Come on, you know you hate it. Staying indoors for a few monotonous hours pedaling without much aim. Everything hurts, and you start to wonder what you liked so much about bikes in the first place.
I was where you are once. But not now. Now, I’m a convert. I actually look forward to my rides on the good old bike trainer. I get stoked thinking about them, and I’m here to pass on a little wisdom that took me from hater to greater.
5 ACCESSORIES, APPS, AND TIPS THAT WILL MAKE YOU STOP HATING INDOOR TRAINER RIDES
In this list, I’ve included all my favorite gear recommendations, indoor training apps, bike setup tips, and even a few words of encouragement to make you feel great about locking your road bike into the arms of your trainer.
1. TRAINING APPS
So you’re on the bike just aimlessly pedaling, right? NOOOO. The most important part of making your indoor training sessions bearable is by setting yourself up for a goal. I’ve tested all the most popular apps and I have to say one of them beats all the rest for me in terms of serious gains in riding form and keeping me engaged.
If you haven’t tried The Sufferfest, you’re missing out on all the action and accomplishment of being a Sufferlandrian. The full program is only $10 per month with full access to all of their training videos, dozens of training plan, yoga for cyclists, and even mental toughness builder. Personally, I find this the best $10 I spend per month (and, no, they didn’t pay me or give me free Sufferfesting to say this).
Their new 4-Dimensional Power (4DP) is their somewhat revolutionary way to find your abilities on the bike, and you can tailor your training to meet the weaknesses found in your 4DP test. Of course, you can also go by the standard FTP.
The app also has ERG mode to control my smart trainer, so I know I’ll always be in the right power and cadence range. And the pro racing videos laced with motivational name-calling is pretty much the best thing ever.
WHY DIDN’T YOU CHOOSE ZWIFT?
Of course, Zwift is fun and somewhat interesting when you’re virtual racing, but these simulators just don’t hold my interest for long–plus the displayed metrics I find to be just off enough to make me feel ultra slow in the simulator. What a downer.
That having been said, the one great thing about the BKOOL Sim is the ability to add my own routes to it. This comes in really handy when I have an out-of-town race coming up, and I want to practice on the exact route.
Overall, I use the Sufferfest to keep my fitness on point, and I switch it up with the occasional Zwift or BKOOL Simulator ride just to keep things interesting. So, yes, I do like simulators, but they don’t keep me coming back. The Sufferfest is my motivation.
Check out The Sufferfest App at their official website.
2. THE RIGHT SETUP & SURROUNDINGS
There’s something about a trainer without proper tweaking that will make your regularly comfortable road riding position feel just terribly awful. Almost as awful as that sentence, if you don’t set things up right, your hour on the trainer will feel like a real-life torture session.
First, make sure that your bike is truly level. A riser block like this one should help with this, but you can also go the low-tech way of using all those phone books that mysteriously keep showing up on your doorstep even though it’s 2018. Make sure your bike’s not leaning forward or backward, or the saddle tilt will put pressure in all the wrong places.
BE MINDFUL OF POSITION
Of course, you should also wear a decent set of bib shorts like these, and make sure that you’re periodically standing and giving your undercarriage a rest.
In fact, try to change position fairly often. I like to hit the drops on sprints and sit up on some climbs. Vary your muscles, and concentrate on building your pedal stroke–concentrating on your power outputs will show how you can gain wattage in your pedal stroke based on how you’re using your muscles. There’s nothing like being in a controlled environment to really understand some of your more nuanced strengths and weaknesses.
STAY COOL, STAY HYDRATED
Be sure to drink fluids while you’re on the trainer. You should also make sure that you’re properly fueled before/during a session. But don’t make the mistake of downing a whole pizza and 4 breadsticks 30 minutes before–the trainer will make you regret any poor nutrition decisions.
I usually treat a trainer session like a short outdoor ride–drinks only. But be sure to take on nutrition if you need it, and especially during a 2-hour or longer session (I don’t do a lot of these. I save most of my long rides for outdoors, if possible).
Don’t forget the fan (or two) on a high enough setting to really cool you down. Plus a towel or sweat catcher to stop all that frame-wrecking from destroying your headset. Here’s another option for under $10 that a friend of mine really likes. I generally keep a towel around my shoulders and another one over the front of my bike.
3. A SMART TRAINER
There’s nothing that kills a great indoor ride like noise, instability, and having to unclip and climb off to adjust the wheel tension. If you’re going to spend money anywhere, invest in a great smart trainer. There are tons of options on the market, but getting one that automatically adjusts tension and has a built in power meter makes a huge difference in your training.
I’ve tried my fair share of trainers, and I’ve settled on the BKOOL Smart Pro 2 (MSRP $589) as one of my favorites.
Not only is it crazy quiet, it also simulates up to 20% gradient and has a built in power meter that runs up to 1200 watts. It’s fully compatible with trainer apps like The Sufferfest, Zwift, and BKOOL’s own Simulator, which you get a year of for free when you purchase the Smart Pro 2.
It’s easy to set up with Bluetooth and ANT+ compatibility, and has a fool-proof bike to trainer interface. The internal unit is fully enclosed, and the gradient simulations are quite lifelike. Meaning, as you ride on a simulated road with your app (or on a trainer session with changing intensity), the Smart Pro 2 will automatically adjust the tension while it displays your watts to keep you training at a high level.
It’s one of the best units I’ve tried for quiet, wattage accuracy, and fool-proof connectivity. In fact, I’ve got a full, long-term review of it on deck that explains what makes the BKOOL a notch above. Stay tuned.
4. A COMPUTER/TABLET STAND
Whether you’re training via an app or just want to answer some work emails while you’re hammering out the watts, a sturdy stand or desktop is a must. I personally use a heavy duty music stand set somewhat flat to hold my laptop. I’ve had friends who have recommended this laptop stand as a great option as well.
You probably know this already, but you likely won’t last long on the trainer if you don’t have something to take your mind off the fact that you’re not going anywhere. Using the apps I mentioned above will give you a sense of accomplishment and motivation. So make sure you’ve got your laptop or tablet securely placed within reach.
Most recently, I have been using my Apple TV to display my apps up on the giant TV. Nothing like staying motivated with your 55″ big screen making you feel like you’re right in the action. It’s the little things in life, amiright?
5. EXTRA TIME & FAST RESULTS
A great indoor training plan will get you faster, fast. Why? No junk miles. In essence, your trainer miles can be higher quality because you don’t coast and you can focus on hitting exact metrics at exact times in your workout.
Of course, I’m not knocking the outdoors as a fantastic way to get in shape (and a lot of fun too), but indoor rides can boost your fitness in less time overall. Some say a 60 minute ride on a trainer is equal to a 90 minute ride outdoors. This is a huge plus for those of us who are juggling jobs, family, other commitments, and fitness. We can schedule a shorter ride and still get the same boost.
Beyond that, you are also able to practice more mental toughness on the trainer, and you’ll understand how long you need to ride before you’re fully warmed up–key to a strong racing performance out on the road.
If you’re following a structured training plan like the ones I mentioned in The Sufferfest, you’ll find your confidence building and your form improving in a short amount of time.