INDOOR TRAINER GUIDE
With more free time than we know what to do with during COVID, plenty of members have made the jump to training indoors. Hopefully this guide is a helpful tool to help you get started. I’ll try and cover the types of indoor trainers before going into the different apps available to aid with training (/racing) indoors.
Equipment noted with an asterix (*) isn’t required to get started - only required for smart training (zwift / trainerroad / sufferfest)
Strongly Recommended for all types of indoor training
Optional: Training mat, sweat catcher, phone holder, laptop stand etc.
*Get ready to sweat*
Trainer of choice for track cyclists. Minimal fuss, simply unfold and jump on. The only form of indoor training that could possibly lead to a crash - requires practice to avoid falling off. Newbies thoroughly advised to have a door frame to hand on the first few attempts. Smart rollers are available with electronic resistance adjustment and power meters, but start around £350+.
“Dumb” Turbo Trainer
Called “Dumb” simply to differentiate from Smart Trainers, these are pretty basic turbo trainers with no internal electronics, simply a fluid roller and resistance lever for handlebars. This is a very accessible option; being quite cheap with models starting around £50 on Wiggle. Quite a bit of faff is required to jump on and get started, due to a special tyre and QR skewer being required. Can be used on smart training apps by adding speed/cadence sensors and / or power meter.
Smart Trainer (Wheel on)
As suggested earlier, these are turbo trainers with internal power sensors and resistance adjustment. These trainers are designed to communicate with a training app in order to adjust resistance in accordance with the workout / terrain. More faff to set up than a dumb trainer, as some form of technical knowhow is required to pair the trainer with a computer.
Direct Drive Smart Trainer
Gold standard for indoor smart training and arguably the most straightforward to get started, simply take your wheel off and hook your frame on and you’re good to go. Tend to be the quietest option, highest resistance and most accurate power meters. BUT all of this comes at a cost.
Bluetooth vs Ant+
Most laptops will have Bluetooth receivers that can pair with most smart-trainers. Many users have found however that connecting via Bluetooth can be very patchy with regular dropouts which could ruin a training session or bring an eRace to a swift end. It’s recommended to connect via Ant+ for the superior reliability (and compatibility with speed/cadence/hrms), although this isn’t compulsory. An additional dongle can be purchased from Amazon for around £10
Indoor Training Apps
n.b. There are plenty other apps out there to try, but I’ll only be covering off the most widely used in this guide.
Cost: $12.99 / month
Free Trial? Yes – 7 days. 25km limit on rides following the free trial without membership.
One for the gamers and those who may struggle to stay engaged following a purely numbers and time based session. Zwift offers a virtual environment complete with climbs and descents that are mirrored by your smart trainer. Arguably the most social of the apps in this guide, you are able to meet up with clubmates / friends and follow the same workout, race or just casually explore the different worlds. In addition, races and time-trials are the major selling point when comparing with other apps, although these are notorious for being much harder than their real-life counterparts. The major limitation of zwift is their workouts feature is still a work in progress. Although this is steadily improving with the number of workouts and programmes slowly increasing, the plans are not bespoke to the user’s strengths or desired discipline. The requirement for quite powerful Graphics processing is required to experience Zwift in full, limiting accessibility.
Cost: $19.95 / month
Free Trial: Yes – 1 month with code from an existing user
If you’re serious about your training and care little for virtual mountains, this is probably the one for you. Following an initial FTP/Ramp test TrainerRoad will suggest a customisable workout plan based on your specialism, which may be Triathlons, Crits, Road Racing, the list goes on. Each workout is split into three sections: Base, Build and Specialism and intends to deliver you to your race day in peak fitness. While this sounds great, the User Interface is purely a graph showing power and other metrics such as cadence, heart rate, time etc. This is a deliberate move by the designers who feel it improves focus when compared with a distracting virtual environment. This works for some, but plenty of users will come unstuck with boredom after some time of using the app. That being said, there is a ridiculous number of workouts on TrainerRoad, each intended to have their own unique benefits in addition to customisable difficulty. Also an added benefit of downloading the workout to you garmin / wahoo GPS and taking the session outdoors. Developers have recently added the ability to link up with other users and do the same plan via video / voice chat.
Free Trial: Yes – 14 day, plus one month with code “ALLINSUFPLAN”
The Sufferfest fills the gap between Zwift and TrainerRoad. It retains a numbers based approach to training sessions like TR, but has an added level of immersion through the use of UCI race highlights (instead of a virtual environment like Zwift). The highlights often match the efforts in the session and genuinely add a level of engagement the other apps sometimes lack. Sufferfest also introduces the “4DP”, designed to identify your strengths beyond just an FTP (e.g. Climber, Rouleur, Pursuiter etc.). Your 4DP is then used to design a training plan that will target you weaknesses while being specific to your chosen discipline. It is called Sufferfest for a reason however, so be prepared to suffer like hell during some / most of the sessions - they are designed to rinse out the most from your legs in relatively short sessions when compared with Zwift and TR.
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