As one of the most efficient and effective training aids the modern cyclist can opt for, there’s much more to the humble Indoor Trainer than meets the eye. No longer just a tool to maintain “form” in the off-season, more and more cyclists are turning to the indoor trainer to build their fitness and achieve their cycling goals.
With the help of Dave Heatley, international cycling coach and head guru over at Cycling Inform, we give you an introduction to indoor training! Including what you need to get started, and the benefits involved with shifting a portion of your training indoors.
- Related Reading: Indoor Trainer Buyer’s Guide
What You Need to Get Started
Looking at joining the indoor, online revolution and don’t know where to begin? Don’t stress, it’s much easier than you think! Regardless of whether you’re looking at a smart trainer with connectivity built-in or a standard trainer, there are several ways to get yourself online, training in the virtual world.
Standard Trainer Set-up
The budget won’t stretch to a smart trainer with connective features, or looking to make use of your existing trainer? Thankfully there are many ways you can get your standard trainer set-up for online training.
If your trainer doesn’t have cadence, power or speed sensors built-in, thankfully you can make use of existing ANT+ or Bluetooth sensors. These sensors that you may already have fitted to your bike, use provided computer algorithms to estimate your output. Almost all of the most popular third-party online training services will offer these built-in algorithms that convert your physical output into a virtual estimation.
For maximum accuracy, a power meter fitted to your bike will give you the most realistic results on-screen. However, speed and cadence sensors are often all that is needed to get online.
If your sensors do not transmit a signal via Bluetooth, you will need to procure an ANT+ dongle. ANT+ is a wireless connection technology that is primarily used to transfer information from sensors such as heart rate, speed, cadence or power to a compatible device. Most computers and smartphones will not have ANT+ connectivity, thankfully ANT+ dongles or signal receivers are available to receive this information.
Using the existing sensors on your bike with a computer is as simple as plugging in the ANT+ dongle into an existing USB port on your computer, clicking through to your favourite virtual riding app, and connecting your devices as standard. For newer sensors, such as those available from Wahoo, that transmit via Bluetooth, connecting your sensors is even more accessible, and only require your device to have Bluetooth connectivity.
It’s worth noting that using a standard trainer online can feel a little disconnected at times. The data you create finds its way onto the screen, but there’s no way for the experience to respond and find its way back to you. It’s really just one-way communication.
Smart Trainer Set-up
If your budget allows, a smart trainer will provide the most accessible and most interactive entry to online training platforms. This is purely due to that fact that all of the smarts and connectivity features are built-in. If your trainer only transmits via ANT+, you’ll still require a dongle as detailed above. However, the majority of the latest smart trainers will either provide an ANT+ USB dongle with the trainer or use Bluetooth for easier connectivity.
Typically, all that is required to connect a smart trainer to your device of choice is ensuring the trainer is powered on and ready to pair. Exactly how to connect will be as simple as following the steps outlined by your third-party training app of choice.
Once you have your trainer connected to your application of choice, it’s worth ensuring the trainer is correctly calibrated. Most programs will feature a calibration section that merely relies on the rider to spin the trainer up to speed. This importance of ensuring your trainer is warmed up and calibrated is that it’ll provide the most accurate data to your program, and thus the most fulfilling virtual experience!
The Benefits of Indoor Training
No matter what level you race or ride at, or what shape you’re in right now, training indoors is proven to help riders get fitter, faster and more powerful than they may have thought possible. While riding on the road is important and enjoyable, there are many reasons why you should consider taking a portion of your training indoors.
Perhaps the single most significant benefit to riding the indoor trainer is that you can control the exact conditions of your training. Training indoors gives you greater control, which means better, higher quality training in less time. You can also measure it, giving you instant insight into the status of your fitness and ability to compare your weekly progress.
It’s a Time Saver
Sessions indoors can be shorter than they would be if you were training on the road. You have no distractions or interruptions like traffic lights. No coasting and drafting. For that reason, every minute spent on the trainer is quality training. Dave adds “It’s so time-efficient that we double any kilometre ridden on an indoor home trainer”. That means a one-hour session on a home trainer is equal to two hours on the road. “In these times of being time-poor, it’s nice to cut your training in half and still get the same if not better benefits with the time you invest!”
It’s Safer and you can Ride Harder!
Another benefit to a home trainer is that you can go much harder than you can do safely on the road. This is why the indoor trainer is so effective. You can perform interval training that is simply not achievable on the open road. It is possible to go so hard that you’ll feel noxious, lightheaded and may even experience tunnel vision. You’ll never get to train this hard in bunch rides for fear of being dropped after performing such an intense effort!
Additionally, training indoors keeps you out of traffic, out of the dark and away from weather conditions such as wind, rain, even ice and snow! That leaves you free to concentrate on what matters, you and your session.
Thanks to Cycling Inform for providing the insight necessary for the creation of this article.
Browse the wide range of Indoor Trainers available from leading independent retailers across the country at BikeExchange.