Would you like to use the winter to get fitter or improve your pedalling technique? Indoor cycling offers the perfect opportunity to get better prepared during the winter and spring seasons. The rainy, icy and snowy conditions of the darker months make warm and dry indoor workouts very attractive for many cyclists.
Indoor training is not only a great way to work on your fitness and technique for the coming season. Indoors, there are no distractions like traffic, rocks and roots meaning you can focus entirely on your current training goals.
There are two different options for effective indoor training. You can either train with a modern bike trainer or roller within your own four walls, or sign up for a spinning class at your nearest gym. Training at home is practical and saves time, whilst spinning classes can be more fun and motivating. In this guide we’ll go through everything you need to know about training indoors – from the right shoes to wear to which exercise bike will suit you best.
Spinning is for everyone, young and old, beginners and experts. It’s efficient training that is easy on your joints and gives both strong legs and good endurance. Classes are easy to follow as you get instructed how and when to increase your resistance.
The right shoes
The pedals on most bikes in spinning classes have two different sides. One side has toe clips and straps which resembles a cage. You put the toe of your foot and tighten the straps around it – that way your foot is “attached” to the pedal. On the other side of the pedal is a clipless pedal that is compatible with a clipless shoe-pedal system, for e.g. Shimano’s SPD Shoe Pedal System. For this side you need proper cycling shoes that have a cleat mounted on the sole of the shoe. The metal block under the shoe – called a cleat - clips into the pedal to give a more efficient round stroke, meaning you can pull up and push round the pedal better for more power transfer throughout the whole pedal stroke. Cycling shoes also have a stiffer sole which also increases the power transfer and reduces stress on your foot.
Choose a shoe that suits both your foot and your wallet – there is no need to purchase expensive high-end carbon models for indoor training. It’s more important that you find a comfortable and well-ventilated shoe.
The right clothing
One thing is certain when it comes to spinning – you will sweat! For this reason, we strongly recommend that you use clothes with breathable, moisture wicking and fast drying properties (i.e. a material that transports sweat away from your body). It’ll help you to maintain an even body temperature and lower the risk of chafing. It’s also a lot more comfortable to ride in this clothing than to sit in a sweaty cotton t-shirt! You’ll find high-performance clothing that meets these requirements here.
In addition to having the right clothing up top, it’s also a good idea to wear proper cycling shorts with a chamois inside. Sitting on a saddle for an hour once a week or more can give you a pretty sore bottom! Padded cycle shorts make the experience a much more comfortable one.
In our cycle shorts assortment you’ll find shorts of different lengths, with and without fixed suspender straps or ‘bibs’, and in almost every price class. Bibshorts are a good option for those that prefer not to have pressure around their stomachs.
Another way to cycle inside is on a trainer in the comfort of your own home. With a trainer you use your own bike that you place or mount on a roller or a trainer in, for example, your garage or your living room. It's a very time-efficient and comfortable way of exercising as you don’t need to get yourself to a gym for a particular class time and you don’t have to set up your bike settings from scratch.
There are basically three different types of trainers. There are rollers on which you cycle freely, trainers which you attach your back wheel to and direct drive trainers where you remove your back wheel and attach your bike straight onto the trainer. Trainers come with different features and settings. There are manual and electronic trainers with air, magnet or fluid resistance units. Before you buy a trainer it’s worth asking yourself a few questions:
- SPACE? Can the trainer be left on the floor or does it need to be stores in between sessions.
- SOUND? Some trainers can be very loud and some more quiet.
- ENTERTAINMENT? [3:52 PM] Tom Taylor: Cycling on a trainer can become quite tedious if you don’t have any entertainment. Nowadays there are DVDs or Apps with training programs to follow to make the most out of your cycling session.
Different types of trainers
Rollers are an efficient way to exercise as it works both your balance, core and endurance. You place the bike directly onto the rollers without anything holding the bike which means that you constantly have to control the bike and gives you a 100% natural cycling movement. Nowadays there are rollers where you can adjust the resistance and even ones which can connect to a wireless unit.
