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Ride Off Season With An Indoor Bike Trainer

04 October, 2018

Cycling doesn't need to be a seasonal activity. With the weather outside becoming lousy and the days becoming shorter, you can keep your bike fitness levels up by working out on an indoor bike trainer. While it isn't the same as riding outdoors, it does help you keep your bike legs and winter weight off.  With all the types of trainers in the market, training inside allows you to step into your living room and get the ride done without having to worry the weather, missing out on group rides, or missing out on the quality of your training.

Often cyclist will integrate indoor workouts into their training. So much depends on the time we have to cycle and the type of cycling we want to do but training indoors has become just as effective. To help you understand the types of bike trainers and what may work for you, I've rounded up a few indoor trainers to help you cope with the off bike season that will help you look forward to spring riding.

Types of Bike Trainers

Brands offer several types of indoor bike trainers. All can provide a good workout, but higher-priced models offer more precision and with more options. Many trainers are also compatible with 29-inch tires, so more mountain bikers can also get in on the benefits. Each type of trainer has its pros and cons but you can make anyone work for you.
Wind: Your bike’s back wheel powers a fan that provides resistance. As you pedal harder, the resistance progressively increases.

Pros: Usually the least expensive option and a good entry-level choice. Most are lightweight, portable and suitable for endurance training.

Cons: Fans are noisy. Few or no adjustments are possible. Hard pedaling can max out the amount of resistance.

Magnetic: These use a magnetic flywheel to create fixed resistance, which means your pedaling does not get harder as your cadence increases. To increase resistance, you need to either shift gears on your bike or use the adjustment settings on the trainer. A few models, though, use spring-loaded magnets to help create progressive resistance.  

Pros: Relatively quiet and inexpensive. Resistance can be adjusted to simulate easy roads, hills or intervals; some have adjust-on-the-fly capabilities using a remote control.
Cons: Resistance settings may be manually adjusted; basic models require you to dismount the bike to adjust the settings.

Fluid: A substance within the trainer, usually silicon, offers increasing resistance as you pedal faster. Fluid trainers have become a popular choice with cyclists because of their road-like feel, power and accurate ride simulations (flats, hills, sprints, etc.).  
Pros: Better mimics a road-like feel than do wind or magnetic trainers. Multiple ride simulations require no adjustments. Quiet to use.
Cons: Usually more expensive than wind or magnetic trainers. With heavy use, they can get hot which may shorten their lifespan.

Rollers: This is a more challenging option because you must balance your bike atop 3 cylinders—2 on the back wheel, 1 on the front—while pedaling. It’s popular mostly with pro riders and serious enthusiasts.

Pros: Works your pedal stroke better than other trainers; realistically simulates the road riding experience.

Cons: Requires good balance and a smooth pedaling cadence to use comfortably. Inexperienced riders could fall off until getting the hang of it.
Flywheel: More than just a trainer, these indoor bicycles (with heavy-duty flywheel) offer power feedback and integrated data management for the ultimate training experience.
Pros: The most realistic flywheel-type trainer. Most models have micro-adjustments to fit any rider; interactive features make it easy to simulate a specific ride or race. Lots of downloadable data, too.

Cons: Expensive when compared to other trainers. Heavy and not portable.

Interactive Trainers
Trainers with interactive features offer the ultimate training experience. Imagine pedaling up the Alpe d’Huez while monitoring your heart-rate and pedaling power. These trainers—typically fluid, magnetic or flywheel models—feature Bluetooth and/or ANT+ compatibility so you capture and share workout data (power output, heart rate, cadence, etc.) to your mobile device or computer. You’ll pay more for this feature, but it could give you a motivation you need to train regularly. Cycling apps such as Zwift, The Sufferfest, and Trainer Road can accommodate most types of indoor trainers as well
Trainer Accessories
Front tire block/ring: Lets you level your bike for a more natural riding position. Stackable models allow you use 2 blocks to simulate a hill climbing position.
Trainer mat: Placed under your bike, this catches sweat drips as you ride and can help reduce noise levels.
Sweat net or towel: Protects your bike frame and components from the corrosive effects of your sweat as you ride.
Tires: Trainers contribute to rear tire wear, so frequent users might consider switching out to dedicated a trainer tire (some are designed just for this purpose) or a regular road slick.  

Bike Computers: Monitoring your heart rate, miles, or cadence will definitely help you reach all your bike and fitness goals.
Shopping Tips
When deciding on what trainer to buy, it's important to compare trainers by what’s most important to you. Key points to consider:
  • Ride performance: Some trainers feel smoother and stronger than others.
  • Adjustability: Do you wish to vary your workouts? Or just hop on and spin?
  • Ease of use: Can you get your bike on and off the trainer without much fuss?
  • Storage: How portable is it? Many models fold up for storage.
  • Noise: Wind trainers are the noisiest, but it may not matter if you have a separate training room.
  • Price: How much are you willing to spend?
Indoor cycling classes are becoming very popular during the off bike season too. If you're more of a social cyclist and need structure, trying an indoor cycling class may be also be a good option for you. For more about indoor cycling classes. You can read my posts on What To Know About Cycling Studios and Spinning To Be A Better Cyclist.

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