The rainy weather is lingering, and so for many cyclists their Turbo Trainers are seeing lots of use. If, like Andy who has written us the below article, you’ve been putting off getting started with indoor training, keep reading. Andy gives us his first hand view on his experiences with the Wahoo KICKR V6 Smart Trainer & SYSTM software, and how he found cycling indoors as a whole.

I spent a miserable winter commuting 20 miles a day to work and back a couple of years ago, but I kept telling myself that it was good for me – my fitness, my well-being, and my cycling form. I could have driven every day but that would have been more polar bears on the global-warming pyre and at least my smugness kept me warm inside, despite my toes and fingers freezing to the point of petrification.

My job moved closer to home so my commute was reduced but I didn’t feel it affected my form, it was still winter miles (leading to summer smiles) but it wasn’t until recently that I found that my new-found free time was being wasted on doing things like ‘watching tv’ or ‘lazing about the house’ and as a consequence when I tried to go out on rides that I thought would be a doddle they turned into proper slogs. The cyclist in my head had stayed fit, but the one on the bike severely lagged behind expectation.

Not wanting to go back to the unnecessary self-harm of a ten-mile cycle before and after work it seemed logical to try and immerse myself in the world of indoor training. For years I’d mocked those not going out for a proper ride, though I felt like I’d missed the boat somewhat with the explosion in indoor cycling, preferring my al-fresco masochism. I saw a lot of my Strava friends taking to the rather corny world of Watopia and didn’t see the appeal of immersing myself in a sweat-fueled RPG with avatars who were clearly fitter than me.

With my high horse having fallen at the first hurdle and with the vet’s tent going up around it, i decided that I should try and redeem myself and rediscover my form, as I was beginning to view cycling with the same contempt I had for Mrs Brown’s Boys. Luckily, the fine people at Wahoo were willing to step in before the man from the glue factory backed his van up, lending me a lovely Wahoo KICKR V6 Smart direct-drive trainer.

My only previous experience, maybe a decade before, had been with a Jet Black wheel on a turbo device, which involved a lot of faff in either changing my road tyre for a tougher trainer tyre or having a spare wheel to swap in and out. Nowadays, every major player in the turbo market has a direct-drive version, all with the smart capability to track your speed, power, and cadence whilst sporting a cassette matched to your own bike set-up. My Wahoo KICKR came with an 11-speed cassette and all the adaptors I needed to mount my sadly neglected road bike, although I have a 12-speed setup and I have to fit my own rear cog.

After a bit of tweaking and spannering, I was all set to go. 

Rather than plunge straight into the virtual world with other, obviously better, cyclists on one of the expanding range of virtual worlds, I decided to do an introduction on Wahoo’s SYSTM Platform, which offered a six-week ‘beginners’ course through the use of turbo sessions, intermingled with strength-building workouts and yoga.  Wahoo now offers the renowned (or infamous) Sufferfest on SYSTM and guided me through a calendar of sessions, explaining what each of them was designed to improve and how. At first, I was encouraged to draw a line in the virtual sand by testing what my body could do so that the metrics could be used to tailor my parameters throughout the coming six weeks, using sciencey things to gauge what my power threshold and recovery was and how it could be improved. I’d heard of FTP – Functional Threshold Power, which is defined as the highest average power you can sustain for approximately an hour – and doing a test to determine the figure was only slightly nicer than eating earwax.

Thankfully, SYSTM uses something a bit more palatable in the form of something called a 4DP The Wahoo 4DP test is made up of four separate tests combined into one session. You get to see what you’re capable of over 5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, and 20 minutes.

So, on I got and had my base figure calculated for me, which was slightly disappointing for my ego but had the advantage of believing that things could only get better. And they have – I’m surprised to say that spending an hour or day, three or four times a week on the KICKR works for me as I feel like I’m improving, certainly in my recovery, and I have noticed small changes in the way I cycle on my shorter commute, and the strength training is helping me regain my core strength, flexibility, and balance.

When I finally felt I was prepared enough to cycle with ‘others’ in Wahoo’s Virtual World, RGT, I was hit with the news that they are winding it down to concentrate on other aspects of their training Eco-System, but my subscription would allow me to have three months free access to Zwift and the world of Watopia – hopefully, I haven’t burned all my bridges there. To be fair, it has evolved a great deal since I first bimbled around on my stabilisers many years ago, so I’m kind of looking forward to getting back there.

This is when I got to the “Things They Don’t Tell You”. The first thing with cycling indoors is there is no breeze. 

Therefore, unless you’re lucky enough to not sweat at all (in which case, you may not be human) that moisture has to go somewhere. At first, it’s into your clothes, and then when they are saturated, everywhere else. Even when you think you’ve not had a particularly hard workout, you still end up wetter than Aquaman’s Speedos. 

After three weeks of sweating it out, I decided I needed a fan to help cool the turbo sessions. I’m sure the sweats won’t stop but hopefully, they’ll be less tsunamic. 

I’ve also found, even with my extensive wardrobe of little-used cycling apparel that I’m running out of clothes, so unless you want your washing machine whirring away in synchronicity with your turbo, have a stack of spare kit and maybe a hazmat suit to collect it all together for a bulk wash. 

Last but definitely not least, please remember to clean your bike up after training – sweat can be corrosive, and leaving it can damage your bar tape and even weaken the material of your bars and shifters, not to say the harm it could do to your headset. I have a toweling guard stretched from handlebars to seat post and have invested in some anti-corrosion cleaner from MucOff.

Huge thanks to Andy for his honest and humorous account of his time with the Wahoo KICKR – we’re glad to see the hours spent plugging away have helped with your fitness gains!

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