Bicycle Trainers

Jan. 21, 2014

Tonight I have a Book Club meeting after work, so I’ve got to get up early and workout before work instead. Today is a cycling day for me, so I rode Delores (my bike) in her indoor trainer.

As a cyclist in Wisconsin, during winter you pretty much have two options: indoor bike trainers, or spin bikes. Today I’ll talk about bike trainers. I’ve been using a trainer for years. I like to describe trainers as a self-propelled treadmill for the rear wheel of your bike. I use theCycleops Fluid trainer (it’s an old version).

Indoor Trainer 2Indoor Trainer 1

I’m going to make an attempt at describing how a fluid trainer works: A fluid trainer works primarily by placing what is essentially a fan (it’s in the big part on the left) connected to the flywheel (treadmill part) your bike. When you pedal, the part of your tire in contact with the flywheel turns. But, the fan resists turning because it is stuck in fluid, and there in lies your workout! There are literally dozes of different other kinds of trainers, from those that use magnets and no fluid to ones that are like mine but move back and forth. From what I can tell, at the magnetic/fluid trainer level, they are all nearly the same thing, it’s mostly a matter of personal taste and to some extent your budget.

Speaking of budget, when you jump up (I think a lot) in price, and you get trainers like theWahoo KickrCycleops PowerBeam, and the classic Computrainer, which will set you back a $1,000 or more. The big advantage of these trainers is being able to get about a million pieces of data to help you with your training, particularly power output. This means you can actually know how hard you’re riding, how far, etc. I can’t afford any of these trainers, so I like to try to pretend they don’t exist while I churn away with no information about how I’m doing beside how my legs feel :) I’m going to refer you at this point to DC Rainmaker who talks a lot abouthigh end trainers, as well as other, since his gig is electronics.

Why would you want to use such a thing as a Trainer? It has several pros (not an exhaustive list):

– You can use it indoors, so any time you want regardless of weather/daylight available.

– Similarly, they are safe(r) than riding outdoors. I haven’t heard of anyone getting hit by a car on their indoor trainer! ;)

– You can do a specific workout. For example mimicking steep hills if your race will include hills, regardless of where you actually live.

– Time. Getting the same amount of workout in the trainer often takes less time. This is because unlike riding outside, you don’t coast on a trainer. So your legs are constantly moving. Most of the rules of thumb I’ve heard is that riding in a trainer equals 1.5 to 2 times the time riding outside.

Cons (also not an exhaustive list):

– Boring

– Don’t learn bike handling skills (aka how not to crash or fall over).

– Boring

– Hard to train for outdoor weather (humidity, etc). That is, learning how much fluid you’ll need, heat tolerance, etc for race day.

– Boring

In a future post, I’ll talk about ways to make them less boring. :)

Here are some resources for learning more about using an indoor trainer:

Beginner’s Guide to Incorporating A Bike Trainer in Indoor Workouts – Triathlete Magazine

Guide to Bike Trainers – Triathlete Magazine

A Guide to Indoor Cycling Trainers – Performance Bicycle (YouTube Video)


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