As muffin tops wax and farmer tans wane, the time for indoor training arrives.by Dan Hall
To stay in shape year-round, some cyclists participate in winter sports such as XC skiing, others buy memberships at Joey-infested gyms … and still others prefer to train in the comfort and convenience of their own homes. With the wide variety of products available, picking the right equipment to achieve your desired home fitness goals can be challenging; this guide focuses on the pros and cons of indoor trainers and rollers so you can find the right one for your “alone time”–what we like to call secret training
Trainers or Rollers?
The two significant options for indoor training with your bicycle are either rollers or trainers. The distinguishing feature of rollers is that you actually ride your bike on them–similar to a runner on a treadmill–while trainers hold the bike and do not require any balance or coordination when in use, much like a stationary bicycle.
- Compact, easy to store when not in use
- Simple to set up
- Bike is stationary
- Because bicycle is stationary cycling dynamics are not fine-tuned
- Lifelike cycling dynamics
- Learn balance and bike-handling skills
- Focuses the user on the workout
- Bike handling and concentration are necessary
- Large, harder to store
- More expensive
If you like a challenge and want to get the most realistic indoor cycling experience, consider a set of rollers. If you don't want to focus on staying upright and space is tight, go with the trainer.
Trainer breakdown: (And we don't mean Richard Simmons bursting into tears.)
There is a trainer for every budget, but just as all bikes are not created equal, neither are trainers. Inexpensive trainers have a vacuum-cleaner buzz, so if you want to enjoy every frequency of your favorite LP on that über HiFi stereo, you're going to have to pop for a nicer model. Just as with high-end bikes, as price increases so does the build quality, features, and ride quality of trainers.
Distinguishing trainer feature: Forms of resistance
Wind Resistance - a fan powered by your shorn legs provides resistance–the faster you pedal the harder it is.
- Lifelike resistance increases as rider effort increases–mimics road/air resistance
- Limited resistance–not adjustable
Magnetic – a magnetic fly wheel produces variable resistance to challenge your thunder thighs.
- Reasonable price
- Resistance has an upper limit
- Less lifelike Liner resistance – as speed increases resistance increases
Fluid – Turbine provides life like resistance for your muscular pistons
- Progressive lifelike resistance
- Most expensive option
Inexpensive wind trainers offer good resistance with a tradeoff for more noise; fluid trainers offer lifelike resistance and are quiet, but they cost more. Magnetic trainers are a nice medium–quiet, adjustable, and relatively inexpensive, but resistance is not as lifelike as either wind or fluid.
Trainer Accessories: Trainers require accessories to prevent damage to your wünder cycle and to add challenge to your workout.
- Skewers: Contact with trainer mounts can damage your sculpted, ultra-trick rear skewer, so replace it with an inexpensive unit.
- Rubber: Don't run your supple 320tpi tubular on your trainer; it's pretty similar to burning money. Purchase a durable, inexpensive alternative:
- Heavy-duty tire
Bike thong and covers: When training, you do not have evaporation from wind, so your sweat will drip onto your bike and attack important components. A thong/cover will prevent damage/corrosion to:
- Riser block: Change the pitch of your alone time by raising the front end to mimic hill climbs.
- Don't use the rear brake to stop the wheel; you will end up burning a flat spot into your tire. Just let the trainer slow itself down. However if you like the smell of burning rubber and can afford to replace tires all the time, sprint hard then grab a handful of brakes for a crowd-pleasing smoke show.
Roller Breakdown:(And we don't mean extreme, freestyle break dancing with Rollerblades.)
Rollers don't require superhuman coordination, but they do require the user to keep focused on the task at hand—staying balanced. If you can ride a bike no-handed, you can ride rollers. Just like the aforementioned trainers, not all rollers are created equal. As price increases, the precision of drums increases, as does build quality and adjustable features.
Distinguishing roller feature: Drum diameter
- Smaller diameter (2.25in) equals more resistance due to bearing and tire friction
- Bearings have to spin faster
- Tires have a smaller contact patch—therefore tire is indented more, meaning more resistance
- Larger diameter (4in) equals less resistance
- Greater coasting effect
- Easier to use
If you’re a strong Cat 1 or 2 racer, you’re going to want to get smaller rollers with smaller drums, either 2.25- or 3-inch-diameter units. If you’re a weekend warrior or fitness junkie, consider the larger 4-inch- diameter drums; if you find the resistance inadequate, you can always add more in the form of a fan or resistance unit. The smaller-diameter drums cannot be made easier, so error to the larger drums.
Roller Accessories: Get the most from your indoor sweatshop
- Flywheel: Adds rotational mass to your rollers for a more natural ride, and increases resistance. When you stop pedaling, the flywheel keeps the drums spinning. The result mimics coasting down the road.
- Fan: Some rollers are compatible with an accessory fan that not only increases resistance but also provides a cool indoor breeze.
- Fork Stand: Some days you don’t feel like staying focused on balance when training—but you still enjoy the reward of rollers, or you share them with someone who’s not proficient in their use. If that’s the case, a fork stand will keep you and others on your rollers.
- Sweat cover: Just like on trainers, your sweat does not evaporate, so protect your investment from corrosive sweat.
- Focus on an object a few feet in front of you (just like when you’re riding), not directly below—the rollers aren’t going anywhere
- Wheel speed is your friend. The faster the wheels spin the more stable the bike is—just like when riding
- A hallway or door frame is a good spot to start, for support
- If space is a concern, consider a folding model
Gear to make training enjoyable:
Supply your body with needed nutrients and fluids when in the pain cave, and make sure to help your tired muscles recover. Also a heart rate monitor or computer will help you keep track of your workouts and eliminate the guess work. Entertain your cerebrum with training specific DVDs that help you build strength and power, or to break up the monotony of indoor cycling, watch freeriders huck their carcass off the impossible.
Nutrition/hydration/recovery: For optimal training, check out these body care and nutrition items
Entertainment: Riding indoors can be mind-numbing; make the most of it with cycling videos