In the mists of time, when the world was in black and white and smog lined the streets, during the winters, I cycled outdoors, in the dark with British Standard kite-marked lights. These lights were that effective that the only thing that they illuminated was themselves.
One night, I almost collided with a car and by some extraordinary fluke, survived. Enter, turbo training. My local bike shop at the time, Swinnterton’s, provided me with an Elite turbo trainer. It was a cutting-edge model – it had a trigger that worked via a cable to increase the resistance of the turbo. I then added a Cateye cadence sensor and I was in heaven!
My journey turbo training progressed from there, using Pete Read’s fantastic turbo session booklet (ordered from the page pages of ‘The Comic’) through fluid resistance turbos, Computrainer and then the heady world of smart-trainers, Zwift, other platforms and now the serious cyclists indoor training platform, RGT. It’s worth mentioning here that there are now so many very good immersive training platforms, that they are all a matter of personal taste and needs.
Through this time I have discovered what the essential things are to train successfully indoors. These are my own views and others will obviously have their own. And by the way, I tend to train far more on the turbo than out on the road – even in summer. There’s a nasty alternative to the car driver that injures and injures and even kills cyclists – skin cancer. I’ve had it and I pick my times to ride outdoors.
Top Gear for Successful Paincaving:
- A place to train. Somewhere where you will not be disturbed. It seems simple and obvious, but if you are to train hard for say 1 hour, you need to be able to focus. A space in a living room just doesn’t work. Having set-up your gear (and pack away) for each training session isn’t ideal and if you can, do try and have that dedicated so-called pain cave, where you can easily switch-on, climb on and ride.
- Internet – very good internet, not a soggy copper cable dangling out of the back of your Atari, internet. For me, living in a rural village, this means the best plan business internet. It’s not gated and it as reliable as I can get it. Do you need the internet to turbo-train? No. However, Zwift reinvented turbo training and having the internet does open up a whole new world of training, racing and overall enjoyment. Running an ethernet cable directly to your gear may be a wise move?
- Smart-trainer- and not just any smart trainer, the most accurate that you can buy. Why? When you see, say, 300 watts – you want to know that it is as close to the 300 watts that you saw last week. You don’t want to follow some training programme, crafted by a pro coach for you and the watts to be about right. How do you know if you are really on the plan or not? Top-quality smart trainers, if you have the spare money, are well worth the spend. The whole riding indoor experience is so much better and wheel-off direct-drive smart trainers have made in-door training so much better.
- A fan – and a very decent fan. Imagine running in a bin-bag (yes, people used to do it), you quickly overheat and your central governor system slows you down. It is the same with indoor cycling. The more that you can cool yourself, the harder you can train. You also won’t drip what seem like litres of sweat over your bike and floor. If people tell you that they burn hot, they probably just need a bigger fan or more fans.
- Relief for pressure points. Riding indoors means arguably more time in the saddle. If you have pain in the saddle region, your saddle is wrong. It’s the same as riding outdoors and it’s advisable to get a saddle that is comfortable. Doing something for health does not mean that you negatively impact on your health. Similarly with your cycling shorts and chamois cream. Both are essential. From years of riding indoors, I can tell you that no amount of marketing will convince me that cheap bib shorts are any worse than the very expensive ones – other than fit. I’m from a generation where we use Atrixo for chamois cream and now brands like Assos have refined the efficiency of these creams. They are worth the spend.
Your shoes are another pressure point and getting the cleats in the right position isn’t difficult and having a pair of shoes where the fasteners don’t loosen all of the time (like my old Shimao shoes) is helpful.
- Floor mat. The floor mats sold by the smart-trainer companies are worth the money. They protect your floor from sweat, chain oil and scratches from your turbo. They also protect your turbo from your floor.
- A plan/motivation. It helps to know what you want to get out of each session. It all depends on your goals, your training time budget and how you are feeling, but just climbing on and meandering is obviously exercise, but having a set plan can really help to make a session more enjoyable. Either work with your club coach to create your plan, or use the training plans that are built into the various training platforms – .e.g RGT Cycling, Sufferest, TrainerRoad, Zwift et al.
- Music – There is evidence out there that we train better with a good fast beat playing. There is also evidence that at certain perceived effort levels, we don’t take in the spoken word. For easy days, I might listen to a podcast – like the excellent The Cycling Podcast. Where I need to go harder, I listen to a Spotify playlist – the Zwift FTP Smasher playlist is a good example. If I want a very easy session, I read and reply to emails (a top tip from coach Dr Garry Palmer of Sportstest). I have discovered that Aftershokz bone conduction headphones are the best for indoor training. They are also great for using Discord if you ride and chat with friends and teammates.
- Computer – somehow, I missed this until the read-through – is it number 9 or much higher up?! Depending on the platform that you are using, the easiest way to get training on-line is using an Apple TV and the 4k edition if you can. It’s a simple, effective and immersive way to get the best of experiences and coupled with a big flat-screen TV and you are cooking on gas (or preferably a more ecologically beneficial fuel). iPads are excellent and for the full-on serious folks – a gaming PC with a decent graphics card.
Enjoy your indoor cycling. This list might seem expensive. Remember, what you don’t need is an expensive bike – just one that measures the same (in bike fit terms) as your outside bike. You don’t need wet weather, or cold weather gear. You won’t be changing tyres regularly and your drive-chain will get far less stick. You don’t even have to wear a helmet, unless you are particularly accident prone!
Enjoy your riding!