As the nights draw in, and the weather starts taking a turn for the worse the motivation to get outside on your bike often begins to decline. If the idea of riding through the dark and the cold doesn’t appeal but you want to maintain your fitness gains through winter, then indoor training could be for you.
Like many things in cycling, there are a myriad of options when it comes to indoor training. This also means there is a set-up to suit all budgets.
But which should you choose? We break down some of the different indoor training options below, as well as discussing the various apps and accessories available to further enhance your indoor experience.
Wheel-On vs. Direct Drive Turbo Trainers
Wheel-On Turbo Trainers
A wheel-on turbo trainer is a type of indoor cycling trainer that allows you to use your regular bicycle without removing the rear wheel. It typically consists of a frame that supports the bike and a roller that contacts the rear tyre. When you pedal on a wheel-on trainer, the roller applies resistance to the tyre, creating resistance and simulating the feeling of riding on the road. These trainers are known for their ease of setup and affordability, making them a popular choice for cyclists looking to engage in indoor training without the hassle of removing and replacing their bike’s rear wheel. Wheel-on trainers are compatible with a wide range of bicycles, making them a versatile option for indoor cycling workouts.
Resistance on a wheel-on turbo trainer is usually provided by a magnet, however wind or fan resistance is sometimes utilised. Fluid trainers work in a similar way but are much quieter than the magnet equivalent.
Many people use an old or alternative bike for their turbo, as opposed to taking their daily ride on and off. A wheel-on turbo trainer tends to be quite noisy and will wear your tyre out quickly, so using a trainer specific tyre is preferable. If you don’t have an extra bike to hand to sit permanently in your trainer, then another option is to purchase an additional wheel. This means you don’t have to change your tyre every time you want to take your ride outside!
Direct Drive Turbo Trainers
A direct drive turbo trainer is a type of indoor cycling trainer that offers a high-quality and immersive indoor riding experience. Unlike wheel-on trainers, a direct drive trainer eliminates the need for your bicycle’s rear wheel. Instead, you remove the rear wheel and directly attach the bike frame to the trainer using a cassette that is usually included with the trainer. This design allows for a more accurate and realistic simulation of outdoor riding conditions as it directly measures your power output and offers precise resistance control.
Direct drive trainers are often favoured by serious cyclists and enthusiasts because they provide a smoother and quieter ride, offer compatibility with various training apps, and allow for a more integrated and immersive indoor cycling experience. While they tend to be more expensive than wheel-on trainers, their performance and convenience make them a worthwhile investment for dedicated indoor training sessions. If you plan on spending a lot of time training indoors, then a direct drive turbo with “smart” capabilities is definitely worth considering.
Rollers are a unique type of indoor cycling trainer designed to improve balance, pedalling efficiency, and cycling skills. They consist of three cylindrical rollers placed on a frame, where the front wheel sits on one roller, and the rear wheel is positioned between the other two. Unlike traditional stationary trainers, rollers do not secure your bike in place, which means you must maintain balance while pedalling. They offer a challenging and skill-building experience as they require cyclists to develop a smooth and controlled pedalling technique, as well as staying balanced on the bike. They also help you maintain focus and stay engaged during your session, because if you don’t, you’ll likely be tumbling over!
Though rollers were originally a non-smart turbo training option, you can now get smart rollers such as the Wahoo ROLLR that merge the two training styles. The Wahoo ROLLR allows for quick and easy setup, while offering the natural ride feel that rollers provide.
Smart vs. Non-Smart Turbo Trainers
Non-Smart / Basic Turbo Trainers
A basic turbo trainer will allow you to attach your bike and get pedalling. They’ve been around for many years, and while many now opt for a Smart Trainer, a basic trainer is a great option if you want a budget friendly way to get pedalling inside.
Usually, your rear tyre will run against a roller and this will allow you to pedal while stationary. The resistance can be provided via either magnets, air or fluid as mentioned previously.
A basic turbo trainer cannot be connected to apps like Zwift directly, but as an alternative you could purchase a speed/cadence sensor set and connect to apps this way. The power data won’t be as accurate, but it beats staring at a blank wall!
Smart Turbo Trainers
If the idea of sitting on a stationary bike throughout winter sounds dreadfully dull to you, then you’ll be pleased to know that with the development of smart turbo trainer technology it is somewhat easier to keep yourself entertained.
A smart trainer can be connected wirelessly via ANT+ or Bluetooth to your smartphone, computer or other device and using the inbuilt power meter can measure your performance in real time. This in turn gives you tangible data to measure your progress against.
There are also several apps on the market now that you can connect your trainer too, whisking you away into a virtual world where you can battle it out with other riders and keep the boredom at bay.
