Cycling is a fantastic sport. Long days in the saddle, sun on your face, wind on your back, chats with friends, etc. That is the perfect scenario we all look for. Weather you are time crunched, trying to stay fit it bad weather, or just trying to avoid cars on the road, indoor training has been long been a way some cyclist will turn. The days of riding the rollers staring at a blank wall are gone and replaced with an interactive experience that was unheard of 20 years ago. We will explore how things have improved and common pitfalls of riding your bike indoors and how to fix them.
Rollers have long been the choice for indoor cycling. Two drums that support your rear wheel connected by a band to a third drum that will spin with your front wheel. If you haven’t ridden rollers before, they are a great training tool but can take some practice to master.
Now we live in a world with smart trainers. This has created a massive change in how some people think about riding a bike. These trainers have a power meter built into the trainer and can change the resistance based on inputs you give it.
The capabilities of smart trainers allow them to wirelessly connect to a laptop, tablet, or even your phone to run software that will control the trainer. They can either hold you at a certain power for a given interval, or even be used as a video game to ride in a virtual world, changing the resistance as the screen in front of you shows going uphill or downhill. This is a game changer when it comes to spending time on the trainer.
There are a ton of companies out there making software for indoor training. Choosing one really depends on what you are looking for. If you are dedicated to a training plan and getting faster, maybe something like TrainerRoad or Sufferfest are right for you. If you really want to simulate riding specific roads like climbing the Zoncalon in Italy, a software like Rouvy might be the best option. Then we have Zwift. Zwift has virtual worlds that your created avatar can ride and interact with other riders. Draft off of them, race them up a climb, or even join a race. They also allow you to do structured training with a workout creator and pre-created workouts that you can do.
All of these options out there make indoor cycling more entertaining that it has ever been in the past. This has led to a whole new group of cyclists not just taking the winter off and spending a lot of time on their bike sweating up a storm all winter long.
While indoor cycling is a great, there are a few things that we like to point out to make sure is all positive. The biggest thing we like to look out for in our indoor training set up is comfort. Out on the road you have a lot more freedom to move around and make yourself comfortable, but indoors you are in one place for the entire ride. The number one piece of equipment you must have for indoor training to be comfortable is a fan. When you ride outside you have all that wind in your face to cool you down, but you can overheat really quickly when riding indoors. The next place to look to for comfort on the bike is the bar tape. Having your hands in one or two positions for a long ride can get uncomfortable if you have a thin bar tape. We are obviously pretty partial to our NASTRO Cuscino bar tape which is Italian for cushion! Adding a good bar tape to your set up can really improve your experience. Wrapping it at the beginning of your “indoor season” is not only a comfort upgrade, but it also gives you a good chance to check for any corrosion or cracking on the bars.
Cleaning your bike is always something we are big believers in, but when riding indoors it is probably even more important than when you are outside. If that sounds counter intuitive to you, ask your local bike shop for pictures of people’s bikes they see in the spring! The same reason you want that fan is the same reason cleaning your bike needs extra attention. You are sitting over the headset sweating in the same place all winter long. Make sure after your ride you use something like our Gear Wipes or even just a good degreaser and rag to give the frame and components a good cleaning. This will help the bearings in your headset not have issues with corrosion.
The next place you want to hit with a little degreaser is the bar tape. If you have ever done a block of rides on an indoor trainer, you know you can lose a lot of grip on the tape. Really what is happening is that it is just dirty! Wipe that tape down and keep it feeling new all winter.
While you aren’t going to be picking up dirt and debris while riding indoors, you still have friction on the chain. Chain lube is another place where we see people cause a lot of unnecessary wear to their bicycle in the winter. Our go to lube for the trainer is Synergetic. It is extremely quiet and will keep your drivetrain running smoothly for up to 25 hours in a single application. To be safe just wipe the drivetrain down with a gear wipe and re-lube with Synergetic once every other week and you should be all set there.
Heading Back To The Outdoors
After a long winter of successful indoor training rides, we are all chomping at the bit to get back out on the road or trail to ride the way we really want. Before you do that, we always want to recommend getting the bike checked out. Take it to your LBS for a tune-up or if you do your own maintenance there are just a few things to look out for:
Bearings – In particular the headset bearings. Take them out and give them a good clean and fresh coating of grease.
Handlebars – This can certainly vary on riders, but if you sweat a lot and have an aluminum handlebar we would recommend installing new bar tape. Not only is the new tape a way to feel like you have a whole new bike again in the spring, but sweat can build up on the bars and cause enough corrosion to snap the handlebar in half. We have seen it, your LBS has seen it, and chances are you have probably seen somebody do that in an early season group ride. Don’t risk it and just replace the tape to give the bars a once over before your busy season gets started outside.
Drivetrain – Maybe you forgot to take care of your drivetrain as much as you should over the winter. Check the wear on your chain and replace if it is at the .5 on the indicator. If your drivetrain isn’t worn out, just give it a good thorough cleaning, re-apply your favorite lubricant, and you are all set.
Many people have avoided riding indoors for a long time, but with the rising popularity we wanted to take a few minutes and give you these tips to make sure that you don’t end up with a surprise in the spring when you realize how much damage was done to the bike. Just a few quick steps and your bike will stay pristine all winter long. Let us know your favorite indoor riding tips in the comments below!