Over the last few years I’ve taken on some big distances on the turbo trainer, from racing at vWTTC and vRevolve24 to the Knighthood challenge on Sufferfest. I’d like to think I know what it’s like to suffer on the turbo trainer. The current weather in the UK at least means a lot of us will still be taking our training indoors while the days are shorter and the wind and rain is still ever present.
Anyone who’s sat on a turbo training for any serious amount of time knows it can quickly become monotonous and soul destroying, there is no traffic or weather or landscapes, just you, the bike and the four walls of your pain cave. So here are a few of my thoughts on how to get the most from your indoor training.
Cycling indoors means you’ll be sat in a static position for far longer than you would do normally, this puts more pressure on the key contact points with the bike as well as your neck and shoulders. Try to remember to keep moving, get out of the saddle, look over your shoulder and move yourself in the saddle to make sure you don’t get sore too quickly.
Linked to this your saddle and your undercarriage are keys parts of making indoors comfortable. Your perfect outdoor set up can be less than perfect once your bike is connected to a turbo trainer. If you don’t mind tinkering, then nudging the nose of your saddle downwards a couple of degrees can make a huge difference. Invest in some high quality, natural chamois cream to reduce the friction, or chaffing, between your skin and your cycling shorts. Of course chamois cream is not an essential piece of kit for all, I just believe in prevention being the best approach.
If you struggle with saddle sores, take a good look at both your saddle and shorts – both are incredibly personal – test lots of options to find the combination that works for you.
Suggested read: Indoor-specific cycling clothing, is it worth it?
Keeping cool is always a challenge. If you’ve got money to spend on your pain cave, invest it in a good fan over absolutely anything else. Otherwise, you are fighting to keep sweat out of your eyes, you’ll overheat during your hard sessions and worse, affect your performance. Going long when you are constantly sweating leads to a build up of salt, from sweat drying, on your chamois pad. This can then grate against your skin and increase the chances of saddle sores. Use chamois cream and if you are doing long stints, then change your bib shorts – in a 24hr race I changed a couple of times to make sure I stayed comfortable and dry.
Focus on fuelling
You need to remember that an hour on the turbo is broadly giving you the same training effect as 1.5 to 2 hours out on the road. Largely because you’re not stopping for lights and traffic etc. As a result fuelling and hydration become even more important, because you are going to burn more indoors with the constant effort and increased heat. Focus on eating and drinking little and often, and early into a session or race is absolutely key to ensure your going to make it through to the end.
If you are doing anything under an hour, plain water or an electrolyte tablet is fine. Unless you are doing fasted rides, anything over 90mins will require you to take on some form of fuel from real food, bars, gels or a carbohydrate drink. Remember, every ride is an opportunity to practice your race day fuelling and hydration strategy.
I’ll talk about the how and what of my fuelling in a future blog, so keep your eyes peeled for that one.
Keeping motivated is often the key indoors – without the landscapes, potholes to dodge or friends to ride with it can be hard to stay engaged and get the time and distance required completed. It’s finding whatever works for you – sticking on some music that matches the tempo of your session, watching movies or riding virtually with others (using Zwift combined with Discord or Zoom for example).
Finally, keep it clean
Sweat is corrosive, so make sure to clean your bike down after your session, don’t leave sweaty towels hanging on the bars or frame – over time this can eat away at components such as your handlebar.
I love riding indoors, for me it is a key element of my training programme to get the most from certain sessions. It isn’t a replacement for the simple joy of riding a bike outside, but making the most of your indoor sessions can give you a real boost!
Have you got any tips of your own? I’d love to hear them, please feel free to share them in the comments below!