With coronavirus restrictions meaning we need to be careful about how much we ride outdoors, cycling inside on turbo trainers has become more important than ever. And let's face it, you need all the excuses you can get to wear those new cycling socks.
A lot has changed in the world of indoor training since just a handful of years ago, when a set of rollers and your Sony Walkman was as sophisticated a set-up would get.
If there’s ever been a time to start using a turbo trainer, it’s now, so here’s a few top tips to get you started:
The technology and sophistication of turbo trainers has hugely advanced in recent times.
Turbo trainers now are nearly all ‘smart,’ meaning that they automatically change resistance according to the ride you’re doing. Previously, you’d have to use your gears to make the ride harder or easier.
The increasing technology does mean that the average price of turbos has increased, but the good news is that there’s something for everyone.
For example, Wahoo, the company behind the game-changing KICKR trainers, make three different models of their turbos, ranging from the top-end KICKR to the entry-level KICKR SNAP. These all include ‘smart’ features to make your ride interactive and ‘real world,’ with the major difference being whether the trainer is ‘direct drive’ or not.
A ‘direct drive’ trainer allows you to hook your chain directly onto a cassette mounted on the turbo, saving your rear wheel and drivetrain from wear. A traditional, non-direct drive trainer requires you to mount the rear wheel of your bike onto a large weighted roller on the trainer. Either method is going to give you the training you need, but the direct drive option is undoubtedly the more popular and effective method.
OK, so you’ve got a trainer… what’s next? Well, you need to figure out what to do on it.
Turbo training can be very dull if you don’t have a plan for the ride or something interactive to immerse yourself in. Thankfully, the grim old days of staring at the garage wall as you worked out are gone, and there are many online platforms you can use to structure your ride or give you motivation. To make the most out of these, you need a smart trainer – but you can still use them with just a basic trainer and a heart rate strap.
Zwift is undoubtedly the leader of the pack when it comes to turbo training software. You can ride virtual courses such as a virtual Alpe d’Huez or London city centre as you race thousands of other Zwifters from around the world. It’s engaging and addictive.
There are tens of other online platforms to check out, but the best of the rest include the Sufferfest – a library of high intensity interval sessions based on pro race footage, or TrainerRoad, a huge database of carefully-developed training plans and workouts.
Right, so you’ve got the turbo, you’ve decided what online platform to use…. You’re good to go right?
Well, don’t forget these essential items when you head towards your turbo trainer pain cave:
- Laptop – Needless to say, you need this to tune in to Zwift or your chosen training app.
- Fan – You’re going to get hot. Very hot. Get yourself a powerful fan, and position it so it’s directed towards your core and chest as you ride. Although it’s tempting to angle the fan directly into your face, pointing it towards your body is more effective at keeping you cool.
- Towels – You ideally want two old towels – one to drape over your handlebars and stem, one to have at hand for your face. Protecting the front end of your bike from sweat will prevent the bar tape from smelling and rotting, and will prevent the risk of your bolts rusting up.
- Rug / mat – Whether you’re training in the spare room, garage or shed, it’s always good to have a piece of old carpet, rug or matting underneath your trainer and bike. This will stop the whole set-up from slip-sliding across the floor and capture sweat, but will also reduce the risk of damaging flooring or leaving indents in your carpet from the weight of the trainer.
- Headphones – Turbo trainers are pretty quiet nowadays (quiet enough to keep the neighbours happy at least), and the likes of Zwift is very entertaining. Nonetheless a good pair of headphones is absolutely essential. Having your favourite motivational soundtrack pumping while you train is a guaranteed way to get the best out of yourself and keep the risk of boredom at bay.
So, you’re all set! But what to wear?
As mentioned above, riding on the trainer can be a very hot and sweaty experience. Even if you’re training in an unheated garage in the depths of January, you’re likely to end up in a sweaty puddle. And so that requires some consideration when you get kitted up for the ride.
We recommend you opt for a balance of comfort and cooling, made up of:
- An old, comfy pair of cycling shorts (save your best pair for outside!).
- A long sleeve zip-up jersey for getting warmed up in (zipped to make it easier to take off) with a sleeveless base layer beneath.
- A pair of your best cycling socks, especially some that are lightweight. Feet tend to get particularly hot on the trainer, and so this is not the time for a pair of thick merinos.
Our Pro Race or Climber models are our best cycling socks for this thanks to the fine mesh material and cooling properties. And they look awesome to give you some #sockdoping watts!