A trainer is a frame which you attach your bike to. It's more stable than a roller and is better if you're a beginner or if you want to do rep training.
Direct Drive trainers
There are also trainers where you completely remove your back wheel and attach your drive train straight onto the trainer. These are called Direct Drive trainers. This type of trainer is incredibly efficient as resistance is applied directly to the bike’s cassette and there is no transmission or loss of power.
The resistance unit is a vital part of the trainer as it simulates the gradients of slopes or the road feel. Two types of trainers can be distinguished by means of the resistance control:
- Manual trainer: A basic trainer where you adjust the resistance manually with a lever on the handlebar or on the resistance unit. These trainers are available from €100.
- Interactive trainer: A smart trainer adjusts the resistance automatically when connected to a wireless unit such as a smartphone or laptop. These trainers are available from €300.
Some trainer models have a lower resistance range than others. These are suitable for basic training and high speed and high cadence training. More powerful resistance units are great for sprints, intervals and hill climbs. The resistance output can vary between 950 and 2200 watts.
Resistance can be applied by different types of systems. Which system is used has a direct impact on the cycling experience, intensity and also the price.
- Air: resistance is regulated by tiny fans mounted on the trainer. It’s a simple but effective concept and works great for the beginner or if you’re looking for a cheap alternative. Unfortunately, trainers with air brakes can be quite noisy.
- Magnetic:resistance is applied by a built-in flywheel that is regulated by a magnetic field. It's more powerful, more efficient and quieter than the air resistance trainer as there is no contact between the brake unit and the flywheel.
- Fluid:resistance is applied by a built in flywheel and is regulated by brake fluid. It gives the most road-like and realistic cycling experience as the fluid thickens when you pedal. This makes it harder to pedal. This is also the quietest braking unit available.
- Interactive/ E-training & apps: There are a wide range of different apps and programs that can make your training sessions more efficient and fun. They analyse speed, distance, heart rate, cadence and slope gradient. Some apps have a huge amount of pre-programmed routes – you can choose from a selection of popular roads and races from around the world. You can also race against others live online and create your own training sessions. Resistance is regulated automatically. You have to have a smart/interactive trainer to connect to these programmes.
- Heart rate (HR) monitors & bike computers: HR straps and bike computers are excellent training tools for precisely controlling your training intervals and recording your training sessions. Remember that a bike computer won’t record distance as the sensor is mounted on the front wheel which isn’t moving on a trainer (only on a roller). However, you can measure cadence and HR. There are also some more advanced bike computers that you can connect to an interactive trainer (for example Wahoo ELEMNT, Garmin Edge 250/820/1000, FALK Pantera 32+, Lezyne Super GPS, Sigma Sport ROC 1.0 and more)
- DVD: If you don’t have a smart trainer you can watch a DVD with prerecorded training sessions. You can then follow instructions on how and when to adjust the resistance – a bit like a spinning session, but at home. Or maybe just put on a good movie to watch whilst sweating it out!
Accessories for indoor training
- There are a number of accessories that can make training at home quieter and more practical.
- A trainer tyre is a tyre that has been especially developed for use on a trainer. These tyres are completely smooth and feature a special rubber compound that makes it quieter, more durable and offers better traction.
- A riser block is a block you put under your front wheel to level the bike out. The difference between using some books or a piece of wood is that the block stabilises the bike better.
- A trainer mat will protect your floor against sweat, friction and other unwanted marks.
- A sweat cover protects your top tube from your sweat.
- An adapter for the back wheel is necessary if your bike doesn’t fit into the standard frame. There are a wide range of different adapters and rear axles available.
- A handlebar mount for your heart rate monitor or bike computer so you don’t have to check your wrist watch constantly.
- A water bottle will be your best friend during these long and sweaty indoor cycling sessions!