Training indoors is best described as "to each their own." No matter who you talk to, every rider has their preference on how best to ride inside. This may include time of day, temperature of room, location of bike trainer, and most commonly - training software and bike trainer of choice.
Types of Indoor Bike Trainers
When it comes to the hardware, aka: the indoor bike trainer itself, there are really two options to choose from – the smart and non-smart trainer. The non-smart trainer is often referred to as a classic or dumb trainer due to its lack of built-in technology. Similar to today's smart phones, the intelligence of the trainer is directly linked to technological functionality.
For the sake of this piece, let's define a smart trainer as one that controls the resistance of a bike trainer via technology, whether that be software or a cycling computer like the PowerTap Joule GPS+. With a smart trainer,workouts can be easily modified at the touch of a button. Smart trainers also provide incredibly useful data, including power data.
The opposite can be said for a classic trainer, since it lacks these capabilities. It simply attaches to your bike and uses a resistance curve paired with a resistance unit to provide that road-like feel. For riders not looking to invest big dollars in a smart trainer, simple modifications can be added to a classic style turbo trainer. For example, a speed/cadence sensor can be added to the bicycle to provide speed data. With this speed data, compatible training programs can calculate estimated power data. A simple speed to power conversion turns any dumb trainer into a power-producing trainer, unlocking a plethora of new training data perhaps previously unknown to the rider. This data is not as accurate as those produced by a smart trainer, but it's a great place to start.
Types of Indoor Training Workouts
New training videos are created every day, and you can find them on platforms like YouTube, Vimeo and subscription-based software platforms like Rouvy. Similar to the indoor trainers above, these training videos can be placed in two categories: those that are independent of the trainer and those that sync directly with the hardware.
DVDs, online videos, tapes of old Le Tours – these are all examples of training videos that do not communicate directly with a stationary bike trainer. You put on a video, hop on your bike and ride. A good example of this is the ever-popular The Sufferfest videos. Made from new and old race footage alike, these training videos can be ridden with a classic bike trainer such as the Fluid2.
But what happens when you marry inspiring visuals to a smart trainer?
That's where the next generation of cycling training videos comes in. Programs like Rouvy and TrainerRoad all have their own version of the same, underlying concept: videos that sync perfectly to the trainer. No more watching a yellow jersey contender grind up an HC climb, with these training programs you can experience every pedal stroke. Thanks to programs that work with ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart, smart trainers, power meters for bikes or accessories (like a speed/cadence sensor), any interested rider can experience some version of this immersive training.
And if you're a loyalist of The Sufferfest with a smart trainer you can download The Sufferfest ERG files into Rouvy's software and use Rouvy to ride and capture data from The Sufferfest routes. Better yet, many of The Sufferfest's ERG files are already in Rouvy. Simply search the workout section for the workout you want and voilà, instant suffering. Neat, right?
Turning Training into a Game
Another popular type of training turns indoor riding into a game, a movement currently being led by Zwift and Rouvy.
Zwift riders experience an animated environment complete with ghost pacers and mini-competitions within the larger ride. Similar to the Need for Speed video games, riders can select the kits, bikes and wheels that they'll be riding that day on Zwift Island – Lamborghinis not included. In order to get Zwift up and running you will need one of the following: an ANT+ compatible smart trainer, an ANT+ cycling power meter, an ANT+ speed and cadence sensor or an ANT+ PowerCal heart rate monitor. Zwift is Bluetooth compatible via Zwift Mobile Link on Zwift iOS.
As for Rouvy, it sits at the corner of gamified training and non-animated routes. The platform features online racing where you can compete directly against your friends along with a virtual partner feature that lets you race previous PRs. Instead of being able to personalize your appearance on Rouvy, you'll be able to visually experience Alpe d'Huez (or any the thousands of routes available) as though you're there. All you need is nearly any bike trainer on earth plus a speed/cadence sensor or a power meter. And if you have a smart trainer or Phantom 5 spin bike, you'll do more than visually experience famous routes – your legs will feel the difference as you grind up ascents usually only conquered by the pros. Rouvy is compatible with both ANT+ and Bluetooth hardware.
The Future of Indoor Training Compatibility
This is just the beginning. In fact, the practice of training with a smart bike trainer has become so popular ANT+ is in the process of releasing a new protocol called ANT+ FE-C. This protocol is slated to become the standard for smart trainers – which means that the industry is becoming more compatible overall.
We entered the smart trainer + training software market early in the game. Part of our belief about being an industry leader is that you need to lead by example, which is why we have willingly shared our protocols for how our software controlled our smart trainers with those who asked. Along with other developers who did the same, such forthrightness has helped pave the way for the ANT+ FE-C protocol. And that's good news for cyclists everywhere.
Software Compatibility for CycleOps Trainers
If you have additional questions about trainer compatibility, please contact us. Our customer service team is always ready to help.