Indoor cycling: how to get started

Mar 25, 2020

Spring is usually the time when winter training (i.e. indoor) comes to an end, and we can look forward to getting out on our bikes in some warmer weather. The ratio of outdoor to indoor rides increases and the discipline required to train diminishes.

But with a lockdown now in effect, and group rides absolutely out of the question, we are now faced with a second winter in riding terms. If we as cyclists are confined to quarters, you might need to start thinking of indoor riding as the ‘new normal’. Even if the advice remains as it is, changes in our home and work life may well mean much more time on the turbo.

How and what you choose to do will depend on what you have been doing so far. Here are a few options and ideas about which will best suit your needs.

On a budget? Try a basic turbo trainer

An entry level turbo trainer costs as little as £100 and uses your existing bike in its entirety. A specific skewer replaces your standard quick release to allow the bike to be held securely. There is normally a manual resistance adjuster which clamps to the bars so that you can simulate climbs or complete interval sessions. This set up is best for occasional use (e.g. two 60-minute sessions per week), because it’s not the most engaging form of cycling and you will probably need some on-demand content to see you through. This set-up is better for rim brake bikes than disc and a turbo-specific tyre and a front wheel block are recommended.  

Got a little more cash and time to spend? Try a smart trainer

Smart trainers range from £200 to £1000 and will talk to your Mac or PC (via a dongle) and to smart phones and GPS devices (via Bluetooth or ANT+), allowing you to train more accurately using power. They also open the door to training apps such as Zwift and TrainerRoad, which offer a more immersive experience and one you can share in real-time with other riders online. These trainers are available in the same physical format as above (i.e. specific skewer replaces yours) or as direct drive where the turbo has its own cassette so you do not need the bike's rear wheel at all. These work well with disc brakes and thru-axle bikes.

Cash to splash? Standalone smart indoor trainers

Standalone smart indoor trainers are the most expensive set-ups on the market and typically cost £2,000-£3,000. These are perfect if you have the space and like the idea of something which is permanently set up. If your sessions have to be squeezed in between other commitments, standalone trainers eliminate the time-consuming rigmarole of putting the bike on the trainer. Training features are similar to the higher-end smart trainers but they are incredibly sturdy so stand up well to high volume or multiple users. They are also best for high intensity sessions for the same reason.

Rollers: simple but you need good balance!

These are the simplest and most engaging option. They sit well alongside any of the others because using them is so different. You will need to spend time learning how to ride them and they will help you develop skills that translate to real word road riding. You need to balance and as such your whole body is involved so they demand high levels of concentration (certainly initially).

Prices start around £100 and no other accessories are required to get started. Rollers are best for the more experienced rider looking for variety.

Keeping it going…

Structure is key to maintaining or improving fitness. A coach can help with this. A basic trainer with a good coaching package is better value than a £3,000 standalone trainer that doesn't get used properly.

Consider setting the bike up in a slightly more relaxed position for indoor riding. A static bike means that any movement produced by the effort of riding must be absorbed by the upper body because the bike will not move as it does on the road. That is one of the reasons turbo sessions can feel much more taxing than a similar effort out on the road. Being more upright can take pressure off the hands, arms and shoulders, making you more comfortable.

And finally... we will shortly be launching online training sessions so that you can still train with your fellow Club Peloton members. Keep an eye on the website, our social channels and your email for more details very soon!


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