watts, the tire slips on the drum. That’s a bummer, because 600 watts ain’t nothin’.

BTW: Do not go on the internet and compare your wattage to the pros. This will only make you feel weak.

Which bike?

– Ride in your normal position. This is a good reason to use your normal bike, or to set up your trainer bike to fit like your normal bike.

1) This translates better to real riding.

2) Changing position, especially when you’re fit enough to pin it, is asking for knee problems.

3) It’s more comfortable.

Last week I suffered through an hour on the Kestrel road bike. This weekend I set up my Specialized SX with a long seatpost, a rear slick and flat pedals, and I rocked 90 minutes with no problem and way higher power. My body is used to the SX’s slacker seat tube angle and closer/higher bars. Riding a trainer can suck — be comfortable!

* Most Doctors of Stationary Cycling ride their everyday/race bikes.

– Make sure the trainer’s clamps fit your rear hub. Every trainer is made to fit standard quick release skewers. You’re pretty much stuck with a standard road or trail bike. No through-axles or fancy dropouts. Yeah, I know you wanted to ride your new Intense M6 …

– Use a cheap, slick rear tire. Knobbies are noisy and don’t grab the drum. Any tire will be ruined. My Specialized FatBoy just got worked! That tire is too expensive to be flung, piece by piece, all over my family room.

– Flat pedals are a fine idea. 1) They teach you to spin more smoothly. 2) When you’re sitting in one position for long periods, being clipped in can contribute to overuse injuries. The trainer already feels like a prison; you might as well find some freedom. Inspired by the Luddites at Rivendell, I did my last trainer workout wearing Crocs. Super comfy.

Other stuff

– Unless you are a true animal, set your trainer in front of a TV. The Sopranos and my recumbent have gotten me through many a shoulder injury. Reading will make you less stupid, but it’s difficult to ride hard while you’re reading.

– Put your front tire on something. My Webster’s Unabridged works well. You usually want your bike level. To simulate hills, prop the front wheel higher.

– Cover your floor, especially if you’re riding on carpet. Lots of sweat and many expensive tire particles.

– Have water close at hand. I suppose a sports drink will help you ride longer, but — dude — you don’t want to ride longer.

– Fans and open windows are a good idea. You need to create air movement.

– If you wear glasses, you need something to wipe your brow.

– Get a treadmill for your dog. The mighty Jon and Bobbi Watt spend the winter watching movies and building base on their trainers. Their dog Bailey runs alongside them on the treadmill. Only among cyclists is that not completely insane!

– Ride with purpose. Part 2 will give you some workout ideas.


— Lee

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