Many smart trainers can also simulate the gradient you would find out on the real hills, making the ride feel more realistic!
Smart Trainer Bikes
Cyclists come in all shapes and sizes, and if there’s more than one of you who would like to train inside over winter the logistics of swapping bikes over on the turbo each time can become a real barrier to getting the work done.
A Smart Trainer Bike eliminates this problem. They are highly adjustable and can easily fit riders of all size with just a few quick tweaks of the setup.
The downside of a Smart Trainer Bike, is that unlike a traditional turbo you can’t fold it up and put it away, so you do need some dedicated space to keep it.
However, a Smart Bike will give you extremely accurate metrics and are usually the quietest option.
Ultimate Trainer Options?
Smart trainers come in all shapes and sizes, with a wide range of features depending on price point. At the upper end of the scale if you’re looking for the most realistic ride feel possible there are trainers like the Wahoo KICKR MOVE. The KICKR MOVE features built in, dual-axis movement that allows your bike to travel freely when powering through indoor rides. Particularly helpful for out of the saddle sprints!
Read our Wahoo KICKR MOVE review here.
Recommended Turbo Trainer Accessories
Once you’ve decided on your turbo type, there are several different accessories available to help enhance your ride.
If there’s one additional item we’d recommend as an essential, it would be a training mat. This will help prevent your trainer from skidding and sliding across your floor when you put the power down, preventing damage and reducing the noise generated both from any movement, and the trainer itself. It will also protect your flooring or carpet from the inevitable sweat you will be working up.
A riser block is particularly helpful if you’re using a wheel-on trainer, as the wheel-on trainer will elevate your back wheel slightly in comparison to the front. A riser block will bring your front wheel up level with the rear, putting you in a more realistic and comfortable riding position.
There’s no way around it – training indoors is going to make you sweat, which over time can corrode your bikes top tube. A trainer specific sweat towel will catch the sweat as it drops off and prevent you from damaging your pride and joy.
If you’re training inside, you’re going to get HOT. So sourcing some sort of fan is probably going to make the process a little more enjoyable. Obviously, any fan will do, but there are also turbo trainer specific options like the Wahoo KICKR HEADWIND that tunnel the fan’s airflow at your body where you need it most. Plus, it provides a more outdoor feel, indoors.
Gone are the days where training indoors is a lonely and at times tedious affair. With the development of smart trainers and the accompanying apps, indoor training becomes an interactive and social endeavour.
There are several different apps on the market, all with slightly different features and functions. But ultimately all with the same goal of making training a more enjoyable experience.
We’ve highlighted a few options below.
Zwift is possibly the most well-known cycling app on the market. It transports you into a virtual world and truly gamifies your training.
Zwift features plenty of structured training plans/workouts, but what sets it apart is the social interaction. You can head out for a solo spin if you prefer, jump into a group ride or even get stuck into a race against your fellow indoor cyclists. Computer game style graphics make for vibrant viewing, and you can either make the most of Zwift’s virtual world “Watopia” or ride routes based around real locations from across the globe.
TrainerRoad steers clear of the virtual interaction aspects and focuses purely on your training. Following a training plan like those that Trainer Road offers provides you structure and eliminates any decision-making fatigue when it comes to your next session. Having a plan to follow and measure progress against is great for motivation!
Both Wahoo and Tacx (Garmin) have their own proprietary software. Wahoo offers its “Wahoo X” membership, which provides you with access to SYSTM & RGT, and Tacx/Garmin provide indoor training options through it’s Tacx Training app.
Wahoo RGT is a competitor to Zwift, the difference being that the virtual ride takes place on real roads. Much like Zwift you can take part in individual or group rides, as well as make the most of structured training. Wahoo SYSTM focuses more on the training element and helps you build/follow a training plan.
Much like Zwift you can race your friends online, but instead of a completely virtual world the app adds avatars to real world footage of your chosen route. Rouvy also offers training plans, as you would expect from any of these apps.
Ultimately, there are many training apps you can go for – which you choose will depend on whether you prefer to just get your head down and get your training done, or you want to immerse yourself in a virtual world of online cycling.
Training indoors through winter is a great way to keep your legs spinning, and make sure you don’t lose the precious fitness gains that you made during the summer months. There’s an indoor trainer to suit almost all budgets, and with the numerous apps on the market you can utilise you can make indoor training a more interactive experience than ever.
If you’d like to discuss your options in more detail, then pop into any of our 12 stores or contact our support team for help. Many of us utilise indoor training through winter, so we have a wealth of knowledge and are ready to help you start your indoor training journey.