🚴‍♂️ Getting started with indoor bike training

Given how much time people are spending indoors due to the coronavirus, I thought it might be useful to write down some quick thoughts on how to get riding your road bike in your house.

My son’s road bike on the turbo trainer

My son’s road bike on the turbo trainer

It doesn’t cost that much to get started with an indoor setup. The main thing is to have the space to do it in, and some tolerant neighbours if you don’t live in a detached property. First, you’ll need a road bike — and this post assumes you have one already. From that point, you will need:

The basics

  • A turbo trainer
    • These range from low-end like the one I have, a Tacx Blue Motion for about £180, to very, very expensive.
    • The cheaper ones work by running your back tyre against a resistance wheel. Generally, the more you pay the greater the range of resistance, i.e. you can pedal harder. The trainers come with a ‘skewer’ that goes through the middle of the back wheel, replacing the one you already have, and this allows it to be seated into the clamp that keeps the bike in place (see picture below).
Basic resistance wheel trainer, bike clamped in place

Basic resistance wheel trainer, bike clamped in place

  • The more expensive ones let you remove your back wheel and plug your bike straight onto a set of cogs. They can sometimes also electronically adjust the resistance as you ride along, to simulate going up a hill, for example.
    • It’s probably worth getting a cheaper one first to see if you can develop the habit, you can always eBay it afterwards if you want to upgrade.
  • A mat
    • To keep sweat off of your floor. You will sweat a lot on a turbo trainer so this is well worth an investment.
    • I have a Giant mat, which is about £30, and comes with a bag for storage.
    • Any other exercise mat will probably work just as well.
  • A water bottle
    • To replace the sweat!
  • A floor standing fan
    • I think I already mentioned that you sweat a lot when riding indoors. Trust me, you need this. Even on days where it is so cold you can barely stand around in your shorts, you need this to be on maximum before you get going.

That’s the basics. You can happily hop on and ride along, watching TV or listening to your favourite workout music. BUT…it is pretty boring, and tough to go for longer than half an hour without wanting to get off.

Making it fun

To do this, you’ll need a couple of extra things:

  • A speed and cadence sensor
    • These attach to the bike and will measure how fast you are going (by how often your back wheel is rotating) and how quickly you are pedalling. The data will feed into an app that you set up on your computer/tablet/phone via Bluetooth.
    • A good one is the Wahoo RPM. It will set you back around £55.
  • A heart rate monitor (optional)
    • Not essential by any means, but very useful to see how hard you are working. You will get used to knowing when your heart is reaching maximum output and can get feedback from the various apps to see how hard you have been pushing.
    • You may already have one if you own a smart watch.
    • I have a Wahoo Tickr (about £40) which straps across my chest and pairs with apps via Bluetooth.
  • Apps
    • With the speed and cadence sensor you can download an app to your phone such as Polar Beat, Wahoo Fitness, or loads of others, pair up your devices and just ride. They will track all of the data and keep a record of what you’ve done. You can then upload your workouts to Strava and share with your friends.
    • More fun is to use an app. Zwift is really popular as it looks like an arcade game, and the harder you pedal the faster you move through the virtual terrain.
    • I use TrainerRoad which is a bit more data-focused; you tell it what turbo trainer you are using and what resistance setting you are on and then it will give you a workout programme where you have to continually hit a target power output. It takes the bordom away completely, and there’s a massive sense of accomplishment at the end of a long or hard ride.
    • There are loads of other apps available.

You can go further than this. I have a cheap spare wheel which has a specific indoor training tyre attached to it, so I don’t wear out the one I use on the road too quickly. But the best advice is to make a small investment — you can always upgrade later if you find that you get the bug.

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