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5 Tips for Riding the Indoor Trainer

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

The days are shorter, the temps are lower, and in many places there will soon be snow on the ground causing many athletes to move their training inside for the foreseeable future. Below are some quick tips to ensure a smooth transition and help to make the most out of your indoor training time.

Get a bike fit

After a season of riding mostly outdoors, it is a good idea to revisit your bike fit for the trainer. While there are some new toys out there that try to mimic the positon of outdoor riding either by rocking, or raising and lowering the front wheel, the majority of us will be stuck in a very static position doing lots and lots of revolutions… small issues get amplified with repetition so you want to make sure that your position on the bike you will be riding indoors is optimized for the long haul. Even if you had a fit last season it’s still a good idea to revisit it as things can change and move over the course of a season. Even your seat sliding down a centimeter can cause issues over time.

Start with Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

Transitioning inside after a season of riding outdoors can feel really hard at the same power output/heart rate. Rather than chasing watts, or trying to hit the numbers you were hitting outside, give your body some time to adapt to indoor riding by going off of RPE. Whether it is psychological, physiological, biomechanical, or just a discrepancy between power meters, chances are things will not line up exactly, so keep it flexible in the beginning and give yourself time to adapt, you’ll probably find after 2-3 weeks that things will come more in line with what you expect.

Ditch Erg Mode

As simple a sport as cycling is, it is also pretty dynamic. Power is Force (how hard you push the pedals) x Velocity (how quickly you turn the cranks) so you can make power either by pushing harder, turning the pedals faster, or both. Erg mode flips this on it’s head and adjust the force required to turn the pedals according to your cadence in order to maintain a perfectly consistent power… this is not natural. When you are riding up a hill the hill does not get steeper as you get more tired… you are allowed to slow down as you fatigue, and eventually fall over if you slow down too much. Imagine if you were doing squats under the watchful eye of a personal trainer and as you slowed down she kept adding weights… probably not ideal. On top of that there is a lot of value in generating the power on your own as it forces you to be an active participant and stay engaged in what you are doing, and there is a lot of information to be gained by seeing how power and cadence fall off as you fatigue, and how you improve over time.

Fuel and Hydrate!!!

Fasted training is very in fashion at the moment and can be even more tempting if you are trying to sneak in early morning workouts before work. But if you are doing anything more intense than a Zone 2 ride at an RPE of 3-4, think, “all day pace” then you would probably benefit from some calories. And even if you are able to get through the workout without eating anything, power and performance probably would have been better if you fueled the work, and it will set you up better for the following day’s workout.

Use a fan and protect your bike!

As you already know, riding inside gets much hotter much quicker because there is no wind so it’s important to have a good fan and hydrate as your body won’t be able to cool itself as efficiently as it would if you were riding outdoors. Because of that you will probably be sweating a lot more and it will be going all over your awesome carbon bike and slowly eating away at the metal and alloy components. Try to drape a towel over your headset and bars to catch a lot of the sweat, wipe it down afterwards, and consider giving it a bath once a month while you are riding inside… and don’t forget to lube!

More indoor training resources

Improving Real World Performance by Racing in the Virtual World

Riding Fast Inside After 50

Your Guide to Indoor Trainer Season

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