Indoor Cycling: What is it and how to get started? Part 1

Up until a few years ago, only the most serious and dedicated cyclists would have included indoor training into their training plan. Spin workouts, due mainly to the social aspect, were a significantly more popular form of indoor cycling. In today’s modern world, with the improvement of “smart” trainers, virtual and less virtual training apps and people’s busy daily schedules, has meant that indoor cycling is now part of the daily lives of both amateurs and a myriad cycling and triathlon pros.

In the next three articles, our ambassador Rando will take you through the pro’s and con’s of indoor training, how to start. what equipment is needed and how to get past those lessons as painlessly as possible.

Indoor Training

Why are more and more riders, from beginner level to professional, opting for indoor training, and not only during the “offseason” period?

    1. Weather
      The main factor, and we do not need to look far for the first reason here in Estonia – the saying “three months of poor skiing weather” is used by many to describe the three summer months we have up here. Good cycling clothing for more extreme weather conditions (eg the Regen 1.1 rain jacket, which is noticeable in traffic) will definitely allow you to enjoy cycling outdoors even in cooler weather, in the rain or even in the winter months but visibility can be limited
    2. Traffic
      I have already mentioned the circumstances that worsen visibility, when driving on the highway in autumn and winter, more attention must also be paid to general traffic. While drivers can take riders into account during the summer months, in the darker seasons the cyclist might not be as visible to the driver, no matter how good the extra lights you use on the bike.
    3. Time
      One of the biggest bonuses with indoor training, which I also feel the most, is time efficiency. In the age of home offices, it is very pleasant in the middle of the working day, at lunch, to take time off properly and to do one hour of cycling. If you do not have the opportunity to work from a home office, you can still have a ride later in the evening from home and avoid riding in the dark or busy traffic. For the above reason, indoor training is especially convenient for city dwellers. Dressing up, warming up, exercising, relaxing and taking a shower can often be done faster than it would otherwise be to get out of the city.
    4. Speciality Training
      The off-season training period mainly belongs to basic training, the so-called “base training” which helps build the foundation for next years season. However, this does not mean that 7 workouts a week of soft peddling. Today’s “smart” trainers with all sorts of training tricks allow for accurate, power-based, training.
      1. The indoor training allows you to focus on a specific technical component – such as cadence, peddling efficiency or something else.
      2. As mentioned, the main focus during the off season is about building the foundation for next season, but this does not mean that intense workouts should be completely off the menu. It is much more convenient, accurate and more efficient to perform interval training on the indoor trainer – and you do not need to look for suitable road sections that are long enough, “flat” or without interfering intersections.
      3. Training on the basis of power. Ability to train by “numbers”, mark your progress and adjust training accordingly.

Indoor Training

It would be extremely one-sided if I only mentioned the good aspects of indoor training, but there aren’t many things on the downside, but it’s worth mentioning:

  1. Road feeling. Today, no indoor trainer is able to 100% replicate the feeling of rubber on tarmac road, although a great deal of effort is being made in this direction. Examples include the Tacx Road Feel, Kickr Climb Elevation Simulator, Elite Sterzo Smart Steering Base, and more.
  2. Bike handling skills. Peddling on an indoor trainer sadly does not improve your bike handling skills very much. However riding on “rollers” does help.
  3. Riding a home trainer can be mentally challenging. Anyone who has spent more than 2 hours on the stand will know what I’m talking about.
  4. Lack of social aspect of cycling. In addition to athletic effort, group training also offers an opportunity to communicate and be with people with similar interests. Rolling together, coffee breaks, indoor workouts do not replace it. There are apps that also offer “virtual” group rides today, whether as an avatar on screen or via video, but there is no substitute for face-to-face communication.

In conclusion, I can say that for the reasons mentioned above, indoor training has become more and more common amoungst all riders, from beginners to grand tour professionals.

In the next two articles, I will focus on what you need to get started with indoor training, what equipment, and how to get the most out of your indoor workout.

Read more in our next part 2

Written by and photograpy by Rando Kall. Rando is a coach and ambassador of moomoo.