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If you’re a triathlete or cyclist, a bike trainer is a must have. This is especially true if you live in a place that it is difficult to ride outside year round.
I’m not suggesting you ride inside all of the time, although some of the best professional IRONMAN athletes do, but I’d like to explain why at least occasionally it is a good idea.
Unless you have unlimited time or don’t mind getting dropped on group rides or posting an embarrassing bike split, having a bike trainer is invaluable.
Whether you already ride inside or can’t stomach the idea of it, there is absolutely a time and place for a bike trainer. Below I will discuss 6 reasons why indoor riding is a no brainer.
First and foremost, riding your bike inside on a trainer is 100% safe. You are in complete control and your family doesn’t have to worry about where you are and if you’re ok.
I love the freedom and thrill of riding outside just like everyone else, but riding along side traffic will always present risk. Add distracted and/or unsuspecting drivers and the risk starts to become one not worth taking. Additionally, narrow and congested roads are not only unsafe, but it’s hard to enjoy yourself when you’re constantly on the defense. These potential realities are dangerous and scary.
While these risks can be reduced by riding intelligently (i.e. choosing a safe route, riding with a group, making yourself more visible with lights or brightly colored clothing, riding at times of lesser traffic, ect) you are still not completely in control of your safety.
Even though most states have a “3 foot rule” which entitles cyclists to some space on the side of the road, most motorist are completely unaware of this rule and rarely respect it.
Obviously rural areas offer plenty of safe road to ride on, but unless this describes where you live, the time it takes to drive there may eliminate this option for many.
Maybe you’re a tough guy (or gal) and don’t mind riding outside in the elements. I can admire that, but at some point riding in questionable conditions becomes undesirable and also dangerous.
Nasty rain, cold temps, snow, ice and extreme heat make riding outdoors far less exciting, if not nearly impossible during different times of the year. And lets not forget the shorter days and limited daylight each winter. By having the option to ride inside you don’t have to miss out.
While there is definitely a benefit to occasionally riding in less then ideal (rainy or windy) conditions, why put yourself through it? Mental toughness, you say? Sure, that is part of it, but I can assure you, you’ll increase your mental toughness by riding inside as well.
When you ride inside there are less things to worry about. All you have to do is hop on your bike and ride. There is less gear to coral and no time wasted driving to and from the place you will be riding from. Not only that, but when you’re on the bike trainer you are constantly pedaling. There is no coasting so you’ll always be working.
With no outside distractions like cars, stop signs, stop lights and intersections you can stay focused on what you have to do.
If you’re training for a specific race or event, riding inside will allow for more control and specificity.
For example, I recently had an athlete email me who just signed up for a hilly race, but lives in Florida which is mostly flat. She wanted to know what she could do to best prepare for the bike portion of the race. My answer: low cadence work on the trainer.
Even if you’re solely looking to become a faster cyclist, by having specific workouts with specific objectives you will dramatically increase your ROI for each workout.
Whether you’re goal is to increase your ability to climb hills, improve your FTP, VO2 Max or simply increase your overall power, there are specific workouts that will directly help. Likewise, if you’re a new cyclist looking to improve your cadence, it’s very easy (and safe) to incorporate cadence pyramids when riding inside.
Specificity can be achieve while riding inside on ANY type of trainer. However, if you’re lucky enough to have a “smart trainer” like the Wahoo Kickr, CompuTrainer or similar, you will have the ability to program different types of workouts. Most of the programable workouts will be driven by a percentage of your threshold power (FTP) making your time on the bike even more effective.
The combination of specificity and safety allow you to push yourself HARDER without worrying about anything. While there’s no replacing hard group rides outside, this option is not always possible, especially year round.
If you’re lucky enough to ride on a “smart trainer” you can program specific workouts to push yourself beyond your perceived limits. 110%, 125%, 150% of FTP HURTS! And when properly integrated it will make you stronger and faster.
When you program workouts, the resistance on your smart trainer increases automatically. You can push hard and hang on … or not.
Don’t have a smart trainer? No problem!
More and more cycling studios are popping up across the country. I’m NOT referring to “spin” studios like what you may find in your gym. I’m specifically talking about places where you bring your own bike and hook it up on their smart trainer. Most of these studios offer several “stations” which means you’ll be riding with others. This can be extremely motivating and allow you to push harder then if you were on your own.
If you don’t have a place like this near you, getting together with a few friends for a tough indoor ride works just as well. Additionally, platforms like Zwift allow riders to connect and ride virtually with others across the world.
Fitness increases through consistently applying stress and properly recovering. Those two elements combined with a variety of purposeful and thoughtfully timed workouts will have you leaving your cycling buddies in the dust.
By having the option to ride inside, you never have an excuse to miss a workout or spend an extended time away from cycling. So, depending on where you live, there’s no reason to start building fitness in the spring. This is especially important if you are training for an early season race or event.