Back to the Turbo – Everything you need to know to start indoor training!
It’s normally the time of year when we can put the turbo away and get out on the roads and trails but, if things go the way of some of our European neighbours with COVID-19, we could be back to logging indoor kilometres again. You might also be the type of rider who’s normally out riding no matter what the weather, would never normally resort to a turbo and have no idea where to start…
Well, here you go!
Type of trainer
There are four main types of indoor trainer to choose from and all have their pluses and minuses.
Rollers are the simplest and have the massive plus of improving your bike handling, balance and pedalling technique. However they can take a bit of time to get use to and, despite some models having “smart technology” and some resistance settings, aren’t ideal for Zwifting and workouts requiring higher resistance levels.
Exercise bikes run a spectrum from cheap as chips horrors to high end smart models like the Wahoo Kickr Bike. If you’ve got the budget and the space for a decent one, they have the advantage of always being set-up and ready to go. Cheaper models won’t offer a very enjoyable riding experience though, position adjustment will be limited and they’re unlikely to be compatible with training platforms.
Wheel-on turbo trainers such as the Wahoo Kickr Snap are affordable and allow you to use your regular road bike so there are no matching your position issues. Downsides are that they can wear out your rear tyre and, for consistent training, you do need to check tyre pressure and calibrate the roller pressure on the tyre on every ride. Spend the extra to get a “smart trainer” as this will be compatible with popular training platforms.
Direct drive trainers, such as the Wahoo Kickr and Kickr Core , have all the pluses of on-wheel turbos but, because you remove your rear wheel and your drivetrain simply directly drives a cassette on the turbo, issues relating to tyre wear and calibration don’t exist. They also tend to be far quieter and, because there’s no tyre slip, are better for sprint type efforts.
If you’re looking for a recommendation, we’d opt for the Wahoo Kickr Core as it offers all of the benefits of direct drive smart trainer at an affordable price.
Where to put it
Although you can take your bike on and off the turbo and fold it up, you’re far more likely to use to regularly if it’s permanently set-up and ready to go.
As you could well be turbo training into the summer, look for somewhere with decent ventilation. You’ll also need a power supply and, for most training platforms, a decent wifi signal.
You’re going to sweat so you’ll need a rubberised mat to protect your floor. This will also help to reduce noise and vibration.
A powerful fan is essential. Without any moving air, even in a well ventilated and cool room, you’ll soon start to overheat. This isn’t just uncomfortable but can also limit your power output and your training gains. Wahoo’s Kickr Headwind Bluetooth Fan adjusts automatically to your heart rate.
Sweat is really corrosive so a sweat thong/cover for your bike will help to protect vulnerable areas such as the headset and bottom bracket. You should also give your bike a good wipe-down after each workout.
Many training platforms require a tablet or laptop and, even if you’re not subscribing to one, you’ll probably want to be watching something. You’ll need some form of desk that allows you to see and reach your device but keeps it out of sweat’s way.
The best way to get the most out of your indoor training is to sign-up to a training platform such as Zwift, TrainerRoad or SufferFest. All offer something slightly different but, with free trials, you can get a feel for them and see what suits you best.
Along with specific training sessions and, in the case of Zwift, races and group rides, but also structured training programmes. Following one of these that tallies with your riding goals is probably the best way to ensure variety and progress.
The HotChillee Ride Captains and HotChllee CC have teamed up to form “VirtChillee CC” and will be hosting a series of HotChillee CC Club Rides on Zwift covering all abilities and disciplines, including structured training sessions, women’s rides, chain-gangs and even mountain biking! Chillees, check your inboxes to find out more!
Beat the boredom
The biggest boredom buster is a decent playlist and studies have shown that motivational music can boost performance. With the training platforms mentioned above, turbo training is a million times more tolerable than the days of staring at your garage wall. If you’re not wanting to subscribe to a training platform, films, box-sets or even old race footage can all help make the indoor kilometres tick by. However there’s no doubt that certain sessions tend to pass faster than other. Interval workouts with lots of changes in intensity are good whereas steadier paced sessions tend to drag painfully on.
Unless you’re a certain type of masochist with an unusually high boredom threshold, you’re not going to be doing 3-hour+ endurance rides on a turbo.
The good news is that endurance tends to be the last aspect of cycling fitness we lose and, once you have it, it won’t disappear quickly. You’ll only start losing fitness is you dramatically reduce your riding or stop completely. Three quality indoor sessions a week, each about an hour in duration, will limit any decline.
On a turbo ride, there’s also no freewheeling or café stops so it’s arguable that a 90-minute indoor ride is worth 2-3 hours outside.
Zwift group rides, sportives and Audax rides are probably the best bet for long indoor rides and there are already some HotChillee CC “meet-ups” being organised. Keep an eye on the HotChillee CC Facebook page for details.
You move around a lot less when riding indoors so issues down below are far more common. It can be tempting to use old kit for indoor riding but you really should be opting for your newest bib shorts with the plushest chamois. Slather on the chamois cream and be super diligent about post-ride hygiene. Finally stand out of the saddle for 10-15 seconds every 5-10 minutes right from the start of any indoor session. It’ll maintain blood flow to your nether regions and help prevent soreness and potentially more serious issues.
Fuelling and hydration
For indoor sessions up to 90 minutes, you shouldn’t need any on the bike food but, especially for races, you will need to think about your nutrition beforehand. You’ll be riding hard so try to allow at least 2 hours digestion time. You also might want to drop a caffeinated gel during your warm-up.
If you’re doing some longer indoor rides, fuelling should mirror exactly what you’d do outside. As a general guide, you should be looking to consume 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour.
Here are a few examples of what some snacks will deliver.
Typical energy gel: 20g
500ml of sports drink: 35g
Typical energy bar: 30g
Slice of malt loaf: 25g
Fig roll: 12g
Obviously you don’t need to pack everything into your jersey pockets but just make sure your snacks are within arms reach.
For all indoor rides, you’ll probably need to hydrate more than you would outside. Don’t be surprised if you get through 750ml+ per hour and don’t forget your electrolytes.
It’s not just about the bike
All cyclists could probably benefit from doing some off the bike training and, whether it’s some mobility work, yoga, Pilates or bodyweight strength training, now’s a great time to add it into your training. A quick search on YouTube will throw up loads of instructional videos to follow but here are a few to get you started.
If you really want to invest some time into assessing and developing your mobility and strength for cycling this book by Phil Burt, former physio with GBCT and Team Sky, and Martin Evans, former strength and conditioning coach with GBCT, is well worth a read –