The sky maybe blue right now, but as anyone who has lived in this Northern European island for any length of time knows, winter will soon be upon us. The clocks will go back, the mercury will drop. While the undoubtedly inclement weather may put people off riding outside there is no reason at all not to cycle at all.
Indoor trainers – often referred to as turbo trainers – allow you to keep the legs turning over in the dark cold winter months. There are many different types from the simple magnetic right up to computer controlled technological wizardry that will give you more data and options than you can shake a cold, frosty stick at. What they are good for? You can simply attach a bike and pedal until you’re bored or go right up to a structured training plan with interval training and heart rate and power thresholds – they really are incredibly versatile.
There are three major types of trainer available, all with distinct characteristics and advantages. However, whatever type you are looking at, make sure the frame is very stable as you can put a lot of power down and falling over in the garage going nowhere makes you feel particularly stupid! Also, keep an eye out on the bike fitting mechanism. If they are a pain in the arse to use, it’s likely to end up unused, seeing more use as an expensive paper weight.
Most entry level trainers use a magnetic resistance unit in order to make your pedaling life a little harder. Those with adjustable resistance allow a surprisingly complex workout. More expensive options will often mate stiffer, more stable frames with a bar mounted resistance lever.
One step up from magnetic trainers come Fluid trainers. Simply put, the higher your ‘speed’, the greater the resistance. These are a lot more lifelike in feel than a magnetic trainer. Another advantage is noise, or specifically, the lack of it. Fluid trainers are very quiet in use, making similar levels of noise no matter how hard you are going.
Sitting at the top of the tree are the ‘uber turbos’. These can have a power meter attached or computer controlled electro-magnetic motors allowing you to create custom resistance level controlled courses or train to specific power levels and heart rates. Some have training test protocols from which the programs can create a monthly training program. A few allow you to download data from your GPS device and recreate routes, or even race people on similar machines – in real time – over the internet. These don’t come cheap, but they go a long way to alleviate the boredom of riding indoors.
This brings us neatly onto: The fourth Way……..
To the uninitiated, these can seem incredibly intimidating but in reality, with only a few minutes training, almost anyone can ride rollers. To prove this, our in-house roller evangelist taught a complete novice to ride in two minutes – check out the video tutorial:
Once you have mastered riding them, they offer one huge benefit over a static turbo. Boredom, it’s very difficult to get bored on rollers as you are actually cycling, while simple to ride you do need to pay more attention that on a turbo. On the static trainers it’s easier to zone out, forgetting where you are and what you are supposed to be doing. This brings us on to the other major advantage – Form. Suplesse, fluidity, smoothness, technique; call it what you will, but once riding rollers you will find your pedal stroke naturally improves. Turbo’s can ‘train’ very jerky pedal stroke as you mash the cranks against high resistance. Once back on the road, this can take a while to lose and can make you more injury prone.
And now, you can buy rollers with integrated resistance units, so the old adage that they are only good for spinning workouts is no longer valid. Hopefully, this will make you at least give rollers a thought, before dismissing them out of hand.
Whatever you do decide to use this winter, just remember that come the spring your legs will thank you for your lack of hibernation.