Indoor Cycling – Tips on What You Need?

Man on smart turbo trainer with

Turbo Trainer Choice

There are plenty of great reasons for cycling indoors using a turbo trainer – it’s really time-efficient and you can fit it easily around your other life commitments. You can also train in a way that you just can’t do on the road and it doesn’t usually rain indoors! The truth is, you only need to invest in a small amount of equipment and then you’re ready to go.

Firstly, the easiest thing to do is to use your actual bike and connect it to an indoor trainer or turbo trainer – you do this by suspending the back wheel over a flywheel which creates resistance against the rear tyre, then simply pedal away. You can get basic indoor turbo trainers for as little as £100 delivered to your door although you can buy a secondhand one for even less if you can find a suitable one. Broadly speaking, there are three different types: the cheapest are usually air resistance generators so they’re quite noisy; the second type uses magnetic resistance in the flywheel which can be adjusted by way of a lever enabling you to increase or reduce the resistance; thirdly, there’s the fluid resistance model which gets progressively more expensive but it is smoother to use and considerably quieter than the other models, almost silent in fact. It depends upon your budget and, as with most purchases, you get what you pay for! One important point to mention is the kind of axle your bike has at the back. If it’s a disc brake bike and whether it has a through axle or a quick-release skewer. Most indoor turbo trainers support quick release skewers so just check that your bike is supported by the trainer that you’re going to buy.

You’ve ordered your turbo trainer so next is to set your bike onto it, as per the instructions.

man on bike trainer

Recommended Extras to Make for Happier Cycle Training

There are some other bits of equipment recommended, for instance some kind of mat that you can put under your indoor training set up to catch sweat. There are dedicated mats that you can buy but for a less expensive option, a yoga mat works really well, a towel or an old bit of carpet.

Cycling indoors can get really hot as well because you don’t have the cooling effect of the air brushing past you as you zoom along outside so there are a few things you can do to cool yourself down. Fans are really beneficial so if you’ve got an old one lying around by all means dig it out if you don’t again you can pick up fans pretty cheaply so a couple of those would be useful. It’s also recommended to have some fluids to hand, a towel to wipe off the sweat and lastly, if you’re riding indoors with slick road bike tyres, you’ll find it’s much quieter on a turbo trainer than using a treaded or mountain bike tyre – these will create much more noise that you, your family or neighbours will find really annoying. Much better to invest in a slick tyre and put that on your bike. There are actually dedicated tyres for bike trainers that work really well as they’re designed for exactly that. They actually save your normal tyres from wearing down and don’t wear out on the trainer.

Finally, it’s recommended that you have some sort of entertainment when you’re pushing those pedals. Something to follow, like a gym class. If you just jump on your bike with nothing to inspire you then it’s pretty certain that, even if you start with the best intentions, after about 30 seconds you will be completely bored. Some people like to turn on the TV or watch a movie and this definitely works but again, without having any sort of structure to follow, after about 3 minutes you might feel like you’re just sitting on an uncomfortable version of your sofa and will give up. It’s better to watch something that gives you purpose – a workout that instructs when to pedal hard when to ease off. By breaking the workout down into small, manageable chunks with little goals, the time will fly by. There are many free online sessions available on YouTube where you can follow indoor training workouts – there’s everything from short intense 15 to 20-minute hit workouts right through to 60-minute schedules plus everything in between. You can do a lot of great quality work in a short period of time on an indoor trainer, burn a stack of calories and get mega fit.

Advantages of Smart Turbo Trainers 

Higher end, more sophisticated turbo trainers give a much more realistic, quiet and immersive indoor riding experience as they are ‘direct drive’ trainers. A good example is the Wahoo Kickr – you remove your back wheel and directly attach you bike onto it. It weighs an absolute ton but that’s because it has a really heavy flywheel which generates a lot of inertia, translating into that realistic riding feeling – almost exactly like riding a bike outdoors. More than that though, the high end turbo trainers are also ‘smart’ so they can connect wirelessly to your computer, tablet or whatever you’re using and the resistance can adjust automatically depending on the kind of terrain you’re riding in a virtual world. They can simulate hills and descents and this is the ace card of smart trainers because they take indoor cycling to another level that’s just way more captivating and entertaining. There’s a lot of software available that you can install on your laptop, tablet or smartphone and then connect to the trainer. Sufferfest and TrainerRoad are good examples. These have structured workouts that can be tailored to your actual fitness levels and they are interspersed with fun diversions to make it more stimulating. There are others that allow you to ride in a virtual environment such as Kinomap, Rouvy, RGT Cycling and the big hit, of course, Zwift. There’s a social aspect to these apps too because you can actually ride with people that you know and other people who are riding with their avatars, also in your virtual world. This feature is a great experience because it effectively allows you to escape the isolation and confines of your home and interact with other people while part of a simulated environment. You can also race with others, partake in group rides and find all ability levels, from absolute beginners right through to professional, champion cyclists.