Indoor training is a great invention. Thanks to cycling under a roof, we can save time, ride despite difficult weather conditions, and even train when others are sleeping. Many of us dread indoor riding, but if you set up your space to optimize motivation, safety and convenience, you can make serious gains before the season begins. Here are some things to consider when setting up your ideal pain cave:
Which trainer to choose
Whether you prefer rollers, a turbo trainer, or a smart trainer, there are countless options to turn your regular bike into an indoor workout machine. Here are the main things you’ll want to consider when choosing your setup:
- Is it quiet?
- Is it convenient to use? (Do you have to remove a wheel? Is it thru-axle compatible? Does it store/travel easily?)
- Is it stable?
- What is the service guarantee/warranty
- Will it provide enough resistance?
- Will it connect to popular training applications?
Smart trainers (e.g. Wahoo, Tacx, Elite) have gained popularity by offering connectivity to training applications like TrainingPeaks, Zwift, Sufferfest, Rouvvy, and TrainerRoad, among others. They allow you to complete pre-planned workouts and set power parameters; and some, like Zwift, allow life-like interaction like group rides and races with other users.
Fluid or Air Resistance Trainers
Smart trainers are the most expensive choice on the market, but they also give a very realistic ride feel, due to their excellent representation of driving physics. If you want to take the first steps in indoor training with something more basic, a magnetic or air-resistance trainer can be a good choice. For models like this, you attach the entire bike (including the rear wheel) and the tire rotates on a roller that creates resistance. Basic trainers won’t give you the most realistic-feeling ride, but you can still get a great workout.
Traditional rollers are another option, even for owners of smart trainers. While they are not ideal for all types of training (mainly for standing exercises, training strength in a low cadence, or sprints on a very high rhythm) they can be a low-tech, ultra-quiet solution that provides the most realistic ride feel. You also don’t have to remove either wheel or make any adjustments to your bike—simply get on and start pedaling.
Because you have to maintain your balance while riding in a fairly narrow spatial range, rollers can also help you cultivate your technical skills and body-bike awareness. I especially recommend rollers to triathletes/time-trialists who, in relatively low-intensive training sessions, can practice holding a line in aerodynamic positioning; if you master this on rollers, then you will do great on the road.
How to Set up Your Training Cave
It’s tempting to set up your pain cave somewhere out-of-the-way like a basement or small office, but I recommend a reasonably large room, ideally with a window you can open. You’ll want to make sure it’s also a space that is free of clutter and ideally free of kids or pets, who can have disastrous altercations with all those spinning wheels. Here are some other things to consider.
When riding under a roof, you generate a lot of heat and moisture, which can make you feel claustrophobic, leading to a perceived exertion that may not be in line with your actual output. To help manage temperature, you may want a fan, or even two: one in the front and the other slightly in the back or side, so that it sweeps your sweaty body and makes breathing easier. The Wahoo Kickr Headwind (a fan that connects to your smart trainer), can even adapt the air stream to your level of effort.
While airflow and space are necessities, there are some non-mandatory items that can make your space feel more convenient. A large towel placed over your headset while not in use can prevent sweat from corroding the metal. A small table near your trainer is a great place to store your snacks, phone, laptop, or any other entertainment/training devices you’ll want to have nearby; a mat underneath your trainer can help keep sweat from damaging floors (just make sure it doesn’t compromise your stability!); and Bluetooth-enabled speakers or headphones help you listen to music without getting tangled in headphone cords. It’s also common to set up your pre- or post-activity tools, like a resistance band or foam roller, for easy access before or after your ride.
Hydration and Nutrition
Finally, remember that just because you’re training indoors is no excuse to skimp on your hydration and nutrition. In fact, because you may be sweating more than usual, hydration is particularly important. If you ride for more than 60 minutes, you’ll also want to have easy access to your usual snacks.
Riding indoors doesn’t have to be torture, and can absolutely give you the benefits of training with few of the inconveniences. With a little thought and foresight, your indoor training space might just become your favorite room in the house.