(Photo Credit: Snowy Mountain Photography)
By: Lindsay Goldman, professional cyclist for Hagens Berman | Supermint.
Nobody prefers to ride a bike trainer, right? When the suggestion of riding indoors comes up, most people recoil in horror and declare they can’t stomach more than a few minutes of trainer time. And I used to feel that way too, until I made the trainer a regular part of my routine and found a lot of reasons for why it’s actually worthwhile to suffer through an indoor ride.
“I crashed and broke my collarbone,” my teammate said. “What terrible news!” I replied. “Time to get on the trainer!”
This is always my go-to response, which probably makes the injured person unhappier than they were before. But I mean well and have the best intentions. From experience, every athlete’s first concern upon injury is wondering how quickly they can resume training. Nobody wants to work hard for their fitness only to lose it sitting on the couch healing.
The trainer is invaluable in bridging the time between injury and when it’s safe to get back outside. You can recover while recovering your fitness. Just try to keep your injuries from the neck down and the waist up.
2. Tight on Time.
When I used to work in an office, I would train in the morning before attempting to be at work by 10am. “Attempting” is the right word, because if I had a 2-hour ride planned, it would always take longer due to traffic, lights, stops, mechanicals, and other interruptions.
An indoor bike trainer eliminates that issue – you never have to worry about rides accidentally running longer than expected. It also means that if you only have an hour to ride, you can make it the most effective, efficient hour: warm up, work out, cool down. You’re not wasting time coasting or getting to a good road.
3. The Workout is Very Specific.
My coach loves the science of training and often gives me very specific, targeted interval workouts that often do not match the terrain available outside. It’s also hard to nail a target power level when I’m focused on the road and cars.
I’d rather ride indoors, do the workout exactly as intended, and get the most benefit out of it. It’s not like I’m enjoying scenery while smashing intervals anyway, unless the scenery is my sweat-covered stem. If you want to be highly specific in your training, indoors is the best platform.
4. Unfamiliar Roads.
While Strava might send you out on a great route, it might also accidentally lead you to riding down the edge of a rural highway with 18-wheelers flying past. Or maybe you’re in the middle of downtown Chicago and don’t see a single stretch of uninterrupted road for miles.
While exploring can be fun at times, there are also times when you just need to break a sweat and get in a ride. The bike trainer is your answer.
5. Recovery Rides.
I do all of my recovery rides on the trainer because the whole point is to spin the legs without exertion. While it’s possible to go easy outside, there are also a lot of accelerations from stops, time spent coasting, and small hills that force higher watts.
There is no better controlled recovery spin than one done indoors. If it’s a coffee ride you’re after, bring your French press to the trainer and caffeinate while you pedal.
Long teleconference? Online session scheduled for work? A clogged inbox? If you can sit upright on the bike while pedaling (which provides the added benefit of strengthening your core), you can do all of this and more from your phone. I’ve even rigged up my laptop to use on the bike.
Nothing brings me greater joy than finishing a ride and a bunch of work tasks simultaneously. Getting paid to pedal? Yes, please.
7. Race Warm Ups/Cool Downs.
There is no better way to get a controlled warm-up before an event than jumping on the bike trainer. You can manage your efforts exactly as needed, and you’re not riding away from the event venue and risking a flat or delay holding you up before the race.
When the race is done, you can jump-start your recovery properly by spinning out your legs on the trainer. It seems nuts to finish a hard race and get on the trainer to ride more, but I’m a stickler for having a proper cool down and have never regretted taking steps to make my legs feel better for the next ride.
I’m fairly certain it’s a felony to leave a young child home unattended, but it’s a crime to miss out on a ride.
The trainer allows you to ride while staying home to make sure your kid doesn’t burn the house down or sell their sibling on the internet. Activity mats and activity centers were invented specifically to keep babies entertained while their parents did more entertaining things. Embrace these tools and get your workout done.
9. Experience New Routes.
Thanks to Rouvy, Zwift, and other training software available now, you can test out a race course or ride a famous climb, all from your basic or smart trainer at home.
As a racer, I want to pre-ride courses to see how they feel and learn how to approach them on race day. The ability to load and ride specific courses without having to travel there and test them out in person is a great feature.
And for those who Zwift, you can have all the thrills of a group ride without getting sprayed with sweat from that dude who just chopped you in that corner.
I’ve met a lot of cyclists who enjoy the workout they get from riding but are too wary of cars to venture out on the road.
It’s understandable; we all know somebody who has been hit by a car or crashed on a descent and the trainer allows you to avoid these risks while still getting the benefits of cycling. Even the hardiest of riders have times of wanting to stay indoors, whether that’s during bad weather, rush hour, or nighttime. The trainer gives the “better safe than sorry” option for still knocking out a ride.
11. Increased Capacity for Suffering.
Riding outside offers the stimulus of scenery, the feel of wind in your hair, and the reprieve of a descent or a pause in your pedal stroke. You get none of that inside. It’s tedious. It’s uninterrupted pedaling. It makes every minute feel like five.
But then you go back outside and suddenly things feel easier by comparison. While that climb you come to in your next race might feel hard, it can’t possibly be as hard as pedaling nonstop for an hour while staring at a wall.
What doesn’t kill you makes you pedal harder.
Lindsay Goldman is the Team Manager and racer for the Hagens Berman | Supermint women’s road cycling team. She has raced her bike professionally for the past five years across North America while also spending significant time riding the trainer to balance the demands of a busy work schedule and to combat rough winters.
She will be starting the 2018 race season by welcoming her first baby in February and then using her Hammer smart trainer to get back into shape to take on the later half of the pro road race calendar.